Congratulations to the 2018 NADO Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to the 2018 NADO Photo Contest winners and runners-up!  This year, over 100 images were submitted from members across the country that demonstrated what makes their regions great places to live, work, and play.  Images were judged in four categories:  “Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments,” “Building Vibrant Places,” “Investing in Our Communities,” and “Sustaining Our Communities.”  A “People’s Choice” winner was also chosen online by the public via our Facebook page.

Thanks to all of our members who participated this year and congratulations again to our winners!  Remember, it’s never too early to start snapping creative photos for next year’s contest.   

To view all of the photos that were submitted in this year’s contest, click here.


Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Tri-County Council for Western Maryland

The Story:  This photo, taken in early spring 2018 from the Canal Place Heritage Area festival grounds, looks back towards the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad located in Cumberland, Maryland. In this historic county seat, transportation – including the railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal – has a rich history in what is the gateway to the Allegheny Mountains and home of the first federally-funded highway, the National Road. The Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania joins the northern terminus of the C & O Canal, Mile 0 of the 185-mile towpath in Cumberland for passage from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad offers passengers a round-trip excursion from Cumberland to Frostburg, Maryland with scenic views of the Mountain Side of Maryland along the way. Cumberland, Maryland was named the Blue Ridge Outdoors Top Adventure Town 2017 1st Runner Up.

Tri-County Council for Western Maryland is an Economic Development District comprised of three counties in Western Maryland including Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties. Tri-County Council for Western Maryland continues to be an integral force for economic development, advancing infrastructure, supporting tourism, and providing small business loans in this area since 1971.

Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission  

The Story:  This is the third public art project that the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission (UMVRDC) has coordinated for the city of Montevideo, Minnesota. Rustician, which has already received national recognition as one of 2017’s best public art projects nationwide from the Americans of the Arts, is an antique tractor- turned-sculpture. The artist, Karl Unnasch from Chatfield, MN, visited Montevideo to collect stories from residents and history books and incorporated these stories into the stained glass, which is backlit by LED lights and embedded into the tractor.

The UMVRDC has been working to make it easier for small towns to add public art in their community.  With the belief that public art energizes public spaces and creates a more welcoming and beautiful environment, the UMVRDC helped organize the volunteer-driven organization called “Montevideo Arts Project” (MAP) in 2014 which is made up of local citizens, business owners, city staff, elected officials, and chamber of commerce staff with the goal of creating one public art piece per year. The UMVRDC, who has also done a regional public art plan and has been coordinating a regional art crawl for the 15th year, facilitates this public art process.  

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Clearwater Economic Development Association,  Inc. (ID)

The Story:  This photo features a North Central Idaho high school student seeking an industry-recognized certificate through the Northwest Intermountain Metal Manufacturing Career Development Program (NIMM).  The NIMM program is a pilot, two-year, seven course training program that was developed by a collaborative between Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC), Clearwater Economic Development Association (CEDA), and the University of Idaho (UI).  The program’s purpose is to give rural high school students an opportunity to receive Career Technical Training (CTE) while in high school.  Forty students, one quarter who are female, come from 14 high schools located in North Central Idaho and Southeast Washington to participate in the program.

One-third of the students are earning a Mechanical Computer-Aided-Design and Drafting (CADD) certificate.  Two-thirds are earning an Electronic and Machining certificate.  Courses are offered online during the school year with hands-on training course work offered at LCSC for two summers.  CEDA was responsible for student recruitment, is currently coordinating monthly opportunities for students to tour regional manufacturing facilities, and is working with the Idaho Department of Labor and Northwest Intermountain Manufacturers Association (a local trade association of small business manufacturers) to set up student-to-work opportunities through newly developed Federal Apprenticeship Programs.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments

The Story:  The Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments serves 17,574 square miles of eastern Utah, covering four large counties with challenges as diverse as a declining coal mining economy in two counties to a booming tourist industry in one county to a large native American population in another where the Navajo Reservation stretches from Arizona into Utah.  Almost 90 percent of the land in the total area the agency manages is owned and controlled by the Federal government which puts a unique tax burden on those that live in the area and do business there. The goal of the agency is to bring counties together in economic, social, and educational progress.

