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A Closer Look: Chad Quick

Altoona economic development director


Chad Quick was drawn to community development through watching live broadcasts of city council and plan and zoning meetings. 

Quick, who grew up in Sheldahl, initially contemplated becoming an architect but eventually realized he instead was attracted to community planning. Watching public meetings at which city officials, developers and others talked about projects and how areas of a community could be developed was appealing, he said.

“I would just sit there and watch those meetings for hours and hours,” Quick said. “I was just fascinated by it.”

Quick was recently named economic development director for the city of Altoona, located in eastern Polk County. He previously was the community’s city planner, a position he held for 20 years.

When Quick began working for Altoona, the community had just over 10,000 residents. Target and Lowe’s hadn’t yet been built on the southwest corner of Eighth Street Southwest and 34th Avenue Southwest. There were only a few major hotels in addition to Adventureland Inn and a smattering of mostly fast-food restaurants. Today, Altoona has more than 20,000 residents. Bass Pro Shops opened a retail store in August 2009 on a site visible from Interstate Highway 80. In fall 2017, an open-air shopping center – the Outlets of Des Moines – opened and included national retailers such as Under Armour, Nike Factory Store and Bath & Body Works. The community has 13 nationally branded hotels and numerous non-fast-food restaurants.

In addition, Facebook began building a data center campus in the community in 2012. In December, the social media that now calls itself Meta announced a seventh and final expansion of its Altoona campus. The expansion, which includes the addition of two buildings, will make the campus Meta’s largest operational data center in the world with more than 5 million square feet. 


In his new role as economic development director, Quick said he’ll be sharing information to anyone who will listen about the attributes of locating a business or developing a new project in Altoona.

“We will be doing a lot of marketing of Altoona and reaching out to people to let them know about us,” he said.

We recently caught up with Quick.

What attracted you to community planning?

It was really the working with the public that was impressive to me. It was the architecture part – the dreaming and the thinking – that attracted me to the planning as well. Thinking about the future and what that would look like for small towns.

What brought you to Altoona?

I was in northeast Iowa and was executive director of [Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission]. It was grant writing, a little planning and a lot of management. It was a lot different than what I was hoping to do out of college. I wanted to be a planner. [There was a job open in Altoona], I applied for it and got hired and have been here ever since.

Describe what Altoona was like when you first arrived.

It was smaller, about half the size it is now. We’ve had nice growth, but not crazy growth. … There was a farmhouse on the site where Target and Lowe’s are now. There are more restaurants now, retail like Bass Pro and the outlet center, and of course Facebook. … It’s been a lot of fun to see this town grow and develop and plan for the future with street extensions and utilities.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve had to deal with in the past few years?

We haven’t seen a lot of the commercial growth into the residential areas yet. It will happen, but I think not as fast as residents would like. We’re still a town that is dominated by our tourism – with Prairie Meadows, Adventureland, Bass Pro and the outlet mall. A lot of [restaurants and service-oriented businesses] have located along the interstate and the bypass, which we understand, and a lot of it is fast food oriented. … We have some very nice restaurants in town as well. We’ve had a lot of residential growth, but you don’t see that from the interstate. A lot of people think of Altoona as Prairie Meadows and Adventureland. But if they would drive into town, they would see a lot of nice neighborhoods, parks, trails. Some of the residents – and selfishly, me too – would like to see more restaurants closer to the residential areas. It’s going to take a while for that to happen.

What have been your most rewarding experiences?

The new commercial development. In the position I was in [as community development director], I would often take those first initial phone calls from an architect or engineer or developer – somebody talking about a project that could happen and then seeing that come to fruition. It was the day before Thanksgiving in 2011 that I got a call from an architect out of Chicago about a big project that could be coming to Altoona. I got off the phone and Googled who [the firm’s] biggest client was – Facebook. It was about six months later before we could tell anybody about it. It takes time to see those projects to go through the process of an idea to actual construction. To see those things actually happen is pretty rewarding.

How is your new role as economic development director going to differ from what you’ve been doing?

I don’t think I’ll have as much of the hands on, you know, working through those processes. I see myself as Altoona’s main champion. I’ll be out there promoting the town, working with developers, working with landowners, working on businesses and with residents on needs and wants.

What are a couple of the top goals that you’d like to accomplish in the next year or two?

It would be nice if we got to the point where we had some [state] certified sites around town that are shovel-ready for development. We’re seeing a lot of industrial development. It used to take forever to develop an industrial park. Now we’re developing industrial land like it’s single-family lots. It is just crazy how fast that [industrial land] is being developed. So having some certified sites will be important. I’d also like to step up our marketing of Altoona – getting out there and making those connections with people, businesses and developers.

What is the No. 1 request you hear from residents that they’d like to have in Altoona?

I would say Ikea [a Swedish-founded furniture and home goods store]. People also want a larger selection of restaurants. … A lot has changed in the past couple years. We used to have a lot of residents who left Altoona during the day to go to work. Now, with so many people working at home, our daytime population is a lot larger. That could make a large impact on potential restaurants that we’re able to attract here.

What do you do in your free time?

My faith is pretty important to me, so we spend a lot of time with friends at church and church activities. We’ve got four boys, so what they have done over the years has been an interest as well. Luckily, their interests line up with a lot of my interests – sports, fishing, hunting, camping and being outdoors. I like to do woodworking and I like to build furniture.

Are you reading any interesting books right now?

I’m not very good at sitting still and reading. It’s not something I spend a lot of time doing.

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