"I never imagined moving out here initially."
Richard Konieczko used to live in Chicago until his parents bought a house on the Rock river. Now as a Rockford College student and member of Ignite he's finding opportunities in the stateline that he didn't expect.
"I took on a non-paid internship at the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, and that was probably the most transforming experience I've ever had in my life," said Konieczko.
Ignite, a young professional group, and the RAEDC are two organizations that are working to attract and retain people like Richard, in order to develop the stateline.
"Working to find those students, those college students who left, and say, say to them, we have internships during your breaks, and when you graduate, there are jobs waiting for you," said Tonya Lamia, VP of Investments for RAEDC.
"(Do you think that you would still be here if an organization like this was around?) Ya know I don't think I would," responded Karissa Kienast.
Karissa is another example of a successful implant. She grew up in Michigan and had never heard of Rockford until her husband got a job here.
"We just fell in love with Rockford, it was a nice sized town that had some of those big city amenities that you want but it also had that smaller town feel," said Kienast
With positive stories like these you may think the groups are working, but there's still one giant obstacle -- perception.
"The people were like why'd you come to Rockford? Ya know, why'd you choose here?" said Kienast.
"All you would hear is the negative, that's the common, sort of the common tone you would get in the area, but if you really look into what is available out here, you'd be surprised," said Konieczko.
"We're doing it to ourselves, we're scaring away the very people that can transform our community for the future," said Lamia.
The focus on attracting young professionals began back in 2005, but its only recently that groups like Ignite, only 9 months old, began to take hold in our community.
In addition to bringing in and connecting the young and educated, the groups also share a common goal of developing downtown Rockford. Something they say the younger generation wants.
(Chip Brewster is available via email AND facebook... feel free to shoot him a message or friend him at any time)