Background on Iowa's Creative Corridor

Now that Iowa’s Creative Corridor has been released, it is a good time to review why and how we got here, to assist the key step going forward – the internalization of our brand promise:

Target Audience: For those seeking a place with infinite possibility,

Frame-of-Reference: the region from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City along Interstates 380 and 80 in America’s Heartland

Point-of-Difference: is the conduit for a transformative reaction that sparks knowledge to power, learning to living and dreams to reality

Benefit: so each individual, each idea, each business and each city is exponentially more successful. 


We have known for years that the key to global competitiveness is regional collaboration.  The Council on Competitiveness issued a report last year simply called Collaborate.  It is a wealth of insight and information on creating high performance regions.  Michael Langley echoed their findings when he spoke to us in 2009, and Richard Longworth as well in 2010.

As John Lohman noted in his FAQs on this branding process, we chose North Star Destination Strategies from Nashville to lead us in this effort because they had experience with over 130 regions in over 30 states dealing with the political perspectives and new ways of thinking that we needed to adopt to develop a regional mindset and effectiveness:

North Star, based in Nashville, TN, is the only company to combine research, strategy,
creativity and action in one program specifically for communities. They have worked on branding
efforts with over 130 communities and regions in more than 30 states.

North Star presented a 231 page branding report, based on extensive research with over 1500 people in our region and outside our region.  I did a short synopsis of that report, available here.  The full report is available here.

North Star also provided us with a wealth of links to other resources, available here.

We are working on the finishing touches of a short video to make all of this more easily accessible, and will also be loading the complete research report shortly.

Please let me know if you have questions.




Iowa's Creative Corridor – About the logo



About the logo:

While a logo is not a brand, it is one of the most high-profile, easily understandable expressions of a brand. Following is information from North Star Destination Strategies, providing information and insight into the logo created for Iowa’s Creative Corridor:

 A double helix comprises an “I”, which symbolizes the individual and the transformative power of the Creative Corridor for his/her future.

 The “I” also represents the collective Iowa.

 The double helix that makes up the stylized “I” is reminiscent of DNA …the root of life and the code responsible for the past and future of any living entity.

 The double helix mark is symbolic of the spark of life or the signature of an individual

 The mark also represents the duality of the Creative Corridor, the unique mix of art and science and the importance of both the individual and the community.

 On a more subtle level the double helix forms an interlocking “double C” pattern, which can stand for the Creative Corridor when this logo is used independent of the name.

 The strong colors lend a solid foundation to the mark while the lowercase type treatment injects a contemporary quality and youthful spirit to the logo.

 The gold and green communicate the productive growth of ideas, agriculture, artists, and individuals in the region.

 The use of green type against neutral grays brings the brand’s key message of creativity to the forefront.

For more on North Star’s research go to




Iowa’s Creative Corridor – Press Release

Iowa Creative Corridor Press Release



Rebranding the Corridor

New Name Represents Art/Science/Technology


Feb. 3, 2012 – The region formerly known as Iowa’s Technology Corridor has been renamed Iowa’s Creative Corridor (ICC) to better represent the area’s unique convergence of art, science and technology. The new name and logo were unveiled Friday morning at an event held at Kirkwood Community College.

Considered one of the nation’s leading economic development regions, ICC emphasizes creative innovation and support that allows individuals, businesses and organizations to transform their future, their company, their industry or even the world.

Iowa’s Creative Corridor stretches from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids along I-380 and is home to more than two dozen municipalities, multiple higher education facilities, the world-famous Iowa Writer’s Workshop, dozens of arts organizations, nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies and more than a dozen international organizations.

The counties of Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington comprise ICC’s regional economy. Located in east central Iowa, the Creative Corridor encompasses about 4,400 square miles and is home to more than 445,000 residents.

The two-year rebranding effort was spearheaded by the Corridor Business Alliance (CBA). The CBA is an affiliation of 13 area economic development organizations committed to a regional approach to economic development with a vision to create a vital regional economy through the creation and growth of business. The CBA plans to implement numerous strategies that focus on the Iowa’s Creative Corridor’s spirit of creative innovation, ranging from partnerships to marketing communications to entrepreneurial support/incentives.

North Star Destination Strategies, a branding firm based in Nashville, TN, was contracted by the CBA, to assist with the regional branding process. Research conducted by North Star showed most people are unfamiliar with the breadth of the region’s accomplishments and what it has to offer.

