Rockford’s Mayor says the city must strive to be a "world-class" community in order to be competitive. Speaking at the Rockford Chamber of Commerce annual business lunch, Larry Morrissey said Rockford is home to a number of world-class companies.
“In today’s extremely competitive and mobile environment, world–class businesses expect a world class commitment and world-class results from the communities in which they operate. That is Rockford’s challenge today," Morrissey said.
Morrissey says that requires that requires a world-class business climate, world-class infrastructure and most of all, world-class human capital.
To improve the first, Morrissey renewed his call for pension and collective bargaining reforms. And he called on the audience to help push for the changes through lobbying or at the ballot box.
“So long as our local community lacks the legal ability to manage our own budget due to the interference of Springfield on our collective bargaining and pensions systems, our ability to tell our world-class businesses that we can manage effectively is going to be limited, will be frustrated,” Morrissey said.
On infrastructure, Morrissey says Rockford is already making great strides. Upgrades to the city’s water and fiber optic broadband systems, airport, roads and bridges have been completed or are under construction, and work will begin soon on the city’s new multi-modal train station. He also highlighted the importance of improvements made downtown along the Rock River.
“Whether you visit San Antonio, Texas, or Naperville, Illinois, you’ll find riverfront communities around our country those types of investments, world-class investments, consistently in their riverfronts. If we intend on meeting the expectations of world-class businesses then we must have the amenities those cities share,” Morrissey said.
Lastly, Morrissey stressed the need the importance of the city’s human capital. He says the most important part a world-class business is world-class people.
“If we expect to have those businesses come here and stay here, then we must do everything we can to support world-class learning and personal growth and development," Morrissey said.
Morrissey pointed to efforts like Alignment Rockford to connect employers with the city’s public schools to support academic and vocational success. He pushed for expanding the concept beyond the primary and secondary levels, citing the increasingly high costs of higher education.
“We need to deliver world–class college experiences since more and more, right here in Rockford, Illinois, families are forced to pursue a local college option, as opposed to sending their children further away," Morrissey said.
Morrissey says that can be achieved by exploiting online learning resources, and through more partnerships between businesses and local educational institutions, like JiET-A, which seeks to connect students to career paths in aerospace engineering.
“We can and should pursue this same approach in other fields like health care, manufacturing and social services,” Morrissey said.
Morrissey says for too long, the city has looked backward, and lowered its expectations for itself. He says, if Rockford wants to be a world-class community, it needs to start with world-class pride and confidence in itself.