Built to replicate a 1950s-era tractor dealership, the http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere Collectors Center is being closed as Deere & Co. refocuses its downtown Moline tourism activities to tell the whole story of http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere — not just its role in agriculture.

The Moline-based Deere announced Wednesday that it will close the collectors center by the end of October after a seven-year run. The center’s most popular activities — including its antique tractor displays and auctions — will continue.    

“The goal is to provide visitors with one place to experience the global nature of http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere and the company’s great history and heritage of advanced technologies and innovative products,” said Al Higley, the manager of http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere Branded Properties.

Deere said visitors have indicated they would prefer to gain a full understanding of the company’s history and future in one location. The collector facility is located at 320 16th St., a block east of the http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere Pavilion.

Ken Golden, company spokesman, said the pavilion draws 180,000 visitors annually, while the Collectors Center attracts about 70,000. “The customer of the collectors center is a certain niche of people, a very enthusiastic group of people … who will be well served at the pavilion now,” he added.

Golden said Deere plans to invest about $1 million in making enhancements at the pavilion. The improvements will not change the building’s footprint.

The company plans to phase in the enhancements over time so as not to interrupt the pavilion’s operations. New interactive displays will be added and a broader range of equipment will be displayed, possibly including prototype vehicles such as Deere’s new driver-less orchard tractor.

“By consolidating our Moline tourism activities, we will bring together the best of the programs based on our heritage with displays showing our current and future technologies at the http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere Pavilion,” Higley said.

Joe Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the Quad-City Convention & Visitors Bureau, said it is too early to assess what impact the consolidation could have. However, he said the changes “will entirely change and freshen up,” the exhibits.

The changes also include creation of a new Heritage Marketing Group, an arm of the http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere Branded Properties, Golden said. “We believe it is important to know the heritage as well as who the company is today and what we plan tomorrow.”

All the center’s employees are being offered other positions in the company, including with the new Heritage Marketing Group, he said.  

http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere Branded Properties includes the pavilion, the http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere Store and the http://www.deere.com/en_US/deerecom/usa_canada.html">John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour, Ill.

Golden said the company will market the collectors center building for sale and plans to work with Moline economic development leaders. “We’ll try to rapidly find another tenant,” he said.

Jennifer DeWitt can be contacted at (563) 383-2318 or jdewitt@qctimes.com.

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