Over the past several decades the Quad City metropolitan area witnessed a steady migration of businesses and professional service firms away from local downtown areas to outlying locations where new housing developments have been constructed.
Each Quad City municipality, as a consequence, attempted to redefine or reinvent an increasingly depleted river front commercial district with varying degrees of success. These revitalization efforts necessarily involved the creation of business organizations to serve as leaders and advocates for commercial redevelopment efforts.
Davenport, for example, created three organizations to plan and manage projects: the Downtown Davenport Partnership, the Hilltop Campus Village and the Village of East Davenport. Moline and Rock Island established their own versions of redevelopment partnerships. Recently, smaller communities, such as Le Claire and Eldridge, have also undertaken successful efforts to attract new business and customers to their down towns.
The results of downtown revitalization projects have been impressive to see. Millions of dollars in private and public funds have been invested in downtown housing, landscaping and commercial enterprises. New jobs have been created; the cities’ tax base expanded; vacant store fronts filled; long dormant building upper floors transformed into loft apartments; new businesses opened. These business districts have recovered their economic vibrancy.
Unfortunately, only downtown Bettendorf still has no organization devoted exclusively to representing the interests of downtown property and business owners and advocating for revitalization efforts. Downtown Bettendorf lost its’ most vocal proponent, when the Bettendorf Chamber of Commerce dissolved several ago, leaving a business leadership vacuum in the community.
Recently, The Bettendorf Business Network was formed, in part, to provide a voice for businesses wanting to create a distinctive and vibrant Bettendorf economic environment. The organization’s membership particularly recognizes the need to focus on working to revitalize the downtown Bettendorf businesses district.
Over the next ten years downtown Bettendorf will be the site of a major road realignment project and the construction of a new I-74 bridge. The scope of construction and length of time involved in these projects will have a significant impact on the viability of Bettendorf businesses. Whether these construction projects become boon or devastation depends, to a significant degree, upon the ability of affected businesses to unite and offer a common voice and vision for the area.
The Bettendorf Business Network proposes to create a downtown Bettendorf business council, bringing together city government officials, representatives of the casino and local business and property owners. The purpose of the council will be to provide a means for downtown businesses to communicate and work together, to access funds for downtown improvement projects, to attract and retain businesses and to envision a renewed and attractive downtown area, once bridge and realignments projects are complete.