Congratulations to the 2015 NADO Photo Contest Winners!

2015_photo_logoThe 2015 NADO Photo Contest saw 27 of our member organizations submit over 120 images that showcased 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.  Over 720 votes were cast!

Thanks again to all of our members who participated and congratulations to our winners!  Remember, it’s never too early to start snapping great 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:  North Central Florida Regional Planning Council

The Story:  The Gainesville-Depot Avenue Trial is a 2.1-mile Rails to Trails project located in central Gainesville funded with Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act enhancement funds.   The trail connects Depot Park, a contemporary public green space that serves as Gainesville’s “Central Park,” to the 16-mile Gainesville-Hawthorne Rail to Trail.  The Gainesville-Depot Avenue trail passes through historic residential neighborhoods and affords users opportunities for dog walking, in-line skating, mountain biking, road biking, running, and walking/day hiking.

Building Vibrant Places


Organization:  New River Valley Regional Commission (VA)

The Story:  Each year the New River Valley Regional Commission hosts an annual dinner for all the elected officials, chief administrative officials, planning commission chairs, and planning department heads in the region.  In the spring of 2015 the Commission formally announced a name change of the agency from ‘Planning District Commission’ to ‘Regional Commission.’  To introduce the new name and brand, the board of directors decided to transform the format of the dinner from a formal plated dinner into an informal food truck rodeo.  The Town of Floyd hosted the event outside at Hotel Floyd and several vendors from the Floyd Farmer’s Market offered to set up their booths.  The casual atmosphere provided by the food trucks and farmer’s market was a hit!  Over 100 attended so they could experience food, network with peers, and celebrate a community within the region.    

Investing in Our Regional Economy


Organization:  Association of Central Oklahoma Governments

The Story:  Bridgette, a Native Oklahoman and 3rd grader, celebrates a bell pepper she handpicked at Buffalo Creek Berry Farm in Mustang, Oklahoma. Mustang is one of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments’ 49 member entities. The farm represents Central Oklahoma’s growing agritourism attractions. Entrepreneurial farmers and ranchers open their gates to the public, allowing people to get in touch with a simpler time and taste the fruit of Oklahoma’s labor. Oklahoma agritourism includes Western Experiences, Land Bounty, Hunting, and Country Stays. 

Sustaining Our Communities


Organization:  Western Illinois Regional Council

The Story:  Western Illinois Regional Council-Community Action Agency provides Weatherization assistance to low-income individuals and families in a four-county region. Here Jeff Elam, Housing Specialist, is setting up the Minneapolis Blower Door to determine the air leakiness in this home.  The blower door test must be performed during the Weatherization audit in order to assess what work needs to be completed to improve air quality through ventilation, while reducing energy consumption and cost by minimizing air infiltration.  Over the past 23 years, the agency and its staff have weatherized hundreds of homes helping low-income families and individuals stay warmer in the winter months and cooler in the summer months.    

People’s Choice  


Organization:  South Western Oklahoma Development Authority  

The Story:  A young, entrepreneurial couple found their purpose in the small community of Sentinel, Oklahoma, when they remodeled an old car into the Red Barn Café and Drive Thru. As the only restaurant in Sentinel, it makes a positive impact on the tax base for this community of 900. This couple continues to support the community by purchasing and upgrading older homes to provide much-needed housing for area families. 


Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments


Organization:  Region Nine Development Commission (MN)

The Story:  The Wildwood Scenic Park, located just south of the City of Eagle Lake, MN, is a favorite spot among many, especially in the fall. Wildwood has a total of 28 acres in three parcels lying on alternate sides of the river. To retain the area’s natural state, the park only provides a parking area, nature trail, and canoe access to the river. Visitors can enjoy nature hikes, canoeing, fishing, and so much more at this beautiful scenic park. 

Building Vibrant Places


Organization:  Region 9 Economic Development District (CO)

The Story:  It was a beautiful summer day in Durango, Colorado as crowds gathered downtown for the 2015 July 4th parade.  With the street blocked off to traffic, a local toy store was demonstrating a Blast Pad Air Bolt Advanced Missile Launch System in the middle of Main Avenue.  The anticipation of the parade began to build, and the kids would squeal with excitement as the foamy toy missiles launched up into the sky.  It was a typical All-American 4th of July day filled with families and friends enjoying the moment!

Investing in Our Regional Economy 


Organization:  Tri-County Council for Western Maryland

The Story:  FireFly Farm was purchased by Michael Koch and Pablo Sonnet, a chef, in 1997.  Through creativity, artisanship, and connecting with chefs and farmers’ market customers, they successfully created their own variety of goat cheeses.  Located in Accident (Garrett County), Maryland, FireFly Farms Creamery and Market produces and markets award-winning goat cheeses created through the purchase of goat milk from six local farms.  Collective Good is the FireFly Farms goat milk purchasing exchange that ensures quality sources of fresh milk from valued local partners.  The market specializes in selling and pairing varieties of cheeses with wines, creating gift crates, and marketing other delectable treats for everyday dining and entertaining needs.   

Sustaining Our Communities


Organization:  Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District (OH)

The Story:  An Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) mission entitled the ‘Ohio River Medical Mission’ was held in Pomeroy, Ohio, during early June 2015. The Innovative Readiness Training is a Department of Defense program that provides training opportunities for branches of the US Military in preparation for possible deployment or event response. This particular mission provided no-cost medical, dental, vision, and veterinary services to the residents of Meigs County, Ohio and the surrounding areas. The event provided health care services to nearly 3,000 individuals over the ten day project period. Services were provided by Army Reserve Medical Units from Lexington, Kentucky, as well representatives from the U.S. Navy.  The vehicle shown in the picture is a mobile health clinic provided by the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. This vehicle was available at the IRT event and provided free health screenings, as well as breast and cervical screenings for residents. 



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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