Category Archives: Editorial commentary

The Corridor

The Corridor
What it is . . . why it’s important

The Technology Corridor is a multi-county region combining the culture and the commuting patterns of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City metropolitan areas and its neighbors.

From energetic cosmopolitan metro areas, friendly communities to the beauty and serenity of the University of Iowa campus, scenic vistas, gentle rolling hillsides and pastoral tranquility, the Corridor is a reflection of diverse businesses, populations and cultural communities.

The Corridor is more than a roadway, passage or route. The Corridor is the historic heart, focal point and business hub of eastern Iowa. There are extraordinary advantages, coalitions and services that make living and doing business in the Corridor compelling.
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Get Involved, Move Up, Feel Safe

Three of the biggest benefits to living in a state like Iowa — and Cedar Rapids in particular, flood or no flood — are:

  1. It’s easy to get involved in activities you enjoy.
  2. The area is conducive to strengthening your career.
  3. It’s a place where you don’t have to worry about your personal safety most of the time.

Getting Involved

I can’t think of a more welcoming place than Iowa. And some of the most welcoming people are involved in nonprofit organizations. Volunteering is a great way to get to know those people who care about the same things you do. And now, with the aftermath of the Great Flood looming and many organizations and families displaced, people need your help more than ever. The Red Cross and other disaster relief orgs will likely need help for many weeks to come.

Love animals? The humane society would love your help. Love kids? Get involved in kids programs at the public library, the History Center or some other museum. The list goes on. Whether you’re passionate about finding a cure for a disease or helping persons with disabilities have a little fun (like I do at Miracles in Motion), you can easily find a way to put your skills to use and engage in a worthwhile activity.

Clubs are another way to get involved. Enthusiasts can have a great time around here! Just the few things I’m aware of are bike clubs, car clubs, service organizations, industry-specific groups (like the one I’m in — AAF:CR-IC), speaking clubs, flyball dog groups, etc. etc. The nice thing is, the commute is short, so you have time for family and yet you don’t have to give up your fun stuff.

Strengthening Your Career

Many fascinating industries populate the Corridor, from biotech to Web-related, transportation to food. They are all looking for quality individuals willing to work hard to make their products and services better. If you’re smart and dedicated, you can probably find yourself on a career track you’ll enjoy for many years.

Another career builder more readily available here is obtaining board experience. Many nonprofits and for-profits want people to help them in decisionmaking, raising capital and the like. It’s good for them to have you share your expertise and for you to have the opportunity to grow something beyond your 9 to 5.

Leave Your Worries Behind

Driving down the street at night, I rarely, if ever, worry about getting carjacked or some other crazy stuff going down. Although violent crime sometimes does strike, it is rare, and it’s even rarer that the bad guy gets away. Honestly, I have come to take for granted the freedom I have to do things like jog by myself or take a walk at night — things I wouldn’t consider doing in cities like Chicago or many areas of Minneapolis.

While I enjoy those cities during short visits, I know that the stress level of city life would take its toll at times. We have it pretty good in those respects here in Iowa.

Ruth Paarmann, owner of Paarlance Creative Writing, loves the idea of luring other former Iowans back to the state!

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It’s the Year of the River in Cedar Rapids

If you’re local to the Cedar Rapids area you’ve probably heard of this year referred to as the “Year of the River.”  I saw the slogan on a recent newsletter from the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and decided to investigate.

In May, 2007 the City of Cedar Rapids and Linn County proclaimed 2008 the Year of the River. The City of Cedar Rapids’ Web site stated that they hoped doing so would bring attention to the Riverfront and generate private and public investment.

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The Smaller Side of the Corridor

Chalk the Walk event in Mt. Vernon reminds us all that the smaller towns contribute to the Corridor’s quality of life.

I know the purpose of this blog is talk about the Corridor – and even as a local I’m not exactly sure what we mean by the Corridor. I think at one time a study was completed that said Cedar Rapids and Iowa City technically act as one metro area, based on whatever factors studies like that consider important.  The economies are shared. The citizens zoom back and forth on I-380 like Chicagoans drive across town for a great restaurant.  There are so few miles between the two and the people are so intertwined in both cities they could statistically be counted as one. 

