ROCKFORD – The Rockford metropolitan area was named one of the top 20 “Best Cities for Manufacturing Jobs” in a recent study because of the area’s manufacturing employment growth.


Rockford placed 19thth overall and 5th in the Midwest in the study, released in May. Rockford improved 9 spots from the site’s 2012 study. Cities were ranked based on criteria including long-term, mid-term and short-term manufacturing job growth and momentum.”They identify those places where the market tells us the best storylines for manufacturing are being written,” site editors Joel Kotkin and Michael Shires wrote in May.

From 2010 through 2012, the Rockford metropolitan area added approximately 4,600 manufacturing jobs, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That represented a 17.4% increase in manufacturing job growth. About one in 5 Rockford-area residents work in manufacturing.


“Manufacturing is the bedrock of our local economy, and we’re glad to see employers rebounding from the recession and strengthening,” said Mark Podemski, Vice President for Development for the Rockford Area Economic Development Council.  “What’s particularly encouraging is that the growth has been across several industries, as our economy becomes more diversified.”


A major driver of the manufacturing growth in the Rockford area has been the expansion of the Chrysler assembly plant in Belvidere and its suppliers. Additionally, the region’s aerospace cluster has been expanding in recent years, including growth at Woodward, B/E Aerospace and Forest City Gear.


In fact, Woodward broke ground last month on a second campus here, which is expected to double the company’s local workforce.


The growth is projected to continue. More than 30% of the 125 employers surveyed last year in the RAEDC’s Voice of the Customer program reported they plan to expand capacity in the next three years. Those companies expect expansions at their facilities that represent a potential 453 new jobs.


“Manufacturers find success here as a result of the strong industrial infrastructure combined with several unique workforce development programs that are helping to create the skilled workforce needed by manufacturing employers,” Podemski said.