The Rockford Files

The End of Manufacturing

The unemployment rate in Illinois broke double-digits in May to hit a seasonally adjusted 10.1 percent, a 26-year high.  Of course, double-digit unemployment rates are nothing new here in Rockford; we have been above ten percent for the better part (so to speak) of a year now, hitting a high of 13.5 percent in March before gaining a little ground in April, then slipping back to 13.4 percent in May.  And the last time Illinois’ unemployment rate was this high, Rockford’s was roughly double.

As has been the case for the past decade, if not the past three-and-a-half decades, manufacturing has been the hardest hit.  It has been several months since manufacturing fell to less than ten percent of the U.S. economy, and while a properly managed implosion of a building sends out minimal shock waves, the implosion of the U.S. auto industry has been anything but properly managed.  While NAFTA and outsourcing gave the Big Three incentives to reduce their reliance on domestic parts suppliers, many small manufacturers throughout the Midwest still receive business from the domestic auto industry, and many others depend on business from those who do.

In other words, 2009 is going to be a painful year for Midwestern cities like Rockford whose economies are still heavily dependent on manufacturing.  Yet Bob Trojan, president of Rockford Linear Actuation and board member of the Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce, thinks the worst...

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