Name for the region?

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As many of you know, I have been an advocate for a name for this region which connotes access and diversity.  I believe we have easy access to a wide diversity of living, work and recreation opportunities, and all easily accessible within a 30 minute drive.  Living options range from the research university community of Iowa City, to the new commercial city of Coralville, from the vibrant near urban Cedar Rapids to the town square of Marion, to all the unique smaller towns amidst those big four, and numerous suburban and ex-urban options.  Work options abound, as do recreation options, with Big Ten sports, world class performances, minor league baseball, community recreational events, etc.

Michael Langley noted “Hawkeye” Corridor in his remarks, and I got plenty of feedback on that suggestion.  Lyle Muller blogged about it, noting:

How about using “Hawkeye Corridor” to identify Cedar Rapids-Iowa City region?

Posted on Nov 03, 2009 by Lyle Muller.

Updated

How’s does the “Hawkeye Corridor” sound to you as a way to describe this part of Eastern Iowa defined by the Cedar Rapids metro area to the north and Iowa City-Coralville metro area to the south?

Michael Langley, president and founder of the Langley Group out of Pittsburgh, dropped that one on about 300 to 350 business, government and education leaders who met for breakfast in Cedar Rapids this morning to talk about economic development. He didn’t flat-out suggest it, but mentioned it in a less-than-casual manner during his breakfast talk, held to rekindle efforts to establish the Cedar Rapids/Marion-Iowa City/Coralville area as a viable corridor market.

Langley was the keynote speaker for the “The Path to Regional Excellence” gathering, which I tweeted about earlier this morning, Nov. 3. He drove home main themes during the breakfast meeting, chief among them: this region needs to brand itself and it needs to determine what message to deliver to the rest of the world with that brand.

Langley noted that leaders in the Corridor need to band together in order to be globally competitive. Regions increasingly are being identified by businesses seeking new markets to the point that regions are supplanting cities and even nation-states when it comes to competitive importance, he said.

Langley told the group the keys to economic growth on a regional basis are brand/image, workforce/education, infrastructure, innovation/entrepreneurship and inclusiveness/diversity. In order to make a difference you need regional marketing and promotion, public policy and analysis that fosters development, and public advocacy at places like the state legislature and Congress, he said.

A panel discussion was included in the 90-minute session, held at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Besides Langley, University of Iowa President Sally Mason and Eliot G. Protsch, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer at Alliant Energy, spoke on the panel, which Jack Evans, president of the Hall-Perine Foundation, moderated.

With Mason on the panel, several references were made to the “Hawkeye” brand, especially given the success of the, to-date, undefeated and nationally ranked UI football team that plays in the Corridor. Mason said thinking about the “Hawkeye” name would be a good place from which to start, not necessarily because of the UI but because Iowa’s nickname is the Hawkeye State. Even so, she said, the Hawkeye brand is strong right now because of the football team.

“Brand is critical,” Mason said.

Protsch suggested the Cedar Rapids area-to-Iowa City corridor is a “can-do attitude” corridor. It was a reference to how the region has recovered from massive flooding in 2008, a recovery Langley noted in his address to the group.

For certain, people will weigh in on how to market this area. Folks in Coralville, Marion, Hiawatha and other areas connected to the corridor will have opinions, for example, to go along with those from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Government leaders need to be engaged, those on the panel said this morning, as will education leaders. Mason pointed out that areas engaged in this kind of regional economic talk have one big thing in common — a major research institution.

Expect to hear more on this. Chuck Peters, the president of the company for which I work, Gazette Communications, said he and John Lohman, publisher of the Corridor Business Journal, have pledged to keep the idea on the table. Gazette Communications, the Corridor Business Journal and a new group called the Corridor Business Alliance, of which Dee Baird , Kirkwood Community College’s executive vice president for continuing education and training services, and other local business leaders are a driving force, were co-sponsors of this morning’s breakfast.

Here’s a link to a story The Gazette’s Dave DeWitte did last week about the alliance.

An addendum since this original post was made. Langley told the Gazette Editorial board Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 3) that the right business and government leaders to make regionalism work need to have respect, credibility and resources to make a difference. He also said universities and business communities are natural allies.

He said calling this region Iowa’s Technology Corridor was a good step to get people thinking that technology exists here. But the fact is, the term “technology corridor” is fairly generic, he said. “There are a lot of technology corridors, and rightly so.”

For an example, click here. Another. They’re in plenty of places.

Figuring out a brand for the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City/Coralville region will take time, Langley told the editorial board. “That’s a process, and that’s not something you’re going to know overnight,” he said.

Meantime, feel free to offer your suggestions here on this Corridor’s strengths and what its brand and message should be.

What do you think?  What should the name be?

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8 thoughts on “Name for the region?”