John Lohman, publisher of the Corridor Business Journal and chairman of the regional branding effort, said based off that information, the initial emphasis will be placed on uniting and leveraging all the accomplishments already taking place throughout the ICC.

Examples range from artistic endeavors like the Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop, which has resulted in 28 Pulitzer Prizes to Rockwell Collins, which supplies the nation with aviation and information technology systems for defense and commercial avionics markets. Collaboration in the ICC is represented by partnerships like the one between Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids and the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where an innovative sustainability initiative uses 40,000 tons of oat hulls (which would otherwise be waste) to generate a significant amount of the campus’ energy.

Lohman said the ICC’s dual disciplines of art and science, and the constant interweaving of the two, creates waves of influence that are as powerful and complex as anywhere on earth. “Contrary to what some may say, great minds don’t think alike,” he said. “That is why the ICC offers such contrast in its creativity, from some of the nation’s greatest science to its greatest science fiction, from cutting-edge biology to edgy biographies and from works of art to work on the heart.

“In fact, looking again at the Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop and the work of Rockwell Collins, it can be said the Corridor is responsible for creating the stories that inform and entertain us, the systems that allow us to enjoy that entertainment at 35,000 feet and even the popcorn you munch throughout it all,” Lohman said.

Iowa’s Creative Corridor has been inspiring Iowans and bringing innovation to the world for generations. In 2011 alone this wellspring of intellectual, scientific, artistic and creative pursuits has been named one of the Best Places for Business and Careers (Forbes), one of the Best Places to Live and Launch (Money Magazine), one of the Best Places for Affordable Homes (CNN Money Magazine) and one of the Best Performing Cities (Milken Institute).

Members of the CBA include Alliant Energy, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Entrepreneurial Development Center, Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, Iowa City Area Development Group, Kirkwood Community College, MidAmerican Energy, Kirkwood’s Small Business Development Center, The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa, University of Iowa Research Foundation, University of Iowa Small Business Development Center and East Central Iowa Council of Governments.

To learn more about the regional branding effort go to


John Lohman: Publisher, Corridor Business Journal; Chairman of rebranding effort, (319) 936-6555

Dee Baird: President and CEO, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, (319) 730-1420

# # #

Branding Update – Aug. 1, 2011


The branding initiative is making great progress and exciting things are happing with the Creative component.

We have transitioned from the Research (Science) stage to the Creative (Art) stage, which is much more subjective. The Creative Subcommittee, which consists of Josh Schamberger, Mary Quass, Tysen Kendig (UI), Joel Milefchik (Rockwell), and Ann Ricketts (UI), is doing a great job of working with North Star in refining the names and taglines. Their ultimate purpose is to recommend to the Task Force a final name and tagline, etc based on the brand platform.

Joel Milefchik, the corporate brand manager for Rockwell, has been particularly helpful during this creative process.

North Star’s first set of names and taglines/strap lines presented in March were not embraced by the Creative Subcommittee. After more discussion and input from the Subcommittee, North Star came back with a second set of names and taglines. The Subcommittee met again on July 12 and selected two primary names from the second set. Before they submit their final recommendation, they have asked North Star to apply some graphic development to the two names identified.

I expect that the Subcommittee will meet again in late August after North Star has been able to add those graphic enhancements, and hopefully will have something to recommend to the Task Force later in September.


The entire branding process is taking longer than I anticipated, but I am comfortable with the extension. I’d much rather do it right than rush a final recommendation that we aren’t going to be happy with.

There have been several times this year that more information or more clarity on items like the Research or the Brand Platform were needed, which then caused some delays. It is okay, however, because this considerable thought and honest questioning along the way is very healthy and I think only reinforces that this entire branding process, while challenging, is almost as important as the final brand recommendation (i.e. name/logo/tagline, etc.).

After all, we are creating, for the first time, a tangible regional product so there are bound to be challenges along the way.

I will be trying to set up a new Task Force meeting in early Sept. to have us hopefully approve the final recommendation from the Creative Subcommittee.

Draft Regional Plan Released

Following three face to face meetings and additional online discussion, the regional planning work group has released a draft of the Comprehensive Regional Development Strategy. The document serves as a combined Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) for the region, and was presented to the East Central Iowa Council of Governments Board of Directors and Regional Planning Affiliation 10 Policy Committee on 6/30/11 and will be available for public comment until 8/25/11.

Click here to download a PDF of the draft CRDS document.

Please submit any comments or questions regarding the plan to Doug Elliott, ECICOG Executive Director.

