Congratulations to the 2019 NADO Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to the 2019 NADO Photo Contest winners and runners-up!  This year, nearly 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 four categories:  “Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments,” “Building Vibrant Places,” “Investing in Our Communities,” and “Sustaining Our Communities.”  A “People’s Choice” winner was also chosen online by the public via our Facebook page where 1,400 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.


Building Vibrant Places

Organization: Coastal Regional Commission of Georgia

The Story:  Looking east on Broad Street, this photo was taken during the 2018 Darien Fall Fest as part of the planning process for the Downtown Darien Plan. The Coastal Regional Commission of Georgia has been working with the City of Darien to update the overall vision for its downtown and to revise previous concepts and design ideas in order to enable the city, property owners, and citizens to make informed, strategic decisions about future developments and enhancements.

A historic community with a diverse mix of people, architecture, and attractions, the City of Darien is Coastal Georgia’s hidden gem. The aesthetics of the area, including live oak canopies, expansive marshland vistas, and barrier islands, create a distinctive environment that defines Darien as a coastal area of unmatched natural beauty.  Downtown Darien seeks to be a destination for those who attend its farmers market, stroll along the riverbank, shop and dine along Broad Street, relax in its parks, or attend worship services at one of its historic churches.

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  North Carolina Department of Transportation   

The Story: On May 10, 1869, the iconic photo celebrating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad at Promontory, Utah was taken by legendary photographer Andrew Russell.  Union Pacific Railroad’s “No. 119” on the right, and Central Pacific’s “Jupiter” on the left, were positioned where the “Golden Spike” was driven, marking the joining of the nation by rail.  150 years later, the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division recreated the iconic photo at its Raleigh Locomotive and Railcar Maintenance Facility.  NCDOT’s “Piedmont” passenger equipment and employees were staged in a similar line up to the historic photograph including officials shaking hands and the celebratory toast.  NCDOT Photographer Katy Warner and Rail Division Deputy Director Allan Paul are credited with carefully staging the modern recreation.

NCDOT also celebrated this historic anniversary by offering $1 tickets on May 10 and 11 on the State-Sponsored Piedmonts between Raleigh and Charlotte.  The 150th Anniversary promotion was a huge success producing record ridership and general awareness of NCDOT’s passenger rail program.  NCDOT continues to be an integral force for economic development, advancing infrastructure, supporting tourism, and providing effective transportation in the southeast US.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Buckeye Hills Regional Council (OH)

The Story:   This photo features a typesetter at work at Sewah Studios in Marietta, Ohio. The hand-set letters will be used to make a mold for sand-casting one of the 1,200 historical markers the company makes each year. Founded in 1927 by E. M. Hawes, the company was a pioneer in its use of cast aluminum in roadside markers for automobile tourists. Today, the cast markers made by Sewah Studios can be found all across the United States, highlighting historic points of interest.

Now in its third generation of family ownership and with over 20 employees, Sewah Studios has been a featured site during the Entrepreneur/Manufacturing Camp hosted by partner organization Building Bridges to Careers (BB2C) to show area youth the job possibilities in local industries. BB2C was founded in Washington County, Ohio in 2012 by a dedicated group of education, community, and business leaders with the goal of creating a K-12 college and career readiness continuum. It is part of the Appalachian Ohio Innovation Gateway Network, which was established in 2017 with a $1.2 million Appalachian Regional Commission POWER grant.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Mid-Columbia Economic Development District (OR)

The Story:  MCEDD serves a bi-state region composed of three counties in Oregon (Hood River, Wasco, and Sherman) and two counties in Washington (Skamania and Klickitat) that all border the magnificent Columbia River.  MCEDD is the lead agency for the Gorge TransLink Alliance, a partnership of five rural transportation providers in the Columbia River Gorge that was established in 2001 to promote a coordinated regional transportation system.  The Alliance works with key community stakeholders to ensure that all community members have access to equitable and accessible mobility options.

This photo captures a regular trolley rider as she disembarks at a bus stop near her home after enjoying a local festival down at the Hood River waterfront park.  At 96 years old, she hasn’t driven a car for over 15 years, but continues to participate in community and social events thanks to the local and regionally connected public transportation system.  The Hood River Pink Trolley is the result of a partnership with Providence Health and Services, the City of Hood River, and Columbia Area Transit.  This partnership funds a weekend seasonal trolley service that meets the diverse needs of the community, bringing residents from low income areas to the local farmers market, families to the waterfront park, and visitors to a very busy downtown core.  Public transportation connects the significant number of residents and visitors who do not or cannot drive—seniors, youth, disabled, low-income—to community vitality and opportunity.

