Despite its location in a largely agricultural region, Rockford has a strong heritage as an industrial center. The diverse manufacturing base has partially transitioned away from its Rust Belt beginnings, and today’s local industries include aviation, aerospace, precision tools, and medicine along with the mainstays of agriculture and agricultural machinery. The industrial transformation is being augmented by its not-too-distant location relative to suburban Chicago and the new commuter rail service recently started.
The area still suffers the marks of economic decline, and the downtown area, passed by the Northwest Tollway, still shows signs of neglect. But the new commuter access, low housing costs, and some downtown and Rock River waterfront rehabilitation are bringing in some residents and new facilities. There are some good museums, and nearby Magic Waters is acclaimed to be the world’s largest water park. Some recreational opportunities are available in Wisconsin to the north, but residents must travel to Chicago for many amenities.
Rockford is located along the Rock River in an area of level to gently rolling terrain and open farmland. The climate is continental and variable. Summers are hot and sticky while winters are typically cold and blustery. Northeasterly winds from Lake Michigan cause cloudy periods in winter and some temperature moderation compared to areas farther west. Summers are hot but may also be cooled by lake winds. Precipitation is distributed evenly throughout the year, with slightly more arriving in summer, mainly as thunderstorms. Rockford is far enough north to have snow cover through the mid-winter months. First freeze is mid-October, last is late April.