Regional Planning Workgroup Meets

At the end of April’s Regional Economic Development Summit, Doug Elliott, ECICOG Executive Director, explained that a workgroup would be assembled to assist in incorporating public input into a regional development plan. Since that time, ECICOG has secured the commitment of ten individuals from throughout the region, and the group held its first meeting on May 18.


Members of the work group are:
Dee Baird, Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Priority One
Lu Barron (Darrin Gage), Linn County Board of Supervisors
Sandra Cronbaugh, Iowa County Economic Development Commission
Alan Johnson, City of Anamosa
Kim Johnson, Kirkwood Community College
Curt Nelson, Entrepreneurial Development Center
Ed Raber, Washington Economic Development Group
Joe Raso, Iowa City Area Development Group
Sally Stutsman, Johnson County Board of Supervisors


At their first meeting, the group reviewed public input and data compiled to date, discussed the structure of the plan and guiding principles in its formation, discussed a process to determine goals and objectives, and set a date for the next meeting on June 9. The group also reaffirmed the commitment to completing the plan by June 30, 2011.


Updates on the planning process will continue to be posted at and


Results of the recent transportation survey conducted by ECICOG for purposes of the planning process can be found at

Branding Task Force FAQs

1. Where did this initiative originate?

This initiative originated from The Path to Regional Excellence meeting held on Nov. 3, 2009

at Kirkwood Community College. It was hosted by the Corridor Business Alliance (CBA) and Corridor2020.

The meeting attracted over 350 community and business leaders and featured Michael Langley, a regional planning expert, who discussed the qualities of an effective region. Click HERE for a link to his presentation:


Michael Langley’s Five Regional Imperatives/Keys to Regional Excellence:
1). Culture of entrepreneurship & innovation
2). Culture of inclusiveness and diversity
3). Workforce/education
4). Infrastructure (physical, environmental, governance
5). Brand/Image


The event also featured a panel discussion which included Sally Mason, president of the University of Iowa,

and Eliot Protsch, the then-executive vice president, of Alliant Energy, and was moderated by Jack Evans, president of The Hall-Perrine Foundation.


The CBA felt the regional event was hugely successful and decided to use the momentum and success to continue its work.

The CBA hired Michael Langley to return to the region and conduct a strategic planning session on December 18, 2009. More than 30 business and community leaders participated in the session.

The strategic planning session resulted in three key strategic initiatives for the region to tackle over the next three years.

The branding initiative is one of those three initiatives.


2. What are Corridor2020 and the Corridor Business Alliance (CBA)?


Corridor2020 is an informal vehicle to communicate and share information about building a stronger region.

A website was created for this purpose. The idea was a result of collaboration

between Chuck Peters from Gazette Communications/Source Media and John Lohman from the Corridor Business Journal/Corridor Media Group.


The Corridor Business Alliance (CBA) includes 13 organizations in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area that were interested in discussing a regional approach to economic development. The work of these groups has evolved into the formation of the Corridor Business Alliance (CBA). Members include Alliant Energy (Lisha Coffey), Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce/Priority One (Dee Baird), Entrepreneurial Development Center (Curt Nelson), Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce (Nancy Quellhorst), Iowa City Area Development Group (Joe Raso), Kirkwood Community College (Kim Johnson) , MidAmerican Energy (Greg Theis), Kirkwood’s Small Business Development Center (Al Beach), The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa (David Hensley), University of Iowa Research Foundation (Pam York), University of Iowa Small Business Development Center (Paul Heath) and East Central Iowa Council of Governments (Doug Elliott).


The vision of the CBA is to create a vital regional economy through the creation and growth of business.


3. Who is on the Regional Research and Branding Task Force?


a. John Lohman

c. Pam York
d. Dee Baird
e. Nancy Quellhorst
f. Josh Schamberger
g. Marilee Fowler
h. Kelly Hayworth
i. Tim Bradshaw
j. Kristie Wetjen


4. Are there any paid staff on the task force?


No. It is strictly an organization made up of volunteers. The initiative’s finances are being facilitated through Kirkwood Community College.


5. How is the task force organized?
The initiative is chaired by John Lohman, president and publisher of the Corridor Business Journal. The task force meets on an ad hoc basis.


6. How much will this cost?


The cost to hire North Star Destination Strategies for this project is approximately $125,000. That amount does not include the implementation of the regional brand.


7. Which organizations have contributed so far?


The initiative is funded primarily through members of the CBA. Additional local, regional, state and federal support/grant money will be sought to support this effort and the brand implementation.

