2018 Innovation Awards

The 2018 award winners have been announced!
Click here to view the complete list.  

Innovation Awards Background

Each year, NADO recognizes member organizations that demonstrate innovative approaches to regional economic and community development through our Innovation Awards program.  Over 1,500 NADO member projects have been recognized since 1986 for their creative efforts in advancing regional economic development and improved quality of life.  The breadth and scope of the winning projects is impressive and far-reaching and illustrates the important role NADO members have in supporting regional development.  Previous award-winning projects have showcased innovative efforts in a variety of program areas including business and economic development, community health initiatives, emergency planning, brownfields, sustainability, technology, transportation, workforce development, and many others.

Innovation winners have successfully leveraged their awards to bring additional resources to their regions and have also used the awards to better explain to their various audiences the important work they do.  NADO staff uses the award-winning projects to share yourcollective work on Capitol Hill and with federal agencies, as well as to provide peer-to-peer training and information sharing among the membership.

Benefits for Innovation Award Winners:

Positive local and national attention:

  • Award-winning projects gain national recognition via nado.org, NADO News, and are often featured in NADO Research Foundation reports and case studies.
  • NADO’s legislative and research teams tap into the great resource of Innovation Awards for testimony to Congress and as examples to share with federal agencies.
  • Awardees will receive an Innovation Award certificate, a press release, and have the opportunity to take their photo with NADO President Doug Elliott during a special photo session at NADO’s 2018 Annual Training Conference (ATC) in Charlotte, NC on October 13-16.  The certificate, photo, and press release will be sent to each awardee to announce the award and share it with regional partners, stakeholders, and media outlets.

Showcase your success and network with peers:

  • A special roundtable reception will showcase award-winning projects during NADO’s 2018 ATC. Winners are also sometimes included in best practice sessions during the conference (and in future conferences).
  • In addition to the roundtable reception at the ATC, awardees will have ample opportunities to talk with peers about their award-winning projects and share best practices.

Community and organization recognition:

  • Winning an Innovation Award presents awardees with numerous opportunities to build the reputation of their organization with the communities they serve, regional stakeholders, funders, and potential clients; and recognize staff for their hard work and dedication to the organization.


  • Only NADO members can apply for the award.
  • If multiple regional development organizations, such as members of a state association, would like to apply for an Innovation Award for a collaborative project, only one application needs to be submitted, but the lead applicant must be a current NADO member.
  • Only three applications per organization may be submitted.
  • Projects must show substantial quantitative or qualitative results in your region.  For a competitive application, address one or more of the following: uniqueness and level of innovation; regional impact; ability to be replicated; long-term viability and significance; inventive partnerships and collaborations; and/or creative funding mechanisms.


The 2018 application window is now closed.

We look forward to hearing about the impactful work you are doing to serve your region!  Follow NADO News and our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.

Questions?  Contact Brett Schwartz at [email protected] or Laurie Thompson at [email protected].