ROCK ISLAND -- Though he's never held elected office, Ted Johnson has helped develop what large sections of Rock Island and Moline look like today.
The friendly 67-year-old retired Feb. 1 from Quad City Bank & Trust after a 41-year career.
Mr. Johnson has been a vital behind-the-scenes player in planning the i wireless Center, Rock Island Center for Math & Science, Wildwood housing subdivision, and several other Illinois Q-C developments.
The civic center alone -- which opened 20 years ago this May -- spurred growth in downtown Moline, from John Deere Commons onward.
"I didn't even think the civic center was going to get built," said Mr. Johnson, the first chairman of the Illinois Q-C Civic Center Authority, who was on the governing board from its creation in late 1984 until 2011.
"I was hopeful it was going to be built, but I wasn't confident," he said. "In cooperative efforts, there's usually something that occurs that screws up the whole thing. There were a lot of things that could have screwed it up.
"It's done amazingly well," Mr. Johnson said. "We're fortunate to have staffs there that have done a phenomenal job. It was very rewarding."
Mr. Johnson -- and his wife, Carol, a real estate agent for Mel Foster -- moved to the Quad-Cities from Marshalltown, Iowa, in late 1971, when he came to work for the Quad City Development Group.
Former vice president for corporate development for The Valley Group in Rock Island, Mr. Johnson supervised development and sales of the Wildwood subdivision off 7th Street in Moline, which includes about 250 homes -- including the one he built 30 years ago and still lives in today.
Because of all the time he spent appearing before the Rock Island Planning Commission, former mayor Jim Davis appointed Mr. Johnson to serve on the panel -- a volunteer job he continues to this day.
"He's one of the most knowledgeable people on the commission," commission chairman David Levin said of his friend. "His expertise is very deep, He has a special feeling about properties, helps the commission and others with the history of properties.
"It's always nice to have people who have knowledge, expertise and background," Mr. Levin said. "There are people who sit on different committees who don't come. That is a real problem. With Ted, he's always there. When you call and ask a question, he's always willing to volunteer his time."
Time is the reason the longtime banker chose now to retire. After a career as an executive at First National Bank of the Quad-Cities, which became First of America, he went to National City, and then was vice president at Moline-based Quad City Bank & Trust for 12 years.
"It was a matter of good timing, and the thing that I wanted was time," Mr. Johnson said. "You never know how much time you got. There are certain things you want to get done. Now I can't say I don't have the time. We've gone through some significant health issues with my wife, who's now fine, so you appreciate whatever time you've got."
Theyhave two daughters - Julianne in Chicago and Christina in Breckenridge, Colo.
The success of QCBT and other locally-owned banks, especially during the financial crisis of 2008-09, is because of the preference many people have for smaller local banks, compared to behemoths like Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, Mr. Johnson said.
"They want to bank with a local bank," he said. "I think that says a lot for our community."
QCBT, launched in 1994 by Doug Hultquist and Mike Bauer, now has more than $1 billion in assets, with five Quad-Cities locations, two in Cedar Rapids and one in Rockford. "It's a phenomenal story," Mr. Johnson said.
"The two guys who started it knew what they were doing, and surrounded themselves with talented bankers," he said, noting they do mostly commercial loans. "Even though it was a new bank, they had a wealth of banking experience to draw on. They were focused on the customer, and still remain that way."
Mr. Johnson said that after his experience with National City (bought by PNC Bank in 2008), he "wanted absolutely nothing to do with banking. Everything had to fit. The people making decisions didn't even know the people they were making decisions about. It was all, did the numbers make sense? It didn't matter if the person had a good heart.
"Ted has been a valuable asset throughout the years," John Anderson, QCBT president/CEO, said. "We are grateful for the expertise Ted gave our clients and the passion he has for the Quad-City community."
Mr. Johnson, former chairman of the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce, admires the way Illinois-side cities are run but said the huge state budget deficitis "absolutely ridiculous and its impact is significant," hurting the ability of cities to grow and attract business.
When he was with the Development Group,businesses never sought tax breaks and incentives like they do now. "It was always transportation, quality of the workforce, the site, location -- things that made sense," Mr. Johnson said.
In the early '70s, he and his old boss supported the concept of a single Q-C chamber, under which the QCDG and Q-C tourism bureau would operate. At the time, there were separate Moline, Rock Island, and Upper Rock Island County chambers.
"It's fun to have been here in the time-frame when most of this has occurred," Mr. Johnson said of the single merged chamber, which took effect in 2010. "It took a while."
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