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.




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

The Regional Planning Process

On April 7, 2011, more than 100 representatives of private and public sector  interests came together to discuss the future of economic development in  our region.

Photo of the Summit
Doug Elliott welcomes attendees

The Summit opened with a presentation by Robert Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and followed with dynamic, interactive breakout sessions in workforce development, capital formation, transportation, and land use. Presentations will be posted below as they become available.

Dr. Robert Atkinson’s Keynote Presentation

IDOT passenger rail program information
IDOT Transportation PowerPoint
MPOJC Transportation PowerPoint

The public input gathered at the REDS will be summarized at Summit attendees will be contacted again via email  to further refine the information gathered and to guide the development  of the regional plan. If you would like to be added to the mailing list  for this next step in our process, please contact Doug Elliott.

Research Slides

It has been nine months since North Star Destination Strategies was hired to help us articulate our brand promise to the world.  Because of that amount of time, it is sometimes difficult to remember where we are in that process.  John Lohman has provided an accessible timeline and was able to provide an overview of the original research.

We now are able to post the original research slides, which gives more insight into how we view ourselves, and how others in our region view us.  This is the research which will lead us to brand positioning and the first articulation of the brand promise.   That work is ongoing now, and should be completed this summer.  Until then, please comment on this research.

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Regional Economic Development Summit

April 7, 2011
8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Kirkwood Center
Kirkwood Community College
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Who: Individuals and leaders in business, education, and public policy are encouraged to attend this half-day event. If you have an interest in how policies in areas such as transportation, workforce development, land use & development, and access to capital affect the region’s growth and development, you should attend.

What: The Regional Economic Development Summit is a cooperative effort between the East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG), a public regional planning agency, and the Corridor Business Alliance. These organizations have joined together to create a comprehensive regional development plan. The regional summit is an opportunity for attendees to have real input in guiding and informing the creation of the plan. In addition to keynote speakers, the summit will provide ample opportunity for attendees to share their expertise and experiences and to help shape the region’s future.

When: Thursday, April 7, 2011
8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
(registration begins at 7:30 a.m.)
Lunch included

There is no cost to attend, but registration is appreciated. To register:

Featured Keynote:
Dr. Robert D. Atkinson, founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington DC-based technology policy think tank will open the summit. Learn more about Dr. Atkinson and the foundation at

The Regional Economic Development Summit is sponsored by Kirkwood Community College and receives support from the Economic Development Administration.

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Innovation Opportunity

Cover of "Innovate Like Edison: The Succe...
Cover via Amazon

This is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

As we re-imagine economic development, government, health care, education and community life in the age of invention, we can all use new tools and techniques to enhance our ability to innovate.

The Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the Corridor Business Alliance will host a regional event – Igniting Innovation in Communities Today, presented by Sarah Miller Caldicott on Tuesday, February 22nd at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center.

“In order to compete in the global, knowledge-based economy we must have an innovative culture,” stated Chuck Peters, Cedar Rapids Area Chamber Board Chair. “Sarah brings great experience, with proven tools and techniques, to accelerate the development of our culture of innovation.”

The great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Sarah Miller Caldicott, has been engaged in creativity and innovation throughout her life. An award-winning speaker, Caldicott will excite with her combination of substantive content and dynamic audience interaction. The audience will learn how they can use Edison’s time-tested methods to create innovation literacy in their organizations and community to develop innovation success.

Caldicott shares her unique legacy of innovation in her book, Innovate Like Edison: The Success System of America’s Greatest Inventor. Based on years of research, Caldicott offers an in-depth view of Edison’s comprehensive innovation approach – an analysis which has never before been documented.

Igniting Innovation in Communities Today is a luncheon event from Noon-1:30 p.m., on February 22.  Tickets are $40 per person or $400 for a table of 10. Those interested in attending can get more information or register on-line at More information on Sarah Caldicott can be found at

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Creating a Regional Plan

“In this new age, we need to think together, to cooperate across city lines and county lines and state lines, looking beyond old rivalries to find common cause in a regional answer to the challenge of globalization.” ~Richard Longworth, Senior Fellow, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Iowa City Area Development Group, September 2010.

“You got chocolate in my peanut butter!”
How to create a comprehensive regional development strategy

If you believe the old candy bar commercial (and why shouldn’t you?), you can appreciate that, sometimes, the best product might just be the result of the ingredients bumping into each other in the hallway.

The East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG) is a public, regional planning agency serving Benton, Iowa Johnson, Jones, Linn, and Washington Counties. ECICOG is also designated by the federal Department of Commerce – Economic Development Administration as the Economic Development District for the six-county region. As such, ECICOG is required to prepare and update a regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy every five years. Think of them as the peanut butter.

The Corridor Business Alliance (CBA) was formed by local and regional organizations in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area that were interested in discussing a regional approach to economic development. The vision of the CBA is “to create a vital regional economy through the creation and growth of business.” One of the group’s objectives toward achieving that vision is the creation of a regional economic development plan. Think of them as the chocolate.

Recently, ECICOG and the CBA agreed to combine their efforts to implement a coordinated, public planning process in order to create a comprehensive regional development strategy. While this didn’t literally occur through some random collision, each organization had embarked on their own process before recognizing the similarities in desired outcomes and the benefits of combining forces—the candy bar.

The centerpiece of the process is a regional economic development summit, sponsored by and to be held at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, on April 7, 2011. Prior to the summit, ECICOG will hold county meetings to provide information on the planning process and to seek preliminary input on the planning document (see schedule below).

As the Region 10 Regional Planning Affiliation, ECICOG is also responsible for the region’s long-range transportation plan for a seven-county region including Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington Counties (excluding the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids metropolitan areas). As part of the coordinated planning process, ECICOG will integrate the elements of the long-range transportation plan into the comprehensive regional development strategy to create a unified planning document. The plan will be completed by June 30, 2011.

For additional information, contact Doug Elliott (ext. 122) or

Save the dates!
In cooperation with the Corridor Business Alliance, ECICOG is conducting a public planning process to create a comprehensive regional development strategy. Public officials, business and nonprofit representatives, and interested members of the public are encouraged to attend one or more of the meetings/events below in order to participate in this exciting planning process.

Informational Planning Meetings:

February 8
12:00 – 1:00 pm
Monticello Renaissance Center
220 East First Street
Presented in cooperation with the Jones County Economic Development Commission

February 16
6:30 – 7:30 pm
Kirkwood Community College
200 West Street
Presented in cooperation with the Iowa County Economic Development Commission

February 22
3:00 – 5:00 pm
Washington Public Library
115 W Washington St.
Presented in cooperation with the Washington Economic Development Group

February 23
6:00 – 7:00 pm
Blairstown Community Center
305 Locust St NW
Presented in cooperation with the Benton Economic Development Group

Regional Economic Development Summit
(Watch for registration and agenda details!)

April 7
8:00 am – 2:00 pm
Hotel at Kirkwood Center
7725 Kirkwood Blvd. SW
Cedar Rapids
Sponsored by Kirkwood Community College

Regional Branding – Representing Multiple Communities

Anya Codack, CEO, of Yfactor Inc. posted this in EcDev Tech Trends.

Regional Branding – Representing Multiple Communities

Tough economic times tend to spur two kinds of activities that are important to economic development – innovation and collaboration. In today’s hyper-competitive environment, communities must deal with severely constrained investment opportunities as well as low ED budgets, and so they are joining forces in innovative, collaborative regional initiatives. We call this “regionomic marketing” and it is generally carried out…

Read the full post here: Case for Regional Branding.