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‘Iowa’s Creative Corridor’ new regional brand for 7-county area

George C. Ford, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa –

A two-year rebranding effort involving more than 1,500 people has produced a new name, Iowa’s Creative Corridor, for the region formerly known as Iowa’s Technology Corridor.

The new brand name and double helix logo were unveiled last Friday morning at Kirkwood Community College.

John Lohman, a member of the Corridor Business Alliance task force that spearheaded the rebranding initiative, said Iowa’s Creative Corridor was selected to more accurately convey the region’s blend of art, science and technology.

Lohman, publisher of the Corridor Business Journal, said the “Corridor” also is formally defined as the seven-county region along Interstate 380 served by Kirkwood.

Kirkwood serves Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington counties. The 4,400-square-mile Iowa’s Creative Corridor is home to more than 445,000 residents, more than two dozen municipalities, multiple higher education facilities, dozens of arts organizations, the internationally-known Iowa Writers Workshop, and nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies.

Chuck Peters, who also served on the CBA task force, said “creative” work goes well beyond the arts, science and technology.

“The word creative comes from the root word ‘creator’ and we are all creators whether you’re a farmer planting your field, someone designing or building avionics, or whatever you do,” said Peters, president and chief executive officer of SourceMedia Group. “That is the value-added activity in the world. Many things are becoming commodities, but to actually create and implement something new is valuable.”

Nancy Quellhorst, president and CEO of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, said the strong relationships that have developed among public and private members of the CBA. which was formed in December 2008, will help area businesses grow, prosper and create additional employment.

“We will start to think of each other when we embark on new business initiatives,” Quellhorst said. “We will know what each of us is working on and maybe we can work through this together. There are many other public-private initiatives that can take place now that we have developed these close relationships.”

Curt Nelson, president of the Entrepreneurial Development Center in Cedar Rapids, said the CBA’s Regional Economic Development Roadmap is unusual because it was developed jointly by representatives of public entities and private businesses and organizations. The plan details specific steps to implement economic, community and transportation development in the seven-county region.

“Doug Elliott, executive director of the East Central Iowa Council of Governments. would say that’s the first time it has ever happened in Iowa and maybe one of the first times it has happened on a national basis,” Nelson said. “That’s really of huge value to this region as it moves forward.”

Dee Baird, president and CEO of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, said the next critical step will be implementing the numerous strategies contained in the Regional Economic Development Roadmap through alliances and partnerships.

“We need to figure out how we take all of this work that we’ve done over the last two years and allow all of these organizations and individuals to understand the story, understand the narrative, and take it to make it their own,” Baird said.

The CBA hired North Star Destinations Strategies, a Nashville, Tenn., branding firm, to assist it with the regional branding process. Research conducted by North Star found most people in Iowa’s Creative Corridor were unfamiliar with the extent of the region’s accomplishments and what the seven-county area has to offer.

Lohman said a video has been created to show what the region has accomplished in various fields as well as what the seven counties have to offer existing and new residents and businesses.

The CBA is an affiliation of 13 area economic development organizations, businesses, educational institutions and governmental entities committed to regional economic development.

CBA members include Alliant Energy, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Entrepreneurial Development Center, Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, Iowa City Area Development Group, Kirkwood Community College, MidAmerican Energy, Kirkwood’s Small Business Development Center, The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Iowa, University of Iowa Research Foundation, University of Iowa Small Business Development Center and East Central Iowa Council of Governments.

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