For the CBJ’s 15th anniversary issue this past summer, we asked community leaders to look back and identify the events, initiatives, tragedies and success stories that shaped the Corridor into what it is today. For this future-forward Corridor 2.0 issue, we asked a handful of up-and-coming leaders how the region must change to thrive in the next 15.

Keeping what works – the area’s historic and agricultural past, its enviable educational system, its can-do attitude and general livability – while finding new ways to work together to solve problems was top of mind for several young leaders. Fostering innovation, solving the workforce crunch and maintaining unique communities and businesses also reappear.

Read on to see what other recommendations tomorrow’s leaders have for the Corridor region today and into the future. (PHOTO WILLIAM BUCKETS)

 

EMBRACE THE FUTURE, HONOR THE PAST

Ashley Vanorny
Council Member, City of Cedar Rapids

What’s your opinion of the Corridor today? Is this an attractive region in which to live and work?
As a former commuter between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, I see the Corridor as a series of urban communities straddling agricultural towns. The urban areas are expanding outward and intermeshing more frequently with generational farmlands, filling in the gaps that used to separate them greatly.

What does the Corridor’s future look like to you?
I hope that the future includes a responsible use of available land – with an emphasis on preserving the farmland that remains. And as much as a new building brings wonderful opportunities, I worry about sacrificing older buildings with good foundations. I am concerned about the decline our core neighborhoods and making sure investment opportunities continue to maintain and repair their potential.

I also want to continue to see the Corridor became a competitive choice for our four area college undergraduate and graduate students.  I want to us become an entrepreneurial hub where we support small and local businesses, and avoid the cannibalism of big box stores and online retailers because we offer more than a click of a button operation could.  I want to see the cities within our bounds band together to support one another and cross-promote events, looking for ways to play to each other’s strengths. I hope that we become a connected health care region for the Midwest and that our investment in technology makes us a hotspot of innovation where the best and brightest come to be trained – and stay to develop the newest solutions.

 

KEEP THE TALENT COMING

Eric Hahn
General Manager, Bazooka Farmstar

What’s your opinion of the Corridor today? Is this an attractive region in which to live and work?
I think the Corridor is a great place to live and work, although I’m from Eastern Iowa, so I might be biased. Over the last decade or two, you’ve seen Coralville and North Liberty continue to grow, and now we’re seeing Tiffin really start to expand. It’s my expectation that it will continue to grow and flourish.

I do have some concerns. It still comes down to finding talent and skilled individuals for us here at Bazooka Farmstar. We continue to look for welders, machinists and assembly workers. Due to our size and our business, we haven’t been able to pull people in from other regions. That would be a goal for the future of our region – to find ways to draw top talent.

What does the Corridor’s future look like to you?
In our area of the Corridor, we need more housing options and continued support for not just college educations, but for apprenticeships and two-year degrees. We’re a big supporter of Kirkwood [Community College] locally, as we need more and more skilled workers.

Here in Washington, I think we’re naturally going to continue to grow, but it won’t be at the rate of a Tiffin or North Liberty. We’re more of a bedroom community for those who want a bit more land or not so much of a city feel. But we’re seeing more residential options, and I hope that continues to grow.

 

WORK TOGETHER, MAINTAIN UNIQUENESS

RaQuishia Harrington
Council Member, City of North Liberty

What’s your opinion of the Corridor today? Is this an attractive region in which to live and work?
It provides a great opportunity for growth. ​I have great options for education and health care, live in a safe neighborhood, have quality employment options, and small business growth provides me the opportunity to help boost my local economy daily. There is so much innovation in our small but growing communities, with each city providing opportunities that are uniquely branded to draw diverse crowds. What I like most is that most things can be accessed by walking, biking or taking a short drive. I’m happy to live in this region.

What does the Corridor’s future look like to you?
Stronger partnerships with business and community leaders, educators, and municipal and state governments can only lead to bigger and better economic growth. The current growth of our communities within the Corridor is something to be proud of and awe-inspiring to watch, but soon they will be blended if we aren’t thoughtful and strategic in planning. I believe large and small companies will look to make the Corridor a place where they can expand and commit to employing locally.

 

INVEST IN EDUCATION AND PEOPLE

Nate Kaeding
Entrepreneur & Director of Business Development, Build to Suit

What’s your opinion of the Corridor today? Is this an attractive region in which to live and work?
As a small business owner and father of four young children, the Corridor provides an excellent backdrop for starting and growing businesses as well as raising a family. There’s an attractive balance vibrancy and “ease of life”.  One can move the needle here at a pace of their choosing without sacrificing too much invaluable time with friends and family. There’s an opportunity here to “pitch-in” and be connected to the mission and future of the community.

What does the Corridor’s future look like to you?
I love the Corridor and am invested in more ways than one, but I do see some daunting challenges as we look out decades into the future:

A.) How will our institutions of higher education remain relevant and innovate in the face of looming headwinds? Can our communities and economies continue to count on them as bastions of growth and vibrancy? Or will they be solely focused inwards as they are forced to transition into survival mode? The region needs these institutions to drive progress.

B.) Where will the people come from? At some point, the 80-plus Iowa counties who have demonstrated year-over-year population decline won’t have people left to give the region. What’s our value proposition to folks beyond the state and beyond the United States? We need to embrace immigration and be renown as a region welcoming to all people.

 

COLLABORATION, NOT COMPETITION

Brooke Prouty
Director, Uptown Marion

What’s your opinion of the Corridor today? Is this an attractive region in which to live and work?
Is the Corridor an attractive region? Well, I’d have to ask a second question: Attractive to who?

While many have grand ideas of how to retain young talent (“Let’s get a Topgolf”), I have to beg for a more practical approach. It’s often attractive for new grads to start their careers in big cities with such amenities but what about after? Are we attractive to that second phase adult when family, job security, schools, safety, and quality of life become more important? To that, I’d say yes. I find the most attractive part about living in the Corridor is the opportunity. I own a home, can have lunch with the mayor or local leaders, and have the chance to make a real difference in the community I live in.

What does the Corridor’s future look like to you?
Continuing efforts in collaboration. The world is too small to compete locally, so what are ways we can capitalize on our strengths and differences to work together on initiatives? How can we break down barriers to entrepreneurship and innovation? Considering innovative ways to tackle issues such as disaster preparedness, taking care of vulnerable populations, transportation, and enhancing and preserving natural areas. In that sense, an attractive Corridor isn’t about “attractions,” it’s about policy. CBJ