Iowa's Creative Corridor
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) —
Right now there are many forces at work to grow and strengthen our local economy, from nurturing young minds for tomorrow's jobs to fostering a quality of life that's second to none. Many of these efforts go unseen and you may not think you have a role to play. But if you live within the seven county region in eastern Iowa known as Iowa's Creative Corridor, officials say it's as simple as taking ownership.
"We need people to be telling the story about why this is a great place to build a career and build a life and identify it with the regional brand," says Dee Baird, President and CEO of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. She and ICAD Group President, Mark Nolte, know that with unemployment here less than four percent, growing the region's workforce to attract new companies is their biggest challenge. So their respective economic development groups are now working in official partnership to promote Iowa's Creative Corridor to the world. "We have to. You know, we're not big enough on our own- you can even argue the state of Iowa isn't big enough on its own- to market to the globe," explains Nolte. "So, the smarter we can be about marshalling resources together and having a common identity, that's what has to happen."
The groups adopted that common identity -Iowa's Creative Corridor- several years ago based on community research. Baird says it's not just a flashy marketing campaign; it's who we are individually and collectively. "The citizens are really important," says Baird. "Their contributions to their workplace, their contributions to their family, their contributions to their church or their school system is what creates this unique creative place. And we have the ability here, the time, to do whatever we want to do."
That is well represented at CreativeCorridor.co, a comprehensive website that has now been operational for one year. Kathy Kaiser, Executive Director of Marketing for Kirkwood Community College, oversees the website. "We do everything from the creative storiesnow; the creative stories can be things that are going on in the arts community, to what's going on with the entrepreneurs, to the Created in the Corridor Series. We've got a lot of video on the site. We've also got a lot of interaction with our calendar."
Businesses and other organizations are welcome to post content on the calendar and invite the public to events. And given all the resources on the site, it's getting hits from all over the country. "We really expected to see the 18-24 year olds really dial into this because we share so many events and things to do in the area, but we found that we have people of all ages that are checking this out," exclaims Kaiser.
Adam Kuene is a founding partner of Higher learning Technologies, a rapidly growing startup company in Coralville. He uses the website as a recruiting tool for HLT which needs to attract good talent. "Being able to show that this is a great place, not just from a tech scene but to raise a family, to start your career, to grow your career and make some invaluable connections is a great opportunity for us," explains Kuene.
Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust President, Larry Helling, agrees and believes linking to CreativeCorridor.co adds value to his website. "Competition is places like Des Moines, Omaha, Denver and we've got to make ourselves as attractive as possible to those kind of people who want to be here."
Creative Corridor Brand Manager, Dawn Jones, is constantly out in the community educating people about the initiative and encouraging people to sign up for its weekly email Digest. "It's a timely thing for the week. It comes out on Monday afternoon and you can find out what's going on during the week and you can find out the stories that are occurring."
Baird and Nolte will tell you that the Creative Corridor initiative still has a long way to go. But the fact is, the population growth of this area is outpacing the state, so if we just brag a little more about what we have here, people will come calling. "Almost 70,000 visitors last year (accessed) the job portal. And 14,000 applications from 35, 36 states and we lead with this is Iowa's Creative Corridor," says Baird.
The Creative Corridor website has a place where you can sign up for the weekly Digest and even download all the branding materials for your own use. You can do that HERE.