Regional development plans paying off for communities

By Erin Kolb
Contributor

ROCKFORD – The Economic Development District of Northern Illinois (EDDNI) is accepting public input for its  2016 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

The CEDS lays out regional initiatives to be worked on in a 5-year period.

McHenry county was an addition this year. The first CEDS in 2010 included Boone and Winnebago counties. McHenry county was an addition this year.  

Thomas Bona, Director of Research and Information for EDDNI, said that McHenry County originally had their own, county-specific CEDS but wanted to join EDDNI in order to help the entire region.

“It is a road map for federal investment,” Bona said. “The goal of this document is not here necessarily to create more agencies or more initiatives, but to utilize the ones we already have in place. This includes public and private resources, and finding partnerships within our region.”

Bona said the initiatives listed in the CEDS would be a priority with or without federal funding, but stressed that federal funding is what makes it possible.

The 2010 CEDS saw the region to receive about $10.6 million in federal grants. Of that, $6.1 million went to promote entrepreneurship and innovation programs, $2.7 million came from a public works grant to improve the roads around the airport, and $1.8 million went to improve the region’s aerospace cluster.

Bona said a major accomplishment of the first CEDS was the collaboration of Rock Valley College and Northern Illinois University in creating a marquee engineering program.

“Rockford is one of the larger regions without a 4-year university,” Bona said. “Having an engineering school helps drive the workforce. It helps taxpayers save money on recruitment and turnover rates.”

Currently, Bona said, there is no collaboration between Rock Valley College and McHenry County College, but he said EDDNI is certainly on the lookout for opportunities.

Bona remarked that there is much to learn from the successes and the problems from the first CEDS.

“I want to be able to say what hasn’t worked and why it hasn’t worked,” Bona said. “It’s having a plan for action that will lead to success.”

One thing Bona learned from the first CEDS is that there is need for a more extensive freight rail system in the area. He said there aren’t a lot of industrial sites on good rail lines.

“There’s a lot of good land there, and we’re realizing more and more that we need to find ways to upgrade that aspect,” Bona said.

For information or to view the CEDS draft for public comment visit eddni.org/ceds.

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