People’s Choice

Organization:  West Alabama Regional Commission        

The Story:  The West Alabama Regional Commission was designated as the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for West Alabama in 1973.  WARC covers seven counties in the West Alabama region including Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Pickens and Tuscaloosa.  This photo, taken in Gordo, Alabama, showcases the spirit and strength of a generation that thrives when being able to keep their independence by living in their own home. The Area Agency on Aging of West Alabama distributes funds for the provision of services to older adults, helps agencies and local governments plan services for elderly and disabled persons, and provides information and available resources to those needing assistance as well as their caregivers. Through the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC), the AAA is the single point of entry for those seeking local, long-term services and support.  The agency’s goal is to enable people to maintain their independence as long as possible and to improve the dignity and quality of life in West Alabama.


Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Central Florida Regional Planning Council  

The Story:  Hamrick Butterfly Garden was developed after Okeechobee Main Street was awarded a grant from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs for a public art sculpture project to be installed in downtown Okeechobee. The City of Okeechobee approved the project to be installed in Flagler Park. The garden consists of eight large metal butterflies, designed and painted by local artists, high school students, and assisted living facility residents. The City and the community worked together to create a vibrant place for visitors to enjoy the beauty of the gardens when they come downtown to support the local businesses.  The photo was taken in August 2019 as part of a tour for CFRPC staff to get acquainted with what the city has to offer and identify assets in the community for the development of an Economic Development strategy.

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Development Bank of American Samoa  

The Story:  This photo was taken at one of the popular scenic views known as “Camel Rock” in the village of Laulii, American Samoa.  American Samoa is located 1,600 miles northeast of New Zealand and 2,200 miles southwest of the U.S. state of Hawaii, with an estimated population of about 58,000 people. American Samoa is surrounded by breathtaking views such as this.  The Development Bank of American Samoa (DBAS)  was established in 1969 by a Public Law 11-40 of the American Samoa government. DBAS is always looking for opportunities to enhance and cultivate the natural environment and resources within the islands to develop homes, businesses, and tourist attractions. Its goal and mission statement is to serve the people of American Samoa by providing economic and development needs of the community through affordable financial services.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments

The Story:  The Patio Drive In in Blanding, Utah was founded in the 1950s and has been open ever since. It is the oldest operating business of its type on southeastern Utah. A decade ago it was purchased by Ricky and Lana Arthur who have worked hard to reinvent the drive in and keep its style 1950s, yet make it completely modern. They were able to obtain an SBA loan and a loan from the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments Revolving Loan Fund to renovate the business.  That fund is set up for small businesses that struggle to qualify for regular financial institution loans. They also were able to receive a HVAC grant and a Utah Governors of Economic Development board Fast Track Grant to help with the rebuilding of this iconic drive in.  This beloved restaurant is situated in the area of natural wonders and is bordered by Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, Monument Valley, and the Lake Powell National Recreation Area. The lines during tourist season are unbelievable, as locals and tourists from all over the world come to eat food that is known as some of the best in southeastern Utah.     

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Region XII Council of Governments (IA)

The Story:  One man’s junk is another’s treasure, as this photo depicts. Taken at Preservation Sunday in Clear Lake, IA, the goal of the event was to educate attendees regarding sustainability in accordance with the waste management hierarchy – reduce, reuse, recycle, renew. For the COG-administered Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE), the event was an opportunity to educate attendees regarding conserving resources and the value of upcycling and reuse in tangible form. The photo shows promotional items displayed and distributed to attendees IWE staff members from Region XII COG. Instead of purchasing and distributing traditional promotional swag, Iowa-themed magnets were created from upcycled floor tile samples and repurposed advertising magnets that had previously been rescued from two of IWE’s client companies.

IWE is a program of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, administered by Region XII COG in partnership with other COGs and a community colleges throughout the state.  The main objective of IWE is to divert materials from Iowa’s landfills. Since 1990, IWE has assisted approximately 60,000 businesses, municipalities, non profits, and individuals in diverting over 4 million tons of material from Iowa landfills saving Iowans over $110 million.

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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