Meet John Doe: Tell everyone about Rockford’s industrial talents

By Paul Gorski

I recently attended a National Writers Union (NWU) convention (Chicago chapter at where the hot topic was how we might improve working conditions for free-lance writers. The NWU is the only labor union dedicated to defending the rights of free-lance writers.

Some employers try to devalue the work of free-lance writers, placing such a low value on their creative talents as to treat the workers as simple widgets. This is a personal insult to those writers.

Sounds a lot like manufacturing in Rockford and the United States. While some manufacturers have invested and grown in Rockford (thank you), other manufacturers put a low value on industrial-class workers, often threatening to take work elsewhere unless the employees accept rock-bottom pay.

Garbage in, garbage out,” as we say in the computer programming world. Poor quality materials and workmanship will only lead to lousy products. I’ve spoken with people whose only job it is to review and fix the products their company has shipped overseas but has come back with significant failures.

Instead of creating new jobs to fix poorly manufactured goods, why not build the products properly in the first place? Rockford has a long history of manufacturing excellence, and much of that talent is still here. Let’s build quality products here.

Yes, the local chamber of commerce and others are working hard to promote Rockford, but sometimes it is more useful to put a “bug” in a friend’s ear about a good thing.

How often have you heard about a news item, sports score or otherwise picked up a lead from a casual conversation with a friend? Or possibly something just “clicked” during an impromptu discussion, making the solution clear.

You may be wondering, “What is Paul offering us new here? We already know about outsourcing.” This article is a call to action.

When you are at parties, traveling or meeting with anyone outside the region, act is if you were a salesperson.

Make the gentle sales pitch: “Rockford has so much industrial talent going to waste. We have land, buildings and workers just ready to go for the right company.”

I personally make this pitch to new contacts and friends, but I don’t believe I’ve asked the community as a whole to do it. That idea just “clicked” after chatting with two new friends, authors Brigid O’Farrell ( and Susan Casey (

Brigid and Susan probably don’t even know what they said to inspire me. Susan has authored books about inventing, and Brigid recently released a book detailing Eleanor Roosevelt’s ties to the American labor movement.

From our discussions, it dawned on me that all of you, the residents of the larger Rockford community, are the characters in a book about Rockford’s industrial past and future. As characters in this shared book, we should promote our common story. No one else will sell our “book,” so we have to do it.

Our story, our message, is of local innovation and even greater potential.

As you gently proclaim and remind people of Rockford’s industrial strengths, you may inspire a business owner or manufacturer to look at Rockford, hopefully writing a new chapter in Rockford’s history.

Paul Gorski ( is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.

From the Aug. 14-20, 2013, issue

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