This photo displays a cooperative effort of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Carbon County, and the Carbon County School District to educate children in how fish populations are grown and aided by the hatchery process.  Many youth, even in these rural areas, don’t understand much about the natural world that surrounds them on the high Colorado Plateau and continuing efforts are being made to help them with that knowledge. Building the base of knowledge for the youth is one of the ways the association works toward a better future during these uncertain times in eastern Utah.   

People’s Choice

Organization:  South Western Oklahoma Development Authority

The Story:  In 2013, the Washita County 4-H and FFA Kids Farmers Market came into existence.  It is a partnership between the young and old and is a great inter-generational activity. This young three-year-old girl helps her grandparents with their garden and in return will sell vegetables at the farmers market in Sentinel, Oklahoma, located in the southwest corner of the state.  A nine-year-old grandson, a 4-H member, is also involved. These young people are learning hands-on skills from their grandparents about the importance of great nutrition and cooking healthy meals, how to keep the soil healthy, ways to address insects and weeds, and also have the opportunity to receive a monetary reward at harvest. The Town of Sentinel is very supportive of the young people selling vegetables. When the market sets up, the kids are usually sold out in 30 minutes. The Sentinel Public Schools is encouraging more youth to participate and have a new greenhouse at school this year. Many of the area’s families live in a food desert and promotion of local food systems is a priority.


Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Middle Georgia Regional Commission   

The Story:  This photo was taken on August 10, 2018 as a severe thunderstorm approached downtown Macon, Georgia. A large shelf cloud became visible which normally indicates an impending storm with heavy rains and strong winds. While the ominous clouds kept people indoors, it’s the sunlight peering through the clouds that better represents the future of downtown Macon. The viewpoint overlooks the newly-renovated Poplar Street Commons, which became one of the largest public greenspaces in downtown. In the forefront is one of the first public arts pieces commissioned by NewTown Macon and funded by the James L. and John S. Knight Foundation.  Previously, the space had a large fountain running the length of the block that rendered the space unusable for community gatherings. Poplar Street now attracts large events like the Christmas Light Show Extravaganza and the Macon Beer Festival. Macon’s rich downtown history and architecture are also on display. The steeple of the First Baptist Church of Christ is shown peeping out between the background and Macon-Bibb County Government Center overlooks in the distance from the left.

Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Central Florida Regional Planning Council   

The Story:  In 2018 the City of Frostproof, Florida marked its centennial with a weekend-long event to honor and celebrate the city’s history. The event was an opportunity to further the efforts of a partnership with the Central Florida Regional Planning Council and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The Competitive Florida Partnership helps a community value the assets that makes it special and challenges communities to set realistic goals for advancing their economic development visions. In this photo, members of the local Back Porch Revival Band perform at the Frostproof Wildflower Studios, a community-oriented working art studio and gallery that recently opened. Wildflower Studios participated at the of Frostproof Centennial Celebration by inviting local artists and hosting the “Frostproof Remembered Art and Photography Show and Contest”.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Region Five Development Commission (MN)

The Story:  This photo feature Miguel Mahlick, artist and owner of Tusk Metalworks in Central Minnesota. Miguel was hired by Region Five Development Commission (R5DC) to create a custom-made Harvest Table for the Sprout Growers and Makers Marketplace in Little Falls as part of an ArtPlace America grant placemaking project.  ArtPlace America awarded $440,000 to R5DC in 2017 to incorporate placemaking activities and events into the Sprout Growers and Makers Marketplace to connect residents to local artists and growers and celebrate the cultures of the region through food and art.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  North Central Florida Regional Planning Council

The Story:   This photo, taken in September 2018, shows the Savion Park Apartment building that is part of an urban infill redevelopment project associated with Innovation Square.  The Square is the former eight-acre site of the Alachua County Hospital in Midtown, located midway between the University of Florida campus and downtown Gainesville, Florida.  The anchor of the Square is University of Florida Innovate – The Hub, a 100,000 square foot business incubator with a mission to build, drive, and support the spirit of innovation for the north central Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem.  The facility offers state-of-the-art wet laboratories and light manufacturing and office space, along with advising, mentoring, and education programs.  The North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, in partnership with the University of Florida, worked to secure $18.2 million in U.S. Economic Development Administration funding to construct The Hub incubator facility.

