Transform Rockford: The Takeaways

“Even if you’re a Green Bay Packer fan, we all matter.” – Rudy Valdez

Thanks, Mr. Valdez. Being a Packer fan, I really appreciate it. :-)

Rockford_Il_Coronado8Last night at the Coronado I was deeply impressed with the amount of citizens who came out to take part in the presentation some of our business leaders planned for us. “Transform Rockford” is an organization aiming to do just that: transform Rockford into something better than what we are. So yes, last night was just another meeting, and a big one at that (1,000+ people). We heard all the facts in one place at one time, statistics that, overtime, we’ve come across in our daily news feeds about Rockford:

  • Violent crime is 251% higher than the national average
  • 20,000 children living in poverty (29% of youth); 1 in 4 lives in poverty
  • Per capita income dropped 19% over 40 years relative to the national average
  • 20.3% have a college education compared to 27.5% national average

Our presenters laid out more “brutal facts” using information on our social, economic, and environmental well-being and these three elements of culture show more negatives than positives in our current states. The acknowledgement of these brutal facts were a big part of this presentation. This fact alone is important, even if we had all heard them before. This time we weren’t reading them from a computer screen, but instead we heard them straight from the mouths of business decision-makers, on LIVE TV, as well as in the Coronado.

In this WIFR video on the Transform Rockford meeting, Marissa Sherber states that a “number of businesses have signed onto this plan, not just in moral support, but monetarily as well, giving their money to make this plan a success because they know that if it works it’s going to help our economy and their bottom line“.

Now if money ain’t a motivator, I dunno what is. This is good, right?

There were some positives acknowledged so that we know what we should be building on:

  • Ingenuity in our DNA, our “entrepreneurial mindset”, and the recent growth of high value added industries (aerospace, automobile)
  • Diverse culture
  • Quality health and social service providers
  • The greatest capital in any community: our people

A process was laid out for us in the presentation. More of an overview of what the process should look like:

  1. Engagement – involving the community so they are engaged in the decision-making and idea formulation
  2. Develop the vision – what do we want our future to look like?
  3. Define strategy – how will we get to that future?
  4. Develop implementation plan – assignment of work
  5. Implement initiatives and measure – achieve vision
  6. Review & update – reflect on the progress and change that has or has not been made

There was no absolute timeline for this process other than number 4 taking place between April and December 2014, while numbers 5 and 6 will be implemented by 2015 and beyond if all goes well. The last two will also need to be implemented very regularly, forever, so that we keep track of what is working and what isn’t so that key changes can be made.

SO what is the biggest challenge in all of this?

“Complete and total commitment from the bottom up” says reporter Jorge Rodas (watch WIFR video) in context to what non-business owners believe. It seems for most to buy in to this monstrous goal of being one of the top 25 cities in America by 2025, they need to see something tangible, as in results. A lot of people are skeptical due to the fact that this seemed like one of many meetings that have already been held, but it is important to note that our hosts of Transform Rockford made it clear that this was only a beginning to a very long process that would need everyone to work together in alignment for a better Rockford.

So yes, this was another meeting. But it is definitely a serious gesture of openness for business leaders to work with community members and organizations. If we can’t work together, we will never win. Working together, we’re stronger.

Getting everyone involved, holding everyone accountable, and everyone taking part in the change, however, is a different story.

Rockford DOES want to help, but Rockford also has to want to help itself.

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Categories: Community & Events, Economy & Government, Education, Things You Need to Know

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