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].

2022 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.


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).


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

Contact Krishna Kunapareddy

Contact Andrew Coker

Contact Lara Gale

Contact Katie Allison

Contact Jack Morgan

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.

Contact Danny Tomares

Contact Dion Thompson-Davoli

Contact Ciara Ristig

Contact Bret Allphin

Contact Brett Schwartz

Contact Carrie Kissel

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