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Q: Why do we use the term “Quad-Cities,” when actually there are five cities?

— Quad-Citian

A: Answering this question never is easy. One has to be a diplomat to avoid opening a can of worms.

That said, we asked two of the community’s most diplomatic ambassadors, Quad-City Convention & Visitors Bureau president and chief executive officer Joe Taylor and Quad-City Development Group president Thom Hart, to weigh in on the query.

“I don’t want to be pinned down because I’m going to get in trouble,” Taylor prefaced. He explained that in the 1940s and the 1950s the region was known as the Tri-Cities. “The three largest cities at the time were Davenport, Rock Island and Moline. Then what happened is that East Moline and Bettendorf grew.

“The good news is that the Quad-Cities has been growing, and we are a larger community than before.”

Flip through the phone book and you will find area businesses not only bearing the “Tri-Cities” name, but the more inclusive “Quint-Cities” as well. We couldn’t find anyone who would definitively say that the fourth Quad-City is East Moline or Bettendorf, but at its entrance on Illinois 92 East Moline’s welcome billboard declares the city is “One of the Quad-Cities.”

By population, the major cities are Davenport (98,359), Moline (43,768), Rock Island (39,684), Bettendorf (31,258) and East Moline (21,431).

“I think it’s more of a nickname than an actual name,” Taylor said of the Quad-Cities’ moniker. “It’s a nickname, just as you would call somebody bald ‘Curly.’ He really doesn’t have a head of hair at all. We call ourselves ‘Quad-Cities’ and we really have more cities than that.”

Hart said the development group actually coined the term “Quad-Cities” about four decades ago. “The Tri-Cities clearly were Moline, Rock Island and Davenport. Then there’s the debate: What are the Quad-Cities? My predecessor, John Gardner, defined it as a community you live in and three others.”

Hart noted that the Bi-State Regional Commission defines the area as a quadrant formed by interstates 80 and 280. “That’s an interesting geographic analysis, which I think is quite good.”

The Metropolitan Statistical Area as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau includes Scott County in Iowa and Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties in Illinois. “It’s more than three dozen communities,” Hart said. “There’s been a lot of debate over this in the past 40 years.”

Ultimately, Taylor and Hart agree that the Quad-Cities does not reflect any four communities, but rather, it refers to a region.

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