‘Quincy’s Calling’ campaign ruffling feathers of friends and neighbors

QUINCY CALLING

OPINION: There are times when I look at something and say, “Well, that’s not going to go over very well,” but someone with Gem(City)-studded and rose-colored glasses always knows better and says, “What’s the problem?”

The “Quincy’s Calling” marketing campaign is designed to help fill open jobs by recruiting alumni back to Quincy and recruit skilled workers within an hour’s drive to Quincy. The City of Quincy also is providing up to $5,000 for people who move to Adams County to fill an open job. 

Here’s the problem. Mayors and economic leaders/partners from surrounding communities — especially the ones within an hour’s drive — appear to be pissed about the campaign.

Why would anyone in Quincy believe that would be a problem? Who were the half-dozen or so billboards on U.S. 61 in Missouri between Canton and New London targeting anyway?

Below is an e-mail chain from Corey Mehaffy, executive director of the Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council, the Hannibal Regional Port Authority, the City of Hannibal Industrial Development Authority and the Hannibal Industrial Development Corporation. Mehaffy is Hannibal’s counterpart to Kyle Moore, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation and former Quincy mayor.

The e-mail chain during the past four months, directed to many business and governmental leaders in Northeast Missouri, outlines the outrage from Quincy’s neighboring mayors and others about the campaign.

(I will provide commentary and context.)

Sept. 21, 10:01 a.m.

To: Kyle (Moore)/Mike (Elbe, former GREDF Board Chairman),

I wanted to reach out to you to see if we could schedule a meeting in the near future. I would like to speak with you about the Quincy Calling campaign.

As you know, I am very committed to regionalism and fully believe that our communities need to work together. In fact, I have offered, in the past, to partner (even financially) with (former GREDF president) Marcel (Wagner) in the Puerto Rico recruiting effort. Kyle and I have recently discussed other ways we can work together on the retail/commercial side as well. I also originally offered to partner with Marcel on the NextSite recruitment efforts. I know from my experience in other markets that offering multiple store deals to the developers/concepts can be a strategic advantage for our recruitment efforts.

That said, I am committed to not recruiting, businesses or workforce, from your region. Negative impacts on your businesses and the community also cause negative impacts for Hannibal, Palmyra and the entire region as well.

I noticed the Quincy Calling ads running on the electronic billboard near HNB Bank. The ads seem to be a targeted effort to recruit people from Hannibal to Quincy? I realize we cannot control what our private sector companies are doing to recruit, but I believe our organizations can be mindful that the entire region is struggling to find workers and be more respectful of each other’s efforts.

Do you have some time to discuss? I would like to gain a better understanding of your campaign parameters for my planning process.

Corey J. Mehaffy

JRG: I heard these complaints from outside of Quincy as soon as the billboards hit. Thought I would wait to see how it played out. Read on.


Sept. 22, 9:07 a.m.

Greetings – I wanted to provide an update on the email below from yesterday. Kyle Moore responded to my email and indicated the following:

… Something to keep in mind is that the Quincy’s Calling Campaign is a program paid for and developed by the City of Quincy, not GREDF. The parameters and strategies for the program have been set by Mayor Troup with approval from the City Council. GREDF has been involved in facilitating meetings for the city and we help field questions regarding the incentive program, but the City has determined the final look and placements of the advertisements. I can give you an idea of what the campaign hopes to achieve, and the feedback from the City of Quincy officials thus far. Other than that, it might be good to also reach out to the City if there are additional concerns….

I have a meeting scheduled next Tuesday morning with Mayor (Mike) Troup to discuss this issue. I will send an update following that meeting.

I have received a number of emails, text messages and calls regarding this campaign. People throughout the region are noticing the billboards and many are not happy with this tactic.

Thanks for your continued support of HREDC. Have a great week!

Corey J. Mehaffy

JRG: Well, this is word parsing on a Bill Clinton-scale. GREDF administers the program, and the current GREDF boss was the former Quincy Mayor who laid the groundwork. Who is having the meetings with the out-of-town marketing firm being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for this campaign? Yeah, Mike Troup is now mayor, but Moore doesn’t get to play Pontius Pilate on this. C’mon …


Sept. 30, e-mail between Mehaffy and Troup:

Mike – I was wondering if you were able to talk with the Quincy is Calling group about the messaging yet?

Corey J Mehaffy

Corey,

Yes and (t)hey (sic) have made changes to the electronic board. I am not sure when you will see the actual changes on the board, but it should be soon if not already completed.

