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Rockford is the place to be for aerospace manufacturing, industry leaders say

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Aerospace is so important to the Rockford community that nearly 100 aerospce companies from Winnebago County recently spent an entire day focused on the industry.

“Little ole Rockford is outpacing Chicago by a factor of three times, up against any of the sub-markets inside of Chicago,” boasted Nathan Bryant, President and CEO of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council. “So, it’s a direct measurement of the activity we have in our community. And we’re very proud of those things.”

That economic activity is one thing Rockford business leaders pressed at this year’s Rockford Area Aerospace Network (RAAN) symposium.

“It’s a great opportunity for businesses, particularly aerospace companies within our market, to make connections with other aerospace companies outside of our market. The combination of that allows our economy to grow, and we’re very proud of that opportunity.”

In Winnebago County alone, RAAN says there are more than 90 companies connected to aerospace. 

The symposium drew many of those businesses, like American Standard Circuits, from West Chicago. The company makes printed circuit boards for use on the F-35 fighter jet.

“We want all the different RAAN members, actually, to be able to meet with each other and to see how we can network with each other and sell amongst ourselves and help each other out,” said Anaya Vardya, of American Standard Circuits. “Because this is a very good aerospace community.”

A networking event is important, but sometimes not enought. Manufacturers need to meet certain industry standards. 

Rock Valley College (RVC) can help companies reach that goal.

“In this case, we are really working with companies who are part of the supply chain of the aerospace industry, which expects them to be AS9100 certified,” said Charles Jenrich, a consultant for RVC. “So, we want to bring that cohort group of companies together, who want to go through that certification process in order to make sure they have the certifications in line, in order to be a supplier.”

The industry requires a highly-skilled workforce, which leads to high paying jobs for workers.

Rockford businesses say their role is to keep the growth going.

Ryan Poor, sales engineer for RR Floody Company, said, “[We] help improve the overall job market through automation solutions that will help out with efficiency, improve efficiency, and increase revenue throughput.”

The event organizers also pointed out Rock Valley College’s role in training that future workforce with programs like TechWorks, the college’s engineering partnership with Northern Illinois University, and the RVC Aviation Maintenance Program.

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