Most miserable, most dangerous, least liveable: Rockford has been placed on its share of dubious lists from national publications in recent years.
But Rockford ranks sixth on Forbes magazine's list of opportunity cities based on several factors including cheap urban real estate and civic efforts to improve the business climate.
Transform Rockford Executive Director Mike Schablaske says he's not surprised that Forbes sees Rockford recovering.
"I think Forbes recognized that a lot of people choose to live here because they see opportunity to make a big difference in the community and that we have a lot of potential."
The magazine notes Rockford's economy has shifted to advanced manufacturing in aerospace, but adds "there's a mismatch between the education level of the local population and the city's best jobs in engineering."
Rock Valley College President Mike Mastroianni says it's an issue that's being addressed.
"We have a good workforce that might need a little retraining in some of the areas we're looking for but we can help them in terms of positioning them to make some of these jobs and moving upward or retaining the position to begin with," he says.
Mastroianni says the positive publicity of its expanded aviation program and the Forbes article could help reinforce the jobs that are available to qualified applicants.
"We've been going around to different places in the city and talking to people about opportunities and sometimes they're not aware of what we're doing in manufacturing, truck driver training, welding, building and construction trades."
Schablaske acknowledges there are challenges to overcome before Rockford is fully transformed.
"We do need to address things like skill gaps in our workforce and raising the per capita income as well as things that address poverty and quality life issues that we face in this community."