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Economic Development District

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is a Federal agency that provides grants to economically-distressed communities to generate new employment, retain existing jobs and stimulate industrial and commercial growth.  EDA assistance is available to rural and urban areas experiencing high unemployment, low income, or other severe economic distress. The stated mission is to "lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, preparing American regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy." 


What is a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)? 
As its name implies, a CEDS lays out a regional strategy for economic development with the ultimate goal being a stronger, more diverse regional economy.  While the CEDS’ most critical function is to provide a regional economic development framework, it also serves as a required vehicle through which some federal agencies (especially the EDA) evaluate requests for grant assistance.  Without having a CEDS approved by the EDA no one in the region is eligible to receive Economic Development Assistance Grants, including the Stimulus Funds for economic development.  Having a CEDS in place has become more important than ever.  The Rockford Region is finalizing its CEDS document and will have it submitted by the end of 2009.

To view the 2010-2015 Rockford Region Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, click here.


What is an Economic Development District (EDD)? 
An Economic Development District, or District Organization, is a federally designated organization charged with the maintenance and implementation of the CEDS plan.  Application for designation involves several steps including written support by the State of Illinois, Boone and Winnebago Counties, and a plan of operation as a non-profit organization.  Similarly-sized EDD’s procure around $1.5 million annually in grant funding for their district from the EDA alone. Once designated, the EDD is eligible for a 50% matching planning grant to fund the program and staff. This is in the amount of about $57,000. 


Relationship with Economic Development Administration
The Economic Development District of the Rockford Region will be a bi-county non-profit organization. Serving as a bridge between the private and public sectors, the EDD will network area leaders in bringing forth more economic development projects potentially eligible for grant funding.  This crucial service will help match local dollars to state and federal dollars to bring more wealth and jobs to the Region, thus extending the economic development capabilities of Boone and Winnebago Counties. In addition, the EDD serves as the point of contact for EDA staff when local projects are submitted for EDA grants. When local economic development projects arise aligning with EDA funding priorities and the goals of the local CEDS document staff also assist local government and non-profit organizations to submit the grant proposals, ensuring all necessary preparations are taken before submittal. Finally, EDD staff coordinates the CEDS Strategy Committee, a group of local private and public sector leaders charged with the annual oversight of the CEDS plan. This includes the annual update of the data and projects within the plan. 


Regional Background – Eligibility for EDA Assistance for Ongoing Grant Applications
Currently the Rockford MSA meets all three economic development criteria to qualify as having “economic distress”.  First, the Rockford MSA has traditionally had a large manufacturing economic base.  As a result, the Region has experienced larger than national average unemployment rates during the largest economic downturns in the last century. This recession is no different. At 15.7% unemployment, the Area is experiencing significant economic impact.  This is an average of 3.7% higher than the national average for the last 24 month period.

Second, for the most recent period for data available (2008) the MSA has a per capita income at 79% of the rate of the nation. In addition, the net job loss in the last two years has resulted in an estimated loss of income of over a combined half billion dollars. This is over 2% of the annual GMP; in comparison the State of Illinois had a 2% increase in GMP during the same period.

Finally, the very nature of industry is changing in the Rockford Region. This “Special Need” is the Rockford MSA has had a large amount of plant closures and permanent layoffs in the last year (per capita, a similar number as nearby Janesville, Wisconsin). Manufacturing is going from blue collar to green, production is going high-tech, and the workforce needs more and more new skills every day. The Rockford Region’s economy is at the epicenter of this transformation. 26 of the largest 500 companies in the Region closed in Boone and Winnebago Counties in the last three years, resulting in 4,000 employees losing their jobs. In addition, these businesses lost over 11,000 jobs due to layoffs and downsizing during this period. In total there was a net loss of nearly 17,000 jobs in the last two years alone. Finally, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development shows the City of Rockford with a foreclosure rate of 7.2% at the time its Neighborhood Stabilization Program was created in late 2008, a figure exceeded only by the City of Cicero in Illinois).


Scope of Work
As stated in the 2010-2015 Rockford Region Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, a local agency will pursue becoming designated as the Economic Development District by the end of 2009.  This will include identifying local match for EDA planning assistance.  EDD staff will undertake the following in 2010:

  • Develop a detailed Tactical Plan and Plan of Action on an annual basis
  • Maintain Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the Region
  • Annually submit funding request to the EDA for a planning grant ($57,000)
  • Annually in the spring update goals, strategies, project prioritization, & EDD scope of work
  • Hold open meetings at least once a year, publishing the date and agenda of such meetings enough in advance to allow the public a reasonable time to prepare in order to participate effectively
  • Assist qualified eligible governments and nonprofits with EDA grant applications
  • Serve as the point of contact for the CEDS Strategy Committee as well as the EDA for agencies and organizations preparing to apply for funding
  • Provide ongoing technical assistance to area governments and nonprofits to align economic development goals and priorities and work on economic development initiatives from an intra-MSA area to the Tri-State Region
  • Grant/loan research, writing, and administration to both the EDA and other federal and non-federal funding sources
  • Provide a “request for assistance program” serving area agencies and organizations through the development of graphic materials and reports such as maps, fact sheets, and local government promotional and planning information
  • Run the Rockford Region Vital Signs project (regional sustainability indicators). Provide data tracking and reporting services (including demographic and economic research) and serve as a clearinghouse for the community for this information
  • Assist CEDS Strategy Committee to develop several key sub-committees they have expressed specific interest in, namely initially alternative energy, healthcare, aerospace
  • Maintain ongoing relationships.  Ongoing public and private relationships are crucial to the CEDS process. First, they help align economic development goals for the Region; second, they help identify new economic development projects potentially eligible for an EDA or other grant. 


Preparing the EDD Application
RAEDC staff is currently in the process of preparing the documentation for the EDD application to the EDA.  This includes a detailed scope of work (including organizational structure, staff, budget, and initial tactical plan) is being prepared and will be finalized by the end of November, 2009.  In addition, letters of support for the organization must be procured from the RAEDC, Growth Dimensions for Belvidere-Boone County, Winnebago County, Boone County, and the State of Illinois.