CHICAGO - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that Western Illinois University's (WIU) Quad Cities Riverfront campus in Moline is receiving $2.4 million in Opportunity Returns planning funds for a major expansion project, allowing the school to grow into an expanded, comprehensive public university for the region. This will more than double the number of students it serves in the Quad Cities - from 1,200 to more than 3,000. This will also provide a major economic boost with a significant number of direct and indirect jobs created as a result of the campus expansion and other related projects.
"There is currently no comprehensive public university in Northwest Illinois. Just as people shouldn’t have to leave Illinois in search of quality, affordable health care, they shouldn’t have to leave the state in search of a quality, affordable education. WIU’s Quad Cities Riverfront Campus will act as a dynamic asset for this community and give our students the tools they need to succeed in the 21st Century workplace. Investments like these in higher education will create a more skilled workforce, better job opportunities and a more vibrant regional economy," said Gov. Blagojevich.
The new riverfront campus, which will be located on 20 acres of land donated by Deere & Company, will focus on high-tech education. The campus will specialize in technology-oriented, business, health care-related and education disciplines, in addition to offering its MBA program and other programs that meet identified needs.
"I want to thank Gov. Blagojevich for his investment in the expansion of the Quad Cities Riverfront campus. With his strong support, we are able to proceed with our plans to bring the first comprehensive public university to Northwest Illinois. This innovative project will provide an import boost to the regional economy by attracting and graduating students who will be well positioned to thrive in our ultra-competitive, global economy," Western Illinois University President Al Goldfarb said.
The City of Moline will also be revitalizing the area surrounding the new campus into an Urban Technology Corridor. Adjacent to the WIU Riverfront campus site is a vacant industrial warehouse site and underutilized property that will be redeveloped into a Technology Transfer Center, which will be formed to advance local research into business development opportunities and other development.
"The expansion of WIU’s Quad Cities campus is a top priority of this community and a tremendous key to supporting a strong, local economy with more abundant job growth. Bringing ambitious projects like this one to fruition requires a commitment from top to bottom, and, through investments likes these, Gov. Blagojevich continues to deliver that commitment at the highest level. There is no greater friend of the Quad Cities than this Governor, who has consistently kept his word by supporting a variety of efforts to help our region reach our vast economic potential," State Senator Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) said.
"With investments like these, Gov. Blagojevich continues to show his unwavering commitment to education in Illinois. Northwest Illinois’ economic strength depends on the quality and diversity of its workforce, and, by enhancing the caliber of education it offers its students, Western Illinois University will play a more instrumental role in shaping a dynamic workforce capable of meeting the demands of the technology-driven, global economy," said State Rep. Patrick Verschoore (D-Rock Island).
"Over the past three years, Gov. Blagojevich has responded time and time again to the needs and the priorities of the Quad Cities. By expanding WIU’s campus, the University will continue doing what it does best, and it will be able to more than double the students it serves. This expansion will also be a powerful economic engine for the entire region," State Rep. Mike Boland (D-East Moline) said.
The $2.4 million in Opportunity Returns funding will be used to complete the planning and design of the campus. After the completion of the Technology Transfer Center, the University hopes to also complete the construction of two new buildings to accommodate the increase in students.
"Gov. Blagojevich and I believe that investing in education is the greatest key to building a stronger and better future for Illinois. The Quad Cities offers a tremendous quality of life to its citizens, but, to attract and retain a dynamic workforce and more high-paying jobs, it needs to offer a comprehensive public university as well. This funding will set WIU on course to realize that vision and create more widespread economic opportunity in the region," Capital Development Board Executive Director Jan Grimes said.
The Capital Development Board manages the construction, repair and renovation of state facilities across Illinois, including colleges and universities, mental health facilities, veterans’ homes and historic buildings. Capital Development Board projects include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, new State Emergency Operations Center and the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.