Quad Cities jobs grew in 2Q, but economic challenges remain

Quad CIties Chamber

The number of jobs in the Quad Cities increased by 4.7% in the second quarter of 2022, and economic growth continued for the region, although it was below long-term trends for the six-county metro area. 

Overall, according to the Quad Cities Chamber’s 2Q Quarterly Market Report, when this quarter’s totals are combined with the increases in the first quarter the QC economy picked up pace for the first half of 2022. 

The chamber’s Q2 analysis again was conducted by Kenneth Kriz, distinguished professor of public administration for the University of Illinois. His report also said the QC’s Return-to-Normal Index rose steadily from Jan. 1 to mid-March, and then fell slightly at the end of April before it picked up again in May and June.

Very strong Quad Cities job growth in April and May also fed the 4.7% increase in jobs in the region. That compares to an 0.8% decline in jobs nationwide in the same period. 

“This is the strongest quarterly rate of job growth since the start of the pandemic,” Mr. Kriz wrote. “Hopefully, this is the start of a trend toward stronger growth in job creation.”

In addition, manufacturing orders are up and sales are at record levels, but the supply chain remains a challenge, the report said. As a result, some manufacturers are bringing production of components in-house, rather than waiting for delivery and some are investing in innovative additive manufacturing technologies for plastic and metal component fabrication. 

Mr. Kriz also highlighted the results of a Quad Cities familiarization tour hosted in late June by the chamber for four national site consultants. “All the consultants were impressed with the vibrancy of the community: new industrial and commercial development; the number of existing successful businesses, attractions and amenities; diverse housing mix; and new riverfront development,” the report said.

The chamber said the tour also will help the Quad Cities region identify “opportunities for improvement to increase our attractiveness to prospective businesses looking to expand or relocate into the region such as: creating large contiguous acres of shovel-ready greenfield; building high and/or unique utility loads; having closer proximity to Tier 1 research institutions and universities; and having better access to rail and barge.”

During their 48-hour QC immersion, consultants from Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago visited with more than four dozen business leaders, education partners and economic development practitioners in the region. They toured businesses and participated in activities that showcased the quality of life amenities residents enjoy. 

Here are a few takeaways from the consultants’ visit:

  • Promote, promote, promote. “The visitors were impressed with the vibrancy of the QC, for example, new industrial and commercial development; existing successful businesses, attractions, and amenities; diverse housing mix; and new riverfront development. “Much to their surprise,” the chamber said, “the QC is not a cornfield,” Going forward, the QC must find ways to virtually replicate the tour for consultants and prospective companies.
  • The QC is a central Midwest location for businesses that need to reach a large population of customers and suppliers within a day’s drive time. 
  • The region has abundant access to natural resources and clean energy. As more companies focus efforts on sustainability, it’s important for them to understand our available assets. Consultants told the chamber that the QC is ahead of some other regions in the nation in the availability of renewable power.
  • While the region comprises several communities, consultants said it was evident that there is successful collaboration amongst the private and public sectors.

Among the things the region should be working on as a result of the consultants’ input are:

  • “Speed to market” is crucial for companies looking to expand into new markets. The region is challenged with a lack of existing industrial buildings that fit the requirements of today’s manufacturers and greenfield sites that are fully ready to begin construction within months-time. If the QC wants to grow, stakeholders will need to collaborate on creating ready-to-go inventory.
  • While workforce shortage is a global concern, the region can stand out by better understanding its workforce gaps and sharing with consultants and companies how these challenges are being solved. It is important to provide relevant workforce metrics and examples of how companies successfully recruit and retain employees.
  • The QC has a strong manufacturing presence. But to continue attracting new companies to the region, the consultants challenged the region to consider how to attract businesses that not only complement our existing industries, infrastructure and assets but also bring jobs that are driven by technology and higher-paying wages. For example, jobs in the ag tech, bioscience and life science industries.

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