Construction on the Quad-Cities’ first public four-year university could start as early as March, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday during a visit to Moline.

Western Illinois University will put the project out to bid within 15 days and award contracts within 30 days, allowing leaders to break ground on the building in March. That falls in line with when the state plans to issue bonds for the $57 million renovation, Quinn said.

The funds are part of a $31 billion capital construction bill Quinn signed in July.

“If you build it, they will come,” Quinn said. “There is a hunger on both sides of the river for a (public) four-year university. We have to invest in education.”

College officials said they expect to complete construction by September 2011. The 60,000-square-foot building will house the College of Business and Technology, which includes the engineering program, as well as academic and student services and the university’s administration. 

The campus will allow Western Illinois University to expand its presence in the Quad-Cities. Officials expect to enroll 3,000 students once the new building opens. Currently, the school serves 1,400 students at its Moline location off 60th Street. 

In all, the state will provide a total of $62 million to the college, which includes money for inflation and allows officials to begin plans for a second building on the 20-acre riverfront campus. Deere & Co. donated the land to Western Illinois University in 2003.

“This is not a Moline project — this is a Quad-Cities project,” Moline Mayor Don Welvaert said. “We have worked hard over the years to bring (a four-year college here). It will create jobs and millions of dollars in economic opportunities to the Quad-Cities.”

Officials expect the project will create 2,000 jobs. In addition, the college will almost double its current staff of more than 100, according to Quinn’s office.

Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, also said the renovation plans for the campus do not include dorms or a bookstore. He said those types of facilities will be left for private developers.

“The jobs are what we need, and we have the people the fill them,” said Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan. “So let’s get the money and get digging.”