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QCDG draws thousands of new jobs


Jobs for the Quad-Cities certainly is a goal for the Quad City Development Group and president John Gardner, right.

ROCK ISLAND -- The Quad City Development Group has helped retain or add 10,000 basic jobs in the Quad-Cities area during the last 10 years, according to outgoing QCDG chairman Tom Robinson.

In 1997, the development group helped 37 companies involving 2,669 jobs, more than $200 million in investments and 1.7 million square feet of new building space, he said.

A decade or more ago, the development group competed with other economic developers from city and county governments to save or create jobs. That has changed under the thoughtful, careful leadership of group president John Gardner, who has drawn the various Quad-Cities players together into an effective team.

``The Quad City Development Group is the key partnership,'' Stanley J. Bright, MidAmerican Energy Co. chairman, president and chief executive, said in January during the QCDG's 36th annual meeting.

Mr. Bright challenged the group's members to look in the mirror and ask how they could support QCDG more effectively to make the Quad-Cities a better place to live and work.

U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., joked during the annual meeting about how a guy from Illinois could give a speech at a dinner in Iowa.

``It can happen regularly now because of the work we've done,'' Mr. Robinson said later.

The development group draws part of its support from the private sector, but needs more, Mr. Robinson said. A QCDG task force is reviewing its dues structure before launching a major membership drive later this year.

``The Quad-Cities does not support the development group either in per capita or per business funding to the extent our competitors in a highly competitive field are supported,'' he said. ``We can build on an already strong program by involving more companies.''

One of the group's challenges is to spread the word of its successful track record without compromising its business-clients' need for confidentiality, Mr. Robinson said.

Last year, the QCDG formed a for-profit Quad City Development Finance Corp., which jointly financed construction of a speculative building with its partners in Bettendorf. Once the building is sold, another spec-building project will begin, he said.

The group also is working with public and private partners to inventory construction-ready industrial sites. One such major project is being developed in northwest Davenport, while East Moline has a similar industrial area under way in the vicinity of Interstates 80 and 88.

The group also works closely with the state economic development departments in Iowa and Illinois.

The development group has addressed its concerns over potential government cutbacks within the Department of Defense and the Rock Island Arsenal by creating a task force to work with Arsenal groups, congressional delegates and others to protect Arsenal jobs.

One possibility is to hire a permanent private representative in Washington, D.C., to represent the Quad-Cities' best interest. Most communities with major military installations have such a representation, Mr. Robinson said.

Also in 1998, the development group will work to assure a continued supply of trained workers to meet industries' needs and see that adequate bridges are maintained and developed to serve the community.

-- By Rita Pearson (February 2, 1998)

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