2022 NADO Photo Contest

Congratulations to the 2022 NADO Photo Contest winners and runners-up!  This year, nearly 90 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 Regional Economy,” and “Sustaining Our Communities.  A “People’s Choice” winner was also chosen online by the public via our Facebook page. Click here to see all the photos submitted in this year’s contest.

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.   

Please direct any questions about the contest to Brett Schwartz at [email protected].


Winners

Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (NE-IA) 

The Story:  
Built in 1976, the Gene Leahy Mall is a large park in the heart of Downtown Omaha, sitting at the edge of the historic Old Market. As the park aged, it ceased to be a vibrant public space and was sometimes the site of vandalism. In 2019, the City began a $325 million riverfront transformational redevelopment project to include three parks. The Gene Leahy Mall is the first of these parks to open. It became a vibrant green space immediately, once again attracting people throughout the Greater Omaha-Council Bluffs metro. These efforts are part of the Urban Core Strategic Plan to bring partners on both sides of the Missouri River together to continue investment in the region’s central business district. The Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) awarded funding to reconfigure downtown streets around the park to have two-way traffic, enhance walkability, and support multimodal transportation connections.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Alamo Area Council of Governments (TX)

The Story:
On April 28, 2022, 12 apprentices with the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services (IDDS) graduated from the IDDS Apprenticeship Program. Prior to tossing their mortar boards in celebration, the apprentices featured a semester’s worth of work at a technology showcase in the agency’s board room. Through a partnership with Siver Solutions, LLC, the apprenticeship focused on Information technology (IT) and was created to give participants, individuals with a clinical intellectual or developmental disability diagnosis, an opportunity for employment exploration and opportunities to garner transferable skills in fully integrated settings. The individuals in the program were trained on how to create software applications using the Java programming language. During the final weeks of the program, the apprentices created a mobile application and integrated website. The apprenticeship program ultimately resulted in six of the participants being offered full-time positions with the company, at salaries exceeding $50,000 per year and competitive benefits packages.   

AACOG’s IDD Services Apprenticeship Program is funded by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). The dollars stem from the federal Money Follows the Person Program (MPP). MPP provides money to states who in turn provide goods, services, and other financial support to the individual so they may return to the community and still receive the kind of long-term care they need. The 12 apprentices featured in this photo make up the second class to graduate the program. 

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Southwest Regional Development Commission (MN)

The Story: 
This photo was taken at the Zeb Gray Overlook Shelter located in Ramsey Park/Cansayapi in Redwood Falls, MN. Ramsey Park is Minnesota’s largest municipal park, and the Zeb Gray Shelter is one of the park’s newer features, offering visitors a scenic overlook of the Redwood River and the park’s hogback peninsula. Ramsey Park provides tourists and community members with views of its waterfall, scenic trails (including the historic Swayback Bridge and a suspension bridge), a small zoo with buffalo, several playgrounds and shelters, a campground, scenic overlooks, and much more.

In 2015, Ramsey Park was designated as a Regional Park by the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC). In Spring/Summer 2022, Southwest Regional Development Commission (SRDC) partnered with the GMRPTC to create an economic impact and user satisfaction analysis of regionally designated parks/campgrounds in Southwest Minnesota, including Ramsey Park. The project will help guide future development at regional parks/campgrounds across the state. This picture was taken as part of that project and as part of a new Regional Trails Planning effort started by SRDC in late summer 2022. This two-year project will establish a shared, regional vision of trail networks in Southwest Minnesota and will help increase nature-based tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities in the region.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Central Florida Regional Planning Council 

The Story:   
The Winter Haven Farmers Market supports local businesses and has created a healthy “foodie destination” every Saturday morning in downtown Winter Haven. At this pet friendly market located across the street from Grove Roots Brewing Company, you can find produce, meat, seafood, pasta, baked goods, and community all in one place. The Market is modeled after the successful St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market and brings in local and regional farmers, food trucks, artisan food vendors, craftspeople, musicians, and more.

People’s Choice

Organization: Land of Sky Regional Council (NC)   

The Story: 
This photo was taken of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC at the lagoon which is adjacent to the French Broad River.  Biltmore was constructed by George Washington Vanderbilt and is America’s largest home.  Mr. Vanderbilt purchased 125,000 acres in Western North Carolina and constructed his summer cottage Biltmore which opened in 1895.  The Vanderbilt family sold 87,000 acres of their estate to the federal government in 1914 and this purchase helped establish the Pisgah National Forest.  Today, Biltmore is one of the largest attractions in the State of North Carolina, attracting over one million visitors annually.

