The NADO Research Foundation is pleased to announce applications are open for the Collaborative Learning Group (CLG), a new pilot program offered through the Economic Development District Community of Practice (EDD CoP). The CLG is a 7-month virtual training and networking opportunity for new EDD staff who have been at their organization for two years or less. As part of the CLG, participants will have an opportunity to learn from subject matter experts about topics of importance to EDDs, network with peers, and work on a small capstone project to share with the national network of EDDs.

Two virtual calls will be held per month (with the exception of March which will have a single introduction call); the first call each month will include training on topics including the CEDS, funding, data tools, and other areas of interest identified by the participants in the application below. The second call each month will be an opportunity to network with peers, share ideas, and troubleshoot challenges.

Participants will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the program; participants are expected to miss no more than 4 sessions (dates below).

All Sessions will be held from 2-3:30 p.m. ET

  • March 27
  • April 3 & April 17
  • May 1 & May 15
  • June 5 & June 19
  • July 10 & July 17
  • August 7 & August 21
  • September 4 & September 18
Meet the 2024 CLG Cohort

Abbie Bell is a Project Manager at Three Rivers Planning & Development District, located in Pontotoc, Mississippi. During her employment, she completed an MBA in Project Management from the University of North Alabama in 2022. Prior to that, she received her bachelor’s degree from UNA and earned her associate degree from Itawamba Community College. Other than the time she spent in Florence, Alabama for her education, Abbie has been a lifelong resident of Fulton, Mississippi. She takes great pride in her home state and is always looking for ways to contribute to its growth and development. Abbie describes herself as a lifelong learner who finds joy and fulfillment in her free time and hobbies. These include reading, traveling, attending concerts and music festivals, serving as a leader in her church’s youth group, and spending quality time with her loved ones.

Jacqualine Closure has been a Planner I at the North Delta Regional Planning and Development District in Monroe, Louisiana for nearly two years. She graduated from the Florida Institute of Technology with a degree in Business Administration and concentration in Healthcare. She is also a Certified Medical Billing and Coding Specialist. 

Although born in California, Josiah grew up in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. He attended the University of Alabama where he studied political science and geography. At the end of his master’s studies, he interned at the West Alabama Regional Commission (WARC) and then was hired full time in January 2024.

Aubrey is an Economic Development Planner at the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). She supports the delivery of economic development resources under the U.S Economic Development Administration (EDA). Her primary responsibilities are related to facilitation and implementation of the regional Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), administering a brownfield remediation grant, and coordinating freight activities in the region. Prior to MORPC, she was a Project Manager at JobsOhio where she provided site selection assistance, vetted competitive corporate expansion or attraction opportunities, and structured incentive packages to drive job creation and capital investment into the state of Ohio. Aubrey loves the economic development profession because of the diverse set of stakeholders that are engaged in the process of making a particular community a great place to live, work, and play.

Allie Haynes, Economic Development Specialist, has worked for the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham for over a year. She manages the economic impact analysis program for the department, helping communities analyze data to make informed economic decisions. Originally from Memphis, she attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham and majored in economics. She is expected to begin an online master’s program in applied economics through Johns Hopkins University in the Summer of 2024. Allie is excited to learn more through the NADO CLG program to help the municipalities and counties in her region thrive.

Kaileen McHugh started with the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) in February of 2023. She works with communities around the region to provide technical assistance on EDA grants and fulfill data needs. She also conducts data research for the organization. She previously worked with an Austin nonprofit as a research assistant on projects related to wealth building, small business, and affordable housing. Prior to this she lived in Indianapolis, Indiana working for a local nonprofit and with the city on economic and community development initiatives. She holds a M.S. in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin, and a degree in economics from the Florida State University.

Leo Priddy joined the New River Valley Regional Commission in 2023. He previously served the region as a Small Business Advisor for the Greater Roanoke & New River Valley SBDC and has several years of experience with the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. Leo’s background lends to his passion for supporting the New River Valley, as his curiosity and resourcefulness provide the community with someone eager to help it thrive.

Leo received his Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Virginia Tech. Leo and his wife Emily live in Christiansburg, Virginia where he volunteers with several area nonprofits in addition to enjoying the countless community events in the region.

Monica Seidl has worked for the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments as a Project Specialist for the last year and a half. She focuses on community with small business and economic development. Monica is a previous bank manager with 18 years experience. She is an involved community member both in her local area and abroad in Belize where she owns a second home. She has most recently been nominated for the Community Leader of the Year for 2024 Pillar of Strength. 

