Economic Development in 2015

Paul Rumler, Chief Economic Development Officer, Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce

Economic development is all about optimism, a colleague recently stated at the International Economic Development Council’s Annual Meeting. This is especially relevant when interacting with people making multi-million dollar investments in our community.

In 2014, the Quad Cities region reported 33 high-impact industry expansions in advanced manufacturing, logistics, professional & technical services, and food processing & packaging. In total, this resulted in $641.3 million of investment, 623 new jobs, and 2.65 million square feet of additional occupied space.

Illinois and Iowa are recognized as great business locations, and the Quad Cities region in particular has the ability to showcase the best in both. As we look forward to a prosperous 2015, I wanted to share insights gained from meetings over the last year with local and prospective businesses, elected officials, regional and state economic development peers, real estate professionals, and national site selectors.

#1: Local and National Indicators are Positive for 2015

The national economy is projected to continue growing at a good pace in 2015, and is anticipated by our region’s businesses as well. Sixty-one percent of the companies we’ve met with report their sales have increased over the past year and 21% say sales are stable. Thirty-two percent of businesses report they are planning a business expansion while 82% state they plan to offer a new product or service in the next three years.

Since July 2014, the Quad Cities Chamber celebrated 65 ribbon cuttings with new business openings or expansions, accounting for more than 428 jobs and $96 million investment. This activity is an indication of growth in our economy and the realization that the overwhelming amount of economic growth, approximately 80%, comes from local entrepreneurs and companies.

#2: Talented Teams and Trusted Partnerships are the Foundation

Building a strong team of economic development professionals is a top priority – on staff at the Quad Cities Chamber andwithin our regional partners. The Quad Cities region was recognized on two different occasions last year with a Business Retention and Expansion Award. The Quad Cities Chamber team along with economic development partners in city halls, county offices, and other organizations across the region partner to offer unmatched capacity to identify and respond to future business growth opportunities. This talented team of trusted partners meets with over 150 major employers in the Quad Cities each year.

#3: Ready, Aim, Launch

The Quad Cities Manufacturing Innovation Hub, an initiative of the Quad Cities Chamber, is ready to launch in 2015. The Hub is designed to acquaint and connect manufacturers with one another and help them become more competitive by ensuring access to top-notch innovation services. The Hub will provide a network for the 500+ manufacturers in the region, representing a significant employer base.

Another trend spreading across the Quad Cities region is support for new ideas, start-ups, and local businesses. Venture School, a program to help entrepreneurs succeed, will soon launch through a partnership between Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, and Ignite Quad Cities.

These successes underscore the Quad Cities region as a competitive location, and we have much to be optimistic about in 2015.

This editorial appeared in the Quad-City Times Business Journal.

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