Iowa Ideas 2019
October 3 - 4 | Cedar Rapids

Iowa Ideas is a nonpartisan, statewide learning experience designed to explore the key questions and big ideas that will shape the future of Iowa.

Created by The Gazette, Iowa Ideas consists of in-depth, solutions-focused journalism and events. Engaged citizens, community advocates and industry leaders are invited to join us.

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Tom Vilsack to be Iowa Ideas Conference keynote

    Then-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testifies before the House Appropriations Agriculture subcommittee on the U.S. Department of Agricuture’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal, in April 2013. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
    Feb 15, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Former Iowa Governor and one-time presidential candidate Tom Vilsack will be this year’s keynote speaker at The Gazette’s Iowa Ideas Conference.

    The annual two-day event, set for Oct. 3 and 4 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex in downtown Cedar Rapids, will offer 11 themed tracks with some 200 panelists.

    Individual panel and speaker topics for the conference will be announced in coming weeks. Tickets are on sale now.

    Born into an orphanage in Pittsburgh in 1950, Vilsack earned a degree in history at Hamilton College in 1972, and studied law at Albany Law School in New York.

    He and his wife, Christie Bell, moved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa — her home state — in 1975.

    He was elected mayor of Mt. Pleasant in 1987, after the shooting death of the previous mayor at the time, Edward King, at a city council meeting. Vilsack served in that position for six years.

    Iowa governor for two terms, from 1999 to 2007, he went on to be named U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for eight years in the Obama administration.

    He ran for president for the 2008 election, but dropped his bid in early 2007. His name was mentioned as a potential vice presidential running mate for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.

    He now is president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

    “Secretary Vilsack’s experience touches on so many of the themes that are a part of Iowa Ideas that it seemed natural to invite him to take part,” Gazette Executive Editor Zack Kucharski said.

    “He remains on the front lines of agricultural and rural issues and his policy experience at the local, state and federal level provides deep experience to draw from.”

    This year’s Iowa Ideas Conference themes will focus on agriculture, diversity and inclusion, education, energy and environment, health care, human and social services, infrastructure, policy, regional development, workforce and young professionals.

    The conference will include lunch, networking opportunities and a Pints & Politics session at Theatre Cedar Rapids.

    Last year’s event saw more than 500 attendees.

    ITC Midwest will be the presenting sponsor and will offer, along with The Gazette, a limited number of scholarships for K-12 and higher education. Deadline is May 31 to apply at

    The conference has been recognized by the Society for Human Resources Management for professional development credits for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP.

    Tickets can be purchased at A limited number of tickets are available at $100, half the regular conference price, on a first-come basis.

    The Iowa Ideas initiative, which includes the conference, electronic newsletters and five glossy magazines published throughout the year, received the Iowa Newspaper Foundation’s Bill Monroe Innovation Award in 2018.

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