Mike


Dec. 9, 10:21 a.m.

Greetings – I met with Mayor Inman in Macomb yesterday to discuss a number of regional items (Tri-State Development, Amtrak, broadband, workforce etc.) including the current Quincy is Calling campaign. A few weeks ago, during a meeting with Amtrak regarding passenger rail service to Hannibal, Amtrak officials made me aware that Mayor Inman was very unhappy about the Quincy campaign and was hoping to speak with Mayor Troup about the topic during the 50th celebration of the Carl Sandburg line in Quincy.

Mayor Inman was able to speak briefly with Mayor Troup, but the conversation was not fruitful.

Mayor Inman and I have decided to coordinate a meeting with the Mayor of Keokuk and her ED professional, Mayor Inman and his ED professional, myself and Mayor Hark and Mayor Troup to discuss terminating the portion of the campaign messaging that is obviously targeted at residents in the Tri-State area. Mayor Inman will be reaching out to the Mayor of Keokuk this week to request some dates that would work for her schedule.

It is our hope that a larger group speaking with one voice can persuade Mayor Troup that the regionally targeted messaging needs to be terminated.

As you know, Mayor Troup has indicated that the Right on Q group was willing to remove this messaging from the electronic boards but not willing to spend the money to remove the static billboards. I will keep you in the loop as we progress.

Corey J Mehaffy, IMPM

JRG: First, this ED isn’t THAT ED. It stands for Economic Development in this case. The numerous billboards on that stretch of U.S. 61 are pretty much a middle finger to our friends across the river, so maybe it was THAT ED after all. I guess being Ralls County born and bred made me more aware of it.


Dec. 13, 3:33 p.m.

Greetings – A quick update from the GREDF annual meeting last week. Mayor Troup gave a very inspiring speech about Quincy being “open” and did a very good job outlining the steps that various Quincy stakeholders have taken to “open” Quincy given the COVID mandates from the state. I believe the speech was very well written, not negative towards other communities, and that the stakeholders from the Tri-State Summit would have been receptive to the message and would have delivered similar messages regarding their own communities. Kudos to Mayor Troup on this messaging.

That said, a few updates on the Quincy is Calling Campaign. As you know from my emails several weeks ago, I originally reached out to former Mayor and now GREDF President Kyle Moore.

You may recall, Kyle’s response was very vague indicating that GREDF was not the lead organization in the campaign. Kyle stated that the City Council and Right on Q committee members were leading the campaign and messaging etc. According to the presentation at the GREDF annual meeting, the GREDF Board has made a purposeful shift away from business attraction and are now positioning themselves solely as a workforce attraction entity. The Quincy is Calling Campaign is their main effort moving forward. There is a lot I could say here …

A quick update from my conversation with Mayor Inman from Macomb today. Mayor Inman and Mayor Troup both attended the Illinois Municipal League Board meeting last Friday and Saturday in Chicago. Mayor Inman was able to speak with Mayor Troup at a social gathering about his displeasure with the Quincy is Calling Campaign. Mayor Troup indicated that he has heard the same thing from other communities. Mayor Inman mentioned that a group of mayors will be scheduling a meeting with Mayor Troup soon to discuss the campaign. Mayor Inman also reminded Mayor Troup of the decades of collaboration among the Tri-State Development stakeholders and how this campaign is contrary to those partnerships that were built over the years. He reminded Mayor Troup that these partnerships were the driving force behind the Central IL Expressway and a number of other transportation projects that have been completed over the years. He also told Mayor Troup that people in Macomb have started to boycott Quincy for shopping and are also avoiding using the Quincy airport for flights given their displeasure with the campaign.  

At the end of his conversation, Mayor Inman introduced Mayor Troup to the mayor of Sherman, IL and the mayor of Jacksonville, IL and walked away. Mayor Inman indicated that Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard approached him again about 30 minutes later to tell him about the conversation with Mayor Troup regarding the Quincy is Calling billboards.

Mayor Ezard shared that when mentioned the campaign, Mayor Troup told him that he is welcome to come with the rest of the mayors that are coming to “bitch at him” about the billboards.

Mayor Ezard approached Mayor Inman to indicate that he would like to attend the meeting as well. Mayor Ezard told Mayor Inman that one of the signs near Jacksonville is located just outside the Nestle plant and has created issues with their employers as well.

Mayor Inman is working to get some dates from the Mayor of Keokuk. As you may know, the outgoing mayor’s term is not complete until the end of the calendar year. I will keep you updated as we move forward.

