"Rockford needs a kick start here," Ronald Ballard, the owner of B-3 Trucking, says.
Ballard says his trucking business has been labeled a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise since 2011. Now, the Illinois Tollway say it wants to help him and other minority companies reach their fullest potential with the Technical Assistance Program.
"They want to have everyone in the community --all shapes and sizes to be involved with their program," Alex Polanco, an adviser for the Illinois Tollway Technical Assistance Program, says.
Organizers say it's a chance for business owners like Ronald to learn how to bid and win construction projects -- not only with the tollway, but in their community. It's a program the Progressive West Development Group says will help give Rockford's west side a boost.
"By them getting the training by working with the toll road authority and they can transfer some of that training and with their skills to projects that we're working on the west side of Rockford," Earl Dotson, the president of the Progressive West Development Group, says.
And with those skills, the group says it hopes to get more disadvantaged companies to work on projects on the city's west side.
"If we're developing businesses and construction businesses and lady construction businesses to people who live over there, then they can't help but benefit," Dotson says.
As for Ronald, he says he hopes to use those skills to expand his company and create 15 more jobs on the west side.
"If we had more jobs here in Rockford, I think it would be better for the economy," Ballard says.
Putting more skills in disadvantaged areas -- leaders say it's a step to stimulate growth in one of the Rockford's most vulnerable neighborhoods.