Congratulations to the 2021 NADO Photo Contest winners and runners-up!  This year, nearly 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 five categories:  “Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments,” “Building Vibrant Places,” “Investing in Our Regional Economy,” “Sustaining Our Communities,” and “COVID-19 Response & Recovery.”  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.  Please direct any questions about the contest to Brett Schwartz at [email protected].


Building Vibrant Places

Organization: Buckeye Hills Regional Council (OH) 

The Story:  

In July 2021, representatives from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and Ohio Governor’s Office of Appalachia (GOA) joined Buckeye Hills Regional Council staff in Marietta, Ohio, to see ARC investments in action. In this picture, ARC Federal Co-Chair Dr. Gayle Manchin and Buckeye Hills Executive Director Misty Crosby (foreground), as well as ARC Executive Director Brandon McBride and GOA Director John Carey (background) were on a walking tour of Marietta’s historic downtown. From critical infrastructure to career readiness, recovery-to-work, the creation of a vibrant downtown, and collaboration and strong community partnerships, Dr. Manchin and the leadership of the ARC and GOA saw firsthand the ways these investments are having a real impact in Appalachian Ohio.

At left is the entrance to the historic Peoples Bank Theatre, which was redeveloped in part with support from the Appalachian Regional Commission and Buckeye Hills Regional Council. After sitting dormant for 30 years, the century-old venue underwent a $7.5 million rehabilitation, reopening in 2016. Today, the 940-seat Peoples Bank Theatre is one of the leading cultural institutions in southeast Ohio and hosts the region’s largest variety of live entertainment, presenting more than 100 events each year, including concerts by national touring artists, theatrical performances, and films.  These events generate more than $1.5 million annually in ticket revenue and over $1 million in additional downtown spending.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Region XII Council of Governments (IA)

The Story:

This photo showcases new homeowner Ivy Heitoff (left) and Amy Milligan, loan officer at Home State Bank, Jefferson, in front of the first Homes for Iowa house in Jefferson, Iowa.  The home was constructed in 2019, placed in early 2020, and Heitoff purchased the home on December 31, 2020. This home was the first home delivered within the state and before being purchased, served as the model home for the Homes for Iowa program as it is featured in the program’s Matterport informational video. Homes for Iowa is a program where inmates in the Iowa Prison system construct stick-built homes in Newton, IA at the correctional release facility. From there, the homes are transported to communities throughout the state. This program creates opportunities for affordable workforce housing, homeownership, and job skill development. The Homes for Iowa concept is based on the Governor’s House program in South Dakota, which has been in place since the mid-1990s.

This particular home was developed by Region XII Council of Governments. The development was made possible by funding through the City of Jefferson, the local Housing Trust Fund, Greene County, and the Greene County Redi Mix. Funding from the Federal Home Loan Bank, HOME, and a local bank mortgage financed the purchase of the home.

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  East Central Iowa Council of Governments (IA)

The Story: 

The Sutliff Bridge, located in Johnson County approximately 6 miles south of Lisbon, IA, spans the Cedar River. It allows non-vehicle traffic to cross the river, enabling recreationalists to access the outstanding primitive recreation and Native American history of the Cedar River Crossing Conservation Area. The bridge was constructed in 1898 and uses Parker trusses. This unique feature helped it gain recognition in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. In the Flood of ’08, the Sutliff Bridge suffered the loss of its eastern span as floodwaters slammed into it. The bridge was restored and reopened in 2012, allowing it to again become a popular destination for recreation. This photo was taken for the 2041 Lisbon Comprehensive Plan and leveraged in social media posts to highlight a valuable regional amenity. It reflects the cultural significance of the area’s relationship with water and a forward-thinking philosophy. The Sutliff Bridge is a place of calm, peace, and fun for area residents and will continue to be a cultural icon for many more generations of East Central Iowans.