We hope you can participate in next year’s photo contest.  Start taking pictures now and show off the great things happening in your region!  Please direct any questions to Brett Schwartz at [email protected].


Contact Joe D'Antonio

Regional Development Researcher Andrew Coker joined the NADO team in March of 2023 after spending two and a half years as the Regional Economic Resiliency Coordinator at West Central Arkansas Planning and Development District. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

At NADO, Andrew conducts research on the newest economic and community development best practices from Economic Development Districts across the country. He helps produce easily digestible information on complex regional issues through case studies, tip sheets, and research reports. Andrew also hosts training and professional development opportunities including conference sessions and virtual webinars for member regional development organizations.

Andrew is one of our Missouri-based team members and enjoys reading and training for his next triathlon.

Jack Morgan came to the NADO team in 2022 after seven years with the National Association of Counties (NACo) as a Program and Senior Program Manager. Prior to NACo, Jack was a Policy Analyst for Friends of Southwest Virginia. Jack holds a bachelor’s in geography from Emory & Henry College and a master’s in geography from Appalachian State University.

As a NADO Senior Program Manager, Jack leads capacity-building and peer-learning work supporting energy communities in economic transition, regional resilience, and recreation economies. He also helps with the EDA-Austin training program Emerging Leaders.

Jack is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and is a member of the American Planning Association (APA) in the Regional & Intergovernmental Planning division. He also serves on the Emory & Henry College Alumni Board.

Taking road trips, reading non-fiction, and indulging in top-notch barbecue and coffee round out Jack’s days. He loves maps, mountains, and of course, all things sports.

Karron Grant joined the NADO team in 2023 as Administrative Specialist and is the first face (or voice) you’ll see or hear when reaching out to NADO. As Administrative Specialist, Karron manages our database and coordinates NADO event operations. He ensures members’ needs are met, contact information stays current, and NADO’s office is running efficiently.

Karron came to NADO after four years in the classroom teaching at The New Century School and Old Mill Middle North where he received the Patriot of the Year award. He attended Towson University and the University of Maryland Global Campus and holds a bachelor’s in international studies and humanities.

Visiting art galleries and museums, playing basketball and bowling, and taking in movies and music are some of Karron’s interests and hobbies.

Deputy Executive Director Laurie Thompson has been with NADO for 25 years. Laurie helps keep the NADO and NADO Research Foundation wheels turning through management of the daily operations of the Research Foundation, securing financial resources and overseeing grants management, and helping execute NADO’s Annual Training Conference each year.

Laurie holds a bachelor’s in public affairs and government from Mount Vernon College and a master’s in health services administration from The George Washington University. Prior to NADO, Laurie spent time as a Field Specialist and an Eagle Staff Fund Director at First Nations Development Institute.

When she’s taking a rare reprieve from her NADO work, Laurie enjoys traveling domestically and internationally to visit friends and family.

Jamie McCormick joined the NADO team as a Policy Fellow first in 2019, then moved into her current role as Legislative Associate in 2021. As Legislative Associate, Jamie keeps NADO members apprised of any policy and regulatory issues and communicates NADO’s policy priorities to federal stakeholders and partner organizations. She is also the first stop for members with inquiries on policy issues. The planning and execution of NADO & DDAA’s annual Washington Conference is also managed by Jamie.

Jamie holds a dual bachelor’s in political science and international relations from The State University of New York College at Geneseo and a master’s in international development studies from The George Washington University. In addition to her roles at NADO, Jamie also worked as a Legislative Assistant for the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association.

Outside of her NADO work, Jamie is an active volunteer with the VOLO Kids Foundation and a fundraiser for YMCA youth programs. She is also NADO’s resident baker regularly providing treats for those in NADO’s D.C. office. Traveling, taking her pup on walks, and hiking in the northeast keep Jamie busy. 

