Rockford Business Community

Leaders panel examines the state of the community

January 6, 2011 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA  The year 2011 is a milestone for the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, which will celebrate 50 years of supporting the greater Rockford business community. At the organization’s December luncheon, a panel of five community leaders shared their thoughts on the present and future of Rockford. Rockford Chamber Board President Dr. Carl Stites, outgoing State Representative Tom Pearce, County Commissioner Roger Morgan, Rockford City Manager Michael Young, and Rockford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Shibler each spoke Monday, Dec. 6 at Rockford High School. Stites said the Rockford Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1961 and the community was very different. That year, Rockford High School graduated 150 seniors, compared to 660 this year. “Back then, Lake Bella Vista was a swamp,” said Stites. “This whole area has grown immensely. The Rockford Chamber has doubled in size in the last 12 to 15 years.” Stites said that as a board, the Chamber has been contemplating how to manage the growth of the organization and recently held brainstorming sessions, has organized focus groups and has asked members for their feedback. He said the number one request members asked for was marketing. “It’s an exciting time to be in the Chamber,” Stites stated. “We intend to use your input to plan for the next ten to twenty years and look forward to another great fifty years.” The Chamber membership, within just a few percentage points, exists of the businesses in downtown Rockford and the outlying business communities, such as Belmont, Cedar Rock and Cannon Township. “It’s not just the downtown anymore, the way it was in the 1960s when the business community existed as the Squires Street Square Association. We do represent everybody,” Stites said. State Representative Tom Pearce spoke following Stites. Term-limited out of office, Pearce said his years as state representative “were an incredible time for me.” He said there were many things he and his colleagues in Lansing were unable to accomplish, but one point of pride was reintroducing the 2X formula for school funding. This is a measure designed to increase the lowest-funded schools at an increased level compared to the schools which receive higher levels of state funding. He said for the last three out of four years the funding […]