The East Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG) consulted on the City of Lisbon’s Comprehensive Plan. Harrison Freund photographed this bridge as part of the project. ECICOG assists in creating vibrant, forward-thinking communities and in building a collaborative and resilient region. Jointly created by 6 counties in 1974 , ECICOG exists to serve the Benton, Linn, Jones, Iowa, Johnson, and Washington County communities.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Northern Maine Development Corporation (ME)

The Story:   

Open for business! McElwain’s Strawberry Farm is one of the hundreds of family farms in Aroostook County, Maine. Visitors to the region experience local flavor through the fresh produce, preserves, honey, and maple syrup sold from the roadside stands that dot the northern end of US Route 1. The Northern Maine Development Commission has worked diligently to highlight open businesses ready to serve customers as the region continues to navigate through COVID-19 pandemic relief programs to sustain businesses in an  unforeseen economic climate. This simple flag signals perseverance and the continuation of agricultural traditions.

COVID-19 Response & Recovery

Organization:  Piedmont Triad Regional Council (NC)

The Story:

Pictured here are the staff members of Piedmont Triad Regional Council. They are “Workplace Ready” and leading the way in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina. The staff are all wearing Nightingale masks and standing six feet apart. Executive Director Matthew Dolge is holding the Workplace Restart signage which identifies that “This Workplace is Ready!”

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted workplaces across the country. Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC) and Piedmont Triad Regional Workforce Development Board (PTRWDB), acting as the regional conveners, brought together government agencies and industry leaders to immediately address the crisis. The Piedmont Triad Regional Workforce Development Board, in partnership with the Mask the City program, launched the Workplace Restart initiative that provided employers with up to two Nightingale masks per employee and COVID-19 safety training. PTRWDB contracted 180 Skills to develop a two-module program to train employers and employees on COVID-19 safety precautions. With the help of CARES funding, PTRC supplied organizations in the region with masks, training, and signage. PTRC and PTRWDB are continuing to lead the way in helping organizations in the region maneuver this ongoing crisis.

People’s Choice

Organization:  Clearwater Economic Development Association (ID)

The Story:

Partnership is at the heart of regional development and this photo shows it at its best: local youth and agencies working and learning together. Pictured are the Pierce, Idaho Clearwater Basin Youth Conservation Corps (CBYCC) crew and youth from the Northwest Indian College Youth Cultural Enrichment Academy (YCEA) working together to build Beaver Dam Analogue (BDA) structures at Musselshell Meadows under the guidance of the Nez Perce Tribe’s Watershed Division. These BDAs will benefit stream restoration efforts by mimicking a natural beaver dam. Qe’ciyew’yew (“Thank you”) to the YCEA for working and sharing their culture alongside the CBYCC and to the Watershed Division staff for investing in our youth!

CBYCC is a collaboration between partners across North Central Idaho including Clearwater Economic Development Association, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, and other public, private, and non-profit partners dedicated to land management and natural resource conservation. The program employs 30 youth seasonally on six crews across the region to support workforce development while also providing work experience for local youth and accomplishing productive work benefitting the Clearwater region. Clearwater Economic Development Association is proud to provide management services to the CBYCC to connect its most valuable economic resource – its youth – to local natural resource sectors.


Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Upper Cumberland Development District (TN)  

The Story:

To some people this might look like a normal city square, but it is much more. This is the fruits of the labor of many organizations coming together to create a vibrant courthouse community. The Town of Livingston, TN is rapidly growing and having the courthouse at the center of the town is something residents take great pride in. From the square you can easily walk to one of the many parks, concert venues, and locally-owned shops and restaurants in the area.  With a little over 4,000 residents, the Livingston’s elected leadership works in conjunction with the Overton County Chamber of Commerce, the Upper Cumberland Development District, and other partners to look for various funding agencies that encourage the growth the town is currently seeing. This picture in particular shows the vast improvements the town has made by using funds from Tennessee’s Economic and Community Development’s Tennessee Downtowns grant. Various storefronts have had signs, awnings, windows and more updated recently. Livingston is currently seeking additional funding to help other locally-owned businesses.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Bi-State Regional Commission (IL/IA)

The Story:  

The mighty Mississippi River joins the communities of the Quad Cities, located in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. With a population of over 425,000 and deep agricultural roots, the Bi-State Region’s industrial riverfronts are being reinvented as human-focused places to live, work, and play. Key factors in these evolving landscapes include: a decline in agricultural manufacturing, the modernization of aging infrastructure, the departure of several riverboat casinos for land-based operations, the risk of increased flooding due to extreme weather and climate change, and a spike in interest in urban riverfront living.

