Quad Citizen: Mara Downing

Quad Citizen: Mara Downing

President of the John Deere Foundation, St. Ambrose Graduate

Quad Citizen Profile

Mara Downing is a graduate of St. Ambrose, and although she's lived in several places, she says “I love calling the Quad Cities my home.”

Downing works for John Deere and recently became the head of brand and corporate communications. Mara began her career with Deere in 2000 in the tax department. She later moved to public affairs as manager of state public affairs in Des Moines, IA and director of international affairs in Washington, DC.  She was named director of corporate citizenship in 2010 and happily moved back to the Quad Cities at that time. In 2015 she assumed responsibility for brand management. In 2017, her role expanded to include brand licensing.

Mara leads the team responsible for managing John Deere licensed products, essentially “all branded merchandise we sell at mass retail and within our dealer organization including apparel, the iconic John Deere hat, toys and garden tools.” Downing says her responsibility with corporate communications includes “media relations, social media, editorial services and employee communications.” Downing also manages John Deere’s attractions, corporate sponsorships, corporate archives and John Deere’s brand guidelines and portfolio of brands.  She says Deere owns over 16 different brands, “so we work with our dealer organization to determine how to go to market, how to portray that brand in the marketplace” and cites typical branding challenges like, “do we change the name of that brand to ‘John Deere’ when we acquire new companies?”

Downing says that with her role in citizenship, she also serves as the president of the John Deere Foundation.  The Foundation focuses its investment in three areas:

  1. Community and Economic Development
  2. Youth Education
  3. Solutions for World Hunger

Downing is a tireless community volunteer, and serves on a number of community boards including the First Tee of the Quad Cities, United Way of the Quad Cities and the John Deere Classic.  She also serves on a number of campaign committees including the Quad Cities Cultural Trust and co-chair of the United Way of the Quad Cities Community Campaign.

Downing says she also takes time to appreciate the Quad Cities and what they offer. She has fun here.

“I still love to golf,” she says, an All-American while playing at St. Ambrose.  

She met her husband through golf while at St. Ambrose and she says they have a “nice competition” on the links. They are also avid bikers, and Mara says the Quad Cities has “some of the best trails in the Midwest,” And they both love their golden retriever, Gus.

Mara thinks the Quad Cities has tons to offer.

“There's a lot to do here; our downtowns are bustling,” citing all the development in downtown Moline and downtown Davenport. “We have a lot of great things to do, between the farmer's market, new restaurants, a hip music scene…there are more and more things for young professionals here,” and believes the arts and culture scene is on the rise.

Downing says it's “really remarkable” what the cultural institutions and colleges bring to the Quad Cities, and that it's part of what makes the Quad Cities a great place to live and work.

“I also enjoy how much the people who live here care about the community in general,” and proudly relates that with John Deere's affiliation with the PGA, the John Deere Classic, ranks as the third most generous out of 49 tour markets for giving from a philanthropic perspective.  She says, “I think everyone is invested in the community, and we want to make this a community we all want to live in.”

Mara also thinks the QC Colleges make a big contribution here. “Colleges are an important economic contributor to the Quad Cities in terms of jobs they provide, but also in the intellectual capacity and capability they bring to community.”

“I believe the colleges truly care about success of their students, and they want to see their students excel, complete their degree in 2 to 4 years, and go on to have a successful career and a successful life.”

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