Rockforward! Strategic Plan 2013–2015
The national buzzword is jobs. Communities around the country and officials at all levels of
government are searching for ways to add jobs and grow the economy. The Rockford Region faces this challenge as well.
Our region has a plan to grow jobs, and over the past four years – in the face of an unprecedented global recession – it showed results. Now is not the time to stop, but to move forward faster. The Rockford Region has funded our economic future through the Rockford Area Economic
Development Council’s Rockforward! strategic plan.
Since 2008, there have been more than 60 projects committed to the region, representing more than 5,000 new and retained jobs, $265 million in capital investment and 2.8 million square feet of new or renovated space. Highlights include:
- Woodward built a new test facility as part of a $50 million investment at its campus, the Rockford Area Aerospace Network formed and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide opened a campus and is expanding the university’s presence here.
- The Connection announced plans to bring 450 new jobs, Financial Management Systems announced plans to bring 350 new jobs and NCO announced a 400-job expansion, strengthening the region’s Customer Service Centers cluster.
- Ingersoll Machine Tools announced a $5 million investment in a wind-power project that would bring 200 jobs and Wanxiang America announced a $15 million investment in a solar-panel assembly plant, raising our profile both in Alternative Energy and in international business.
The nearly 200 Rockforward! investors played a key role. They included companies, government
municipalities, labor and trade unions, business and quasi-government organizations, educational institutions and nonprofit agencies. Their investments funded the Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s efforts to, alongside our region’s economic development professionals and elected officials, help employers create and retain quality jobs.
Thanks to our investors and partners, we’ve spread the word about the Rockford Region.
We have successfully marketed our hard-working labor force, convenient location and competitive value of doing business to companies in Illinois, throughout North America and in Europe and Asia. We’ve also worked with companies and entrepreneurs in our own backyard to connect them with properties, resources and incentives to help their businesses grow.
Our investors showed bold leadership and kept moving forward in the face of a continued recession. Their long-range thinking keeps our region top-of-mind with companies looking to
relocate or expand to a new market, and helps those already here to commit and grow. We have a compelling story to tell, and our investors help us tell it.
But our work is not done. The ongoing economic uncertainty threatens to stall or even reverse our region’s progress. That is why we are continuing our strategic plan for another three years with
Rockforward!2 which builds on the successes from our first strategic plan and adapts the model for new economic realities. Our plan continues the focus on helping to create and retain jobs, which in turn will bring wealth to all levels of the Rockford Region.
We need the private and public sector to stay at the table with us and continue to implement this plan. The goal is more than just pulling us out of the effects of the recession; the goal is to continue to build the foundation for our future economic successes. As with the first Rockforward! plan, we will be data-driven and results-oriented, communicating a clear return on your investment. We focus the plan on five priority strategies:
Combined, these five strategies will have a tremendous impact on primary job growth, which will result in achieving our three-year goal of 4,500 new and retained jobs for the region.
- The first two strategies – “Targeted Marketing and Recruitment” and “Thriving Business Climate” – address the importance of making our region a logical choice for business growth and development by touting our strengths and improving in targeted areas. These strategies leverage the investments of the public and private sectors to attract more jobs and wealth.
- The next two strategies – “Quality Connected Infrastructure” and “21st Century Talent” address the key building blocks of economic development – people and place. These strategies will enhance the quality of the Rockford Region in the eyes of employers, meet the needs of new and existing companies and attract potential workers.
- The fifth strategy – the continuation of an “Emerging Opportunities Fund” enables leaders from the private and public sectors to join forces and allocate resources toward forward-thinking, high-impact projects.
Download the Rockforward2! Strategic Plan for 2013-2015.
