With over 600 attendees from 40 states and the District of Columbia representing 188 organizations and two federal agencies, the 2016 Annual Training Conference: Taking a Stand for Regional Development had a broad range of economic development practitioners, planners, and policymakers on hand in San Antonio, Texas October 15-18. Over the course of four days attendees were able to participate in 13 breakout sessions, 12 learning labs, seven mobile workshops, four conversation cafés, three plenary sessions, and numerous peer networking events including the Annual Innovations Award Roundtable Reception, the Opening Reception, the Young Professionals Meetup, and the President’s Award Dinner. NADO members in attendance were also able to learn more about the organization’s governing process by attending regional caucus meetings, the 2016 Annual Business Meeting, and a Board of Directors Meeting. New this year was Coffee with NADO’s Executive Committee, an informal opportunity to get to know the organization’s leadership.
A wide range of topics important to regional development organizations were covered at the conference. Learning Labs examined the mechanics of creating wealth in rural communities; strategies for positioning RDOs for the future; best practices for new executive directors and RDO board members; creating opportunities for rural climate dialogue; supporting rural entrepreneurship; Department of Defense economic adjustment programs; improving the CEDS, methods to reach all segments of your community; brownfields funding and green infrastructure; and building healthy workforce ecosystems. Conversation cafés provided an atmosphere for pure peer learning and information sharing with topics ranging from aging programs delivery to staff retention to workforce strategies to the new overtime rule. Breakout sessions offered attendees a glimpse at the best and most promising practices of their peers – topics included building strong media campaigns, health and economic development, building resilient communities, transportation and economic development, bicycle/pedestrian initiatives, and helping small businesses succeed. Other breakouts covered the OMB guidelines, indirect cost negotiations, regional broadband development, and data-driven decision making. The presentation slides from the conference have been archived online and are available here.
As always, a slate of mobile workshops took the learning to the streets, river, brownfields, and quarries of San Antonio. Attendees learned about the economic importance of the Riverwalk to the city’s tourism sector, ways that the region’s quarries are being turned into community and economic centers, the strategic location of Port San Antonio, the positive impact of the designation of the city’s missions as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, how an old brewery was developed into a vibrant economic hub, and how coworking spaces are helping local small businesses and start-ups thrive.
NADO is very grateful that Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams, Deputy Assistant for Regional Affairs Tom Guevara, and the six EDA regional directors (Leonard Smith, Seattle; Jorge Ayala, Austin; Jeannette Tamayo, Chicago; Linda Cruz-Carnall, Philadelphia; Philip Paradice, Atlanta; and Angela Belden Martinez, Denver) were able to attend the conference, participate in the luncheon plenary session on Monday, and meet with NADO leadership on the future of EDA. Assistant Secretary Williams reflected on the positive relationship between EDA, NADO, and EDDs throughout his tenure.
In addition to remarks from Assistant Secretary Williams, Austin Regional Director Jorge Ayala recognized the 10 participants of the EDD Emerging Leader Pilot Project which the NADO Research Foundation conducted over the past year.
During the President’s Award Dinner, Immediate Past President Jeff Kiely honored Ken Jones, former Executive Director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Regional Council (McAllen, TX) with the 2016 President’s Award for his many years of leadership on NADO’s board as well as his long tenure as an outstanding economic development practitioner in his region.
Be sure to stay tuned to www.nado.org (http://www NULL.nado NULL.org) in the coming months for information about NADO’s 2017 ATC which coincides with our 50th Anniversary. The 2017 ATC will occur in Anchorage, Alaska, September 9 – 12. See you there!