When you look at the numbers, it is easy to see the challenges faced by the community of Rockford, IL. Here are just a few.
· Although the unemployment rate went down from 13.3% in March, 2011 to 11.9% in April, it is still more than 3% higher than the rate for the state of Illinois, which sits at 8.7%.
· House prices in six of the eight Rockford ZIP codes fell more than 10 percent between 2010 and 2011. The median price dropped from $67,000 in the first three months of 2010 to $46,150 in the first quarter of 2011. Nearly 800 new foreclosures were filed in the same period in 2011. (http://bit.ly/ju65ZS)
· The median income in Illinois for 2009, the most recent figures available, was $53,974. For Winnebago County, that number is $44,390, a difference of $9,500 per year.
· Rockford was recently named one of the top ten most dangerous cities in the U.S. because it has “unusually high violent-crime rates for a city of its size.” (http://bit.ly/lHwvn3)
· 11% of homeless individuals in Rockford are employed. Rockford Public Housing has a wait list of 2,000 people and receives 100 new applications per month.http://ow.ly/4XlKW
· Demand for services at the Northern Illinois Food Bank has increased by 168% since 2006.
Despite these numbers, there has been good news of late. Some 1,800 jobs were added in the area between April, 2010 and April, 2011, with half in the manufacturing sector. (http://bit.ly/l1GGkD). The housing market in May of this year also showed some signs of life, with sales up 26.6% over April, and realtors reporting much improved home affordability indicators. (http://bit.ly/lH7Xzm)
And when you look beyond the numbers, you see people with a lot of hope for this city. A story that ran in the January 18, 2011 edition of New York Times Magazine shows people who are dedicated to their community and have a positive outlook for Rockford.
The people interviewed for this story shared their optimism, calling Rockford a “community on the rebound.” They talk about having roots in the community and wanting to help build it back up.
This is the spirit we share and the reason that we are working so hard to help raise up Rockford. We see the potential here and believe in a bright future for Rockford, if we all work together. We chose to celebrate this spirit of community building in our latest video, Raising Up Rockford. (http://bit.ly/rbc2in)