Meet John Doe: Let’s build a strategic plan together, part 2 — SWOT breakfast

By Paul Gorski

You are invited to help plan Winnebago County’s future and possibly get a free breakfast out of it.

Last week in the online version of this column, “Meet John Doe: Let’s build a strategic plan together, part 1 — SWOT analysis” (, I started a discussion regarding local government’s role in economic development and asked for your help in developing a strategic plan for Winnebago County.

As part of that project, I asked for your help in developing a SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) analysis for the county. A SWOT analysis is a technique/process used to help an organization better plan for growth. Team members get together and list, usually in a chart with four boxes: strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats that have or might affect the organization’s success.

I didn’t have anyone submit suggestions other than “it is a good idea” and “I hope something comes of this.” So, I thought it might be easier for some people to participate face-to-face. So, I’m offering to host a breakfast for four Rock River Times readers interested in contributing to the SWOT analysis.

This breakfast will be held the morning of Saturday, Oct. 19, at 9 a.m. My treat. Submit your name by e-mail to: or write this paper at 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101. Diners will be chosen by a drawing from submissions received by Tuesday, Oct. 15. Any resident of Winnebago County is welcome to submit a request. I do ask that you be ready to contribute ideas to the process.

You don’t have to wait until the breakfast to contribute. Post online or e-mail me what you think this region’s strengths, weaknesses, threats (to our success) and opportunities for success are. To be fair, you should identify at least one item in each category. No ideas are bad ideas, and don’t worry about prioritizing them — that comes later.

Examples: truck transportation services are a strength for the region; property taxes, a weakness/are higher than they should be for the area; competition from Chicago, Milwaukee and nearby states is a threat to bringing more manufacturing here; and focusing on growing our cluster of aerospace companies is an opportunity for growth.

Other strengths might include: a variety of public, private and faith-based schools to choose from; and we’re close to recreational areas, golf courses, and hunting and fishing locations. Or, you might suggest turning a weakness, high unemployment, into an opportunity: a ready and willing workforce.

For some of you, it might be easier to simply state what you really like about the area and what new things you would like to see happen here, or what old practices you would like to see go away. What keeps you here, or what threatens to make you leave? No ideas are bad ideas, as this is a critical thinking process.

This breakfast is my doing, and this paper doesn’t necessarily endorse or oppose the plan. Again, “Meet John Doe” is about community education and community building. Let’s see what we can do together. Contact me at or write me at this paper’s mailing address.

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

From the Oct. 9-15, 2013, issue

One thought on “Meet John Doe: Let’s build a strategic plan together, part 2 — SWOT breakfast

  • October 11, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    One of the major problems with Rockford, Illinois is that education is not good. The problem exists in the RPS and in Rock Valley College. For instance, there should have been no reason I learned about “interlibrary loan” around age 20 or so: A great way to get all kinds of books, too.

    I went into the Rockford Public Library downtown this summer, and the books are really mediocre. You’ll find more interesting books in the local colleges and universities (RVC, Rockford University *cringe*, and University of Illinois at Rockford).

    So, the educators in Rockford, Illinois are either really crap… or they are being told to have a standard of teaching and not doing anything more (only certain teaching plans are pre-approved, to say).

    I became educated as I am today, because I spent a lot of time outside of the class with educators and intellectuals. The educators and intellectuals did not come to me at a high standard, although they are paid to do so. But when I spent time with them, the standard was much higher.

    That’s the education angle: Break down the barriers.

    Many Rockford, Illinois individuals don’t see the value in education. I feel that Rock Valley College and the other academic institutions withhold knowledge of grants and scholarships, thus do not expose the knowledge so readily, in order to get people to go to their school. Kind of crooked, really, as some people deserve better (because they’re determined and devoted people to certain things).

    The business angle has already been screwed. More businesses are closing. I will say, however, that the competitive spirit that I experienced in Chicago, Illinois does not exist in Rockford, Illinois. That may be why some of the best in Rockford, Illinois leave Rockford, Illinois: They are competitive people.

    For instance, in 2005, when I was at an Academic All-Star dinner with, I believe it was the RPS 205 president or head (someone high-up), the male individual (40s or so; I think he was that ex-military guy), had pleaded that us intellectuals stay in Rockford, Illinois and help build it up.

    You want to know what happened? Because I was astonished at how the crowd reacted next.

    People laughed.

    Take that in for a while. The RPS 205 president is giving a serious speech, pleads that the intellectuals in Rockford, Illinois stay, and then, in response, people laugh.

    I guess that, in a lot of ways, says that Rockford, Illinois is a joke.

    I don’t think that is because people bad mouth Rockford, IL. However, those kids I met in Chicago, IL… the 17 and 18-year-olds… were much more intellectual, competitive, and driven than any 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds I came across ever in Rockford, Illinois.

    Those who are competitive find better jobs. And those jobs and opportunities, just may as well exist out of Rockford, Illinois.

    So, I guess you could say that Rockford, Illinois has a lost of competitive edge, because competitive people have no interest in staying here.

    When I came back to Rockford, IL, I considered that it was a hick town. Yes, I can even recall when I was sitting with a friend in Chicago, IL (former Rockford resident), I had mentioned to him, “Rockford is really white.” I had also mentioned to him at some time that the Clocktower was broke, and the time was wrong.

    Take that in for what you will. Rockford, Illinois is behind.

    Competition is one thing. Cat eat dog world, as I say. If you don’t stay competitive, the cat will eat you.

    And I’ve read some people don’t like the idea of making Rockford, Illinois into Chicago, Illinois. That’s a fair enough argument, and it’s understandable. And yes, Rockford, Illinois has it’s own culture.

    What it’s lacking, however, is a culture of competition. It’s a “bust your arse and do your best” mentality.

    The other area where Rockford, Illinois is lacking is in socialization. People tend to be xenophobic and kind of unwary of different kinds of people in Rockford, Illinois.

    As such, it’s difficult to network with people and say, “Hey, I’m a competitive person and want to build a network of business associates. Want to be friends?”

    And people will look at you strange. The heck, man? Seriously… what the..

    But that’s how it is here in Rockford, Illinois. In Chicago, it was great. You talk to someone for a while, say your name, they say their name, and you’ve got an associate. Power in numbers.

    That realm of thinking doesn’t seem to really get across to people here in Rockford, Illinois. It’s really disturbing.

    Education, business, and socialization. If those with power are not oppressing others, then they sure are acting like fools.

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