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Rockford-area workforce development group seeks federal funds to advance manufacturing

July 24, 2012

Rockford Area Economic Development Council logoA Rockford education, industry and workforce development collaborative has submitted a proposal for a highly competitive $2.1 million federal Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge (JIAC) grant focusing on the regional advanced manufacturing cluster.

This follows the collaborative’s successful proposal in 2011, which brought a $2.4 million grant to the area in support of the aerospace cluster.

Led by NIU, the team includes the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, EIGERlab, Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), Rockford Regional Economic Development District, Rock Valley College, the Boone and Winnebago Counties Workforce Investment Board and Growth Dimensions of Belvidere-Boone County.

The collaborative proposes to establish the Rockford Area Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (RAAMA) to create a regional forum to accelerate the region’s small- and medium-sized manufacturers in the use of innovation engineering and advanced manufacturing techniques.

NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, NIU’s College of Business, Rock Valley College, EIGERlab and IMEC propose to offer individualized support solutions to Rockford area small and medium-sized manufacturing companies to enhance their capabilities in advanced manufacturing and marketing of products and services utilizing advanced manufacturing processes.

In addition, the collaborative proposes to create the Rockford Area Advanced Manufacturing Institute (RAAMI) to develop industry credential-based training to develop the workforce needed to develop advanced manufacturing innovations.

Rena Cotsones and Janyce Fadden

Rena Cotsones and Janyce Fadden

“The creation and implementation of RAAMA and RAAMI will create new resources and expertise to create high-quality, sustainable jobs, develop a skilled and diverse advanced manufacturing workforce and encourage the innovation and advanced manufacturing capacity of our small and medium-sized companies” said Janyce Fadden, president of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council.

“NIU is delighted to continue to work with this expanded collaborative alliance on innovation and workforce development issues that have the potential to be transformational for the Rockford region,” said Rena Cotsones, assistant vice president for regional engagement/Rockford.

“NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology and the College of Business always welcome the opportunity to join their expertise with the expertise already found here in Rockford area companies.”

The Advanced Manufacturing JIAC opportunity is funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration; the National Institute of Standards and Technology; the U.S. Department of Commerce, Advanced Manufacturing Office, Department of Energy; Employment and Training Administration (ETA); the Department of Labor; and the Small Business Administration.

Successful applicants will be notified by Sept. 30.