Brett Schwartz began at NADO in 2012 as a Research Fellow after earning his J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. The following year, he was promoted to Program Manager and has now been leading as an Associate Director since 2018. Brett is responsible for managing NADO’s Economic Development District Community of Practice (EDD CoP), as well as researching and monitoring the latest trends in regional economic development and resilience, including best practices for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). With more than a decade of experience on the NADO team, Brett is a dynamic relationship builder helping connect and build capacity among the national network of regional development organizations.

Brett also holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s from Trinity College Dublin, as well as a certificate in mediation training. He’s a member of Catalyst Grantmakers of San Diego and Imperial Counties and was a participant in the 2021-22 Field Trips to the Future Cohort.

Brett is one of NADO’s West Coast team members residing in San Diego, CA where he enjoys spending time outdoors, attending concerts and festivals, and soaking up life as a parent of two young children.  

Communications Manager Katie Allison joined the team in 2023 to lead the strategic communication efforts of NADO. Katie creates and develops print and online materials, communicates NADO’s updates to members via weekly emails, and maintains content for and NADO’s social media channels. She also works with different departments to generate new ideas and strategies to effectively describe and promote the important work NADO is doing for EDDs and RDOs across the country.

An experienced nonprofit communications professional, Katie has worked for organizations in western North Carolina for nearly a decade. She holds a bachelor’s in communications from Wingate University where she was a four-year student athlete. Katie has also completed Vision Henderson County, a comprehensive leadership development program that promotes informed and committed civic volunteerism.

Katie stays busy trying to keep up with her two young sons whom she enjoys exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains with. Traveling to new and favorite places and cheering on the Atlanta Braves are some of her family’s favorite pastimes.

Senior Program Manager Ciara Ristig has been a member of the NADO team since 2021, and helps with NADO’s EDD Community of Practice, EDD staff capacity building and other grants on a range of subjects, including equity and solar energy. Before NADO, Ciara worked as a Planner for the County of Santa Barbara and an Assistant Project Manager for REM Consult. Ciara holds a bachelor’s in urban studies and French from Bryn Mawr and a master’s in urban studies from Ecole d’Urbanisme de Paris.

When she’s not traveling, you can find her outrigger paddling and serving on the board of the Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama, CA, near her home base of Santa Barbara.

Carrie Kissel has been a member of the NADO team since 2005 when she began as a Research Fellow. She later moved into the roles of Program Manager in 2006, and then Associate Director in 2011. Carrie holds a bachelor’s in anthropology from Ball State University and a master’s in public anthropology from American University. As Associate Director, Carrie oversees NADO’s work in rural transportation and rural wealth creation. She provides technical assistance and support to rural regions on transportation and economic development issues and develops training and peer exchange events on transportation issues and rural wealth creation as an economic development strategy.

Carrie is a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and secretary of TRB’s Rural Transportation Issues Coordinating Council. She is also a member of the American Anthropological Association and the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology.

Reading, gardening, hiking, and kayaking are a few of Carrie’s hobbies, and she organizes and facilitates a DEI/social justice-focused book club in her community.

Melissa Levy has worked at NADO as a Regional Development Researcher since February 2023 and is the Principal Consultant at her own firm specializing in wealth-based economic development consulting. With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Melissa brings a breadth of knowledge to her role as a Regional Development Researcher. Melissa provides in-depth research, coaching, and training on regional economic resilience, rural wealth creation strategies, and economic development.

Melissa is a North American Food Systems Network trained AgriCluster Resilience and Expansion (ACRE) facilitator and a WealthWorks coach, facilitator, and trainer. In addition to her professional work, Melissa serves on the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Council, on the board of the Hinesburg Community Resource Center, and on the Hinesburg Economic Development Committee.

A true outdoorswoman, Melissa enjoys cross country and downhill skiing, paddleboarding, hiking, biking, and kayaking, as well as yoga, and teaching Tai Chi.

