4 The Record

Talent is key concern among businesses considering investing in Quad Cities

New Chamber of Commerce president wants to 'win the next generation of people'

Land of opportunity. That's how we like to refer to this country. It's also how you can describe the Quad Cities in microcosm.

You can't avoid seeing how business investors are taking advantage of these opportunities.

One took shape in downtown Davenport this week with the grand opening of Scott Community College's Urban Campus.

It features state of the art labs for its students.

The 72,000 square foot facility cost $30 million.

Bettendorf's new TBK Bank Sports Complex got off to a rousing start.

That $50 million project spans 76 acres.

More than 100 teams competed in a baseball tournament the weekend it opened in early May.

The indoor sports portion of the complex should open in about a week.

Its location opens the door for several spinoff businesses along Interstate 80.

A hotel is already being built.

Another tremendous investment is taking shape in East Moline.

That's the bend on the mighty Mississippi.

It's a $75 million project that will include a couple of hotels, residential property, stores and greenspace that covers 132 acres at the spot of the old Case - New Holland plant.

It's the mission of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce to help foster business opportunities and investments like these.

Recently, the organization's landscape changed like the view of the Quad Cities.

Tara Barney left as the chamber's president.

That paved the way for the return of Paul Rumler.

He became the new president after spending the last couple of years at the chamber in Grand Rapids.

Rumler was with the Quad Cities chamber before that as the chief economic development officer.

There's no doubt he wants to bring some lasting success to the Quad Cities.

That will require adjusting to the times and perhaps finding a way to get ahead of the curve.

Those are some things Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce president Paul Rumler thinks about from time to time.

He joined 4 The Record for an extended conversation.

We assumed Rumler left for greener pastures when you went to Grand Rapids a couple of years ago. Why did he come back now?

"I tell you, I love the Quad Cities," Rumler said. "There's something special about this area. It gets in your blood. Having grown up in the Quad Cities, when I got the call from the recruiter to consider the chamber job, I jumped at it. ... I was really enjoying Grand Rapids. It was a great community. It was thriving. It was one of the top economies in the country. Seeing how it worked there, it made me want to do that here."

Rumler talked about the biggest challenges the chamber needs to address in the immediate future.

"What I'm hearing from businesses -- state business climates, both in Illinois and Iowa," Rumler said. "One is better than the other. It's been a long-standing issue in Illinois that we need to really tackle that business environment. ... The other thing that's really impacting businesses directly is talent. We're in a global competition for talent and workers are  in high demand. So making sure that they have the correct skills and are just people available to go to work."

No place is perfect.

Rumler knows the good, the bad and the ugly.

The merger of the Illinois and Iowa chapters eight years ago certainly involved some growing pains. The chamber has hundreds of members.

There have to be some who like the way things used to be.

Rumler addressed the idea there is an old school versus new school division in the chamber.

"I'd say that we're a maturing organization," Rumler said. "Eight years into this combined effort, I'm not hearing that anyone wants to go backwards. I'm not hearing that one bit. I see our board of directors and membership very united in being a Quad Cities region. I think back to when I started in my chamber history, I worked for the Illinois Quad Cities chamber. Thinking back to what our priorities were, we were focused on what we could do better than Davenport or what we could do better than Bettendorf. And that wasn't a healthy experience for this region. So combining into the power of the Quad Cities Chamber, we're able to compete on a global scale. We've been seeing that with our economic development efforts, really being able to position the Quad Cities as a more attractive place than other regions. ... I think in this bi-state area, the parochialism is one of our biggest challenges. How do we continue to think as a region, act as a region, invest as a region? Knowing that we have to act as a region and think locally. ... I think that we are more united now than ever. And again, there's only more progress to be made." 

Rumler also said "we include everybody equally" to bridge that gap and move the business community forward.

"I see a huge potential in the next 5-10 years of really uniting our region around our downtowns. Because we should have one consistent downtown experience. We all relate to our downtowns. Whether you live in Davenport, Rock Island, Moline, Bettendorf or East Moline or any other community, you look at your downtown as an indicator of your success."

Rumler talked whether encouraging local businesses to grow organically or trying to attract businesses to locate here is the better way to stimulate economic development.

"I believe one of my priorities is to make sure that we're growing from within," Rumler said. "That's what we can control. We can have a much larger impact by doing that, by supporting those small-, mid-sized family-owned businesses that have connections here. And I'm very concerned that we need to be providing those resources to them. Because we can grow faster if we help a small business -- and many small businesses -- go from five to 10 employees. Or from $1 million in revenue to $10 million in revenue vs. just waiting for that big company to come to town."

Rumler also talked about the Quad Cities making its mark in emerging industries.

"I want to make sure that we're encouraging our young people, our professionals," Rumler said. "We have a lot of ideas in this community. I want people to take action on them. I don't want them to sit around and wait for permission for somebody to start a business. They should be taking those actions and those steps right now to get those ideas out of their head, put them on paper, go create that business plan and let's get going."

Rumler also talked about the biggest concerns you hear from companies that are considering relocating, the latest on the Q2030 plan and buy-in from membership to make the lessons learned from the Big Table happen.

Watch the entire interview in the video above.

Local 4 News, your local election headquarters, is proud to present 4 The Record, a weekly news and public affairs program focused on the issues important to you. It's a program unlike any other here in the Quad Cities. Tune in each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. as Jim Niedelman brings you up to speed on what's happening in the political arena, from Springfield, Des Moines, Washington, D.C. and right here at home.

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