The Time For Action Is Now For Young And Old

Next Rockford is an investor in the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC).  I serve as Next Rockford’s Board representative on the RAEDC.  This blog article is a complimentary piece to Isaac Guerrero’s article.  I have known Isaac for years and have enjoyed reading his articles.  

Wins – Leadership – Coalitions Of The Willing

I attended the RAEDC Annual Dinner this week. It was a celebration of our many economic development “wins” over the past year.  The event was further evidence of forward movement. The fact that there is work to be done does not diminish the strides we have made. 

I agree with my friend and event emcee, Bill Roop, when he said that the best thing the RAEDC ever did was appoint Janyce Fadden as their President.  She has done a great job and assembled a dynamic team.  I liked her closing message that evening: More people of goodwill need to come together and join the “coalitions of the willing.”     

25-44 Year-Old Statistic

One statistic shared at the dinner speaks directly to opportunities that lie ahead for Gen X’ers, Gen Y’ers, and Millennia’s:

Each year for the next 10 years, there will be a million worker shortage for people ages 25-44 in the United States.  In the Rockford area, there is a lower % of this age group compared to the national average.  In addition, the Rockford area has lower than average educational attainment for this demographic. 

This presents a challenge to employers since 8 out of 10 jobs require education/training past high school.  However, given the law of supply and demand, if you are young and educated and live in the area, you are in a GREAT position!  I don’t think we talk about that enough.       

Challenging The Status Quo 

I also read Isaac Guerrero’s blog and some of his tweets during the RAEDC event.  Although I disagreed with the overall tone, I would like to thank him for forcing me to examine how I think and feel about a great number of things in Rockford.  However, I became a little distracted by the repeated “old white men” cracks when the larger message of the event was something quite different.  Words and context matter.  

That being said, I would invite Isaac to continue to celebrate community success AND  challenge our thinking.  He has a great platform and is the right person for the job.  

We Can’t Blame Baby Boomers For Our Lack Of Involvement

Perhaps we need to spend less time throwing stones at Baby Boomers and more time looking in the mirror.  “Old white men” have been our favorite target.  Taking shots at people who are engaged does not make us more involved.  When taken to extremes it actually discourages people of goodwill from getting more involved.    

There are many non-profit Boards and volunteer opportunities in the area.  All of them want and need more involvement by young people.  However, they don’t always know where to look for young talent.  Conversely, young people are not always good at communicating their interest.  Both sides need to do a better job of reaching out.  If you are young, don’t be intimidated.  You are a hot commodity.  This community needs you!      

Regarding the RAEDC, they have committees that employees of investor businesses can join.  And, as Isaac referenced in his blog, there are a number of elected offices that young people can consider running for.  If not now, when?  If not you, who?      

Next Rockford And Diversity

To add a little perspective, consider Next Rockford for a minute.  A group founded on the idea of getting a “seat at the table” and giving a voice to people of our generation is not exempt from a diversity challenge.  It is a challenge but one that we are committed to working through.  It is not a conversation we shy away from nor is it a topic that we think is unimportant. 

If you are a member of Gen X or Y and want to join a network of people involved in changing our community for the better, then join us for the Next Rockford December Meeting on Thursday, the 13th at 7:30 am at the YWCA (across from Rockford College).  Questions?  Give me a call (815) 979-9121.

The biggest take-away from the RAEDC event was: “The Time To Act Is Now” – It is! 




  1. Jeff Glass

    Nice blog, Frank. I agree the EDC and those who volunteer to assist it have done a good job and that there is a lot of opportunity in Rockford for those willing to seek it out and keep a positive attitude.

  2. In 2010 when i was looking for a job in IT with a 4 year degree. Rockford had nothing, I still watch the local area and it still does not have much. I travel to Aurora everyday, I found the opportunity there. I sure would consider joining next Rockford, but it is difficult when trying to support a family and needing to travel an hour plus to work.

    Rockford need to make CNC and similar machinists a priority, raise them up as that is where many shortages of employees are. Show students how good the job is, the schools are starting to explain and teach to it. Rock Valley, Rockford Career College and Rockford University (Rockford College) all get behind it to provide the training.
    Everone needs to celebrate these jobs just as we have tried to bring Embry-Riddle and airline service to Rockford.

  3. Frank Haney

    Thanks Jeff!

  4. Frank Haney


    Sorry to hear of your struggles. My optimism for where we are going does not mean that things haven’t been tough as of late.

    I 100% agree with your comments about CNC machinists, RVC, and RU. Seems like more folks are talking about this than before and that is a really good thing.

    My best wishes.

  5. Tricia Diduch

    Frank, a very well thought out and civil post. One is not ignoring the urgent issues by taking a moment to celebrate the year’s successes. I urge anyone interested in seeing more diversity in the Rockford business community to contact the Northern Illinois Minority Companies Association (NIMCA) for more information on how the greater area can work together to enhance the minority business community.