Late last year, 13 members of the Floreciente business community gathered to kick off discussions on the future they envision for their businesses and their community. They met in a newly converted warehouse where the heating had not yet been installed, but the chill in the room from the fall air was quickly forgotten as the shop owners, entrepreneurs, and contractors warmed to each other's ideas of what a vibrant Floreciente business community could look like (see picture on left).
Floreciente is a historic neighborhood of Moline, with a long tradition of welcoming immigrants, including Greeks, Scandinavians, and most recently, Mexicans – to live and work in the neighborhood. Several small businesses have thrived in the neighborhood over the years, including a Mexican restaurant/grocery store, a jeweler, and an award- winning barber. But other small businesses, like many throughout the country, struggle to make ends meet; several empty storefronts serve as a harrowing reminder to those that did not make it.
This crisp autumn morning, with Global Communities facilitating the discussion, provided a safe space for business owners to talk about their strengths and the challenges they face both as firms and as a community. But more importantly, it was the first step on a long road to promoting their neighborhood to the Quad Cities community. Through the course of the discussion, they identified avenues to work together to strengthen their business practices and promote their neighborhood so that Floreciente can position itself as a vibrant, culturally diverse neighborhood within the Quad Cities region.
To help the business community meet their goals, Global Communities over the past year developed an assessment tool and surveyed 16 businesses in terms of size, capacity, and goals, to identify common needs among the firms. Based on these results, Global Communities organized seven workshops and trainings for them on topics such as business taxes, social media, and financing options. In addition, Global Communities teamed up with the Quad Cities’ SCORE chapter to provide mentoring to small businesses - in Spanish when necessary – at a location in the Floreciente neighborhood. Over the last year, more than 39 individuals have received training and technical assistance from these programs, and an analysis of pre- and post-training scores showed that participant businesses improved their technical knowledge of subject matter by, on average, 34 percent.
In addition, Global Communities identified and promoted opportunities to enable the business community to collaborate as the “Floreciente Business Network” and promote themselves as a community, both within the neighborhood and within the Quad Cities area. To assist in this process, the owner of a the local store designed a neighborhood logo, which has now appeared on 30 flower pots that the group decorated, planted, and distributed to businesses, non-profit organizations, and churches in Floreciente to familiarize people with the new network, and demonstrate their neighborhood pride (see picture above on right). The network also organized into groups to attend events together to demonstrate support for each other, and to begin to market their neighborhood to potential customers in other areas of the Quad Cities. Entrepreneurship networking events, cultural celebrations, and the newly--established Mercado on Fifth Avenue are just a few of the events where Global Communities worked with businesses to promote what Floreciente has to offer (see picture on right). Finally, almost a year after that first meeting, in that chilly warehouse, the group began producing marketing materials – including a neighborhood brochure and Facebook page – which had more than 200 likes in its first month.
Global Communities looks forward to continuing to support the Floreciente Business Network in the upcoming year in its efforts to strengthen their internal processes as well as welcome the greater Quad Cities to Floreciente. Global Communities will conduct a second round of business assessments and use the information to continue to support individual business through training and technical assistance. This support will be expanded to include entrepreneurs who work out of their homes and/or sell their wares in local farmer's market and festivals.
In addition, the Floreciente Business Network identified additional joint marketing ventures, including identifying a common brand for the neighborhood to be used in signage and awning improvements, as well as additional marketing materials. Global Communities will support these efforts as the network works through the city regulations in these areas. Additionally, Global Communities will support the establishment of a formal organization so the neighborhood can build on these practices to become a self-sufficient, independent entity representing the Floreciente neighborhood throughout the Quad Cities.
 SCORE is a national organization in which volunteer mentors, usually retired business executives, provide consulting services to entrepreneurs.
Funded by the John Deere Foundation through May 2018, the Flourishing Communities program is working in Floreciente to create long-lasting, community-led change by organizing and educating residents and business owners to participate in community and economic development decisions affecting their neighborhood.