March 1, 2005

Back to the Future

There's no shortage of groups, organizations, panels, commissions, outside consultants, and others focusing on where the Quad Cities ought to be headed, and what's the best way to get there.

Yet over the years, about the only noticable product of all this fervent study, planning, jawboning, conferencing, meeting, traveling, and study is a steady drip of press releases and reports. I won't speculate on the amount of money spent towards these efforts, but it's got to be stunning. Likewise, I wouldn't suggest that there has been no useful benefit from it all. But there remains very little tangible evidence of any unified planning towards the Quad Cities of 20 years hence.

The slow-motion train wreck of downtown development languished for years. Rock Island was the first and most daring, creating a downtown mall which promptly caused most of the downtown to languish and resulted in only a handful of businesses surviving, let alone thriving. The mall was eventually partially abandoned and "The District" was born. The results have been generally positive, and at least they've managed to negotiate the hard path from concept to reality as far as their vision of the downtown area as a center for entertainment, dining, tech businesses, and the arts.

Moline finally seemed to abandon any hope of developing their downtown and simply turned it over to John Deere. It's limped along with a procession of business's opening and closing and opening and closing. Nothing has seemed to stick so far.

And as to the entire Quad City region, thus far, a unified strategy hasn't been achieved in regard to tourism, education, attracting economic activity, and other key areas.

Attracting high-tech ventures seems to be the new holy grail to planners. Every urban area from large to tiny seems to view this as a solution to all their woes, believing that it attracts educated and young workers and that it is going to continue to be a thriving economic sector into the future.
At the core of all this is the difficult reality that the rust belt, heavy manufacturing base that's sustained the area for over a hundred years is going, going, gone, and it ain't coming back in any recognizable form.

This is a contentious issue for local Democratic politics, given the prominent influence and support of unions who may be luke-warm at best to actively moving towards more white-collar, predominantly non-union economic base. No one can blame them for not wanting to see their numbers and clout diminish even further. But the writing is indeed on the wall.

If you're still with me after that rather windy intro, I'd like to get reader's ideas on the what sort of Quad Cities they envision 20 years down the road. What do you feel are key things that need to be addressed or accomplished in the areas of education, development, use of the riverfront, or any other things that will make the Quad Cities more attractive as a place to work and locate a business. What should be done to make the Quad Cities a vibrant, thriving, culturally lively place for our kids and grandkids? What would YOU like to see happen in the area that would make your life more enjoyable, exciting, or prosperous?

But if experience here tells me anything, there'll be very few serious comments, if any, on this. But what the hell? Maybe there's a few readers out there capable of giving this some thought for a minute or two.


At 3/01/2005 10:33 AM, Anonymous Blue State said...

Thank you for bringing this vital topic to the forefront today. This area has to look at its strengths and weaknesses and come up with a long-range game plan for economic growth for the next 25 years. We can't sit back and wait for big companies like Deere or Alcoa to save us.

We also need to bring back the idea of a super city, or at least a regionalized government structure to help us lobby in Springfield and Washington for more dollars.

Dope, keep up the good work on these issues.

At 3/01/2005 8:25 PM, Blogger latinv said...

The success that Sterling had on developing the I-88 corridor with a Wal Mart Distribution Center is something that we can duplicate here in lower whiteside, and upper R.I. County. The logitics and distribution angle are areas of growth and opportunity for us in Western Illinois.

At 3/01/2005 11:06 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

You know, that's a very good idea!! I've always thought that it would be nice to attract high-tech business, but then again, we'd be putting ourselves in competition with literally every single city in the country. I don't know that we could compete with the west coast, or the sunbelt. They've got the advantage of their geographic location.

So why not take advantage of OUR geographic location? We're centrally located, have an enormous amount of available warehousing space with room to build more, abundant workforce, and we're right in the middle of the north-south and east-west highways, as well as river and airport facilities
This sounds like a really logical opportunity to target.

At 3/01/2005 11:22 PM, Anonymous Blue State said...

That is right. Our location has always been a plus, and look at how Thoms-Proestler serves the midwest population. Dope, did you know that T-P delivers food for the Chicago Public School System?
That says it all. We need to do what Rochelle did on the distribution site there. We can do that in Silvis. And then we need to get our Governor to start returning phone calls to him from Governor Vilsack in Iowa. THose two need to have some regional job pow-wows to come up with new ways to cooperate on economic development. We should have a situation where DavenportONE is competing against the Illinois side for development dollars and projects.

We probably also need to bring that Super City uni-gov concept back to the voters for a vote.
With your support, DOPE, it's sure to pass.

At 3/01/2005 11:42 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Uh... if you say so. ha!

At 3/05/2005 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Super City was a bit less popular than the Edsel. As long as we have the underlying statutory tax districts for our local government and schools, unification is a pipe dream.

But we could do a far better job of collaborating. Watch the proposals from the coalition headed by the Illinois Quad City Chamber under the tag of Unified Growth Strategy to be released in late May. It offers a way for the Illinois Quad Cities to become a stronger partner for the Iowa Quad Cities and thus make the overall area more atractive and effective in succuring desirable new business and investment.


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