To date, the following organizations (listed alphabetically) have pledged to support this effort.
1. Alliant Energy
2. Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
3. City of Cedar Rapids
4. City of Marion
5. Corridor Business Journal/Corridor Media Group
6. Eastern Iowa Airport
7. Gazette Communications/Source Media Group
8. Iowa City Area Development Group
9. Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce
10. Kirkwood Community College
11. Linn County
12. Marion Chamber of Commerce
14. Priority One
15. University of Iowa


8. Why was North Star Destination Strategies selected as the branding firm and not a local firm?


North Star, based in Nashville, TN, is the only company to combine research, strategy, creativity and action in one program specifically for communities. They have worked on branding efforts with over 130 communities and regions in more than 30 states


9. How long will this process take?


The entire branding process will take approximately 18 months. The initial research phase will took nearly six months to complete.

10. Who provided input into the Research phase of the process?

Over 1,500 people participated in the quantitative and qualitative research phase. The Research phase included one-on-one meetings, phone interviews, small and large groups discussions, and numerous e-mail surveys. Slides from the research can be found by clicking HERE.


11. When will the entire branding initiative be completed?


The branding initiative is expected to be completed by the end of the summer of 2011.


12. How will the brand be implemented?


A strategic plan with timelines and costs for implementing the brand will also be part of the completed project. It has not been completed yet.


13. What will be gained/learned from this initiative? Or what is the goal of this initiative?


A brand is not created; it is discovered within the spirit of a place. Using qualitative and quantitative research tools, North Star will help us achieve a focused snapshot of our region’s values, assets and priorities, which can then be articulated as our “brand.”

We will learn what are the strengths and weaknesses of our region. We will learn what we think of ourselves as well as what people outside the region think of us. We will get a better understand of which regions we compete with on a national and global stage.

Brands uncovered in this manner are endorsed and absorbed by their communities due to their fundamental truth. Because of this, they are exceedingly useful to community leaders in furthering the economic, political and social goals of the region. In other words, an honest, relevant, clearly and cleverly articulated brand can move our community from good to great.


14. Will individual communities lose their own identity in this process?


No. It is the Task Force’s hope that a unified regional brand will help make our region more globally competitive while preserving and celebrating the identities of local communities.


15. Will the new brand be “what we are” or “what we want to become?”


As mentioned in the answer to #9, a brand is not created; it is discovered within the spirit of a place. Using qualitative and quantitative research tools, North Star will help us achieve a focused snapshot of our region’s values, assets and priorities, which can then be articulated as our “brand.”


16. Will the current “Technology Corridor” brand be replaced with the new brand?


Naming options are being considered at this time and both terms of Technology and Corridor are being evaluated. The final naming choice will not be imposed on any organization or entity, but successful regions use a singular name when discussing the region and its assets with both internal and external audiences. Buy in and support will be crucial for the success of the regional brand. North Star’s work will represent the collaborative recommendation (North Star and the Corridor creative committee) and North Star’s expertise as a community branding firm, but our region will have full discretion in naming and implementation efforts.


17. Who will determine what the new name and brand will be?


A Creative Subcommittee has been formed to work with North Star to recommend some
naming and logo options based on the research to provide to the Task Force. The Creative
Subcommittee is comprised of:
• Josh Schamberger (CHAIR) – President, Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
• Tysen Kendig – VP Strategic Communications, University of Iowa
• Mary Quass – President/CEO, NRG Media
• Ann Ricketts – Associate VP of Research, University of Iowa
• Joel Milefchik – Corporate Brand Mgr., Rockwell Collins
• Pam York – Executive Director, University of Iowa Research Foundation


18. What can I do to help?


Stay informed and provide your thoughts and input to John Lohman, the task force chair, or any of the Task Force members.

John Lohman can be reached at or (319) 887-2251 ext. 310.


19. How do I stay informed about this initiative?


The best way to stay informed is to keep coming back to for updates.



Creative Subcommittee Formed

The Regional Branding Initiative is transitioning from the Research Phase to the Creative Concepts Phase. A subcommittee has been formed to lead this stage. They include:

Josh Schamberger (CHAIR) – President, Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Tysen Kendig – VP Strategic Communications, University of Iowa
Mary Quass – President/CEO, NRG Media
Ann Ricketts – Associate VP of Research, University of Iowa
Joel Milefchik – Corporate Brand Mgr., Rockwell Collins
Pam York – Executive Director, University of Iowa Research Foundation