Officials hope the next phase of expansion at Western Illinois University's presence in the Quad-Cities will provide an economic boost to the area and the nation -- by producing brain power.
Gov. Pat Quinn joined local leaders on Wednesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of the Quad Cities Riverfront Campus at 3300 River Drive, Moline.
Five buildings are planned as part of Phase II, expected to cost $42 million and open in 2015. The buildings will house the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education and Human Services, and Fine Arts and Communications.
Gov. Quinn said one of the best ways to generate jobs is through a strong educational system.
"We've got to have skilled workers, well-educated citizens who get the job done, no matter what they take on," he said.
The state wants to draw a lot of students to the area, he said, adding that he is hoping the planned Amtrak line between Rock Island and Chicago will draw many.
"We want to bring students from everywhere," he said.
Other elected officials at Wednesday's ceremony included U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona; state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline; and state Reps. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, and Pat Verschoore, D-Milan. They were joined by scores of others, including Quad-Cities economic advocates and representatives of area colleges and cities.
WIU President Jack Thomas thanked them all for their help in making WIU's Moline expansion a reality.
"This day is a day of celebration and a day of hope," he said.
Construction on Phase 2 is expected to start in about 60 days. Removal of the former Deere & Co. photo laboratory building on the site is scheduled to begin in late September. Construction of the all-weather service road near the railroad tracks on the southern edge of campus should start in the coming months.
According to Joe Rives, WIU vice president for Quad Cities and planning, the Riverfront Campus expansion allows WIU-QC to further its mission as a comprehensive public university for the region by serving more than 3,000 Quad Cities-area students.
Moline also is revitalizing the area surrounding the WIU-QC Riverfront Campus into community and university-friendly development.
"The business community is thrilled to see Phase II of the WIU Quad Cities campus taking shape," said Tara Barney, president and CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. "Employers in all industry sectors are excited about the expanded offerings for students and employees as well as the business opportunities this phase of riverfront development will spark in our region."
The first phase of the campus was completed in January, built around the former John Deere Technical Center. The 60,000-square-foot structure cost about $18.2 million and houses the College of Business and Technology and all undergraduate programs, academic and student services, and university administration.
The school is being designed to minimize its environmental impact, using recycled materials, energy saving techniques and alternative energy when possible. Plans for the riverfront campus started nine years ago with Deere's donation of the property.
Planning for a third phase at the campus is scheduled to start this fall.
Today is Friday, May 24, the 144th day of 2013. There are 221 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: A military escort will be at the square at 9 a.m. tomorrow forthe funeral of Lieut. Joseph Eaton. The county judge is absent in Chicago, which willaccount for his not being in the procession. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Rock Island's City Council last night appropriated $95,000 forexpenses for the 1888 and 1889 fiscal year. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Mrs. F.W. Reimers last night was re-elected president of the RockIsland Musical Club at a meeting in the New Harper Hotel. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Seven members of Boy Scout Troop 21 got their Eagle badges lastnight. They were Ralph Hurt, Robert Nelson, Howard Schersten, Cecil Nelson, RobertFryxell, Clarence Stone and Rollin Hurt. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Mayor Morris Muhleman has resorted to a form letter in an effort toanswer objections to the wheel tax increase. "It was my hope that I could, in some way,restore the faith of the citizens in our city. In order to do this I knew I must face the factthat I would become very unpopular."All they are trying to do is protect the citizensproperty and build their town. 1988 -- 25 years ago: RICCA, the Rock Island County Council on Addictions, inconjunction with the Quad City Downs, will hold its annual "Night at the Races" June 2.The benefit "Night at the Races" will raise funds locally to assist in maintaining the twohalfway houses, New Hope Lodge (for women) and Beacon House (for men).