I know the Corridor technically refers to the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area.  But I don’t think the Corridor can be so easily defined.  It’s not bounded by highways or city limits.  It’s more than just Cedar Rapids and Iowa City; it’s also the small towns in the area that consider this their home.  Places like Mt. Vernon, West Branch, and Central City may not technically be the Corridor, but the people that live there and the shops, restaurants and activities from these towns undoubtedly contribute to why the Corridor is so inviting.
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Corridor life among the best in the nation

Recent media reports indicate Corridor communities and Iowa are among the best in the nation to live, work and play. Population and per capita income are up and the region is a great place to launch a business!

Read on . . .

Forbes rankings and ratings

Forbes magazine ranks Corridor metro areas among the best in the nation for business. Cedar Rapids No. 44 in the U.S. for business and careers. Iowa City is ranked No. 2 on Forbes’ “best small places for business and careers.”

Forbes ranks Iowa City ranks No. 8 “Up and Coming Tech Cities.” The magazine credits new venture capital and private equity firms that target renewable energy start-ups and the Grow Iowa Value Fund support of the University of Iowa’s Centers for Enterprise.

The 2008 Forbes’ America’s Smartest Cities Web site list names Iowa City No. 10 in the U.S. The list ranks cities based on the percentage of the population age 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree. Information is posted to Sperling’s BestPlaces at www.bestplaces.net.

Forbes Small Business magazine ranks Iowa City No. 21 of 100 “Best Small Places to Live and Launch” a business or career. The rating is based on a mix of business advantages and lifestyle appeal. The magazine states: “In recent years the economic Corridor that stretches from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids has emerged as a powerful locus of economic growth, not only in film, but also in computer simulation, bioengineering and renewable energy.”

University of Iowa

Financial Times named University of Iowa Tippie College of Business graduate accounting program among the world’s top 10. Tippie School of Management overall MBA program is No. 55 in the world; and No. 25 in the nation.

The University of Iowa is listed No. 1 in funding by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) of the National Institutes of Health. Grant funding to UI by the NIDCR for fiscal year 2007 totaled more than $12 million. The amount represents grant recipients from across the entire UI campus.

Population and income

Corridor communities rank among top 100 cities for income growth

Iowa tied two states (Massachusetts and Hawaii) for No. 8 per capita income growth for the period 2006 to 2007. According to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Iowa’s personal income grew 6 percent from $33,038 to $35,023. The national per capita personal income national growth was 5.2 percent to $38,611. In 2006, Cedar Rapids per capita personal income was $35,344, ranking No. 97 among metro areas nationwide; Iowa City’s per capita personal income was $35,936 ranking the city No. 88 nationwide.

Iowa becomes a metro state, Corridor communities gain population

Since the 2000 U.S. Census, 23 Iowa counties grew. Of those, 20 counties have metro area or are adjacent to one. The largest growth was in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Des Moines metros.

Johnson County (12.8 percent) and Linn County (7 percent) leads eastern Iowa growth. Iowa’s population is now 2,988,044 representing a 59,800 population growth.

During the period July 1, 2000, to July 1, 2007, Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) grew from 23,320 to 252,784; Iowa City MSA grew from 131,676 to 147,038 and Des Moines from 481,394 to 546,599.

Iowa City’s population grew 1.7 percent for a gain of 2,389 residents from 2006 to 2007. Cedar Rapids population grew 1.3 percent during the same time period. Johnson County gained 2,222 residents for a total of 125,692, from July 2006 to July 2007, ranking No. 4 in the state with a 1.8 population growth.

Linn County went from 192,293 to 205,836 – a growth of 13,543 people; Johnson County went from 111,474 to 125,692 – a growth of 14,218 people.

The nation grew by 7 percent during the same time period; the Midwest region grew 3 percent overall. (Three-fourths of the state’s 99 counties lost population since 2000.)

Of Iowa City population, ages 25 and older, 42.26 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. More than 91 percent graduated high school, 4.35 percent have a doctorate and 4.02 percent have a professional degree.