As you know, we have been communicating with Mayor Troup regarding the Quincy is Calling Campaign. He and Kyle consistently tell us that the campaign is directed towards travelers on 61 and visitors to Hannibal. As I mentioned in an update following the GREDF annual meeting (see below), they shared information contrary to that messaging with their members at the meeting.

JRG: Yes, the folks running “Quincy’s Calling” have said they are trying to appeal to people from farther distance, but they didn’t. They have touted all comers. This was an easy fix by simply adding the sentence, “You have to live XX miles away from Adams County to be eligible.” They didn’t do that. Sometimes, low-hanging fruit has worms.


Jan. 21, 8:46 a.m.

Note the update below from GREDF to their members.

“and recruit skilled workers within an hour drive to Quincy”

We have a meeting with Mayor Troup next week to discuss this campaign again.

Corey J Mehaffy, IMPM

JRG: I’m looking forward to that meeting. I doubt it will be open.


MRN Editor David Adam spoke Friday with Moore about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ announcement last week that it will use $732 million in federal infrastructure funding to modernize Lock and Dam 25 at Winfield, Mo., on the Mississippi River. During the interview, Adam also asked a couple of questions about the Quincy’s Calling program and the ruffled feathers of local mayors.

Moore’s responses:

“Right now, we’ve had 56 individuals and families move since August into Quincy who have taken advantage of the Q-WRAP program, which is the moving incentive.

“Missouri is leading the way on folks moving. Right now we’ve had people from 17 states and territories move to Quincy, and we’ve had 14 individuals from Missouri move to Quincy.

“It was important when we talked to our business community when we were formulating the strategy for the Quincy’s Calling campaign. We originally talked to them about marketing in communities that have been hardest hit in job losses. But when we really started talking to them, and digging down into what their challenges were, it was the fact that they they needed workers immediately. So they really encouraged that the Quincy’s Calling campaign not only focuses on Quincy alumni who live out of state or outside the area, but also for the first year was to encourage people who were within about a 45-minute drive to take a look at Quincy and take a look at working in this community.

“We see ads for events in Hannibal, Macomb and Keokuk all the time here in Quincy, and that’s certainly understandable. At the end of the day, we work on behalf of our companies, and our companies really need workers. They needed workers as soon as possible. They thought it was an easier sell, for us to get people to drive maybe from another community to fill a job in Quincy. At the end of the day, that’s what our investors and our business community needed. They needed people to fill jobs.

“I’ve gotten calls from other communities who asked about the Quincy’s Calling campaign because they think it’s a good strategy, and it’s a proactive strategy. I work in (the Oakley Lindsay Center), and I can walk downstairs and see in the informational booth tons of information about things to do in many other cities. We all work together, and we’re all facing the same challenges and figuring out how to navigate this climate of a worker shortage.

“We’re all trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. When we sat down with our companies, they said you’re probably going to have more success in the immediate future to have somebody drive from 35 or 45 minutes away and make that commute to fill a job. It’s going to be a longer ask of somebody who may live six hours away to move. That’s going to be a longer process.”


JRG: For all of the years of Tri-State Summits, “regionalism,” “We speak with one voice” and other pablum, that river is still pretty wide. Those events still always made sure Quincy was the center of the “State of Mind” universe. Quincy’s jealousy over the attraction of Hannibal’s Mark Twain heritage has always been palpable (overhyping Quincy’s Lincoln connections has been one of the “us too” efforts that is a stretch).

Missouri now is a more attractive state to do business in (ask Doyle Manufacturing, Quincy Plumbing and Heating and other companies soon heading west). Couple that with Quincy’s losses following the last census, and the insecurity is at an all-time high.

I spoke with Mahaffy and he said he wanted to withhold comment until after the he and all of the mayors meet, which is on Friday.

Mayor Troup said he worked to get the digital billboards changed quickly and he welcomed the upcoming meeting, which he said has had to be rescheduled a couple of times.

“Partnerships are important and we have worked with our neighboring communities through the Tri-State Summit and other projects,” Troup said on Tuesday. “But as mayor, I have to put Quincy First in some cases. I am working to address the workforce and housing issues we are facing.”

Troup also said Missouri entities don’t seem to have any problem leveraging their advantages (lower gas taxes, etc.) against Illinois in their marketing pitches when they have them.

Let’s just hope cooler heads prevail and Friday’s meeting doesn’t result in “Hannibal’s Calling”, “Macomb’s Calling” and “Jacksonville’s Calling”.

J. Robert Gough is the Publisher/General Manager of Muddy River News.

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