Two of the region's most important, influential organizations are hunting for new leaders, as the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and Q-C Chamber of Commerce are working with executive-search consultants to find new CEOs.
At the QCSO, Ben Loeb involuntarily left his post as executive director June 30 after four and a half years on the job. Genovese Vanderhoof & Associates is leading that search, and retired Deere & Co. attorney Mike Harring is serving as interim boss.
Also in downtown Davenport, the chamber is being led by Kristin Glass, vice president member services and an 11-year chamber veteran. Tara Barney, who served as CEO since its formation in 2010, resigned in July to pass the torch to new leadership.
Search firm Waverly Partners last month started the process by visiting with chamber staff and board members and toured the community. A new CEO is expected to be named by the end of March 2018, Ms. Glass said recently, but the QCSO doesn't have a firm timetable.
"We have a sizable group of highly qualified candidates to work with, and we are very pleased with the progress to date," said Rick Johnson, co-chair of the symphony board search committee. "The candidates have a variety of deep and broad industry experiences that we feel will provide the symphony with outstanding leadership.
"While we don't have an explicit timeframe for our search, we anticipate that we will be vetting and interviewing candidates over the next few months," Mr. Johnson said. "Our objective is to find the best candidate to lead the symphony into our second 100 years. We have the advantage of having a very strong interim executive director in place to provide leadership during this search process, allowing us to focus on finding the right long-term candidate."
From subscriber to supervisor
Ever since Mr. Harring moved to the Quad-Cities from Chicago in 1984 to work for Deere, he's been a QCSO season subscriber. The Moliner retired from the equipment manufacturing giant Dec. 31, having served as vice president and deputy general counsel, North America, since 2008. He also had worked in private practice for a Chicago law firm and for the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.
At Deere, Mr. Harring was friends with former corporate secretary Dick Silliman, who was on the symphony board. "Dick and his wife, Mary, were great mentors to me," he said recently. "I thought, in a small way, this is a way I can repay Dick and Mary for all their kindnesses, because he was so involved in the symphony."
"I like classical music. It's a great date night for couples. It's just a fun experience," Mr. Harring said.
"I've been pleasantly surprised at the quality of our staff," he said of the orchestra, which has 12 full- and part-time employees (not including performers) and an annual budget of $2.3 million.
"My predecessor was a tremendous musician, and I don't have that," Mr. Harring said of Mr. Loeb. "Other than being a fan, I don't have a background in music. My view of the job is more running the office, handling financial matters, policy matters, making sure things operate smoothly. I leave the music up to (conductor) Mark Russell Smith."
"This job, I really had to stretch; there are different skills," he said. "Lawyers tend to work at the worst-case scenario. They want to prevent liability. This job, you have to be optimistic, and have to be willing to stick your neck out there and say this is going to be a tremendous success."
"Every day, I feel I'm doing something good for the community," Mr. Harring said. "One of the things to keep employees happy, is to know you're connected to a higher purpose. This organization, the higher purpose is obvious."
"Learning what I need to know has been a big challenge because it's such a different job from what I'm used to," he said, noting orchestra finances. "It's a very young staff, but they really do a great job."
Mr. Harring also credited the many QCSO volunteers, especially in the last Riverfront Pops, which attracted an audience of about 10,000, the largest in years.
"I was not aware of the significant educational outreach that this organization does," he added. "These are wonderful things for the community. We do visits to schools; we do private lessons with symphony orchestra players. Educational outreach is really big."
"The impact music has on children -- they learn productive skills, learn to work on a team, that not everyone is not the soloist, but you're still important," he said. "They learn if one person is off, everyone's off. These are great life lessons the kids learn."
Mr. Harring and his wife have a son who's an accountant in Chicago and daughter who's a Neiman Marcus assistant manager in Chicago.
Looking through the Glass ceiling
Chamber interim CEO Kristin Glass has spent her entire professional life promoting the Quad-Cities. The 32-year-old Moline native interned with the Moline-based Illinois Quad City Chamber during her senior year at St. Ambrose University where she majored in marketing and PR, and was hired full time the day after graduating in 2007.
"I quickly became passionate about why the Illinois Quad-Cities, and now the Quad-Cities, is a better place," Ms. Glass said recently. "I have two young children at home, and I hope to make this community better for them," she said of her boys, ages 3 1/2 and 1 1/2.
She's held positions coordinating events, communications, leading young-professional efforts and member services. She earned Institute of Organizational Management credentials in 2014 from the U.S. Chamber – a four-year development program.
Compared to September 2010, when the Illinois and Iowa Q-C chambers merged and had 2,000-plus total members, there are currently 1,800 members and a staff of 30.
"Businesses have gone through challenging times, and need to consider what their investments look like," Ms. Glass said. "We expected a fall-off" after the 2008-09 recession, she noted. "We're less focused on the number of members and more on how they're served, the quality of member services."
"We do tout the number of business members, but also the number of employees they represent," she said, noting that is 94,000. "We're focused on our relationship with businesses, making sure we understand their needs."
Major development and improvements in the area have helped attract business and residents, Ms. Glass said. The Q-C area jobless rate has dropped from 7.2 percent in September 2010 to 4.5 percent in August 2017.
Since 2010, the chamber has helped companies expand and locate in the region – resulting in $1 billion in capital investment and 7,286 new jobs, Ms. Glass said.
The long-range Q2030 strategic plan has been a community-wide effort the chamber has coordinated with many stakeholders, including non-profit organizations, higher education and governments.
"We don't do economic development by ourselves; it takes many players," Ms. Glass said. "Being a regional organization, we can connect the dots."
"I think our greatest strength is all the different assets in our communities we have throughout the entire region," she said. "Each community has their own unique assets, which when we come together, we are really powerful."
"Our biggest opportunity is feeling positive, celebrating our successes," she said of a main challenge. "We have to be proud of what we've done."
Ms. Glass is excited to see the new $1.2 billion Interstate 74 bridge finally under construction.
"We as Quad-Citians need to think very positively about it. There may be delays during construction, but realize this is a significant investment made in our region," she said. "Certainly, businesses look at that investment made. It's really an iconic bridge...It certainly puts the Quad-Cities on the map."
She's also glad to see residential and hotel development in downtown Moline, Rock Island and Davenport, and progress with the Q in Moline, which will include a rail station for planned Amtrak passenger service to and from Chicago.
"Our downtowns are what I'm most proud of. I grew up here and remember what it looked like years ago," she said. "We're seeing people downtown enjoying the different amenities. It's awesome. We all thrive when our local businesses thrive."