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Monthly Archives: March 2018

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Advanced Manufacturing Fuels Transformation

Advanced manufacturing has long been an asset of the Rockford region – an asset to be nurtured and leveraged in our region’s transformation.

The region’s vision anticipates that advanced manufacturing is one of the economic drivers to bring needed resources to this region to fuel our transformation:

“We have an agile, innovative and strong economy built on the renaissance of North American manufacturing, logistics, agribusiness and our proximity to urban centers such as Chicago.”

Advanced manufacturing is already a major economic engine for the community.  The industry brings money in from outside the region for our world-class products and manufacturing services.

Many of our region’s jobs are tied to advanced manufacturing (20% by recent count).  Much of our region’s job growth in the post-recession recovery has come from manufacturing.  Since 2010 we have added 3,742 manufacturing jobs.

This growth makes the Rockford region an economic and manufacturing outlier in the state of Illinois.  24% of all Illinois manufacturing jobs added since 2010 are in the Rockford region.  Think about that.  A region with less than 3% of the state’s population has delivered almost one-quarter of the state’s post-recession manufacturing job growth.

So, where do we go from here?  How do we maintain momentum?

Advanced manufacturing is a business that needs people.  At any point, there are many unfilled positions in our region.  Getting our residents educated, trained and connected to these opportunities is key to maintaining the momentum and realizing that vision.

Key transformational projects to monitor in this area include Connecting Talent with Opportunity (a career pathway project involving local high schools and community colleges), the NIU @ RVC Engineering program (the launch of a Rockford-based engineering degree program), and the construction of a Rock Valley College Advanced Technology Center.

To learn more, please see the Project Dashboard http://transformrockford.org/project-dashboard/ or call 815-977-5840.


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The Aerospace Cluster – A Thriving Economic Ecosystem

The Rockford region is home to one of America’s largest Aerospace clusters.  Over 100 manufacturers and service providers in the aerospace supply base call this region home.

These companies are collectively known for their ability to design, develop, manufacture, assemble, test and service many of the most sophisticated controls and systems in the aerospace industry.  The Rockford region is where many of the toughest aerospace challenges for efficiency and safety are solved.

Aerospace has been a robust market for the region to serve.   For years, there has been a large order backlog in the industry and heavy demand for improved performance with new generations of planes and control systems coming online.

Why Clusters Matter

In all industries and markets, much of the innovation is place-based – driven by face-to-face interactions, a network of relationships and suppliers, a common language, and the scale to create needed workforce development programs.  It also allows customers to efficiently visit and align multiple suppliers in a single trip.

Tending to a cluster – its needs and opportunities – can be rewarding for communities, too.  It can attract businesses to locate and grow here.

“Rockford is the perfect place for a company in our industry,” says Sagar Patel, President of Woodward’s Aircraft Turbine Systems business based in Rockford.  The robust local supply base “…makes our Rockford location a tremendous competitive advantage for Woodward,” he continued.

Maintaining the Cluster’s Momentum

The cluster is intentional about building its local network and aligning shared interests.  The region’s aerospace companies have formed the Rockford Area Aerospace Network (RAAN).  The Rockford Area Economic Development Council serves as a facilitator for the network.

RAAN keeps the conversations going and builds shared agendas.  Topics include building a local supply chain, education programs that benefit the cluster, and specific business development and attraction needs and opportunities.

Together these companies and the community are building on a regional asset – and leveraging it for future transformation.