By Bob Trojan –

One of Rockford’s strengths in manufacturing are the networks that exist that bring manufacturers together to share knowledge and business. The Rockford Chamber’s Manufacturers Council, Women of Today’s Manufacturing, Rock River Valley Tooling and Machining Association and the Rockford Area Aerospace Network are the prominent networks.

In looking to increase collaboration between Janesville and Rockford, Blackhawk Bank and several other organizations, sponsored the first “Manufacturing in Motion” network event. A dinner networking event was held last week in Janesville that drew 130 attendees. Janesville manufacturers and economic developers welcomed this opportunity as they do not have the networking or advocacy groups that exist here in Rockford.

The Janesville area is a good manufacturing base with 236 manufacturers employing over 13,000 employees; 30% of US manufacturing takes place in a 500 mile radius from Winnebago/Rock counties according to Forward Janesville Demographic Data.

While there will be competition between Wisconsin and Illinois at the state level, the Southern Wisconsin/Northern Illinois region can only become stronger by networking and keeping as much manufacturing work in this region. Why send work to China if there is a manufacturer in this region?

Another benefit of this networking are the speakers that will give testimonials on local training programs that can help solve the problems of a skilled worker shortage – programs that are vital for long-term success and the continuation of manufacturing’s recent upward trend. Or as last night, the speaker, Terri Roessler, CEO, CFO United Alloy Inc. spoke on what she and her colleagues are doing at United Alloy in Janesville. It is considered heresy in the manufacturing world. They’ve taken the gospel known as lean and traditional manufacturing and thrown it out the window. And instead of being struck dead on their shop floor, they’re enjoying a 40 percent increase in sales, a 21,000-square-foot expansion and plans to increase the workforce by 32 people.

Much can be gained by Rockford and Janesville as this series of networking events begins to mature.