116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
How's does the "Hawkeye Corridor" sound to you as a way to describe this part of Eastern Iowa defined by the Cedar Rapids metro area to the north and Iowa City-Coralville metro area to the south?
Michael Langley, president and founder of the Langley Group out of Pittsburgh, dropped that one on about 300 to 350 business, government and education leaders who met for breakfast in Cedar Rapids this morning to talk about economic development. He didn't flat-out suggest it, but mentioned it in a less-than-casual manner during his breakfast talk, held to rekindle efforts to establish the Cedar Rapids/Marion-Iowa City/Coralville area as a viable corridor market.
Langley was the keynote speaker for the "The Path to Regional Excellence" gathering, which I tweeted about earlier this morning, Nov. 3. He drove home main themes during the breakfast meeting, chief among them: this region needs to brand itself and it needs to determine what message to deliver to the rest of the world with that brand.
Langley noted that leaders in the Corridor need to band together in order to be globally competitive. Regions increasingly are being identified by businesses seeking new markets to the point that regions are supplanting cities and even nation-states when it comes to competitive importance, he said.
Langley told the group the keys to economic growth on a regional basis are brand/image, workforce/education, infrastructure, innovation/entrepreneurship and inclusiveness/diversity. In order to make a difference you need regional marketing and promotion, public policy and analysis that fosters development, and public advocacy at places like the state legislature and Congress, he said.
A panel discussion was included in the 90-minute session, held at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Besides Langley, University of Iowa President Sally Mason and Eliot G. Protsch, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer at Alliant Energy, spoke on the panel, which Jack Evans, president of the Hall-Perine Foundation, moderated.
With Mason on the panel, several references were made to the "Hawkeye" brand, especially given the success of the, to-date, undefeated and nationally ranked UI football team that plays in the Corridor. Mason said thinking about the "Hawkeye" name would be a good place from which to start, not necessarily because of the UI but because Iowa's nickname is the Hawkeye State. Even so, she said, the Hawkeye brand is strong right now because of the football team.
"Brand is critical," Mason said.
Protsch suggested the Cedar Rapids area-to-Iowa City corridor is a "can-do attitude" corridor. It was a reference to how the region has recovered from massive flooding in 2008, a recovery Langley noted in his address to the group.
For certain, people will weigh in on how to market this area. Folks in Coralville, Marion, Hiawatha and other areas connected to the corridor will have opinions, for example, to go along with those from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Government leaders need to be engaged, those on the panel said this morning, as will education leaders. Mason pointed out that areas engaged in this kind of regional economic talk have one big thing in common -- a major research institution.
Expect to hear more on this. Chuck Peters, the president of the company for which I work, Gazette Communications, said he and John Lohman, publisher of the Corridor Business Journal, have pledged to keep the idea on the table. Gazette Communications, the Corridor Business Journal and a new group called the Corridor Business Alliance, of which Dee Baird , Kirkwood Community College's executive vice president for continuing education and training services, and other local business leaders are a driving force, were co-sponsors of this morning's breakfast.
Here's a link to a story The Gazette's Dave DeWitte did last week about the alliance.
An addendum since this original post was made. Langley told the Gazette Editorial board Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 3) that the right business and government leaders to make regionalism work need to have respect, credibility and resources to make a difference. He also said universities and business communities are natural allies.
He said calling this region Iowa's Technology Corridor was a good step to get people thinking that technology exists here. But the fact is, the term "technology corridor" is fairly generic, he said. "There are a lot of technology corridors, and rightly so."
Figuring out a brand for the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City/Coralville region will take time, Langley told the editorial board. "That's a process, and that's not something you're going to know overnight," he said.
Meantime, feel free to offer your suggestions here on this Corridor's strengths and what its brand and message should be.