A stretch of counties near Iowa City and Cedar Rapids in Iowa were having trouble identifying and branding themselves after a massive flood in 2008.
From this massive disaster came the Iowa Creative Corridor. The corridor in Eastern Iowa is anchored by the crossroads of Interstates 80 and 380, and includes the seven counties of Linn, Johnson, Benton, Jones, Iowa, Cedar and Washington.
One of the entities helping in the creator of the branding movement was Seed Here Studio. The company, founded by Amanda West and Andy Stoll, helped seek out talented and creative people in Iowa to bring them together and help build relationship and collaborate with each other.
And, over the course of a year or so, it turned into a business, West said.
“It was mostly a community building process with a LLC being the vehicle for doing the work,” she said.
West said an easy way to understand Seed Here Studio is that it is a company that designs and produces media events and program that foster innovation in communities.
One of her examples of that in action is the creative corridor project.
“When the region came out with the new shared identity, name and logo, a lot of people didn’t really relate to it,” West said. “They didn’t feel like it was creative place or they were a creative person.”
While seeking talented individuals within the corridor’s proximity, the company profiled the people it found to show there were creative minds in the area.
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“There were so many stories that you couldn’t deny that creative possibility in our region,” West said.
While this was happening after the flood, there were also several economic development experts coming to Iowa to share their opinions about how the region could move forward.
West said there was $1 billion in public funds available for redevelopment — and that didn’t include private donations.
“It was a perfect time to really infuse a creative and entrepreneurial spirit into the community and we knew how to help — especially young people — get excited about the possibility of what they build from their own ideas,” she said.
West said the corridor project really brought to the forefront the need for the different communities to come together as one, instead of focusing on their separate needs.
She said the economic development specialist were saying that eastern Iowa was an incredible place and there was a lot of to work with, but the individual municipalities weren’t working together and not celebrating what was there.
“So they took that to heart,” West said.
She said the region began working with a branding organization from Nashville, Tennessee, to find a common identity for the region as it started to rebuild. Part of the discussions found that the region was an economic entity with all of its parts combined, although it was commonly thought about in that way.
“But, if we could recognize that we are one place than imagine how much likely were are to be a player statewide, and even more importantly, nationally and globally,” West said.
She said as the world moves to be more driven by cities, rather than by states or countries, the individual communities in Iowa can’t compete with large metropolitan cities, but by coming together and forming an entity of 500,000 people, there are a lot more possibilities.
“So this common identity and everything it stands for is a rallying point for all of these communities to — not lose their own identity — but to be part of something bigger that gives them access to be part of what is going on in the world and the country and not just their own county,” West said.