Boeing's long-awaited Dreamliner boosts Rockford economy

A burgeoning aerospace industry has sprouted up in Rockford, Illinois, to make parts for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

September 27, 2011

By Ashley Gross

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(AP/John Froschauer)

Boeing’s first 787 Dreamliner jet is flying to Japan today to begin commercial service. That’s good news for Chicago-based Boeing, but also for a growing aerospace industry based in Rockford, Illinois.

Rockford’s unemployment rate is 13 percent, but if those people out of work knew how to make airplane parts, they might be able to find a job.

Take Kaney Aerospace, for example. President Ron Soave says the company plans to hire 20 to 50 people in the next three years, mostly engineers. Kaney tests the electrical systems for the plane.

There’s a whole industry in Rockford depending on the Dreamliner.  Hamilton Sundstrand has a $50 million testing lab for the plane there.

Soave of Kaney Aerospace says now that production is ramping up, Rockford’s economy could benefit.

"People are realizing how important it is to get that message out as a community to attract bright engineers and bring high-paying jobs to the area," Soave said.

And as people in Seattle and Chicago pop champagne corks, folks in Rockford are also watching the first Dreamliner with pride. Soave says they're planning a celebratory dinner tonight to mark the occasion.

"It’s definitely a milestone worth celebrating," Soave said.