Over 550 people joined Greater IC at our inaugural Annual Meeting as a merged organization. Robin Therme, CIVCO Medical Solutions president and Greater IC’s transition executive board chair, kicked off the event with a video introduction and spoke about Greater IC’s vital role in leading economic development and supporting local business. “Our country, our state, our community is changing,” said Therme. “As leaders in the community, we need to be not just keeping up with the change, but driving the change.”
In her remarks, President and CEO Nancy Bird summarized the input Greater IC received from businesses throughout the merger process and how the organization is responding. Our members and investors wanted:
As a response, Greater IC has made significant changes in its first few months as a new organization.
Inclusive Membership Model
Greater IC has adopted a new inclusive membership model where our organization serves every business in Johnson County. Rather than supporting roughly 800 members and investors, Greater IC now provides foundational services to approximately 3,400 businesses. Our organization strives to be inclusive, and removing barriers to participation is an important first step and allows us to truly be the voice of all business in Johnson County.
This new model is made possible by the area businesses who choose to invest in Greater IC and in each other, and our aspiration is that all businesses will eventually invest in Greater IC
The All In Vision Plan
The All In Vision Plan was adopted in 2022 by our cities, county, and the University of Iowa. It is the North Star for the Greater Iowa City area, and our job is now to refine the work within each of the five pillars and guide its implementation. Better Together 2030 is the non-profit charged to steward the plan.
Three of the All In Vision plan’s pillars – authentic, vibrant neighborhoods and districts, a well- connected, mobile region, and a thriving inclusive economic ecosystem – are economic development initiatives that also support our local workforce and fall squarely within Greater IC’s mission. We hired Cady Gerlach, Executive Director of Better Together 2030, to join our staff in a dual role as Senior Director of Community Development to integrate the work of these three pillars into the organization. Partnering with a 501(c)3 Community Development Corporation also provides new opportunities to pursue the public-private partnerships needed to realize the All In Vision.
Innovation Councils and Advocacy Focus
Greater IC is adopting a new Innovation Council structure to provide opportunities for investors to actively participate in our work. These four innovation councils – Executive, Economic Development, Business Support, and Community Development – mirror the councils of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and provide a common nomenclature and structure for regional collaboration. We encourage investors to become involved in the councils once they launch in 2024.
Embedded in each Innovation Council and all Greater IC’s work is a renewed focus on business advocacy. Mackenzie DeRoo has been hired as Senior Director of Advocacy to lead our local, state, and federal policy priorities. She will establish systems for positive, constructive local advocacy, pursuing the public-private collaboration that is imperative for economic resiliency.
“This time next year, I can promise you we won’t be talking about process and mergers,” said Bird. “We’ll be addressing the work ahead around workforce solutions, public-private partnerships, the progress for our advocacy, and the growth of emerging businesses. The true success for the organization will be in our ability to meet many small goals that lead to large endeavors over time and establishing a sense of belonging for everyone involved while doing it.”
Following Bird’s comments, keynote speaker Beth Goetz, University of Iowa interim Athletic Director, spoke about the power of teamwork and how the University of Iowa is “all in” with Greater IC, a reference to the community’s All In Vision Plan.
Greater IC invited three current investors to share their enthusiasm for our new direction and ways for the business community to participate in our work. Jennie Wunderlich, president of Studio H2O and PSC Distribution, described the value her small business has found in working with the former Business Partnership and encouraged business leaders to find their passion and get involved with Greater IC. V Fixmer-Oraiz, founder and CEO at Astig Planning and member of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, recounted their experience as a BIPOC and LGBTQ+ entrepreneur and how valuable connections formed in Greater IC’s MERGE coworking space supported their success. Finally, Nick Lindsley, architect and associate principal at Neumann Monson Architects, praised the bold new direction of Greater IC and asked attendees to invest in our organization and community.
We closed the evening by partnering with our Ambassadors on a ribbon cutting to celebrate the official launch of Greater IC and our investment campaign.