Keeping young pros

A lot of people spend a lot of time wondering and studying the thoughts of a particular census. The group I’m going to discuss is the young professionals we are trying to bring back or keep in town.

I have been fortunate to come across many of these folks at Swilligan’s, or just out in the community. They seem to have a common theme among them—they have been to other places, and they like Rockford. I’ve always said that the people who hate Rockford are from here and never left.

Last weekend at The Cheeseburger in Paradise event, I spent some quality time with Mike, a young lawyer and his wife, Tim, the new assistant IceHogs coach, Tom Crow from the Raptors and his girlfriend and their dog; they are all from out of town, and they all like the area very much. This group could be put on a stage and tell everyone why Rockford is a good place to live.

After the event, I went to Swilligan’s and met a young couple who moved here last year during the Labor Day weekend. Jeff and Jaime are both from Wisconsin, and both spent time in Chicago. Both are upwardly mobile people and recently bought a house off State Street near Swede’s. When looking to relocate in Rockford, they told the Realtors they wanted to live downtown. They were frustrated that nothing seemed available.

Jeff and Jaime like the community and have experienced many things we have to offer. They, like a lot of us, are very frustrated Davis Park sits empty every weekend. They were appalled that The Taste of Rockford was at a retail parking lot in Loves Park. They wonder, like a lot of us, why Davis Park wasn’t utilized for this event.

Another new friend of mine, Jeff, is a Chicago kid who works in a big law firm downtown, loves Rockford, and thinks it’s a good place to raise his family.

My point to all of this is we need to get these people’s stories out. If you want to interview young professionals, get out in the crowds and downtown. That’s where you’ll find most of them hanging out.

My other point is, don’t bother with the curmudgeons who have been saying the same things since the 1980s. Their opinion is now irrelevant. I’m tired of hearing downtown is unsafe. I’m tired of hearing there’s nothing to do in Rockford. I’m tired of hearing there are no good jobs in Rockford. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, just be quiet—your silence will be very helpful.

The Rockford School District has a $31.5 million surplus. Give it back, or at least put it away for a rainy day. DO NOT SPEND IT! This surplus is because property values went up 20-30 percent in the last five years. It’s not any miracle pulled off by Chief Operation Officer Tom Hoffman or Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson.

Great news for downtown, and it takes foreigners to pull it off. They are going to invest $50-plus million into downtown to revamp the area. I feel like raising the Australian flag in my bar once construction actually begins. Let’s get the city, county, state, and feds together and make this happen like other cities are doing all over the U.S. If you want young people to stay here, make this project happen, and get the train downtown from Chicago.

The football season is upon us. Remember, Swilligan’s has the DirecTV NFL Ticket and large plasma TVs. YOU can watch whatever game you want! Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sundays, and domestic bottles are $1.75. What else could you possibly need? Go to CHURCH and Mulberry—we’ll be here partying with you.

Reggie Roberson is owner of Swilligan’s “The Pub,” 200 N. Church St.

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