Targeted Marketing & Recruitment
Thanks to our investors and partners, the Rockford Region’s brand is recognized around the world. We’ve built a robust, global marketing database with over 10,000 actively maintained contacts. At any given time, our staff is working on an average of 65 different attraction and development leads. We’ve brought in site selectors, Realtors and executives for familiarization tours, while also taking our message to trade shows, conferences and face-to-face meetings in key markets from Chicago, throughout North America, to Europe and Asia. In 2010 alone, we brought in 455 people for various familiarization tours and conducted 271 client meetings, both up sharply from previous years.
21st Century Talent
The jobs of the future require educated and skilled workers and, for the Rockford Region to be
economically competitive, it must stop the bleeding of talent. Our call continues to be to attract, retain and develop the talent that will fuel our economic future. Thanks to our investors and
partners, we initiated the Attracting and Retaining Talent to the Rockford Area (ARTRA) Steering Committee that produced LiveBig Weekend and spurred the IGNITE young professionals
organization. We coordinated the Rock the Air community campaign to attract an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University residential campus to the region. We also were a founding partner of
Alignment Rockford, an innovative and collaborative framework for improving Rockford public schools.
Thirving Business Climate
Since most job growth comes from the expansion of existing companies, we will continue to link our business community’s needs with solutions and opportunities. Thanks to our investors and partners, we’ve helped local businesses with more than 30 expansion projects adding 1,800 jobs and helped other businesses retain more than 1,500 jobs. We’ve strengthened international relationships through consulate visits, Go Global conferences and trade missions. We’ve connected local supply chains through matchmaking events with major companies. Our Business Retention and Expansion team has conducted more than 360 Voice of the Customer interviews as well as other calls and meetings to keep a finger on the pulse of our business community.
Quality Connected Infrastructure
We understand that economic success is built on more than individual businesses. To achieve growth, a region needs quality infrastructure – not only transportation, utility and technology
networks, but also industrial and commercial properties, amenities to attract workers and a plan for all of these pieces to work together. Thanks to our investors and partners, we developed and won approval for the first Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Boone and
Winnebago counties. We aligned a three-state transportation plan through Tri-State Alliance annual summits. We also promoted industrial park development and the use of incentives to municipal officials and developers.
Emerging Opportunities Fund
This is your chance as a public or private investor to make your mark on the community’s future. Our Leadership Council is a broad-based group of our top-tier investors who helped start projects that couldn’t have started otherwise. Thanks to their time and effort, we’ve invested nearly $864,000 in key regional initiatives, including:
We plan to continue identifying and engaging such initiatives through investor leadership with these proven guidelines:
- Renewable energy solutions at Freedom Field,
- Improved educational opportunities through Alignment Rockford and charter schools in District 205,
- The creation of a downtown redevelopment plan led by Rock River Development Partnership,
- Connecting employers to interns and recent college graduates with the Rockford
Area Career Clearinghouse,
- Increased regional government advocacy and lobbying efforts through the Regional Director of Government Affairs,
- Leadership of the Rock the Air community campaign to attract an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University residential campus here
- Projects to move and shape public opinion on critical issues relating to the region’s capacity to grow, such as infrastructure, education funding or other public-policy opportunities.
- Focused efforts to remove stubborn or difficult barriers to growth.
- High-impact projects that capture the community’s imagination and enhance quality of life for the entire region.
By investing at the Leadership Council level, you can help decide what key projects will be funded and plant the seeds for our economic future.
Annual Report & Quarterly Results
Rockford Area Economic Development Council investors recognize the importance of a strong economic development program. They also recognize a good investment and demand a return on that investment.
The goals of Rockforward! are methodically tracked through many metrics, including: net new primary jobs and jobs recruited; per capita income; international exports; GMP increase (including RAEDC’s impact on GMP); population growth; economic development exposure; development ready land parcels; and numerous internal measurements to evaluate the effectiveness of the RAEDC’s marketing and recruitment activities. The RAEDC utilizes a wide array of statistical resources to produce these metrics, including the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Northern Illinois University, and our own Voice of the Customer Reports.
The RAEDC reports results to Rockforward! investors on a quarterly basis through a letter from RAEDC President Janyce Fadden and an Annual Report.