Tory Stinnett is currently serving as the Deputy Director of the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation (GEODC). Tory oversees initiatives spanning seven counties, focusing on revitalizing economies and fostering sustainable growth.

With a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Oregon State University, Tory possesses a solid foundation for her approach to community development. Drawing from experience living and working in eastern Oregon, she brings a deep understanding of rural economies and diverse interests to her work.

Prior to her current role at GEODC, Tory served as the Economic Development Director for Grant County. In this capacity, she managed numerous collaborative community projects and secured millions in funding, further demonstrating her ability to deliver tangible results and drive economic progress.

Andria Sykaluk started working at Region 1 Planning Council as an Economic Analyst in early 2023. She was motivated by her desire to boost economic growth in her hometown region. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in 2020 and is now only a semester away from finishing her Master of Science in Data Analytics at Northern Illinois University. Andria is an avid learner, interested in science and technology, and is currently improving her proficiency in Russian while also learning Italian. She has a deep love for animals and nature and aspires to someday own a farm that can double as a beautiful wedding venue, satisfying her entrepreneurial spirit.

Cassidy Taylor is the Post-Disaster Economic Recovery Coordinator at the Northeast Florida Regional Council. In this role, she incorporates tenants of climate resiliency, economic development, and planning as tools for long-term economic recovery from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. In 2023, she graduated from Florida State University with a master’s degree in urban and regional planning. While in school, she earned the Edward E. McClure Award for academic achievement and was nominated for the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association’s Student of the Year.

Gretchen currently serves as the Economic & Community Development Program Administrator at the Greater Nashville Regional Council, the EDD for the 13-counties around Nashville, and primarily works with rural county governments, utilities, and community organizations. Passionate about sustainable community development and fostering collaborative partnerships, Gretchen brings a unique blend of project management, grant writing, and strategic planning skills to her work. She received her M.Ed. in Community Development & Action from Vanderbilt University and holds a B.A. in Community & Nonprofit Leadership and Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As a former manager of a guest ranch and the Executive Director of small-town Chamber of Commerce in the remote communities on the Western Slope of Colorado, Courtney Tribble started to understand that the rural communities faced unique challenges. She joined the team at Region 10 League for Economic Assistance and Planning in the Fall of 2020 as an Administrative Assistant and eventually was promoted to Economic Development Program Coordinator two years later. Courtney was interested in helping the way Region 10 worked to build bridges between businesses, municipalities, counties, entrepreneurs, and community members. In her time at Region 10, Courtney has started to serve on several county and regional economic development committees and partnerships.

Like many residents of Western Colorado, Courtney enjoys exploring the outdoors during her free time with her husband and two dogs. She is a Colorado native and has lived on the Western Slope in rural communities for the past 10 years.

Alex Valdes is an Economic Development Planner at the Apalachee Regional Planning Council in Tallahassee, Florida. Holding a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Alex brings a diverse educational background to her role.

Prior to joining ARPC, Alex collaborated with KCCI, a grassroots placemaking organization, contributing to the creation and data collection of Tallahassee’s first creative crosswalks. She also served as a fellow at the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality, focusing on minority, women, and small business programs.

Alex’s passion lies in “soft” economic development — nurturing amenities, community resources, and small business networks to foster vibrant and prideful locales. Her goal is to create places that not only appeal to developers but also attract and retain talent.

Outside of work, Alex is a dedicated boulderer exploring climbing spots across the Southeast and dreams of international adventures. She is also a devoted pet owner and enjoys the therapeutic art of knitting.

Sam Wessel is a Senior Planner involved with land use, housing, and economic development at North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in Wausau. Sam has lived all over the Midwest and holds degrees in Environmental Science (Wisconsin Lutheran College) and Urban & Regional Planning (University of Wisconsin – Madison). He also has experience working on public lands as well as being planner in the private and public sector. He relocated to Central Wisconsin in 2021 due to its affordability, access to nature, and location between many of his favorite places: Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Lake Superior, and the Driftless Area. He enjoys exploring all that Wisconsin has to offer with his wife and daughter, usually in the form of hiking, biking, performing as musicians, or learning something new.

For more information, contact Program Manager Joe D’Antonio


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

Contact Scott Brown

Contact Jamie McCormick

Contact Joe McKinney

Contact Krystal De Leon

Contact Brittany Salazar

Contact Laurie Thompson

Contact Mirielle Burgoyne