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Greater Iowa City, Inc. launched its first event as an entity on Wednesday, Nov. 16, four months after the organization formally assembled. The Hyatt Regency in Coralville saw a packed house as businesses from across Johnson County gathered to observe the inauguration of the new organization. The evening began with a cocktail hour, followed by dinner and a virtual introduction by CIVCO president and Greater Iowa City’s transition executive board chair Robin Therme, who highlighted Greater Iowa City’s potential to make a difference. Our country, state and community are constantly changing, said Ms. Therme, and it’s not enough to simply keep up with the change. “We need to drive change,” she said, emphasizing Greater Iowa City’s role in leading local economic development. Greater Iowa City, Inc., launched in July after the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD) and the Iowa City Area Business Partnership recommended a merger in October 2022. The new entity is continuing the objectives and services of ICAD and Business Partnership, with the exception of providing open access to every small or emerging business, treating them as a member, and integrating its services with Better Together 2030 (BT2030), leading efforts on implementing the community’s All In Vision Plan. Greater Iowa City Inc.’s president and CEO, Nancy Bird, reiterated the organization’s mission to serve all businesses within Johnson County and the importance of community dialogue, stating that the mission isn’t just “about dollars and cents,” but promoting productivity and efficiency in small, but effective, steps. “Incrementally, we’ve made major strides,” she said. Beth Goetz, University of Iowa interim director of athletics chair and guest speaker, discussed the importance of being part of a team in reference to local entities partnering with Greater Iowa City. “There’s something empowering in being part of a team,” she said, and discussed the qualities of the Iowa City area that sets it apart from other cities. Upon her arrival in Iowa City prior to taking on her role at UI, she received a gift basket from the city in her hotel room as a welcome gift. “Something is different here,” she said, “something is special.” Much like a team, organizations require a shared alignment and goals. “Nobody is bigger than the team,” she said, adding that most teams need an “all in” attitude from its players, and followed up with a statement that UI is “all in” with Greater Iowa City Inc. Both are references to the organization's commitment to Iowa City’s “Better Together 2030” and “All In Vision Plan.” Jennie Wunderlich, president of Studio H2O and PSC Distribution, V Fixmer-Oraiz, founder & CEO at Astig Planning LLC, and Nick Lindsley, associate principal at Neumann Monson Architects, were local business leaders who encouraged the audience to embrace a partnership with Greater Iowa City, citing the benefits to community and self. Mx. Fixmer-Oraiz, who uses the gender-neutral honorific and whose business just celebrated five years, said their goal as a business leader and Johnson County supervisor is to create a welcoming environment within the community and remove barriers to accessible help so individuals can be “authentically more arrived.” As a BIPOC and LGBTQ+ business leader, Mx. Fixmer-Oraiz recounted how they felt welcomed at MERGE Iowa City and seeks to do the same for others, which is why involvement in Greater Iowa City is so important. MERGE is operated by Greater Iowa City and helps entrepreneurs launch their businesses. “Economic development is our community,” they said, recounting an investment of $1.6 million to provide childcare services with funding to increase caretaker wages by $2 an hour, a collaboration between Johnson County, the city of Iowa City, and local businesses. Child care is a vital necessity to working families.