ROCKFORD (WIFR) – Lowering crime in the Stateline is just one of the many goals being talked about in the Transform Rockford movement and now the initiative is getting support on a national level.
More than 100 people, all concerned about Rockford’s future packed into one room for a Transform Rockford visioning session to come up with ways to revive our struggling city. People like Janis Long who says Rockford just isn’t the same now as it was 50 years ago.
“We have the Coronado Theater, we have the library, and we want people to come and see that and enjoy it,” said Long.
It’s the teamwork of regular citizens, business, leaders and philanthropists that helped Rockford beat out dozens of other cities for a federal program called the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative.
“Sometimes, you know regulations and bureaucracy can slow that vision down so I really look forward to getting some help and just accelerating that process of achieving that vision.”
The SC2 program will help the city cut through Red Tape to get projects done faster and free up federal dollars city leaders might not have known were available. Federal officials specifically chose communities with a clear strategy to boost the economy. Both Transform Rockford and the Etsy program, which started earlier this year, stood out.
“It has great value. We haven’t yet hit that potential and I think having the SC2 team working on this within our city and on the federal partnership level, I think can really take it to a new level.”
With the community’s support, and now the help of the SC2 program, Long is confident Rockford can return to its once strong economic roots.
“I want to see positive things happen, especially in the school system and the cultural aspect of the community.”
Again, Rockford isn’t actually getting money through this program, but it will get help finding money that’s available through the Federal Government, which is sometimes hard to find. With the help of Federal Officials, we should be able to get those funds faster and get programs up and running quicker.
The city is already in talks with Federal officials. In March, two federal employees will move into offices in City Hall to really start working hand in hand with the Mayor’s office. They’ll be here at least one year and if everything goes well, they’ll stay for two years.
This has been a long time coming for Rockford. Last summer, the government made a list of 91 cities it thought needed the most economic help. 51 of those cities agreed and applied for the program. After sending in applications, SC2 leaders chose the final 7 to take part in the initiative, including St. Louis and Gary Indiana.