The Quad Cities is officially in the running on a competitive bid to attract two USDA agencies to the region. The agencies are the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) headquarters. Combined, the two agencies would add 620 new jobs to the region.
The Quad Cities Chamber, through its economic development division Quad Cities First, has proposed the relocation of the agencies to existing office space located on the Rock Island Arsenal (RIA). Based on the parameters of the Federal Register’s “Notice of Request”, the Quad Cities Chamber, on behalf of the Quad Cities Consortium, has formally submitted existing federally-owned buildings on the Rock Island Arsenal formerly occupied by TACOM to house both the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) headquarters.
This is a collaborative process, with the Chamber leading a regional consortium comprised of community leaders from local, state and federal agencies, educational institutions, agricultural industry and organizations, and other representatives of business and industry that are working collaboratively to attract the agency headquarters to the Quad Cities.
“Numerous reasons make the Quad Cities region a competitive choice for these agencies. We have low-cost, high-quality office buildings within close geographic and travel proximity of these agencies’ constituents that is readily available to meet a fast occupancy timeline. Pair that with the region’s low cost of living and commute times, nationally regarded K-12 education and ample cultural and recreational amenities, and you have a win-win situation,” said Liz Murray Tallman, Chief Economic Development Officer for the Quad Cities Chamber.
The Quad Cities region has been successful in relocating other federal entities in the past, including First Army, Army Contracting Command (ACC) and the Civilian Human Resources Agency (CHRA), with extremely low employment turnover.
The region’s location in the Midwest where companies dedicated to agricultural innovation prosper within some of the nation’s richest farmland was another plus.
“Having two Federal Agencies whose missions are dedicated to agricultural advancement located in the Heartland near its customers with such a rich history of agricultural excellence seems like a natural fit for USDA programs,” says Tallman.
Specific qualities cited in the proposal include:
- Low commute times (mean travel time of 19 minutes; U.S. Census Bureau, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates), which mean less time on the road and more time doing the things employees love to do with the people they love to be with.
- A lower cost of living (94.2 cost of living index; C2ER, Cost of Living Index, 2Q 2018 Data), which allows for more financial resources for housing and recreation, dining, and cultural amenities.
- Lower annual lease fees for readily available turnkey office space on a Federal installation, which equates to significantly lower operating costs in an environment conducive for confidential government business.
- A talent pipeline of 40,000 students graduating from 40+ colleges and universities within a 90-mile radius, which gives access to a well-educated potential local workforce with additional talent recruitment efforts beyond.
In addition, relocating NIFA and ERS headquarters to the Quad Cities region at the Rock Island Arsenal is consistent with the priorities of the six members of the bi-state Congressional Delegation that represent the Quad Cities region, including Senators Ernst, Grassley, Durbin, and Duckworth as well as Representatives Bustos and Loebsack. In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, the delegation included two provisions regarding leasing authorities at federal installations that require DoD to better utilize available space as well as provide the Army additional flexibility to enter into long-term lease agreements.
The USDA will now evaluate the proposals it has received from communities nationwide, and will notify those advancing to the second round.