When the QCBJ asked business and community leaders to weigh in on the future of Quad Cities cooperation, we also asked for “big ideas” to grow the region.
The hopes and dreams of many of those who responded center on the Quad Cities riverfront and investing in education, workforce development and poverty reduction.
Dave Herrell, president and CEO of Visit Quad Cities, said, “I firmly believe that we should rename the I-74 Bridge. This is a brand identity opportunity that we should have continued conversations around as we think about how to position the QC and leverage this new asset that binds us together.” He also advocated for increased local investment in tourism promotion.
Augustana College President Steven Bahls said, “It is time to hold another set of big table conversations, similar to the Big Table conversations five years ago, where 5,000 Quad Citizens came together to envision ways for the Quad Cities becoming a more cool, creative, prosperous and connected community.”
In addition, he said, “The community should come together to develop an integrated and aggressive plan to ensure that our riverfront, up and down the river and on both sides of the river, is a cool and creative place to be. Imagine if Davenport was known for world-class sports facilities and parks along the river, Moline for world-class entertainment venues, Rock Island for world-class nightlife and Bettendorf for world-class restaurants, with similar distinctions from other communities. Communities should be tied together with bike trails and walkways that celebrate the art and history of our region.”
Denise Bulat, executive director of the Bi-State Regional Commission, would like to see a regional trail system mirroring the Eisenhower Interstate System. “I have mentioned to grade school classes that in 30 years they will be living at the crossroads of at least two national trails – the Mississippi River Trail and the American Discovery Trail,” she said.
Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati said she’d like the region and her city to focus on placemaking. “We have a lot of catch-up work to do in Moline to get our development efforts up to par, but big ideas will flow with longer periods of staff and economic stability,” she said. “I am excited for the future.”
The Rev. Dwight Ford, executive director of Project Now, wants a regional poverty reduction plan. “I envision an active obligation by every township, city and county to have within its plan benchmarks and measurements to reduce the level of poverty,” he said. “If we can draft individualized municipal plans using a hybrid value approach for their context and collectively link them together, we can build a network that works to secure life and provide opportunities.”
Rock Island educator Yolanda Grandberry-Pugh wants to focus on a “Getting an Education is Important” promotional campaign. “Our youth need to hear and see the adults in our community promote getting an education,” she said. “They also need to see the benefits of getting an education throughout their communities. If every adult promoted the importance of going to school and learning, more of our students would do their best academically, and a successful student population would also benefit the community.”