Program Manager Krishna Kunapareddy began her role with NADO in February of 2023 after 14 years of service at Boonslick Regional Planning Commission in Missouri. Krishna manages NADO Research Foundation’s Planning and Environmental Linkages and Center for Environmental Excellence projects. In addition to researching and writing, Krishna also conducts virtual workshops on innovative tools and techniques related to transportation planning.

She holds an undergraduate degree from Andhra University and a master’s from JNT University in India, as well as a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington. Krishna is also a certified Smart Cities Academy Practitioner and holds the Location Advantage certificate from geographic information system software company ESRI.

In her spare time, Krishna volunteers with Mentors4College helping high schoolers better plan for their post-high school paths. She is also a dedicated advocate for documented H4 Dreamers.

Krystal DeLeon joined the NADO team in October of 2020 as Database & Grants Manger, but in January of 2022 transitioned to her current role as Operations Manager. Krystal keeps NADO running through behind the scenes work of invoicing, solving any database issues that may arise, producing membership reports, and much more. Her organizational skills and thorough knowledge help the NADO team operate more efficiently across all departments.

Prior to NADO, Krystal was the Conference Services Coordinator for State Services Organization. She is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), a licensed realtor, and holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Liberty University. When she’s not keeping NADO’s operations in order, Krystal enjoys running and rock climbing, and adventuring with her husband and son.

Senior Program Manager Bret Allphin joined NADO in April of 2022 bringing with him a wealth of knowledge after a 20-year career with Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Marietta, Ohio. In addition to his bachelor’s in political science and master’s in public affairs, Bret is licensed Geographical Information Systems Professional (GISP). He is NADO’s go-to team member for all things mapping while also supporting members with transportation and economic development technical assistance services.

An avid sports aficionado and former collegiate athlete, Bret enjoys cheering on his Cincinnati Reds, hitting the trails on his mountain bike, and improving his golf game whenever possible. Bret is an involved community member in Marietta dedicating much of his spare time to serving on local nonprofit boards.

Contact Karron Grant

Applications cannot be saved and returned to at a later time. It is recommended you compile all of your information in advance in a word processor and cut and paste into the application below.

2023 Impact Awards

The primary applicant must be a NADO member. Project partners, both NADO and non-members, can be recognized under "Project Partners" below.

Primary Project Contact:
This person will be the designated point of contact for all future awards-related correspondence.

Organization Address

Project Location (if different from Organization Address)

Executive Director

Additional Organizational Information
Please upload your organization's logo which will be included on the winning project award certificate.

Project Information
This title will be printed on the award certificate for winning projects and in all 2022 NADO Impact Award materials and cannot be changed.

Project Summary & Questions
Please craft clear, thoughtful, and engaging responses to the following questions. Use the following sections to tell us how your project has made an impact, such as its use of creative funding mechanisms, efforts to create efficiencies or reduce costs, unique partnership models, and emphasis on building resilience and/or enhancing your region's quality of life.

For award-winning projects, the information provided below may be used verbatim to inform project descriptions that will be published in the 2023 NADO Impact Awards materials and included on the NADO website.

Please submit at least one photo showing your project in action. Please keep file size to a minimum (<2Mb) and use JPEG format. If uploading multiple files, ZIP files prior to submitting. If you have trouble uploading images they can be directly emailed to Brett Schwartz at [email protected]. Include the project title they correspond to in the subject line of your email.

Note: Submitted photos may be used in NADO Impact Awards materials and in other NADO published materials with credit to your organization. Please also consider submitting photos for NADO's 2023 Photo Contest, which will be held this summer.

Your application is not submitted until you are directed to a confirmation page. If you have any questions or are unsure if your application has been submitted, please contact Brett Schwartz at [email protected]

Contact Melissa Levy

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Content Questions Form

Registration Questions Form

Hotel Questions Form

New Speaker Inquiry

Job Listing Inquiry

Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.

Joe has thirty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional, national association, and government management since 1991. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

McKinney has provided congressional testimony on numerous occasions regarding the importance of regional development organizations in helping shape the nation’s economic growth. He is nationally recognized for promoting innovative solutions in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, and aging services.

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