Sam McCullum came to the Quad Cities from Chicago for college nine years ago, and the opportunities he discovered have kept him in the region ever since. While he was completing an internship, unique circumstances afforded him the chance to launch STEAM on Wheels in 2018, a Bettendorf-based nonprofit that offers educational experiences in science, technology, engineering, art and math for area schoolchildren.
“The Quad Cities knows how to come together,” McCullum says. “Once you find a group of like-minded people, you can really elevate your idea to the next level.”
Likewise, Annette Hutto moved to the Quad Cities to study at Augustana College, working part-time as a server and bartender to earn money while attending school. In Rock Island, she saw potential for a coffee shop/community gathering space, and with financial help from her family, opened Cool Beanz Coffeehouse in 2009. Relocation to a bigger space, a food truck and a second location have followed in the years since.
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“In the first decade we were open, we built relationships with the community — taking part in local fundraisers, donating to organizations and listening to customers about how they wanted our business to grow and change,” Hutto recalls.
A solid home base for budding entrepreneurs, the Quad Cities region attracts talent with intriguing business opportunities, great quality of life and a diverse mix of arts, culture, sports, parks and nightlife.
“My favorite thing about living in the Quad Cities is that we have many big-city amenities including a zoo, baseball, symphony, rooftop patios, botanical gardens, children's museum and art museum — all within a 30-minute radius,” Hutto says.
“The cost of living here is a huge benefit compared to any other city,” McCullum adds. “And you’re pretty much three hours from everywhere — St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Des Moines. You can’t beat the location.”
Hutto says she enjoys exploring local bike trails with her family and spending time on her pontoon boat, citing the Fryxell Geology Museum on the Augustana campus as a local hidden gem. McCullum spends his free time flying drones, bowling at the TBK Bank Sports Complex and Entertainment Center, and checking out the Mercado on Fifth outdoor market on Friday nights throughout the summer.
Both McCullum and Hutto say they’ve benefitted from the support they received during the COVID-19 pandemic, something that comes along with being a part of the close-knit Quad Cities business community.
“City officials reassured me that my business STEAM on Wheels is essential here,” McCullum says. “I didn’t close during the pandemic and funders from across the Quad Cities have really backed our mission.”
To anyone who might be considering a Quad Cities move, Hutto is quick to tout the region’s accessibility.
“I’m able to work just a mile from home,” she says. “Having such a short commute means I have more time to spend with my family. And I think most people could find a neighborhood they’d love in any of the Quad Cities.”
Straddling the Mississippi River halfway between Chicago and Des Moines, the Quad Cities region encompasses Rock Island, Moline and East Moline, Illinois; and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa. For more information, visit quadcitieschamber.com.