The recent Rock Valley College board actions regarding its Advanced Technology Center have been extremely confusing and disappointing. They’ve abandoned the Barber-Colman site and the Rockford News Tower site, and now are considering a site at the Chicago Rockford International Airport .
These sporadic fits and starts indicate a lack of purpose and direction for such a critical community facility. RVC is now advertising for proposals from the private sector via an RFP that does not include any details, no program, plan, or strategy.
The Barber-Colman site was a major collaboration among many partners that leveraged a tremendous amount of investment with limited resources. Rock Valley blew the deal with its impatience and a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be part of the team to meet a community need.
The current RFP underscores its own distaste for this facility by its lack of detail, program or even a proposed plan.
We should have high expectations for our higher educational institutions, which are funded by our local taxpayers and manufacturing base, to be more strategic and impactful.
We are throwing to chance a significant and critical decision that impacts our workforce and manufacturers’ future. The lack of leadership and foresight by the college board is very disappointing. We should be looking ahead as to what will take care of our needs for the next 50 years.
RVC's approach to this RFP is a cop-out that discredits the value and importance of this facility. Rock Valley didn't employ this type of procedure to build its latest campus buildings, at a cost of $55 million, and certainly didn't employ this type of criteria based upon the cheapest cost with no program or plans to quote from.
The way this RFP is written, it is asking to build a warehouse box and throwing equipment into it. There is no program specified nor strategic plan. The limited criteria that is included in the RFP doesn't even outline a vision of what is expected in this facility.
Is this the kind of message that we send to our future Advanced Technology Center students — that they really don't matter and have little value in our community? That is how it comes across in this RFP.
We need to be strategic in our planning, vision, purpose, and location. We need to leverage all our resources to not only create an educational facility but provide a holistic approach of coupling our precious resources to serve not only our students, but the workforce and surrounding neighborhood that will contribute to its success.
We haven't considered best practices that are occurring throughout the country with how other community colleges are investing in their urban centers to be responsive to the needs of their communities.
They have successfully integrated an engaging learning environment in the heart of their communities We continue with a siloed suburban mentality, not working together, thinking that we can go it alone, and doing whatever we damn well please.
Today's world is based upon meaningful and productive partnerships because we no longer have the resources to do what we did in the past. This RFP reminds me of the same old Rockford way of doing things on the cheap.
Build any kind of BOX and it will suffice. The world has changed and the competition for skilled and talented employees has escalated and so has the environment to train them.
This facility should create an exciting atmosphere and vision to learn and create in an environment that encourages imagination and critical thinking skills. Metal buildings or precast bunkers are shelters. They do not stir the soul nor the spirit to learn.
We want and need a facility that will respond to real world needs that will shape our future with a state-of-the-art manufacturing educational facility focused on Advanced Technologies. Rock Valley’s suburban campus is disconnected by design and doesn't provide all the answers for educational achievement in our community. RVC has never really embraced the concept of an Urban Campus.
Its classrooms at the Rockford News Tower site are mere tokenism. Rock Valley's go-it-alone philosophy is flawed and impractical. Our community deserves more transparency and a thoughtful plan to develop this facility.
Some months ago I was skeptical of the Rockford News Tower location. Many things have changed since then with the relocation of printing operations. The recently proposed public/private mixed-use development by Joseph James Partners at the News Tower site offers synergy for everyone, imaginative spaces, and a great location on the river. It’s a walkable site with proximity to a revitalized urban core that is highly attractive to our millennials.
These are the features that can attract tomorrow’s workforce. The proposal for utilizing that site is not only exciting, it could have great impact, rippling out well beyond its walls.
I urge our college trustees to think strategically in how this facility will and should maximize the impact and opportunity for the neighborhood and entire community.
Gary W. Anderson is a member of the River District Association Board.