  1. I’ve always liked the concept of being at the center of it all. Back when I was in the Mayor’s Office, I actually went so far as to put together a marketing campaign for it and design a new Cedar Rapids municipal flag around the idea. How can that translate into an actual new name? Hmmm…America’s Center is the name of a facility in St. Louis, but America’s Center Corridor is not.

    There’s a “Heart of America River Corridor” in the
    Kansas City area, but it doesn’t seem to be used much, so there might not be any brand loyalty for it to this point. Maybe “Heart of America Corridor” would work.

    Finally, “Heart of the Saints” is used by a regional CVB organization in Iowa. I really like that one, but does it have enough geographic power?

  2. Here are some quick (very quick) and random ideas

    IEBC – Iowa Education and Business Corridor
    Iowa Economic and Business Corridor
    EIBC – Eastern Iowa Business Corridor
    EIEBC – Eastern Iowa’s Education and Business Corridor (starts getting long)
    Iowa Business Corridor

    Other more “out there” ideas:
    Avenue of Excellence
    Eastern Iowa’s Avenue of Excellence
    FTRBC – (Falls to Riverside Business Corridor)
    Heartland Business Corridor
    Cornfield Commercial Corridor (sorry couldn’t help myself)
    Iowa’s Business, Industry, and Education Corridor
    Iowa Commerce and Education Corridor
    Iowa Economic, commercial and education corridor (IECEC)
    Eastern Iowa’s Economic Commercial and Educational Region (EIECER)

    Again, some quick and random thoughts.

    1. Thanks Alex and Doug. As someone mentioned to me yesterday, when we think of names of regions, we immediately go to areas like Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle, which are known by their business and technology. When people who did not grow up in Iowa comment on this region, they often comment on the integrity of the people and the quality of life. Is there a way to capture that “essence” in a name? Doug seems to be on that track with “heart”, but that is not very unique, as he notes.

  3. The identity, the branding of the corridor should be strong enough to be absent any overt mention of geography. People can find us on the map…it is the “so what” message about the corridor that must be encapsulated in the name.

    I would offer the name must be reflective those things of which we are proud and we believe to serve as guide posts for others to consider as reasons to join us in the corridor. The corridor’s name cannot be inclusive of everything or it risks being too general and losing any potential impact.

    I liked where Doug’s thoughts are headed.

  4. Here are the clusters from tech-corridor.com:
    Advanced Manufacturing
    electronics
    customer products
    consumer products
    Life Sciences
    biotechnology/bioprocessing
    Information Technologies
    software solutions
    financial and insurance services
    educational services

    Part of what makes it so difficult is that there is so much variety in what we do well in the corridor. “Silicon Valley” speaks to the building block of their economy. How do we narrow down what we do well, especially as seen from the outside? Also, it’s hard to capture the “integrity” of the people in a name without getting overly descriptive.

    America’s Blue Sky Corridor:

    1. A positive mental image of “blue sky” is created when associated with aviation (clear skies to fly), wind technology (wind turbines over fields of grain) and agri-business (the horizon of green and gold beneath a sky of blue).

    2. The “visionary” component of this name connotes unlimited potential and endless horizons.

    I tend to think of things in either 30/60-second commercials or speeches…and I don’t want to make you all read a speech. 🙂

    America’s Blue Sky Corridor-:60

    “America’s Blue Sky Corridor in Eastern Iowa. It’s at the heart of it all.

    In the center of the country, where the soil is rich and the people are good.

    Our world-class schools, colleges and universities work hand-in-hand with government and industry. Our strong workforce development programs, easy access to affordable transportation, and diverse group of advanced technology industry clusters make this an exciting time to be under the Blue Sky.

    Corporate headquarters’ are firmly rooted in the ground here, with their buildings reaching from the hearts of our cities to meet the blue sky…

    And the sky reaches down in return to touch the green and gold bounty of our land.

    There’s unlimited potential for your business here. Explore the endless horizons of technology and forge your path among the fields of dreams to be realized.

    America’s Blue Sky Corridor is calling for you. It’s where…

    science meets culture…
    industry meets the arts…
    technology meets creativity…
    and where education meets application…

    Answer the call. Be at the heart of it all, at America’s Blue Sky Corridor in Eastern Iowa.”

    OK, maybe the “people are good” is hokey, but it’s true. And it doesn’t say Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville, Marion, North Liberty or Hiawatha, because if it’s a television commercial, the names of the cities can be artistically superimposed over the video, maybe in a contrail motif.

  5. Hello “Corridor” folks.

    They say that, if a leader has to slam fists on the table and proclaim his or her leadership, than, he or she isn’t.

    This program needs to DO the thing it wants to be known for, and a brand strategy can be devised to complement that.

