Ontiveros named Visit Quad Cities new board chair

Maria Ontiveros Group O Mercado on Fifth Visit Quad Cities chair
Maria Ontiveros

Maria Ontiveros, co-founder of Mercado on Fifth, and a corporate leader at Group O, has been named the new chair of the Visit Quad Cities Board. Four directors also were added recently to the destination marketing organization’s board for fiscal year 2024-2025.  

visit quad cities

Visit QC’s board is composed of diverse community leaders representing businesses, organizations, attractions and city governments. In a news release, Visit QC said that this group of dedicated Quad Citizens works to support the region’s tourism industry, economic growth, and quality of life while providing oversight and strategic direction for Visit Quad Cities. 

In addition to Ms. Ontiveros’ new role, Visit Quad Cities said, the following leaders are joining the board: Nancy Ballenger, Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf & Caesar’s Entertainment; East Moline Mayor Reggie Freeman; Steve Geifman, Geifman First Equity; and Lee Meier, CAT Scale Company/I-80 Group. 

Ms. Ontiveros along with her late grandfather and Group O founder Robert Ontiveros founded Mercado, a vibrant open-air market in downtown Moline, dedicated to community engagement and supporting small businesses. She also serves as the corporate community liaison at Group O, headquartered in Milan, which is one of the largest Hispanic-owned companies in the U.S. 

In 2023, Ms. Ontiveros received the Treasurer’s Outstanding Commitment to Community Service award from Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. 

She has served on the Visit Quad Cities Board of Directors since 2020. 

Tourism transformative

“Effective destination marketing improves a community’s brand and reputation, attracts strategic events, and ultimately raises the quality of life for residents,” Ms. Ontiveros in the Visit QC release. “In my role with Mercado on Fifth, a partner organization, I see the transformative impact of tourism. I am proud to take my next step in service to Visit Quad Cities whose work is so critical to enhancing our region’s notoriety and prosperity.” 

Visit Quad Cities President and CEO Dave Herrell said “Maria continues to serve the Quad Cities in so many positive ways and we are honored to have her as board chair. She has been an integral member of the Visit Quad Cities Board of Directors since 2020. Her leadership and dedication have greatly contributed to advancing our Tourism Master Plan, emboldening QC cultural and residential pride.”

In addition, he said “We also want to thank Immediate Past Chair Ben Leischner for his leadership, service, and passion for tourism as well as our entire board for their commitment to the region and for driving the Quad Cities destination forward.”

Visit QC Executive Committee:

  • Maria Ontiveros, chair
  • Ben Leischner, Immediate past chair
  • Jennifer Sautter, first vice-chair
  • Neil Dahlstrom, second vice-chair
  • Mo Hyder, treasurer 
  • Dave Herrell, secretary  
  • Visit QC Board of Directors
  • Nancy Ballenger
  • Neil Dahlstrom
  • East Moline Mayor Reggie Freeman
  • Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher
  • Steve Geifman
  • Todd Hajduk, TPC Deere Run
  • Travis Hankins, Bally’s Quad Cities 
  • Dave Herrell, Visit Quad Cities; ex-officio 
  • Mo Hyder, Rhythm City Casino Resort
  • Ben Leischner, Quad Cities International Airport  
  • Davenport Mayor Mike Matson
  • John Maxwell, Scott County
  • Lee Meier
  • Maria Ontiveros
  • Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati
  • Jennifer Sautter, MindFire Communications
  • Kai Swanson, Rock Island County board member, assistant to the president of Augustana College
  • Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms
  • Allison Wright, Pappas Wright, PC

Committee leaders:

  • Finance, Audit & Compliance Committee Chair: Jennifer Sautter
  • Board Development & Governance Committee Chair: Neil Dahlstrom, Committee Chair 

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