Land of Sky Regional Council works with Biltmore through its various departments including workforce development and economic & community development, and programs including INspire, Mountain Area Workforce Development Board, Waste Reduction Partners, and Clean Vehicles Coalition.  Biltmore provides financial support to Friends of Land of Sky Regional Council, the Council’s nonprofit, to support housing needs of individuals who are part of the INspire program.  INspire serves 11-counties in Western North Carolina helping individuals with substance use disorders with recovery to work and is a partnership between Land of Sky Regional Council and Southwestern Commission. Biltmore also works closely with Mountain Area Workforce Development Board to help them meet their workforce needs. Biltmore is one of the largest employers in the region with over 1,500 employees.  Waste Reduction Partners has supported Biltmore with solid waste reduction initiatives and Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition has supported Biltmore to make its fleet cleaner and more sustainable.  Biltmore is focused on sustainability with alternative fuels, renewable energy, and land conservation practices.

Runners-Up

Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Southwest Tennessee Development District  

The Story:
As described by Jackson Downtown Development, downtown Jackson is a small town community filled with families, college students, business professionals, and empty nesters, where you can encounter someone you know on every corner. Whether you’re hanging out at your favorite restaurant patio to greet your city council representative or walking from the Farmers Market to the local coffee shop on a crisp Saturday morning, the people are what make Downtown the heart of the city.

Jackson is home to some of the best mural artists in West Tennessee and in the past few years, with the Mayor’s Public Art Initiative, and through efforts of many others like the “Our Jackson Home’s Artist in Residence” program, there has been an explosion of new art popping up in and around Jackson. According to Jackson Mayor Scott Conger, “These murals are helping revitalize the downtown area and are bringing more visitors and customers to the businesses that are based here.” The mural in the image above is painted on the wall of the SWTDD Development District building which is located on the corner of College Street and Highland Ave, the entrance way into beautiful downtown Jackson.  This particular mural on the building of SWTDD, “731” was painted by Jonathan and Sarah Cagle and depicts a landmark in each of the eight counties the Development District serves. 

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Region VII Planning & Development Council (WV) 

The Story: 
The regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) compiled by Region VII Planning and Development lists higher education and healthcare as two of the many strengths in its seven-county region in West Virginia. Four higher education institutions reside within Region VII’s jurisdiction, and an opportunity exists to coordinate with these institutions to better equip students for the local workforce, including the healthcare industry.

Pictured above is an Anatomage table, a virtual cadaver system, that was introduced to a standard classroom setting at a local university. The table allows for the exploration and learning of human anatomy in a digital space with courses ranging from neuroanatomy and kinesiology to emergency medicine and surgical nursing. The virtual cadaver table is one of many learning tools colleges and universities utilize to better prepare graduates for the complex and demanding community healthcare needs in Appalachia.

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization: Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation

The Story:  
Oregon, as a timber state, continues to have its share of catastrophic wildfires. The smoke from wildfires in Oregon provides beautiful sunsets to enjoy, like this one at the Nature Conservancy in Wallowa County – but these views come at a cost. There is the numeric cost in the millions of dollars of damage, but also the human and emotional cost of lost lives and livelihoods. GEODC supports natural disaster response and recovery in the region by coordinating with local, state, and federal partners at the time of disaster and drafts FEMA grants for the communities impacted. So the next time you see a beautiful sunset, wildfire induced or not, say “thank you” to all the firefighters and the community volunteers that come together and provide strength and resilience to protect all our communities. 

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Region 9 Economic Development District of SW Colorado 

The Story:
Region 9 Economic District of SW Colorado hosts quarterly meet ups for its local level economic development county level and community staff partners. Each meet up features a timely and relevant topic for the group to work on. Some of the featured topics this year have been livable wages, experience economies, and housing. The meet ups provide dedicated time and space to learn, brainstorm, celebrate, update, and, sometimes, commiserate on the work done together. The meet ups also help staff and partners stay informed about economic development at the state and federal levels. The meet ups are rotated throughout local communities so the person working in that area can show off the community, highlight a project they are involved in, or share a good place to eat!

This photo was taken at the August 2022 meet up in Silverton, CO. Attendees had the pleasure of taking part in blacksmithing at Quiet Bear Art. Owner Ken Webb’s artwork can be seen in juried shows all over the Southwest, and many of his originals are included in private collections throughout the world. Pictured from left to right: Ken Webb, Beth Kremer (economic development coordinator for San Juan Development Association), Heather Otter (Project Manager at Region 9 EDD), Kim Campbell (Executive Director at Mancos Valley Chamber of Commerce), and Nichole Glaser (Grant Writer for Montezuma County).


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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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