By Paul Gorski
This article is partly a response to Frank Schier’s “Editorial: Rockford Transformers and thankfulness” from the Nov. 27-Dec.3, 2013, issue and partly a continuing discussion of our region’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). I’ve previously encouraged readers to submit their suggestions for building a local strategic plan, and Schier’s column addresses long-term planning, too.
Schier advises the new community development group, “Transform Rockford,” to focus on tourism, the waterfront and “friendly.” Schier also aptly points out we already have a long list of successful businesses in downtown Rockford and that we could all learn a lesson or two from these “real visionaries.” I agree. These are strengths we should build on.
One local planning weakness is our insistence on reinventing the wheel. We have study after study, but we don’t seem to learn much from the studies. Why do we need a group like “Transform Rockford” when the city, county and other groups already have economic development plans?
The Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC), http://www.rockfordil.com/, is supposed to be a hub for strategic economic growth resources with its primary mission “to collaboratively enhance wealth creation in the Rockford Region by helping employers retain and create quality jobs.” Now, we also have Transform Rockford at: http://transformrockford.org/.
I’m all for growing the region, socially and economically. Perhaps we do need a group like Transform Rockford because certain similar efforts have not been as effective as some would have hoped.
Before getting residents’ hopes up again, I offer these suggestions to the Transform Rockford group. One of your “Shared Values” is “Transparency”; I suggest you work on this goal by listing the group’s history, founders and funding sources on your website. I also suggest you offer a telephone number and U.S. Mail mailing address to your contact information. We’d like to know with whom we are partnering — in detail.
I would also identify what makes your group different from other “grow Rockford” efforts, and what is your real “Case for Change,” as you’ve noted on your website. No more feel-good slogans — a real mission statement. Next, in addition to analyzing the poll data you are collecting, you should review existing economic development plans. Years of research and community input went into developing city and county long-range planning documents.
Transform Rockford’s next community meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Ellis Arts Academy — sign up at: http://transformrockford.org/community-engagement/. To Schier and Transform Rockford: I suggest the “real visionaries” from downtown Rockford attend that meeting. Or, perhaps schedule a special meeting with these downtown business leaders and Transform Rockford leadership. We don’t need another splinter group, nor do we need to reinvent the wheel. But we could use a group to pull all the existing resources together to fix our broken wheels and get back on track. Now that might just transform Rockford.
I remind readers that the RAEDC website has a lot of good information, check it out. Other planning documents may be found at the following websites: Rockford’s 2020 plan: http://www.rockfordil.gov/community-economic-development/long-range-planning/2020-plan.aspx; and Winnebago County’s 2030 Land Resource Management Plan: http://wincoil.us/departments/zoning,-planning-and-mapping/2030-land-resource-management-plan/.
Paul Gorski (http://www.paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the Dec. 4-10, 2013, issue