January 15, 2014, ROCKFORD, ILLINOIS – A state and local partnership put Rockford, IL among the top of a very prestigious list as Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, searched for a location for a new facility. The Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) in partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) caught the attention of Boeing when the team submitted a proposal for landing the new 777X aircraft plant in Rockford. Although some 54 sites from 22 states across the U.S. were proposed, Rockford made it to the top five before Boeing reached a labor deal with its machinists in the Seattle area, halting the discussions for a new location.
The Rockford Region, a growing aerospace hotbed, boasts a cluster of over 250 businesses related to aerospace and aviation, and ranks as the sixth-highest concentration of aerospace production employment in the United States. It’s no surprise that as soon as Rockford was on Boeing’s radar, it quickly found its way to the top.
“The Rockford area was one of five finalists that Boeing chose to continue talks with,” said David Roeder, DCEO spokesman. “The main attraction wasn’t money and tax breaks, but the location and workforce that Rockford has to offer. This was not an incentive-led offer. We didn’t have to throw a bunch of money on the table to be a finalist.”
Rockford was able to offer a site that is 400 acres; Boeing required 300. Even more appealing is that the Rockford location, on the Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD), is one of the few airports in the US that has developable land along its 10,000 ft. runway, again exceeding Boeing’s requirement of a 9,000 ft. runway.
Additionally, the proposed site, located in RFD’s midfield, met proximity requirements regarding both rail and highway access. Thanks to a central Midwest location, the Rockford region shares all of Chicago’s global logistics assets. Furthermore, the Rockford region is served by four class-one railroads and more than 75% of U.S. businesses can be reached within a 24-hour truck drive.
Finally, the region has developed a productive and dedicated workforce. The region has implemented several targeted aerospace training programs to ensure that suppliers have consistent and long-term access to skilled workers.
“I had some of the top aerospace management in the world in my community, and their eyes were opened,” says Eric Voyles, vice president of national business development at the Rockford Area Economic Development Council. “We’re heading down a promising path.”
The Rockford area is already the site of numerous Boeing suppliers and home to aerospace companies such as UTC Aerospace Systems, Woodward Inc., and B/E Aerospace and accounts for over 80 percent of aerospace employment in Illinois. This cluster has created a critical mass of suppliers and a dependable infrastructure that tier-one and original equipment manufacturers need.
ABOUT THE ROCKFORD AREA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
The primary role of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council is to collaboratively enhance wealth creation in the Rockford Region by helping employers retain and create quality jobs while promoting the region. The RAEDC works closely with many partners to learn what existing and new employers need to grow and to serve as a one-stop resource for clients. The RAEDC seeks to improve the competitiveness of the region by taking what it learns from the region’s employers and engaging the community in the daily work of economic development to improve the competitiveness of the region. The organization was recognized by Expansion Solutions magazine with a 2012 “Top Five” award for its exceptional progress and potential for development in the Aerospace/Defense category.
ABOUT THE ROCKFORD AREA AEROSPACE NETWORK
RAAN (Rockford Area Aerospace Network) is a committee of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) and offers a platform for collaboration among local aerospace companies and institutions that serve the industry. RAAN serves as the forum where the Rockford Region’s aerospace industry cluster development strategy is advanced on an on-going basis. RAAN is supported by the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge and the Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce. The Challenge leverages existing resources from 16 federal agencies and award funds to regions that demonstrate the existence of high-growth industries that support a wide range of economic and workforce development activities.