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Monthly Archives: June 2016

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Economy & Jobs: Rockford hopes data can create economic opportunities for neighborhoods

ROCKFORD — The city wants to harness data to keep tabs on the economic health of five distinct areas within its borders.

It hopes information on jobs, unemployment, building permits, tax revenue, home prices, business investment and other measures can be used to read the health of geographic chunks of town.

Downtown Rockford is one of five geographic areas of the city that city leaders say would benefit from a data-driven approach to economic development. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM

Downtown Rockford is one of five geographic areas of the city that city leaders say would benefit from a data-driven approach to economic development. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM

Mayor Larry Morrissey, who said, “I’m a little nerdy when it comes to data,” wants a way to use place-based economic development strategies to address different needs in different areas of the city, and a way to assess whether strategies are working.

“This is the beginning of the process,” said Thomas Bona, director of research and information for the Economic Development District of Northern Illinois.

Bona’s comments came at the first City Regional Economic Report and Review today at the Regional Design Center, 315 N. Main St.

It’s not being called alignment economy, but with a handful of partners the city hopes to mimic Alignment Rockford’s work with Rockford Public Schools that got the city’s educational interests on the same page. They’ll meet quarterly to review data and tweak data sets when needed.

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Transform Rockford: Strategies unveiled to becoming a top 25 city by 2025

ROCKFORD — Education, Healthy Lifestyles, Safety, Economy and Jobs, and Arts and Recreation are five “spokes” in a 14-spoke wheel. Think of that wheel as part of vehicle driven by the community toward a safe, vibrant and healthy Rockford.

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Tuesday, Transform Rockford leaders revealed the innerworkings of what it calls its Transformation Map, or T-Map, that will serve as a roadmap and timeline to making Rockford a top 25 city by 2025.

“Today, we introduced the strategy statements, but they are still in draft form awaiting community review and input,” said Mike Schablaske, Transform Rockford executive director.

The long-awaited unveiling of strategies took place at the new UW Health Sports Factory, a downtown, riverfront sports complex that came to fruition thanks in large part to a partnership between the city, the Rockford Park District and the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Ian Linnabary, a Transform Rockford spoke leader for Healthy Lifestyles, said the Sports Factory setting was fitting for Transform Rockford’s announcement. “This facility stands as a testament of what this community can accomplish together.”

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Economy & Jobs: Rockford to hold regional economic report, review (TODAY @ 9am)

ROCKFORD — The city of Rockford will hold the first City Regional Quarterly Economic Development Report and Review from 9 a.m. to noon June 23 at Regional Center for Planning and Design, 315 N. Main St.

The meeting will include presentations from the city’s economic development division, Northern Illinois Workforce Alliance, Rockford Area Association of Realtors, Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rockford Area Economic Development Council and Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

The meeting will pursue the city’s efforts to advance the collective impact model for economic development, coordinating and aligning regional economic development efforts in a way similar to what is used in the Alignment Rockford process supporting Rockford Public Schools.

The collective impact model includes five key components: a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and a backbone organization.

For information:

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It’s time to start dreaming about a well-being way of life, and picture the best possible version of yourself and the community we call home. The Blue Zones Project® has made the dream a reality in many other communities. Find out more! Join us on June 21st.

Questions or Comments about Blue Zones Initiative?

Please send questions and comments to hashtag #TRBlueZones 


Click HERE to RSVP

See calendar for directions


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Safety: Rockford City Council approves upgrades for police safety & communication

Rockford Aldermen unanimously approved two items that could provide the Rockford Police department with some key upgrades.

“We need to keep up and make sure our officers are keeping up with the best equipment,” says 5th Ward Alderwoman Venita Hervey.

Aldermen approved a security package that will place security cameras at the approved District 1 & 3 geo-policing stations. It also includes a technology upgrade for the department’s 911 emergency system.

“If they come to the police station after hours for help that’ll give them a direct link both audio and video to someone at the 911 centers,” says Assistant Deputy Chief Doug Pann.

If no one is at the station, a resident can still get immediate assistance.  They’ll be able to instantly speak with dispatch who can let them into the building from a remote location.

“If they’re seeking safety they will actually be able to let them in remotely and then they can dispatch a squad there to help them.”

On top of the high tech security, City Council also gave the go-ahead for police to apply for a grant to update their radios. While Pann says current radios work fine, some are up to 8 years old. The department wants to gradually introduce newer models.

“We’d be able to replace those and provide new equipment for officer safety and provide them a mean to communicate in all circumstances really throughout the county.”

The new models will be equipped with GPS tracking systems for officer safety. Police will now wait to see if they are awarded the grant.  If they are, 40% of the $180,715 will go to the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department. The security package will cost more than $300,000 and be paid for using bonds.

