Congratulations to the 2020 NADO Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to the 2020 NADO Photo Contest winners and runners-up!  This year, nearly 120 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 Regional Economy,” “Sustaining Our Communities,” and “COVID-19 Response & Recovery.”  A “People’s Choice” winner was also chosen online by the public via our Facebook page where over 500 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.  Please direct any questions to Brett Schwartz at [email protected].


Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Arrowhead Regional Development Corporation (MN)  

The Story:  

Looking west on Superior Street in downtown Duluth, Minnesota, this photo was taken in February 2020 during Zeitgeist Community’s Winter Bike Week: Bites & Bikes Tour. Duluth has been a Bicycle-Friendly Community since 2013, but the community continues to improve the bicycle and pedestrian networks in the city that won Outside Magazine’s “Best Outdoor City” bragging rights in 2014. Winter Bike Week seeks to showcase that people want and need to bike and walk for transportation and recreation all months of the year.

The “Bites & Bikes Tour” event paired a slow roll three-mile bike ride from Duluth’s Downtown to its new craft district Lincoln Park, where a local cidery hosted a catered lunch by a local restaurant. The event included a speaker from the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council (a division of the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission), which also helped promote the family-friendly, educational, and fun activities. Winter Bike Week connected people to businesses and local public resources while informing participants about future developments and calls to action for improving access in Duluth’s non-motorized transportation network.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Alamo Area Council of Governments (TX)

The Story:   

Pictured is Diane Rath, AACOG Executive Director, and Brigadier General Laura Lenderman, Commander of the 502d Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA), signing the first ever Blanket Intergovernmental Support Agreement (IGSA) in the history of the United States Air Force. This new agreement will afford JBSA the opportunity to bring requirements they would normally fill through traditional federal contracting actions to AACOG; AACOG and its member governments could then fulfill these requirements through their own capabilities and local contractors.  This streamlines the procurement process, which is also expected to save millions of dollars for JBSA as the agreement matures.

Only one other Blanket IGSA exists, between the United States Army and the Presidio of Monterey Services Agency in Monterey, California.  This relationship has been in place for several decades, and according to the Army Audit Agency, saves the Presidio of Monterey an annual 22% in operation support costs.  The new AACOG-JBSA agreement takes this type of relationship and creates an opportunity for AACOG and its 70 member governments throughout the 13-county region.

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  River Valley Regional Commission (GA)

The Story:

Seniors from the Muscogee County area participate in a fresh produce service offered by the River Valley Regional Commission (RVRC).  One of the many roles that the RVRC plays in the 16-county region it serves is assisting the aging and disabled population through the programs and services provided by its specialized department, the Area Agency on Aging. One of the programs, the Senior’s Farmers’ Market, creates opportunities for seniors to buy fresh, local produce through a voucher program that is possible thanks to partnerships with the Department of Public Health, USDA, and local farmers. Through this program, the Area Agency on Aging provides hundreds of seniors in the region free access to local produce.

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Region Nine Development Commission (MN)

The Story: 

This photo was taken in Rasmussen Park off of the Red Jacket Trail in Mankato, MN. The Red Jacket Trail runs from Mankato to Rapidan, MN and follows a former railroad track that ran near the Blue Earth River and crosses the Le Sueur River.  Region Nine Development Commission wrote in support of the City of Mankato’s and Blue Earth County’s joint application to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission for Regional Designation of the Red Jacket Trail. This designation has the potential to assist both the Mankato and North Mankato area with continued community growth as well as offer more resources for maintenance and future trails connections.

COVID-19 Response & Recovery

Organization:  Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments

The Story:

This photo, taken at the Owens Senior Center in Limestone County, Alabama, captures the spirit of community, volunteerism, and strong partnerships between government, non-profit, and private sectors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  When the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments in Huntsville, Alabama, was presented with the opportunity to provide food boxes to senior citizens in its five-county region, the agency sprang into action by coordinating efforts with each Council on Aging in DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison, and Marshall Counties.  As a result, 20,440 food boxes containing fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, and other items were given to seniors throughout the summer months of 2020.

Volunteers from local civic organizations and churches assisted staff in handing out boxes weekly while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.  GA Foods, Alabama’s Senior Services Meals Program vendor, received this grant from the USDA Farm to Families Program.  The Alabama Department of Senior Services (ADSS) provided assistance in the coordination of this project with the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments.

People’s Choice

Organization:  Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments (SC)

The Story: 

With funding received from the CARES Act, Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments staff and board members packed 1,500 Cares Packages with masks, hand sanitizer, bathroom tissue, and sanitizing wipes for delivery to senior citizens in its four county region.  The packages were made possible due to the fact the COG secured a PPE distributor at the beginning of the pandemic when supplies were not readily available. The CARES Packages was an idea generated within the agency to find a creative way to keep local seniors safe during the pandemic. 


