TV6 Investigates: Manufacturing is QC’s biggest industry

Who are we QC? Part 2
TV6 Investigates, Who Are We QC, Part 2 - Manufacturing's big workforce
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 2:17 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Quad-Cities workers help defend the nation and feed millions around the globe.

The area is home to some of the most critical manufacturing jobs in the country.

At the center is Deere and Co., the Quad-Cities’ largest employer at 6,400 people.

Skilled local workers make it all happen.

“I think there’s a common theme among hardworking Midwest people that’s super important to what we do for manufacturing,” Tom Johnson, operations manager, said, during a tour of John Deere Davenport Works. About 1,000 Quad-Citians build massive construction equipment there.

“There’s a lot more technology that’s very prevalent in the factory and that’s maybe a little different than what people think of a traditional factory,” Johnson said.

Even as technology changes, manufacturing remains the engine of the Quad-Cities economy. It’s the area’s largest industry – employing nearly 30,000 people. That’s 16% of all local jobs.

Manufacturing is the Quad-Cities’ top job for men, with 21,744 workers at a typical salary of about $55,800, according to the census.

It’s No. 5 for women with 7,738 workers making a typical salary of $46,000.

Economist Bill Polley says a cluster of metal fabricators makes the Quad-Cities unique.

Because the Quad Cities area being so concentrated in manufacturing, and all of the diverse advanced types of manufacturing, there are going to be opportunities in the future for many kinds of advanced, technologically based innovative types of manufacturing,” he said. “This is the type of area where we do see and we will see research and development in those advanced manufacturing techniques. Again, it’s just because we have this cluster of so many companies.”

Back at Davenport Works, skilled workers transform sheets of steel from Muscatine into fully finished dump trucks. The factory uses half a million pounds of steel a day.

There’s also a shift in the different skills you need to run a factory today these days,” Johnson said. “As much as I complain about my kids being on devices, those skills are actually pretty transferable.”

Other notables from census data:

Almost a quarter of women work in health care, where a typical salary pays $34,000. It’s the area’s second-largest industry behind manufacturing and accounts for 14% of the overall labor force.

There’s a big difference between what men and women are paid in the Quad-Cities. An average salary for men is $47,000. It’s only $31,300 for women. That’s a gap of $15,700, more than the national average.

We also broke down labor force figures for our largest employers.

  • Deere: 6,400
  • The Arsenal: 6,300
  • UnityPoint: 6,100
  • Hy-Vee: 4,700
  • Genesis: 4,200