She didn’t expect to fall in love with the Rockford area, but 40 years later the region is a better place because of it. Whether she’s connecting people with work or servants with needs, this business leader has done much to improve her adopted hometown.
Ask LoRayne Logan what she loves best about Rockford, and she’ll speak eagerly about her adopted hometown. She’ll tell you about the small-town feel, the lifestyle and the ease with which someone can connect and volunteer.
Such passion and enthusiasm have helped her to recruit workers to the Rockford area for nearly 40 years, and they’ve also helped Logan to make a difference as a tireless volunteer. Even now, as she steps back from the day-to-day hustle at Workplace, the Rockford-based staffing service she founded in 1988, Logan intends to keep finding ways to make Rockford an even better place to work and live.
“Data now says that what most compels people’s well-being and happiness is warm relationships. Those are possible in Rockford, very much so,” she says. “We love talking about the access there is to a lifestyle that has amenities like restaurants, symphonies, parks – there’s a lot about Rockford that we think makes it a good choice. I don’t subscribe in any way to the belief that it’s not a good place to live. I believe it has an amazing future.”
It’s no small impact Logan has made in the community. Her role in Workplace has helped her to connect people with local jobs and to help regional employers recruit everywhere from the shop floor to the corporate suite. Her volunteer work has taken her from places like Transform Rockford, Rockford Symphony Orchestra and Rock Valley College to industry interests and the City of Rockford Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. Relationships have been a cornerstone of her success.
“I hope that by daily believing in the community and our residents, I can serve as a model for how we might be excited about where we live,” she says. “I think sometimes the most interesting thing about Rockford is that it’s replete with opportunity, yet we sometimes are not positive about it. Why are we doing that? Together, by doing our individual best, we can impact each other and the community as a whole.”
Logan first came to Rockford in 1979 when her then-husband’s employer was involved with building the nuclear plant in Byron, Ill. They expected to stay for seven months but chose instead to set down roots. Logan started working with the regional employment and training program and found she enjoyed connecting people with work.
“After a period, my entrepreneurial spirit was crying to do something different, and I wanted to be involved in the private sector,” she says. “I decided to create a professional vacuum and see what I would create for myself.”
She set off for a journey of self-discovery and found herself on a hardscrabble experience, as she faced poverty and a lack of resources in part related to a national recession. It helped her to discover a new appreciation for the importance and value of work, she says, but it also reinforced the lessons of her childhood on the plains of eastern Colorado. As a child, Logan worked alongside her father as he ran a farm implement business.
“I was trained in a lot of skills around self-reliance and determination,” says Logan, who recalls making her own business and entrepreneurial plans at the age of 10. “I feel fortunate because I think that females weren’t always told they could do it on their own, but my father was an entrepreneur and believed in my being an entrepreneur, so he gave me a lot of self-empowering messages.”
From her darkest days of financial peril and self-determined introspection, Logan found a renewed passion for connecting people and work. In time, she landed a job with a local staffing business and in 1988 she founded Workplace. In those early days, every new job candidate and client search was exciting and demanding, she recalls. It was a challenging time, too, as she struggled to raise her profile, build credibility and stave off challenges including a customer’s bankruptcy and her founding partner’s departure. Each step reinforced her commitment to the company’s mission.
“I know what it means for the person who’s making an application,” she says. “I know what it means for them to get work.”
Her success and her connections at Workplace have helped Logan to give back to the community in many ways over the years. In 1993, she helped to found a workers compensation insurance program to benefit the staffing industry as it struggled with injuries to employees and associated escalating premiums. Over the years she’s volunteered her time and supported nonprofit organizations in the arts, education and social services.
Since 2012, she’s also been an advocate for Transform Rockford, where she serves as board chair and is a founding member of the steering committee. In the group’s earliest days, as it connected people around the city with a mission of community turnaround, Logan found she was right at home – connecting people for their expertise and ability to serve.
“What I always remember about those early days is that the ambiguity of being an entrepreneur and starting a company was very helpful for me,” she says. “There is still a lot of ambiguity when it comes to transformation. There’s no cookie-cutter about how you do this and how you’ll make it. When they said, ‘There are 300,000 people in this region and we want to connect with as many as possible,’ I recognized the parallel with staffing.”
After decades of building connections around the region, Logan is transitioning into a new phase of life. Late last year, she retired from Workplace. The company’s new leader, Lesly Couper, has a deep experience in marketing and communications in Rockford.
For Couper, the new position is pure serendipity – an unexpected opportunity that came from making the right connections.
“She told me, ‘I think you could be good at this,’” says Couper. “She saw something in me that was a little different than what I had been doing.”
For two and a half years, the pair worked side by side, Couper always learning from Logan.
“It was really a treat to work with her and see how she interacts with the community, what her thought process is, and where she puts her time and energy, and how thoughtful she is when it comes to the Rockford community,” says Couper, who met Logan through Transform Rockford.
Logan says she’s looking forward to watching her next chapter unfold.
“I’m very much anticipating the new connections and purpose that I’m confident await me,” she says. “I believe in living in the question and being receptive to finding the right people, at the right time, and the right place.”