Rockford is a Thriving Hub for Advanced Manufacturing and Technology

Rockford is making waves in the world of advanced manufacturing, leading the way with cutting-edge technology and attracting both talent and businesses from across the nation.

Additionally, Illinois has firmly established itself as a hotbed for advanced manufacturing. The economic impact of manufacturing in the state is staggering, ranging between $580 billion and $611 billion annually, directly or indirectly contributing to over 1.6 million jobs and $142 billion to $150 billion in labor income for Illinois residents.

The Rockford region stands out as a driving force behind this manufacturing prowess. With a rich history of manufacturing that has evolved from traditional furniture production to advanced manufacturing, the region is now known for its strengths in machining, automation, and metalwork. Currently, 25,000 individuals are employed in manufacturing, with manufacturing companies comprising 21.67 percent of businesses in the region.

One of the crown jewels of Rockford’s manufacturing landscape is its thriving aerospace cluster, home to tier-one aerospace suppliers such as Collins Aerospace, Woodward Inc., and GE Aviation. These companies are involved in various aspects of the aerospace supply chain, from assembly and inspection to testing, repair, and software development. Remarkably, every commercial aircraft in the air today has a component or system designed in the Rockford region.

The manufacturing success seen in our region is also due to the close ties with our local education institutions. Colleges like Northern Illinois University and Rock Valley College prioritize STEM degrees and offer certification and training programs that swiftly prepare students for the workforce. Community partnerships have also created numerous options for higher education and real-world opportunities, ensuring a steady pipeline of skilled talent for the region’s industries. Our commitment to workforce development is evident in labor-management apprenticeship programs that require over 7,000 hours of training, 30 percent more than what a typical four-year university demands.

Companies across the Rockford region are then able to capitalize on the unique opportunities provided. They benefit from talent pipelines that generate skilled workers, an efficient transportation corridor, innovative logistics leaders, and thriving industry clusters in advanced manufacturing, aerospace, food processing, and automotive sectors. This combination facilitates the success of original equipment and original suppliers, with billions of pounds of cargo moving through the area and billions of dollars’ worth of goods being manufactured and exported globally.

Our past as a hub of hard work and skilled labor continues to benefit companies that invest or expand here. The Greater Rockford Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between businesses and education institutions. We work alongside partners like The Workforce Connection to access federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) grant dollars, aiding primary employers in talent acquisition and offering customized training programs.

We also collaborate with our local educational institutions, like Rock Valley College and Rockford Public Schools, to close the skills gap, create career pathways, and provide internship opportunities. This ensures a direct connection between businesses and emerging talent, laying the foundation for a prosperous future.

Additionally, our team provides invaluable support to manufacturers with operational and manufacturing needs. We partner with the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) to offer access to expertise and resources that empower manufacturers to remain competitive and innovative in today’s dynamic marketplace. We work diligently to connect businesses with the global market by cooperating with government agencies and the Foreign Trade Zone #176, which allows companies to import goods and materials without immediate tax and duty payments, opening new opportunities on the global stage.

Rockford is a thriving hub for advanced manufacturing and technology, offering an ideal environment for businesses in these sectors to flourish. With our strong history in manufacturing, an innovative education system, and robust support from the Greater Rockford Chamber of Commerce, we are well-positioned to continue to lead the way in the advanced manufacturing industry and attracting talent and businesses from across the nation. Rockford is undoubtedly the best place for advanced manufacturing.