Newly-elected U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-IL, has wasted no time getting up to speed on behalf of one of Rockford’s biggest issues — convincing Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to establish a third campus at Chicago Rockford International Airport. (The university is based in Daytona Beach, Florida and has a second campus in Prescott, Ariz.)
Kirk, a Navy Reserve officer, knows the airport’s capacity well. In fact, he’s been driven down the 10,000 foot runway in a van! Last spring he took a lengthy tour of the airport with Executive Director Bob O’Brien. (I tagged along.) And after Bob has given you the complete airport tour, you’ve learned every, last, exhausting detail about the airport.
Kirk, in a Dec. 9 letter to Riddle CEO John Johnson, makes the case for Rockford. Here’s some of what he said:
“While have been Illinois’ junior U.S. Senator for fewer than two weeks, I want to express
the high-priority that I give to bringing your institution to our state and community.
“As you know, our region is home to more than 100 aerospace-related manufacturing
companies including Hamilton Sundstrand, Woodward Governor, and GE Aviation,
providing added incentives to graduating students and countless partnership
opportunities to further the industry-leading position of Embry-Riddle.
“Companies like UPS have invested heavily in Rockford and the airport, recognizing the
considerable benefit of our highly educated workforce. Close proximity to the
corporate headquarters of industry giants such as Boeing and United Continental
Holdings also represent countless possibilities to further the mission of the
“Our unique location would not only meet the needs of those with a passion for
aeronautics, but also will help inspire future generations who have yet to experience
what Embry-Riddle has to offer. Your strong presence in the southern United States
would be well complemented with a facility that could draw talent from throughout the
“The “Rock the Air” campaign also demonstrates the already significant level of community support for Embry-Riddle. Their innovative scholarship fund is just one example of the strong backing you would receive. I am pleased to join with my colleagues, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, and U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Egan, along with a host of state and local leaders, in recommending Rockford for your third campus. I have no doubt that you will receive the strongest backing in Washington from Rockford’s congressional delegation should you choose our community. I am writing in strong support of Rockford and the Chicago Rockford International Airport as the third campus location for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.”