Northwest Business Magazine

Next Rockford: More Young Professionals are Choosing Rockford

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More often, young professionals are choosing to live and work in the Rockford region, and they’re bringing a vibrant energy along with them. Meet a few dynamic leaders helping to reshape the future of our region.

Rockford’s City Market

Good news! Rockford is leading the state, among cities of its size, in capital investment. This means more jobs and more young professionals choosing to live and work here. Among them are members of Next Rockford, a young professionals’ group that represents the next generation of local leadership. Here’s how a few of its members – boomerangers and transplants alike – are contributing to our region.

The Millennial Boomeranger: Seth Gronewald, staff engineer at Fehr Graham

Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Forreston, Ill.; graduated from Bradley U. in Peoria in 2015
Q: What brought you to Rockford?
A: The opportunity to live close to family. I’ve always wanted to help to make our area a more desirable place to live, through my work. 
Q: What’s your proudest career accomplishment here?
A: Taking part in the site and roadway designs for the new MercyHealth hospital project has been one of the most exciting firm-wide accomplishments that I’ve been associated with. I also work on a variety of projects, both public and private, involving site developments, public utility improvements, roadway improvements and much more. 
Q: How are you involved in the community?
A: Most of my involvement stems from working with local municipalities on specific project needs. Examples include improvements linked to economic development, public utilities and safety.
Q: Favorite Rockford hangout?
A: Oddly enough, I enjoy Prairie Street Brewhouse, even though my office is in that building. Also Vintage 501 and Greenfire.

The Transplant: Colin Belle, Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP)

Q: Where did you grow up?
A: In the Village of Baldwinsville, in central New York, a suburb of Syracuse. Graduated from Plattsburgh State U. with degree in Environmental Science. Received Master of Regional Planning from the State U. of New York at Albany.
Q: What cities have you lived/worked in?
A: I worked for the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation located in downtown Albany, the state’s capitol. After graduation, I worked for the NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation Office of Climate Change and the Empire State Economic Development Corp., in Albany.
Q: What brought you to Rockford?
A: I moved here in April 2012 for a job opportunity to work on a grant received from HUD, DOT and EPA, to develop a regional plan for sustainability in Boone and Winnebago counties.
Q: What’s your proudest career accomplishment here?
A: Taking over the region’s Travel Demand Model and Regional Economic Model, which covers Boone, Winnebago and Ogle counties. These models help officials to make more informed transportation and economic development decisions.
Q: What sets Rockford apart from other cities?
A: One of the first things I noticed when I moved here was the amount and quality of parks, forest preserves and recreational opportunities, such as hiking at Rock Cut State Park, bicycling on the Sinnissippi River Path, or kayaking on the Kishwaukee River.
Q: Favorite Rockford hangout?
A: Prairie Street Brewhouse

The Gen-X Boomeranger:
Jimsi Kuborn, VP of Investor Relations, Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC)

Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Rockford area; graduated NIU
Q: What other cities have you worked in?
A: Boise, Idaho, for 6 years, and Chicago for 1.5 years
Q: What brought you back?
A: Family, job opportunity, affordability and attainability of my goals
Q: What’s your proudest career accomplishment here?
A: Being a leader in RAEDC’s strategic planning, in 2015, and being promoted to vice president after 3.5 years. Working on behalf of my hometown region is tremendously rewarding.
Q: What sets Rockford apart from cities you’ve lived in?
A: Diversity! In Boise, I found myself missing the chance to interact with people of different backgrounds and cultures.
Also, opportunity. I purchased a home in the Rockford area just 12 months after moving back, a goal I couldn’t have accomplished as a single income individual either in Boise or Chicago.
The ease of navigating within the region is also a big plus.
The Rockford area is not the region I left in 2007. Today I enjoy the benefits created by those who cared enough to make a real difference here, rather than sitting on the sidelines waiting for improvements to just happen.
Q: How do you involve yourself in our community?
A: My job enables me to interact with many organizations that work hard for our community. I also volunteer in leadership roles for Next Rockford, KFACT (Keeping Families and Communities Together), and Remedies, which addresses domestic violence.
Q: Favorite Rockford hangout?
A: Downtown Rockford on Friday nights for City Market.

Rebecca Nunes is a member of the Next Rockford Strategy Team and an e-marketing specialist at Alpine Bank.

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