Eighteen years ago the City of Bettendorf appointed Steve Van Dyke to serve as Director of Community and Economic Development. This past October Steve notified city officials of his intention to retire by year end, bringing to conclusion a career marked by numerous and significant economic development and redevelopment projects in the community.
Steve grew up in Davenport, graduated from the University of Iowa and initially managed a retail store in Cedar Falls. He, then, began a 38 year career in city government. Over that time he worked for six cities, which included employment as city administrator of both Hudson, Iowa and Fulton, Illinois. He came to Bettendorf, after serving as director of economic development for East Moline, Illinois.
The trajectory for Van Dyke’s tenure was set in 1997, when the city created a plan to identify and redevelop nine areas or corridors of opportunity. Those nine corridors included, the Golden Triangle, Utica Ridge Road, 53rd Avenue, Cumberland Square, downtown Bettendorf, Middle Road and Interstate 80, Duck Creek Plaza, the Old Bettendorf Industrial site and the Riverside Development Park.
The 1997 plan continues to guide local community redevelopment efforts. With the construction of the Hilton Inn on Middle Road nearing completion, the Duck Creek corridors will largely be finished, leaving only the Middle Road and Interstate 80 and the downtown corridors requiring significant attention.
Van Dyke regrets he will be unable to finish all the work needing to be done in the nine corridors. He points out, however, that the development of Middle Road and Interstate 80 and the downtown corridors may require ten, twenty or even thirty years for completion. And once the needs of those areas have been addressed, another cycle of redevelopment will necessarily begin. Community revitalization efforts will be ongoing and require a long-term commitment from the person who oversees the projects.
Steve notes with pride many major accomplishments achieved during his Bettendorf tenure. He points out, for example, that assessed property tax value have risen more than 125% over the last eighteen years. Additionally, the redevelopment of Duck Creek Plaza has been hugely successful.
Van Dyke argues successful economic development efforts are inevitably the product of a team effort. The Bettendorf teams has included city officials, community leaders and business owners. He particularly enjoyed working with city staff members. He says, “This has been the greatest job on earth. The most fun has been with Decker Ploehn, Greg Jager and Carol Barnes, when we brain stormed new projects. Everyone had an individual role and divergent views, but this only enhanced the creative process.”
A replacement for Van Dyke, as director of economic development, has not yet been identified, according to Decker Ploehn, city administrator. He believes finding a new person for the job might require three to six months. Ploehn adds a successful applicant ought to have certain basic qualities. That person must be a team player, an original thinker, and a self-starter. Additionally, the individual needs to execute projects through city processes, work with other units of government, create financials models of projects and be a great presenter. Or, as Ploehn comments, “He or she will have to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie at the same time.”
Van Dyke has no intention to leave the community upon retirement, but hopes to focus on personal projects. He says he will miss “the thrill of the deal.” He enjoyed putting projects together and seeing them through to completion, but adds, “The time has come for a new person to take up the challenge.”