‘Better together’ is right message


We have continually been impressed by the collaboration and vision of Johnson County’s economic development organizations and their leaders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has been a four-way collaboration between the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD), Think Iowa City, the Iowa City Downtown District and the Iowa City Business Partnership, led respectively by Kate Moreland, Josh Schamberger, Nancy Bird and Kim Casko.

This collaboration has the tagline “we’re better together,” a sentiment we strongly share. At first these organizations came together to help facilitate and unify communication to the business community and their stakeholders through a website and emails. They keenly grasped the pointlessness of using four different organizations and four different people to communicate the same message to virtually the same audience.

These leaders have been able to put away egos and subvert the credit so often coveted by economic development leaders to think about how they can do things better. It has saved time, energy and resources, which has been the theory behind regionalism all along.

Now they have launched Project Better Together, an initiative to help the community recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the project, the four partner organizations also announced the formation of a community-wide network and the appointment of a project director.

The Better Together Network includes a coalition of leaders from the cities of Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty; Johnson County, and the University of Iowa.

Project Better Together aims to build a transformed future for our community with greater economic diversity, growth, inclusivity, resilience, and well-being for all. The four organizations announced the appointment of former president and  CEO of ICAD, Mark Nolte, to serve as director of the initiative.

“Truly effective recovery and renewal will require an unprecedented level of new collaboration across our entire economic ecosystem,” said Ms. Moreland, president and CEO of ICAD, in a release. “This is a critical time to come together, be proactive, and look to the future. As we have seen over the past eight weeks of working more collaboratively amongst just our four organizations, we have been able to accelerate the manner in which we get information and resources to our community.”

We have never accomplished great regional cooperation and strategy because we have never had a burning platform. The COVID-19 pandemic has lit a fire that threatens our regional economy’s very foundations.

What these four leaders have accomplished in such a short time could become an operational model on a more regional scale. This is more important than ever due to the diminished resources our local governments and institutions can expect, as the COVID-19 pandemic cuts into business revenues, tax collections and fees collected for government services.

We can all be better together, but only if we try.  CBJ