More Interesting Than Screws

Column: Takin’ Care of Business

By Scott L. Clark

When people ask me “what do you do?”, I love the look on their face when I tell them my answer: I’m an investment banker, who is also studying to be an elementary teacher that also has a burning desire to be a video game journalist. Yes, I have a lot of interests, which keeps me busy throughout each week. Although the journalism aspect of my dreams is more of a hobby than anything else at this point, I was able to fulfill a small portion of it this past week. My experience there really made me think about Rockford and its significance as a positive place to start businesses that I’m also interested in.

For those of you who aren’t aware, outside of this blog I also write video game reviews for the Rockford Register Star. My reviews show up in the GO Section on Saturday’s, and it gives me an excuse to play all of the new games out there. Plus, it’s kind of fun to see your name in print. Evidently, someone has been reading my reviews, because I was contacted by High Voltage Software in Hoffman Estates who invited me to a press event in regards to their latest release. I was to meet Dave Pellas, the Design Director for the company and get an opportunity to play-test the game before it was released. While this may not seem like a big deal to you non-gamers out there, in nerd world this is the next big step towards fulfilling my dream.

So Wednesday saw me spending my day off from work driving down to the suburbs to meet this developer. Walking into the studio in my suit and tie, I had no idea what to expect. The receptionist introduced me to everyone as “Scott Clark with The Rockford Register Star”, which made me feel important despite just being a freelance writeer. I was given a tour of the facility including the development team, sound studio and even a fully-stocked kitchen. I learned that High Voltage Software, which employs over 130 people, was established in 1993 and has over 90 video games and even a firefighting simulator which is used by fire fighters in order to learn how to safely extinguish burning buildings.

Although touring the facility was a surreal experience, the real magic came when I was able to interview the Design Director. Dave spent a good amount of time showing me his newest game, Conduit 2, which I reviewed this past Saturday in the paper. I was also able to spend several minutes interviewing him with questions that I got from my fellow nerds. What a fantastic experience this was. Dave and his team were normal every day guys who happened to make video games.

Then I learned something incredibly interesting. A large number of the team were from the Rockford area. Even Dave himself was from Poplar Grove. Dave told me that they brought quite a bit of talent from the Rockford area.

This got me to thinking. Why can’t Rockford have legitimate companies like High Voltage Software? The talent is already here, so wouldn’t the cost of living and lower expensed make Rockford an attractive place to start a large business? I would love to see interesting developers closer to home. What would it take for my next interview to take place in Rockford instead of needing to drive all the way to the city?

I mean, that’s our mission as IGNITE members, is it not? We want to make Rockford an attractive place for people live, play and work. This concept makes me proud to be an IGNITE member and want to continue to work hard for the city where I’m proud to be a citizen. You might not care about a video game developer being in the area, but why not a large film/television studio? Why not a relevant recording studio or label? Insert anything that you are interested in. Why can’t we have it here?

So this is more or less an attempt to spark some interest in my fellow young professionals. Despite what a lot of the “Debbie Downer’s” constantly say, we live in a great town. But I want to live in an even better one, a city that is known for more than just screws. What can we do to attract larger businesses here?


~ by Scott L. Clark on April 25, 2011.

3 Responses to “More Interesting Than Screws”

  1. Did you ask him what was behind his choice in locating in Hoffman Estates? Why he didn’t consider Rockford? Would be interesting to hear his answers so we could incorporate it into our strategy to make this an ideal atmosphere for attracting and retaining businesses and talent…

  2. Just going to say Scott, you are awesome! Congratualtions on your accomplishments. I couldn’t be prouder and I completely agree with your idea of big businesses being in Rockford. It would be amazing if we could have business such as that in the Forest City. 🙂 Super awesome about your Wednesday!!! I like reading happy news.

  3. We need more technical and vocational schools, or perhaps more technical programs in the schools already here. If Rockford can prove that over time that it is a hub for the development of professionals who are hungry for work and to build the prestige of the area, small and large companies will start taking the region more seriously. Changing the perception of Rockford is key. I think that what Ignite has started to work on – changing the negative perceptions of Rockford held by many young people – it will continuously make it more attractive now and in the future. That big, small down feeling that Rockford has was very enticing to me after being born and raised in big city Chicago and then coming to live here for 3 years. That is the primary reason I am looking to come back!

    Oh, and congrats dude!!!

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