There’s nothing more important to our local economy than a trained workforce.

Is the state of Illinois doing enough to create an economic climate where businesses may consistently succeed in our region? Not when the latest U.S. News and world survey ranks Illinois 39th in economic strength and dead last at 50th in fiscal stability. It is no wonder we’re always under the threat of businesses’ leaving Northern Illinois for other states. Whether they move to Wisconsin or Tennessee, the result is the same for us: fewer jobs and a weaker economy. In Northern Illinois, we have several exceptional business clusters, including aerospace, logistics, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare. There is nothing more important to our local economy than to the provide our corporations in these economic clusters with a trained workforce, a high quality of life and the transportation infrastructure they need to be successful. Currently in producing an educated workforce, we have difficulty in providing workers skilled enough to fill the job openings that currently exist in these industries.

In our district, we have faced a persistent skills gap for many years now. While others may talk about the gap, Jake Castanza is working with local agencies to close the skills gap in the construction industry through the creation of new training program called Rebuild Rockford. As Executive Director of Project First Rate, Jake will be leading this program to recruit young men and women between the ages of 18 to 24 to renovate abandoned houses in Rockford’s neighborhoods. The young adults will have the opportunity to do electrical, plumbing, carpentry as well as other trades under the supervision of a group of trained individuals including apprenticeship coordinators, journeymen, and retirees in their respective trades. Once the houses are renovated, they will be sold to a local government employee, who works for a unit of government in Winnebago County. The creation of Rebuild Rockford is the type of problem-solving ability Jake Castanza will bring to the to the State House of Representatives, when he is elected on November 6th with your support.