Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar speaks at the MRA Business Appreciation & Awards Reception Monday night at the iWireless Center in Moline.

It was a lesson former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar learned 45 years ago, early in his political career, but one he's never forgotten.

"We are not here to play politics, we are here to solve problems," Edgar told a crowd of business and community leaders gathered Monday night for MRA's inaugural Business Appreciation & Awards Reception at the iWireless Center, Moline.

Edgar recalled how he first heard the advice from his then-boss, U.S. Sen. W. Russell Arrington, who was one of the most powerful legislators of the time.

"The function of government is to provide service to people, particularly people in need," he said. "If things are not getting done, who is getting hurt? The people who need something."

Edgar, now 68, also offered his own advice to the crowd of business owners and executives, city leaders and representatives of other business organizations: practice the three C's — compromise, civility and compassion.

"I'm as partisan as anyone, but the day after election, we've got to come together and solve problems," he said.

But the state's 38th governor also realized this is a group that already lives by such ideas.

"One of the reasons I always liked coming to the Quad-Cities, is this is an area that worked together and was always putting its differences aside," he said. "I wish we could spread that cooperation throughout the Midwest and Washington."  

MRA, the Iowa and Western Illinois division of The Management Association, hosted the ceremony to honor the finalists and winners of the 2014 Business Appreciation & Awards Reception. The first-time awards drew 22 nominations. Receiving top honors were:

• Regional Impact Award, For-Profit: Alcoa.

• Regional Impact Award, Nonprofit: Renew Moline.

• Business Community Award: Royal Neighbors of America. 

Also recognized were the finalists for each award. Business Community Award finalists: Arndt Chiropractic Center Inc., Bush Construction, DHCU Community Credit Union; and Modern Woodmen of America; Regional Impact Award finalists (for-profit): Group O, KJWW Engineering Consultants, Missman Inc. and Tennant Truck Lines; and (nonprofit) Ascentra Credit Union, Career Cruising Quad-Cities, Greater Quad-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Quad-City Botanical Center.

"An employer association is about businesses succeeding," said Heather Roberts, MRA's executive director. The event also was about raising awareness of the work of MRA, she said, adding that not all the winners or guests were current MRA members. "This is about raising up our community because we do so much great work when we work together."

Visionary Awards were presented to the charter member companies, which created the association in 1948. There are: Deere & Co., George Evans Corp., Hansaloy Corp., M.A. Ford, Nestle-Purina, Nichols Aluminum, Parr Instrument, Rock Island Arsenal and Roth Pump Co. Today, MRA serves more than 200 members in Iowa and western Illinois. It is a division of The Management Association.

In addition, Debra Carlson, MRA's retiring manager of operations and training, was honored for her 19 years of service.

"This event brings together some of the most successful and hardest-working organizations," Susan Fronk, the association's president and CEO, said. "We are proud to celebrate you. These are organizations that are standouts in your community who do the right thing. You are successful, and you are the employers of choice."