    Some thoughts:

    In reading these naming-related comments, I’m curious about what economic and regional models are being considered for inspiration? I mean, there are countless regions throughout the country and the world where this “greater metro” concept has been accomplished successfully:

    Research Triangle Park – Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This “Park” was envisioned as a world class “region” was envisioned as a hub for bio, pharma, environmental, energy and related technology research – and that’s exactly what it has become. On the global shortlist for PhD’s per capita.

    Silicon Valley – Greater San Jose/San Francisco Region, California. Unlike RTP, it didn’t start out as a brand/vision/strategy. The made silicon, silicon became “the” critical component of processing, networking, memory and storage technology, which propelled the “region” into a global economic super nova, and gravity did the rest. Now software is king, but that wasn’t and still isn’t a brand nuance, necessarily.

    Rte 128 – East/South Boston/Metro Area. Like Silicon Valley, did not start as a brand/strategy. They have great schools, the available talent built massive data center computing products and services, and again, gravity did the rest.

    There are countless other examples. Lately, it seems that Austin is working hard on its branding strategy, which is happening after it clearly has something to brand beyond country music and Barbecue. Michael Dell is clearly a major Cog in that wheel, yet he built his company before Austin was the tech/software powerhouse that it is clearly becoming.

    Some thoughts on approach:

    Function-before-form: to get to big, do something big. A big brand without a comparable and noteworthy competence or capability will not yield the desired results.

    Lose the “Corridor” – Corridors are narrow, intentionally limiting, and singular in function, with two main points of egress. Parks, Valleys and Fields offer more promise as metaphors, for example.

    The Iowa Brand – Unfortunately, the Iowa brand screams “Cornfields and Hogs” to most people. As a frequent business traveler to Eastern Iowa as strategic/media/technology architect for the Gazette Company, I know better. Iowa City rocks, Cedar Rapids has underdeveloped potential, and in general, I have lots of respect for Iowa, have both a Hawks Tee AND sweatshirt that I wear proudly even when I visit the Bronx, and believe the negative brand associations are, given current development, largely unwarranted. Yet “whoop-there it is”. And this (economic development) team can’t eat that elephant all in one bite.

    Formula: While I believe that function (unique capability and business value) is the main thing and not form (name, brand), I would at least like to suggest a formula: subliminal brand = redeeming regional characteristic + proven competence and capability + visual metaphor.

    As an example, when I do my weekly schlep across the cornfields between Chicago and Cedar Rapids, I will frequently experience at least one CFR (Corn Field Revelation) – which invariably happens as I’m taking in the terrain, the rivers, the university campus, and as I observe the smart, hard working people running amok trying to compete on the global stage.

    Drinking the Kool Aid:

    So, If I were going to throw a name out, not that I think that’s really the main thing, I’d be thinking “Cedar Valley Technology Park”, or “River Valley Research Park”, or something else that communicates a “visually obvious, yet under-marketed and indisputably redeeming and enduring characteristic” of the area; something that is not subject to change. The risk with the Hawks naming is that is currently endearing – the Hawks are awesome. But if they suck for the next 10-years – this brand asset could quickly become a negative distraction if not a liability.

    In summary, the main thing is the main thing is the main thing. Do awesome things, which will attract more people who want to build on that, tell everyone, and the rest will follow.

    It’s not that the branding/effort doesn’t matter, but a successful region without a branding strategy is of more consequence than a well-branded one with insufficient substantive value.

    What will you be known for Eastern Iowa?

    Good luck, and let me know if I can help!

    Go Hawks!

  6. Abe:

    Great comments! Though Cedar Rapidians have heard so much about the underdeveloped potential of the area, I worry that we’ve taken either baby steps or steps in the wrong direction.

    One thing I learned from the Lean movement at Rockwell Collins, is that we need to be willing to try and fail rather than not try at all.

    Finally, getting together on something is critical. The various economic development organizations and others involved in marketing the area (including Convention and Visitors Bureau’s) should be all on the same page when it comes to marketing and branding. Is there someone in this conversation who can talk to tat portion of the issue?

  7. I wanted to offer my two cents:

    It seems that every book or article I read lately comes back to a theme of connectivity where the strength of organizations, companies and communities lies in the delicate and often hidden connections between people, ideas, etc. This notion of building upon and increasing connections is what drives innovation and generates the next big idea. Putting seemingly unrelated concepts together and rethinking old problems by asking different question yields better results.

    I think this is what we are all striving to do in creating a stronger region. Eliminate old barriers and get people connected in new ways to strenghten the whole.

    When we think about this area we see that it is a cooperative place in comparison to larger metros where you compete in traffic, you compete in parking and the whole experience has a level of competition and distrust that we don’t have here.

    The challenge is still how do we convey this message in a few words such they can end the sentence: “I’m from the _______” and have that be something that sounds cool, people will want to say and can evoke the intended idea in the mind of the listener?

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