Congratulations to the 2017 NADO Photo Contest Winners!

Congratulations to the 2017 NADO Photo Contest winners and runners-up!  This year, over 150 images were submitted from members across the country that demonstrated what makes their regions great places to live, work, and play.  Images were judged in five categories:  “Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments,” “Building Vibrant Places,” “Investing in Our Communities,” “Sustaining Our Communities,” and a special “50 Year Retrospective” category to mark NADO’s Golden Anniversary.  A “People’s Choice” winner was also chosen online by the public via our Facebook page where over 2,300 votes were cast.

Thanks to all of our members who participated this year and congratulations again to our winners!  Remember, it’s never too early to start snapping creative photos for next year’s contest.   

To view all of the photos that were submitted in this year’s contest, click here.


Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Upper Cumberland Development District (TN)   

The Story:  This photo was taken from Welch Point, in the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in White County. Welch Point is an overlook which views the gorge created where the Caney Fork River cut into the Cumberland Plateau. From Welch Point one can see unbroken wilderness for miles which is part of a long greenway of public lands including Fall Creek Falls State Park, Bridgestone Firestone WMA, Bledsoe State Forest, Lost Creek State Natural Area (SNA), Dog Cove SNA, and Virgin Falls SNA. Hidden below the canopy are some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. Like a window into the underworld, the waterfalls emerge from caves and return to them. People of all skill levels can enjoy this place on its many trails or blueways. Through photography, videography and GIS, the Upper Cumberland Development District helps support the marketing efforts of region including representing the 14-county area in FDI markets.

Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (VA)

The Story:  Since 2012, the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission’s RIDE Solutions program has organized a series of events called Art by Bus, bringing together the visual, performing, and written arts and putting them on the Roanoke Valley’s public transportation system.  A feature of Art by Bus is the Star Line Series, which places local musicians on the Star Line Trolley, the free downtown circulator that serves an important corridor between Roanoke’s central business district, Roanoke Memorial Hospital, and the Virginia-Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute.  Musicians performing in a range of styles from American to horn quartets to country guitar play in short, round-trip busking sessions that more often than not surprise riders who weren’t expecting a live show.  By connecting arts and transit, RIDE Solutions hopes to make riding the bus more attractive, and shows the important connections that public transportation form in our community.  In this photo, Lucy de los Rios (left) and Jordan Peery (right) of the local band Another RoadSide Attraction perform during an afternoon Star Line Series show.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Imperial Calcasieu Regional Planning and Development Commission (LA)

The Story:  Southwest Louisiana is experiencing unprecedented growth with a large number of LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) plant constructions and expansions. There is, however, a rich diversity to the economy and culture of Southwest Louisiana not related to this industrial growth that includes coastal seafood.  Our coastal waters are home to seafood products that are sent throughout the US.  Many of these shrimp boats are family owned and operated and some have been in families for generations. This industry exemplifies the Louisiana way of life:  resilient, independent, and utilizing the resources of the land.

The Louisiana seafood industry generates about $2.4 billion for the state and is a significant economic generator for Southwest Louisiana. IMCAL, the regional planning commission for the five parishes in the area, assists with helping to identify and secure public infrastructure for the variety of businesses that either sell, buy, or prepare seafood. Helping our public partners such as ports and municipalities plan for expansion help these businesses continue.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Region Nine Development Commission (MN)   

The Story:  Region Nine Development Commission understands the region is currently in the midst of changing demographics that are uniquely impacting rural communities and recognizes the lack of equity within these changing demographics. The commission sees the importance of building connections among neighbors as a component of community development. Region Nine brought the It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race, a program of the YWCA Mankato, to rural communities in Region Nine to provide a platform to build awareness and have meaningful dialogues about race. The goal was to weave threads of understanding among neighbors to strengthen the fabric of the community.

 50 Years Retrospective

Organization:  Alamo Area Council of Governments (TX)   

The Story:  This photo was taken at an AACOG Executive Committee Meeting in late 1968.  AACOG’s first Executive Director, Al J. Notzon III, was recognizing AACOG’s first Board Chairman, Blair Reeves, with a plaque. Judge Reeves subsequently served as Bexar County Judge and Presiding Judge of the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals. Pictured in the background are former San Antonio Councilman Glen Hartman, Mr. Notzon’s wife, Angela Notzon, former Kerr County Judge Julius Neunhoffer, former Bexar County Judge and Congressman Albert Bustamante, former San Antonio Mayor Lila Cockrill, and former Boerne Mayor Art Howell.  The photo was taken by Gloria C. Arriaga, AACOG’s second Executive Director.

People’s Choice 

Organization:  Region XII Council of Governments (IA)   

The Story:  Shelly Codner works for Region XII COG as a representative for the Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE).  IWE is a free, confidential, non-regulatory program of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and administered by the COG and three partners, including two other NADO members. Since 1990, the program has diverted nearly 3.5 million tons of waste and saved nearly $86 million by keeping this waste out of landfills and diverting it to value added uses. Among the services performed by IWE are waste audits/sorts. A waste audit is a process of separating onsite waste in order to quantify the amount and type of waste being generated. This data is vital in identifying the need for and feasibility of potential waste reduction initiatives.