State rankings

Iowa ranks No. 1 in egg production, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture and studies by Iowa State University Extension.

Iowa is No. 1 “Best Quality of Life” and “Best States for Business” – “Forbes” magazine

Iowa is No. 2 in healthcare – Commonwealth Fund State Scorecard

Iowa students are ranked No. 3 in the nation for composite ACT scores

Iowa ranked No. 4 nationally in capital investment – “U.S. Investment Monitor 2006” report by Ernst & Young and Quantitative Economics and Statistics Practice

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Crafting the Corridor Experience

By: Eric Engelmann, President and CEO, Geonetric

Named one of the fastest growing companies in the country by Inc. 5,000.

Recognized as Iowa Software Company of the Year.

Doubled in size to 52 people in the last year. Our company has had an amazing year. This extraordinary growth has provided us with many opportunities, but we’ve also run into numerous challenges – especially recruitment. The Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor has proven to be a great marketplace for Geonetric to find bright, creative team members. But, with the amount of growth we have planned, venturing out of the region, and even out of the state, has become necessary. As we’ve embarked on this task, the perception of the Corridor by outsiders has surprised me. This is an incredible place to work and live, but we’re not effectively making this impression.

Recruiting the Best

One impressive candidate we recently interviewed hailed from Minneapolis. Before he came, he told me how he researched the area online using search engines like Google to learn more about the Corridor. I asked him what he discovered. He replied, “Well, I saw that you have a Chili’s® restaurant. And it seems kind of like Fargo.”

That wasn’t exactly what I was hoping to hear.

I dive into the tour, championing easier commutes and safer schools. We discussed the numerous cultural activities and the excitement of Big Ten sports. But he already had his first impression, and it was made online.

His questions centered on possible homes in the Iowa countryside, preferably a farmstead. He wanted to learn about activities for his six- and eight-year-old children, and find information on bike trails. He was curious if the area was dog friendly. All of this information is online somewhere, but not in one place. We haven’t made it easily accessible.

Instead of seeing the fun, diverse, beautiful and safe Corridor that we see, he saw another nondescript city built in the middle of a cornfield with nothing more to offer than national food chains. That was his first impression of the Corridor, and it’s not accurate.

If you were to try the same exercise, looking at our region online, you’ll find that there are half a dozen Chamber of Commerce sites and numerous Convention and Visitor’s bureau sites. Each community has at least one Web site of its own, and most of those have economic development groups that have additional sites of their own. Then there are theme-based sites, such a Cultural Corridor, Corridor Careers, etc. All told, there are hundreds of sites about the area.

Yet, in all of these sites, not one is specifically dedicated to showcasing the Corridor in its entirety. Not one site provided the information that mattered to him.

We need to find a central voice for the Corridor. We have numerous organizations telling different stories to fragmented audiences. It is imperative that we find ownership for the Corridor story, and craft the message that is currently missing.

Promoting the Corridor

The Corridor has numerous farmsteads. We have a Children’s Museum and beautiful recreational areas; we even have dog parks for the family pet. These stories would have made a difference to my recruit, and they will make a difference to hundreds of others out there who are looking to escape big-city life, thinking about moving back home, or just looking for a change.

My sister moved to Raleigh, N.C. without a job because it ‘looked cool.’ She found sites about Raleigh online that intrigued her. Raleigh has effectively managed the impression they want others to derive when they research their city. We need to do the same; we have to improve our first impression.

To build a thriving, high-technology market segment we need to attract creative, innovative, intelligent people to the area. All of these people use the Internet as a key part of their search. If we know there are people out there researching the Corridor, we need to have targeted messages available. We need to tell them a compelling story, one of high-ranking schools and safe neighborhoods, of easy commutes and world-class dining.

Building the Buzz

One way to start telling this story is to create a community blog and having local writers share their thoughts about the Corridor. They can blog about what matters to people considering relocation, such as general discussions about the quality of life and housing. They can blog about the social scene and the job scene, and do so by audience segments so the single 20-somethings and family-focused 40-somethings both can be enticed.

This is just the first step. This is an amazing place to live and work. Let’s tell the world about it!

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