Economic Development 101 – The Greater Rockford Chamber of Commerce’s Vital Role in the Rockford Region

Economic development is the driving force behind a thriving community. It shapes the present and future well-being of a region, creating opportunities for job growth, business expansion, and increased economic prosperity. As a part of the Greater Rockford Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development team plays a vital role, serving as a catalyst for the Rockford region’s economic growth.

The primary goal of economic development is to enhance the economic well-being of a region. Therefore, we focus on attracting and retaining primary jobs that significantly impact the local economy. These jobs are created by businesses that sell products outside the state and bring money into the region.

In essence, we act as the region’s advocate for economic growth and prosperity.

We market the Rockford region to attract primary jobs that are good today, tomorrow, and in the future while propelling the region forward through business retention, expansion, and attraction efforts. We are the primary entity conducting business retention visits. This invaluable service actively engages with primary employers that have a significant impact on the local economy.

During a visit, we talk with businesses one-on-one about the challenges they face and discuss solutions to support their growth, retention, and productivity. We then serve as a connector between stakeholders and federal and state partners to ensure businesses receive the support they need. This support can include connecting businesses with resources, offering guidance on expansion plans, and facilitating access to financial incentives.

By acting as a strategic partner for businesses looking to scale their operations, we foster a robust environment for business growth and bring valuable expertise to fuel the region’s economic growth.

But economic development goes far beyond business retention visits, it includes infrastructure development and workforce development.

As the Economic Development team, we regularly collaborate with municipalities and trade organizations to identify infrastructure needs and advocate for improvements. This ensures that the Rockford region remains competitive and attractive for investment, with a well-developed infrastructure that can support businesses and residents alike.

Another piece of that puzzle is workforce development and education. We partner with educational institutions at various levels to ensure the incoming workforce is prepared for job opportunities within the region. We provide programming to build the education-to-workforce pipelines needed to support our aerospace, advanced manufacturing, automotive, and healthcare industries.

Northern Illinois University and Rock Valley College have partnered with the Economic Development team to provide a four-year, Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited, mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree program. The program provides the curriculum as well as the opportunity for establishing mentorships and internships with business professionals and organizations located in the Rockford region. Rock Valley College has invested in an Aviation Maintenance Technology Program located at the Chicago Rockford International Airport. This program provides a direct talent supply chain to the AAR maintenance repair and overhaul facility. There are also dozens of apprenticeship programs offered by regional trade unions. These are taught by skilled craftsmen and apprentices earn a living wage throughout the education process.

By collaborating with a variety of institutions, we are actively working to close the skills gap, create career pathways, internship opportunities, and facilitate access to talent and training resources. This ensures that the community can adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing economic landscape; proactively anticipating changes and preparing for them is essential for sustained growth.

The value our team brings to the community is found in the efforts and resources to drive economic well-being in the Rockford region. The Greater Rockford Chamber of Commerce’s collaborative approach with partners ensures a sustainable and prosperous future.

Economic development is a multifaceted endeavor that requires the active involvement of dedicated organizations. By focusing our attention on job creation, business growth and retention, infrastructure development, education, and fostering partnerships, our efforts are instrumental in shaping the economic landscape of the Rockford region. Together, we all play a vital role in ensuring a prosperous and vibrant community today and in the future.