Building Vibrant Places

Organization:  Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments  

The Story:

This mural is on the back of the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments headquarters in an alleyway that is under a major transformation from an eyesore to a vibrant place.  To be part of that change, the COG partnered with the Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District and local Diné artist Marina Eskeets to develop this mural entitled “Óódááł | Everyone Moving Forward,” which depicts sheepherding as a traditional way of life and the storytelling that embodies that upbringing – with an eye to building a more resilient future.

Much more than a mural project, Marina Eskeets involved local high school art students, held several talks both in person and digitally, and collected sheepherding stories from area elders.  The entire COG staff was involved in prepping the wall for the artist, which proved to be a great team building exercise and also connected the COG’s work to the community it serves.  This project is part of the City of Gallup’s Alleyway Upgrade Program that aims to convert unappealing downtown alleyways into community portals that relocate all utilities sub-surface to allow for a safe and accessible pedestrian and bike-friendly experience that is anchored amongst big wall murals and design context amenities for all people.  The project reinforces the theme of everyone moving forward and creating vibrant and inclusive places.

Investing in Our Regional Economy

Organization:  Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments (NC)

The Story:

What happens when a local economy has access to a regional airport, flight instructors, and a regional community college? The result is an innovative approach to teach students how to properly and legally fly drones.  This photo represents a new, creative, and innovative partnership in teaching the art and technical skill of flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), better known as drones. Many people buy a drone, but find out afterward they’ve bought the wrong kind of machine for their use, or find the UAV almost impossible to control in a useful way.

The Vance-Granville Community College UAV program, in conjunction with the Triangle North Executive Airport and Total Flight Solutions professionals, now offer classes to help people learn to fly a UAV. It is a perfect pre-purchase drone class. These classes include a lot of hands-on time with a GPS-controlled, geo-fenced UAV. Participants use the school’s equipment to learn about all the different types of equipment and how to fly them properly, and use the airport’s space for flight practice. In conjunction with these flight control classes, Total Flight Solutions offer their professional preparation for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 Commercial Pilot examination. All but the very smallest of drones require this license to fly.  The Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments works closely with Franklin County Economic Development to promote the Triangle North Executive Park and Executive Airport for economic and workforce development in the region.  

Sustaining Our Communities

Organization:  Buckeye Hills Regional Council (OH)

The Story:  

Stacy Family Farm, in Marietta, Ohio, is among 45 local producers to participate in the Buckeye Hills Regional Council Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). The SFMNP is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Aging to allow income-eligible seniors the opportunity to enjoy locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey. Participants receive special coupons worth $50 to buy produce from authorized, participating farmers who sell at farmers markets or roadside stands, May through October. In 2020, more than 1,900 southeast Ohio seniors were able to purchase produce through the program.

Strengthening the Built and Natural Environments

Organization:  Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission (IL)

The Story:  

Southern Illinois is home to some of the most aesthetically pleasing lakes in the country. With an abundance of water bodies, water quality is a major concern. This photo was taken in 2020 at the Kinkaid Lake spillway utilizing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in Jackson County, Illinois. While Kinkaid Lake serves as a recreational destination for many anglers and outdoor enthusiasts, its main purpose is to supply water to municipalities in southern Illinois.
The Environmental Department at Greater Egypt is currently developing a watershed-based plan for the lake and surrounding watershed. These plans help to restore water quality in impaired waterbodies through a stakeholder-driven process. Once a watershed-based plan is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, funding becomes available for many management measures including shoreline stabilization and infrastructure enhancements.

COVID-19 Response & Recovery

Organization:  Eastern Maine Development Corporation

The Story:

In this photo, Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC) CEO Lee Umphrey talks with EMDC’s new Community and Business Services team. “In many ways the blending of business and community development makes the Community and Business Services department the core of our organization. We’re combining to serve municipalities and small businesses together alongside our workforce development, business lending, and government contracting programs,” says Umphrey.  The formation of this new team brings together team leader Dr. Vicki Rusbult, Director of Business and Community Development; Michael Elliott, Director of Economic Development for the Katahdin Region; Ryan Grindle, Regional Development Coordinator; and Cody Gilks, DBE Supportive Services Specialist.

The first major task of this team was to provide direct support to businesses and non-profits applying for funding through Maine’s Economic Grant Recovery Program. Funded by the CARES Act and created by Governor Janet Mills and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the program helps those impacted by COVID-19. In response to the pandemic, EMDC was nimble in shifting to distance communication by offering services, trainings, and technical support virtually. As a result, businesses, communities and people – including those in rural areas of Maine – have quick access to EMDC’s high-level of direct services.


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]

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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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