Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s annual meeting highlights tech revolution

Online Staff Report

More than 750 business and community leaders celebrated the region’s economic progress and looked ahead to an even brighter future in manufacturing at the Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s (RAEDC) 2014 Annual Meeting and Dinner Nov. 19.

Dr. Caralynn Nowinski, executive director & COO of UI Labs, delivered the event’s keynote address, “The Technology Revolution,” at Giovanni’s Restaurant and Convention Center. She spoke about the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute and how the Rockford Region can plug into this new collaborative model.

DMDII, set to open on Goose Island in Chicago in 2015, is about efficiency and solving real-world problems. It will create a research environment in which companies, academic institutions and civic organizations can pinpoint a vexing technical challenge and then develop an innovative solution and bring it to market.

UI Labs and its program, DMDII, are committed to pushing the envelope in digital manufacturing in factories throughout Rockford and throughout the country,” Nowinski said. “Our visit to Rockford is a key part of that campaign. The Rockford Region already has a compelling story to tell.”

After the RAEDC meeting, Dr. Nowinski and her staff will spend two days here to hear more about that story. They will make multiple visits with business, government and community leaders. “We believe the next chapter of its success will be driven by innovation, adaptability and collaboration through the adoption of digital manufacturing. As the nation’s digital manufacturing hub, DMDII is excited to be supporting Rockford and its businesses on this transformational journey. Our visit here this week is just the beginning and the first of many steps.”

Board Chairman Joel Sjostrom opened the evening by thanking the RAEDC’s public and private partners for their commitment and teamwork. “Because of a strong collaborative spirit in our board meetings, in the work of our Solutions Teams and Committees, and in the high level of engagement of our investors, the region is moving forward,” he said.

Year to date, the RAEDC and our community’s economic development professionals and elected officials have achieved project commitments that will result in 2,380 new and retained jobs. The projects also reflect more than $160 million of capital investment and 2,164,000 square feet of new or renovated space.

RAEDC President Mike Nicholas underlined how much the Rockford region has grown not just this year but since its beginnings in the mid-19th century. Connecting with the DMDII effort is one more example of boldly moving forward. “We are getting in on the ground floor of an industry game-changer — together,” Nicholas said.

Innovation is not unique to manufacturing, Nicholas noted. “Digital manufacturing is all about improvement: whether it’s deeper analytics or upgraded software or wider stakeholder feedback in your product. Everyone in this room speaks the language of ‘better, faster and smarter.’ We all need to think differently to be competitive.”

Posted Nov. 20, 2014

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