Woodward Expansion Means Jobs in Rockford

LOVES PARK (WIFR) -- This will go down as a year to remember when it comes to good jobs coming to Rockford. First, Chrysler unveiled its 18 hundred job expansion plan and now another Stateline staple announced its bringing hundreds of high paying jobs to the Stateline

Woodward CEO Tom Gendron comes from the company’s Fort Collins Colorado headquarters with the major announcement that they have selected the Loves Park area for their new campus. Loves Park Mayor Darryl Lindberg says it's like hitting a home run with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

It's a $200,000,000 expansion for a brand new Loves Park facility. Gendron says that translates into hundreds and eventually over a thousand jobs coming to the Stateline over the next decade. The Stateline had some stiff competition from Wisconsin and South Carolina to land this expansion.

“First it starts with the talent pool we have here and the numbers and as we're evaluating various facilities and sites, what came back was we have this incredible workforce here. We want to build on it,” says CEO Gendron of his rationale for choosing Loves Park over other locations.

Due to all the recent successes and contract wins, Gendron expects the workforce at Woodward to double in size in the upcoming years, which means about 1500 jobs. On the short term, they are expecting to hire 660 good jobs over the next three years.

"If it's on the engineering side it's in the excess of 60 to 80 thousand dollars, maybe higher for senior engineers. If those are manufacturing jobs then total compensation is still in 40-50 thousand dollar range so on aggregate these are very high paying jobs compared to all other area jobs,” said Aircraft Turbine Systems President Sagar Patel.

The new production facility will be built three and a half miles from the current North Second Street Woodward building. The 300,000 square foot building will be built on 70,000 acres on Harlem Road in between Perryville and Forest Hills Road. Both the acreage and building size are about double the size of the North Second Street facility. Woodward leaders plan on picking a contractor to build the facility early next month. The plan is to break ground this fall and have it up and running by the second half of 2013.

Although Woodward plans to bring 660 jobs in three years and a possible 1,500 this decade, it does not include the construction jobs and those in the supply and service sector.

In addition to the added jobs at Woodward, local leaders say for every one job Woodward adds, it will create another full-time job in a different sector. So now we're talking about thousands of jobs.

With more jobs at Woodward, this means other businesses will thrive too, from restaurants to retail. It’s possible we could also see a boom in our housing market as employees move to the area. Almost every little thing you can think of will feel the economic impact.

"When we look at that campus we're looking at all the stuff around it, people are going to have to buy gas, they're going to have to buy houses, groceries, kids will go to school here so there's just a lot of spinnoff,” said Loves Park Mayor Darryl Lindberg.

"These are jobs that pay at a level where people can buy a house, invest in our community, have disposable income, and shop in our area,” said Janyce Fadden with the Rockford Area Economic Development Council.

An independent study by Northern Illinois University shows Woodward's impact will only grow larger over the next decade.

They estimate that Woodward will support close to 6,000 jobs in the community by 2021, generating nearly half a billion dollars in compensation. The study estimates that in that same time the resulting economic output on an annual basis will be 2.4 billion dollars.

While things have been tough for others in this economy, Woodward has thrived, winning several contracts recently with Aerbus and Boeing. In fact, CEO Tom Gendron said every commercial plane in production right now has at least some parts made at Woodward in the Stateline. Also, because it is the aerospace industry, they have to look at least 5-7 years ahead on any decision. In fact Gendron says today's expansion marks at least a 50 year commitment.

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