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].


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]

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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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