From the editor: Adapting to disruptive economy | Insight


This spring, Iowa had 102,000 job openings and 55,000 unemployed people. Illinois had 426,000 job openings, and 300,000 unemployed people.

So if unemployment is so low, why are there so many job openings in the Quad-Cities?

It’s a problem everywhere. After the Great Resignation, some communities have been faster to rebound than others. That’s pitting cities against each other to attract workers, says Mike Oberhaus, the Quad City Chamber of Commerce’s interim president.

“We are at war,” Oberhaus recently told local business leaders. “We’re not the only community in the United States or the world facing the same labor shortages. We have to find strategies that will be compelling enough to get people to want to be here and look at strategies that will help us to attract, retain and make this a place where people want to work, live and play as compared to any other region in the country they can go to.

“We have to win this war.”

This battle comes as the Quad-Cities is a losing, not gaining, population. Rock Island County lost 1,358 people in the last census. Despite a boom in housing construction and retail expansion, Scott County lost 358.

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All this means wage pressures have built up in sectors across the Quad-Cities economy, from dish washers to top managers. Reporter Sarah Watson takes a look at what’s happening with wages in the Quad-Cities – and what businesses can do to navigate new expectations in the labor force.

Surprisingly, many of the workers we talked to cared less about wages and more about flexibility to balance work and family life. Again and again, we heard childcare was a major obstacle to Quad-Citians finding work.

The economic impact is devastating. Iowa loses an estimated $935 million dollars annually as a result of a lack of child care. In Illinois, it ranges between $10.6 billion and $16.1 billion. Governors in both states recently launched programs aimed at closing the gap, making childcare available for the unemployed in Illinois and grant funds in Iowa to open more than 5,000 new childcare slots.

Innovative solutions are also happening closer to home, according to reporter Brooklyn Draisey. In Moline, for example, the city has made available $500,000 in forgivable loans for childcare providers.

Finally, our third in-depth piece takes readers onto the Rock Island Arsenal, where construction is underway on the world’s largest 3-D printer. It’s a device that could revolutionize manufacturing. Reporter Sarah Hayden explains what it means for the Quad-Cities.

No doubt we’re in a period of economic change, with rising inflation, ongoing supply-chain problems, a wash of job openings and a labor force with new demands. But, as this edition shows, Quad-Cities leaders are poised to meet the challenges that come with change.

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