Fueling Your Career with JiET-A

Academia, business, and community leaders work together to develop industry growth.


Airlines for America, a trade group organization representing the principal U.S. airlines and their affiliates, states that “commercial aviation is the backbone of the modern American economy, driving more than $1 trillion in annual economic activity and nearly 10 million well-paying American jobs. Aviation supports local economies and creates new markets at home and abroad. For every 100 airline jobs, some 360 are supported outside of the airline industry.”

The competition to attract and retain aviation-related companies is fierce because the value in an area is exponential. There is a growing trend of regional business organizations, municipalities, and government agencies collaborating to attract new business or help resident aviation companies grow. Rockford, IL’s Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is an example of this level of competition and successful collaboration for aviation business development and job creation and retention.

Rockford aerospace manufacturing cluster

Rockford’s cluster of companies is one of the leading aerospace employment centers in the country. Winnebago County is home to five major tier-one aerospace service providers: B/E Aerospace, GE Aviation, Esterline, UTC Aerospace Systems, and Woodward. Together they provide design, manufacturing, assembly, inspection, testing, repair, and software services to all major aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing and Airbus. These companies may be competitors yet are interdependent because of their common need for services and supplies.

One critical need is manpower, a vital component necessary to run the Rockford aviation manufacturing engine. Currently more than 6,500 employees in the aerospace industry sector work in the Rockford MSA, making it the “6th in the nation in terms of concentration of aerospace production employment and one of the largest in the nation in overall aerospace employment.” Despite that, manpower shortages could be a limiting factor for its future growth.

Jeff Kaney, Rockford business owner and entrepreneur, states that because of recent company headquarter moves, mergers, and acquisitions, much of the local senior management who served on community development committees moved away. To fill that leadership void, the visionary and former Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) president, Janyce Fadden, formed a coalition of local leaders from academia, government, and business. Its charter was to develop a tier of support organizations to address manpower and other needs of the Rockford MSA aviation companies, attract new companies, and increase the wealth of the community through aviation job creation.

Janyce Fadden explains, “Aerospace wages are double the average Rockford-area per capita income. By growing our aerospace cluster, we increase the wealth of our community by adding more high-paying jobs.” There are three functioning organizations now in place to help achieve these goals and strategies.

Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC)

Its primary role is business oversight, building wealth through marketing initiatives, and helping employers retain and create quality jobs. RAEDC helps community leaders stay focused and engaged in economic development and serves as a “one-stop resource” for aviation companies competing for business. It has also formed a committee called the Rockford Area Aerospace Network (RAAN) that is staffed by about 20 leaders from local private aerospace companies.

Rockford Area Aerospace Network (RAAN)

RAAN fosters collaboration among the aerospace companies and their service providers so Rockford MSA’s and the aerospace companies’ goals are aligned and match the realities of current markets, policies, and economics.

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