In response to a nationwide waste reduction initiative, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Des Moines contacted Shelly, their IWE Resource Specialist, who working beside Habitat staff and community volunteers, assisted in performing a waste sort for their Des Moines ReStore (pictured here).  Data from this waste sort was compiled and has been and will continue to be used to facilitate waste reduction and recycling activities as part of Habitat’s sustainability mission. During this particular waste sort, just over 3 tons of waste material was sorted with 63% of the waste stream consisting of wood. IWE and Habitat continue to seek alternative options for wood and all potentially reusable/recyclable materials.


Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Sweetgrass Development (MT)    

The Story:  This photo, taken in early June 2017, shows the scenic Black Eagle Falls located in Great Falls, Montana. The falls are the first in a series of five waterfalls that make up the Great Falls of the Missouri River. The iconic falls were significant in the writings by Meriwether Lewis in 1805. In 1890, a timber and rock dam was built at the falls to supply electricity for a copper smelter. It was the first hydroelectric dam built in Montana.  In 1926, a second concrete dam was built to replace the original dam that still lies submerged in the reservoir behind the dam. This photo depicts the incredible history of the region, energy sustainability, and the promise of future development.  Sweetgrass Development is an Economic Development District comprised of a five county region in North Central Montana including Glacier, Cascade, Pondera, Teton, and Toole Counties. The mission and objectives of the organization are to assist the governments and citizens in each county and the Blackfeet Nation achieve their economic goals, while preserving their distinct cultures and way of life.

 Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Tri-County Council for Western Maryland  

The Story:  The Autumn Glory Parade is part of the annual celebration of fall in Oakland, a historic western Maryland county seat. Maryland State Police estimate that over 50,000 people attend the 4-day celebration. Oakland has a population of nearly 2,000, and historically, presidents and other prominent figures have made this area their vacation destination since the 1800s, including Ulysses S. Grant, James Garfield, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison. Oakland was included in Smithsonian Magazine’s “20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2017” and is a state and nationally recognized Main Street Community. Tri-County Council for Western Maryland continues to be an integral force for economic development, advancing infrastructure, supporting tourism, and providing small business loans in this area since 1971.

Investing in Our Regional Economy 

Organization:  Lamoille County Planning Commission (VT)  

The Story:  Today, while only 17% of land in Lamoille County is actively used for agriculture, farming continues to play an important role in shaping the economy and character of the county. Agriculture is a critical part of the Vermont way of life and contributes to the county’s traditional settlement pattern by providing a diversity of land uses and open space that is characteristic of northern Vermont.  Traditionally, dairy farming was the predominant type of agriculture within the county. While dairy still remains an important component of the county’s agricultural industry, it is not as dominant as it once was.

While the number of dairy farms has declined, the emergence of new agricultural products has led some to say that Vermont is experiencing an “Agricultural Renaissance.” New agricultural products being produced in Lamoille County include organic farming, wine making, organic beef, seed and nursery production, and specialty products such as cheese and bread. Visiting an agricultural enterprise to enjoy, be educated, or participate in an activity has taken on a life of its own. Agricultural operations in Lamoille County have diversified their offerings, hosting farm‐to‐table dinners and events, adding special events barns, hosting corn mazes, and providing opportunities to enjoy the scenery and inner workings of an active farm. These activities allow agricultural operations to earn new income and cater to larger audiences of visitors to the region.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OH)  

The Story:  Pictured is Luna Keeton, daughter of OVRDC staff person Jessica Keeton and her husband, Randall. Luna, shown here investigating some flowers on her family’s farm, is the beginning of the fifth generation of her family to reside on the farm. The Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission works with federal and state partners like the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Ohio Department of Transportation to give Appalachian Ohioans in the region greater opportunity to thrive in their communities and prevent outmigration by fostering economic and community development. OVRDC assists with the development of critical infrastructure, education, healthcare, and workforce projects that will help Luna’s generation thrive too, without leaving home.

 50 Years Retrospective

Organization:  Upper Savannah Council of Governments (SC) 

The Story:  Greenwood, SC is shown as it looked in 1967 when Upper Savannah Council of Governments was first organized.  The “World’s Broadest Main Street” was divided by a railroad track at the time guarded by a few solitary trees.  With assistance from federal programs such as Community Development Block Grants and the Economic Development Administration, Uptown Greenwood has become a more pedestrian-friendly destination with thriving specialty shops and restaurants. At the same time, Upper Savannah COG has grown as a forum for bringing together regional leaders and as a resource for much-needed technical assistance and planning.  Greenwood and the rest of the Upper Savannah COG region look forward to working together for the next fifty years of prosperity and progress.


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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