Bi-State is proud to assist in these efforts through its programs and technical assistance to local government members. The Bi-State Region Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) as well as metropolitan and regional transportation plans provide a foundation for revitalization and resilience. Assisting communities with comprehensive land use plans, trail planning, and recreational development contributes to the quality of life goals within the Bi-State Region. The Quad Cities Iowa/Illinois MPO Extreme Weather and Transportation Resilience Report was prepared for the metropolitan area to identify critical and vulnerable facilities in relation to extreme weather events. Relatedly, members are also served by hazard mitigation planning assistance. While the Mississippi River is an international tourism draw, it is also subject to more frequent and longer-duration flooding where preparedness and resilience are important components to regional sustainability. These efforts will ensure that residents and visitors alike can enjoy this treasured river for generations to come.

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Sweetgrass Development (MT)

The Story:  

Kathleen Woodford, Sweetgrass Development’s Administrative Assistant, woke up early one morning in March 2021 to capture this stunning view of snow geese passing through the Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area, one of the most beloved attractions in Teton County, MT. Hundreds of thousands of snow geese, tundra birds, and other avian commuters come to Freezeout Lake as an annual rest stop on their ancestral journey to Canada. The majority usually arrive in late March and many other species visit in the summer and fall, making the lake a dazzling year-round wildlife venue for tourists and residents alike. Located just a short drive away from Choteau, MT and Fairfield, MT, both with burgeoning business communities, Freezeout Lake exemplifies the vitality and promise to be found in north-central Montana, which is why Sweetgrass Development features this image on its official website to welcome employers and workers to the five-county region.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Upper Savannah Council of Governments (SC)

The Story:

Long-term discussions on addressing one of county residents’ areas of greatest need culminated in an exciting announcement in Greenwood, SC this summer.  A ribbon cutting was held July 19, 2021 at the Greenwood County Courthouse to commemorate the launching of new public transportation offerings which began on July 1.  Greenwood County has contracted with MAT to provide these transit services.  S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) Secretary Christy Hall, Third District SCDOT Commissioner Pamela Christopher, and members of Greenwood County Council, Greenwood City Council, Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce, and McCormick Area Transit (MAT) were among those who participated in the ribbon cutting.  Public transportation service for a small fee is available to anyone of any age living within the service area of a 2.5-mile radius of the County Courthouse. Approved trips include medical appointments, grocery store shopping, and pharmacy visits. Trips must be reviewed and approved at least one day before travel.  It is hoped that the service area will gradually expand to cover residents of the entire county.  Upper Savannah COG was pleased to serve as a facilitator in this process and looks forward to expanding this model to other regional counties.

COVID-19 Response & Recovery

Organization:  Pennyrile Area Development District/City of Madisonville (KY)

The Story:

Peering up at the bright lights, Keaton Rigney, age 4, and Shea Rigney, age 6, are two of the over 270,000 visitors that went through Madisonville City Park for “Deck the Park” in Madisonville, KY. Like it was for so many towns throughout the country, 2020 was an extremely challenging year for the residents of Madisonville due to COVID-19. The city transformed the park for the city’s first-ever drive-through Christmas light show in 11 short days so that residents could experience the free event from the safety of their cars and feel hope and joy throughout those challenging times. As you weaved through the festive landscape, there were beautiful large Christmas decorations, multicolored light displays, the pictured 168-foot light tunnel with a snowy ending, Liquid Fireworks by Waltzing Waters, Inc set to Christmas music, and Mr. & Mrs. Claus waving from their cozy cottage. The City of Madisonville, KY team hoped that all of the attendees, including the Rigney children, left the event knowing that there’s light and hope at the end of the tunnel.


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]

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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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