At long last. Iowa Ideas Conference 2017

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The end is near. Or rather, the beginning.

On behalf of The Gazette, I am truly excited and proud to host the inaugural Iowa Ideas Conference this coming Wednesday through Friday in downtown Cedar Rapids. There’s still time to engage with us and to join us — registration and the full schedule are at IowaIdeas.com.

Dozens of Gazette staff members, state and local community partners, and mentors across the globe have spent months working on a daunting — and fun — jigsaw puzzle of issues facing the state. We’ve highlighted some of the issues and those working on solutions through our new Iowa Ideas magazine, while earlier this year we met others as we held a series of sessions around the state. Each of these pieces has had a huge influence in building this year’s panel and keynote lineup.

It’s easy to get lost and feel overwhelmed in all of the challenges we face as Iowans today. Innovation and technological advances are occurring at a dizzying pace. We’re connecting in amazing ways while creating pressures and competition on a more intense, global scale. There are countless opportunities and need for leadership, yet the threats of political divide pose very real challenges. Hyperbole and talking points are en vogue, and agreeing on common facts seems more challenging than ever.

The Iowa Ideas puzzle we’ve been working on has lots of pieces and optimism. Ideas are being pursued at all levels — from volunteer to CEO — and in both the private sector and in communities of all sizes. It’s not a zero-sum game, and even small actions have yielded encouraging results.

When you create something new, you’re never quite sure how it will turn out. The goal of this week’s conference is to jump across topics, meet new people, find common ground or learn something that surprises or challenges you to act. Iowa Ideas won’t end this Friday afternoon. We expect our panelists to share ideas and updates that make news, and our team will write stories on those items. There will be plenty of questions about current events, but even more about where we go from here.

This conference serves as another milestone as we change how we gather and report information as a news organization, a starting point for many storylines we’ll be covering in the coming months. Our commitment is to use these conversations to help drive our future in-depth coverage as we continue to examine key issues and plan for what’s next for Iowa Ideas. This experience will present an opportunity for you to be part of the narrative, asking questions and engaging with thought leaders from Iowa and beyond as the ideas are being formed.

You can still purchase a full-conference or day-pass ticket at the DoubleTree on Thursday or Friday. If you can’t make it to the conference, watch for coverage in Thursday’s through Saturday’s Gazette. You also can find updates on Twitter through the #IowaIdeas17 hashtag or check out the website IowaIdeas.com for additional coverage. The next edition of Iowa Ideas magazine will be published in the Oct. 29 edition and will feature write-ups from the conference.

IOWA IDEAS CONFERENCE

When: Wednesday, Sept. 20 to Friday, Sept. 22

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Cedar Rapids

Cost: One-day and full-conference tickets available ($50-$250)

Information: Full schedule and conference details at IowaIdeas.com

• Zack Kucharski is executive editor of The Gazette

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