In the Quad-Cities, it was business as usual in 2012 — some ups, some downs and the usual run of surprises.
Unemployment in the Quad-City area stood at 8.8 percent in January to start 2012, a full 1 percentage point above December 2011. The November unemployment rate in the Quad-Cities, the last report available, was at 6.4 percent, compared with 7.4 percent in November 2011.
A host of retail businesses opened and some closed. It was a year of major anniversaries for Deere & Co., the Rock Island Arsenal and the Quad-City Area Realtor Association.
Some major new tenants opened facilities on John Deere Road near the East Moline border. Davenport missed out on a major fertilizer plant, Cobham continued to land major government contracts for its Davenport plant, and Kone Centre opened in downtown Moline.
Years after it first was envisioned by developer Rodney Blackwell, Kone Centre was completed last summer, welcoming its anchor tenant Kone Inc. in July.
The $40 million office tower is the final piece in Moline’s Bass Street Landing development. Blackwell’s company Financial District Properties owns the structure, which was built by Ryan Companies.
The building’s emphasis on green construction earned it the top designation — Platinum certification — under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design rating system. It marked the first time an Illinois project achieved the designation for a LEED Core and Shell project.
In December, the project also welcomed a new outdoor ice rink, Centre Ice, to Bass Street Landing.
Union workers at Nichols Aluminum, Davenport, spent three months early this year on the picket line.
The Teamsters Local 371 walked off the job in late January when contract talks stalled and staged a nearly 12-week strike. In mid-April, the union ended the strike, and nearly half of the employees were called back to work. The last of the employees were recalled in October after a new five-year agreement was ratified.
The union represents more than 250 workers at Nichols, which produces aluminum for the construction industry.
An Orland Park, Ill., company was selected as the master developer for a 15 ½-acre riverfront property near the new Western Illinois University-Quad-Cites Campus on Moline’s riverfront.
Three Corners Development Services was selected after proposing an $80 million mixed-use development on property long known as the city’s RiverTech project. The company, a subsidiary of Madison Construction, proposed building student housing for WIU as well as market-rate housing, retail, commercial, office space and entertainment venues.
The city and Renew Moline sought proposals for redeveloping the vacant land. A development agreement is expected in early 2013.
The city of Moline and its development partners are continuing to look for a developer interested in renovating parts of the O’Rourke Building, which also will become home to the Quad-Cities’ new passenger rail station.
Restoration St. Louis, owned by Amrit and Amy Gill, had been selected in April to develop the private portion of the building but withdrew its proposal in October.
The project, a joint effort between the city, Renew Moline and MetroLINK, will renovate the former Sears warehouse building.
Restoration St. Louis, which redeveloped Davenport’s historic Hotel Blackhawk, had presented plans to convert the upper five stories into apartments as well as build a 150-room hotel on the east end of the property.
Scott County lost its chance at a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant and 165 new jobs in October when the Egypt-based developer withdrew its construction plans and returned to its first choice — Lee County in southeast Iowa — to build the operation.
Orascom Construction Industries was considering a tract of 318 acres in rural Scott County between Davenport and Walcott for its new operation. The plant also was expected to have created 2,500 construction jobs.
The proposed plant was hailed by local and state economic development leaders alike but drew opposition from many in Scott County concerned about the loss of the prime farmland as well as environmental and safety issues.
The state of Iowa offered $100 million in tax incentives to Orascom to build at a new site in Lee County. Initially, Orascom officials balked at its original Lee County site because of its location in a floodplain.
Rock Island Clean Line
A $1.7 billion wind energy transmission line moved forward in 2012 as developers of the Rock Island Clean Line began reaching out to companies along the line to assist in the major construction project.
The 500-mile transmission project, which is expected to create 5,000 construction jobs along the route, will deliver wind energy produced in northwest Iowa across Iowa and Illinois to near Morris, Ill.
The project moved closer to construction in October when Rock Island Clean Line filed its application with the Illinois Commerce Commission, requesting public utility status and approval to build the transmission line in northern Illinois. The company submitted both a preferred and an alternate route, both of which cross more than 120 miles of Illinois. The final route is expected to affect 350 landowners.
In the Quad-City region, the line will cross the Mississippi River north of Port Byron parallel to an existing transmission crossing. It passes through Rock Island, Whiteside and Henry counties.
John Deere Road
Three major projects were completed in 2012 on the eastern edge of Moline’s John Deere Road.
Green Family Hyundai opened a new dealership at 6801 44th Ave., Moline. Located at the intersection of John Deere Road and 70th Street, it is Green’s third Quad-City dealership.
Owner Jill Green said it also is exciting to be a part of growth along John Deere Road. Her dealership is a neighbor to Zimmerman Honda, which relocated from downtown Rock Island. She bought the parcel from Menard’s, which also has built a new store there.
Zimmerman was a longtime downtown Rock Island car dealership that opened its new $10 million Moline facility in August. The dealership, which opened in 1952 in Moline, had been at 1740 5th Ave., Rock Island, since 1962.
The new Moline Menards Mega Store opened this past spring at 6400 44th Ave. It has more than 200,000 square feet and sits off John Deere Road on 17 acres between 60th and 70th streets. It replaced Menards’ existing Moline store near 7th Street.
Cobham Mission Systems, Davenport, was awarded two major contracts in 2012 for work on the U.S. Air Force’s new KC-46A tanker aircraft.
In August, the former Carleton Life Systems, a supplier of aerospace and defense systems, was chosen by Boeing to provide on-board inert gas generating system equipment for use on the aircraft. The plant is located at 2734 Hickory Grove Road.
The KC-46A is the U.S. Air Force’s new tanker aircraft. It can be used to carry 114 passengers or 58 medical patients a distance of 7,348 miles.
In February, Boeing also selected Cobham to help supply components for a U.S. Air Force tanker program. Cobham announced that it would provide its body fuel tanks to Boeing for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-46 Tanker Program. That contract goes until 2028.
There were some major anniversaries celebrated in 2012.
The Rock Island Arsenal celebrated its 150th anniversary. A daylong event was held that included drop-ins by the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute team, military displays, tours, performances by the USO Band and a parade.
The 150th celebration offered the public access to the island that it that hasn't been seen in years because of security restrictions imposed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Deere & Co. marked its 175th anniversary with various activities. It began with the John Deere Foundation making a $175,000 grant to help fund Feeding America’s BackPack Program that provides children nutritious and easy-to-prepare food. The anniversary was celebrated at its facilities all over the world.
The Quad-City Area Realtor Association celebrated its 100th anniversary with a whole year of events. The association represents 700 real estate agents across the bi-state area. It traces its roots to a 15-member board founded in 1912.
Although the association is the result of a merger of all the area’s individual real estate boards, its longest lineage is the Davenport board, which was formally accepted by the National Association of Realtors in 1912.
The historic Union Arcade building in downtown Davenport was purchased in October by area developer Rodney Blackwell, who plans to convert it into residential housing with 60 to 70 market-rate apartments and some retail in the eight-story structure.
He paid $1.65 million for the building at 3rd and Brady streets. The first floor was constructed in 1915 as the Union Savings Bank & Trust. About a decade later, the other floors were added.
Blackwell said he will invest $6 million to $10 million in renovations. He expects it will be nine months to a year before construction begins, and current tenants will have to relocate.
Blackwell bought the building from Fred Dodds, who purchased it in 1998. Blackwell said he will have one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that will range from about 800 to 1,200 square feet.