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Economy & Jobs: Rockford Brewing Co. ready for expansion

ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) — The local duo behind Rockford Brewing Company – Reed Sjostrom and Chris Manuel – say they’re expanding because one room for their 14 tanks and dozens of kegs just isn’t enough anymore.
“I did not imagine it would get this big this fast,” said Sjostrom, Prairie St.’s Vice President. Until the fall of 2013, Sjostrom says he was just a construction worker. Then the Rockford local decided he was going to brew his own beer, while renovating an old brewhouse. “The idea of expanding the brewery has always been on our mind and it’s probably just gonna have to happen sooner rather than later,” he said.

A 30-barrell fermenter is one of three new tanks that will allow the brewery to produce 8,000 more pints of beer a month.

“Distribution starting up, kegs getting out to bars, we got some really cool can designs coming, and we’ll be the first one in town to have a crowler,” Sjostrom said.

Crowlers are spin-offs of refillable, glass howlers/growlers: 32 ounces of local beer in a single use aluminum can.
“It’s gonna be fantastic,” he said. “I mean, boaters can come in, order a six-pack of whatever beer anybody wants that’s on our taps; we’ll fill up the cans, we’ll seal them up, and they can be out the door on the river drinking nice, fresh, local beer while they’re cruising up and down the river.”

“Good beer and sunshine makes for a good day,” agreed Clint Bowling, from his boat.

Some boaters are excited they’ll be able to support local beer more often, and for one group the decision is a no-brainer.

“West Coast,” they take turns saying. “West Coast, yeah, West Coast IPA is pretty good.”

“We could probably be doing this somewhere else, and probably making more money, but that’s not what it’s about,” Sjostrom reasoned.

Sjostrom and Manuel say they are completely invested in Rockford and think this is only the beginning. They have aspirations to open a distillery in Chicago but say Rockford will remain the company’s headquarters.

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Arts & Entertainment: 815 magazine makes its debut

We are excited to introduce you to our new magazine, 815. The quarterly publication featuring local things to do will print each season, with our summer issue topping the newspaper today.

Home-delivery subscribers of the Sunday Register Star or The Journal-Standard will receive 815 as part of their subscriptions. The magazine will also be in more than 1,000 hotel sleeping rooms in Rockford and Freeport so visitors can read and learn about things to do in the region.

If you are not a subscriber and would like to receive 815, you can become a seven-day or Sunday-only subscriber by calling 815-987-1400.

The magazine will also be for sale for $6.95 at the following retail locations:

— Kelley’s Market, Lyford Mobil, 8061 E. State St., Rockford

— Kelley’s Market, Marketside Mobil, 5810 E. State St., Rockford

— Kelley’s Market, Loves Park Mobil, 6224 N. 2nd St., Loves Park

— Rockford Register Star, 99 E. State St., Rockford

— The Journal-Standard, 50 W. Douglas St., #900, Freeport

For more information, contact Editor Rebecca Rose at 815-987-1379 or email

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Safety: Rockford police officers meet and greet neighbors to build strong neighborhoods

ROCKFORD — Rockford police officer Andrew Perino and youngster Kamari Anderson huddled at a picnic table today and talked art.

Rockford Police Officer Andrew Perino chats with Kamari Anderson, 11, at the Thursday, June 16, 2016, Strong Neighborhoods Days block party on Irving Avenue. SUSAN VELA/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM

The 11-year-old told the officer “art” would be his major in sixth grade. Perino volunteered to share his art skills, drawing a stickman and naming him “Art.”

They got a kick out of their encounter at the Strong Neighborhoods Days block party put on by the Rockford Police Department and the United Way of Rock River Valley in the 300 block of Irving Avenue.

“It gives us a chance to interact with the community,” Perino said. “It gives us a chance to interact with children in a positive way.”

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Unity, Pride, Culture: Rockford Rotary celebrates centennial birthday with gift to Ellis Heights neighborhood

ROCKFORD — Rockford Rotary, the city’s oldest service club, dedicated a gift of peace today to the Ellis Heights neighborhood.

Beverly Joyce of Rockford takes pictures Wednesday, June 15, 2016, at the new West State Street Linear Park labyrinth, which is Rockford Rotary's gift to the Ellis Heights neighborhood. SUSAN VELA/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM

Beverly Joyce of Rockford takes pictures Wednesday, June 15, 2016, at the new West State Street Linear Park labyrinth, which is Rockford Rotary’s gift to the Ellis Heights neighborhood. SUSAN VELA/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM

More than 100 people converged on West State Street Linear Park for a Rotary centennial anniversary party that included treats, speeches and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a brick labyrinth symbolizing peace in a neighborhood that isn’t always peaceful.

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