Iowa City Area Economic Development Partners Announce Project Better Together

May 15, 2020 | All News & Events

JOHNSON COUNTY (May 15, 2020) – The Iowa City Area Business Partnership, Iowa City Area Development Group, Think Iowa City, and the Iowa City Downtown District today announced the launch of “Project Better Together,” an initiative to help our community recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the project, the four partner organizations also announced the formation of a community-wide network and the appointment of a project director to guide the effort. The Better Together Network includes a coalition of leaders from the City of Iowa City, City of Coralville, City of North Liberty, Johnson County, and the University of Iowa. It also includes leaders from the four partner organizations, all three hospitals, the school district, area non-profits, social services, private business, and elected officials from all levels of government.

“The Project Better Together Network was developed out of a standing monthly roundtable that has been in place for the last 10 years to share information and support each other on community and economic development activities.” said Josh Schamberger, president of Think Iowa City. “As the COVID pandemic began to impact our community we quickly realized the power of these relationships and the necessity for even stronger collaboration. To that end, we have worked alongside this longstanding group to expand and more formalize a community-wide network to guide this Project Better Together initiative.”

Project Better Together aims to build a transformed future for our community with greater economic diversity, growth, inclusivity, resilience, and well-being for all. The work to get there will require both short-term targeted actions to accelerate community recovery and long-term forward-thinking solutions that result in a renewed future-state economy. To help drive the work it will take to achieve these goals, the four organizations announced the appointment of former President & CEO of the Iowa City Area Development Group, Mark Nolte, to serve as Director of Project Better Together.

“While Project Better Together will need to address some very immediate and dire needs, it is also meant to go a step beyond recovery,” added Kim Casko, President and CEO of the Iowa City Area Business Partnership. “It is about coming out better and stronger on the other side of this. I can’t think of anyone better to help us lead this effort than Mark Nolte. He has served our community for decades and has the knowledge and connections to hit the ground running, which is what we need right now.”

Under Nolte’s leadership and strong back-end support from the four partner organizations, Project Better Together will begin by working with the network to quickly identify an organizational framework that is built on inclusivity (engages whomever wants to be involved), is agile (moves quickly and easily on short term needs/actions), and is strategic (takes a long-term, visionary, cross-functional view of opportunities to improve how we do things as a community).

“Truly effective recovery and renewal will require an unprecedented level of new collaboration across our entire economic ecosystem,” said Kate Moreland, President & CEO of the Iowa City Area Development Group. “This is a critical time to come together, be proactive, and look to the future. As we have seen over the past eight weeks of working more collaboratively amongst just our four organizations, we have been able to accelerate the manner in which we get information and resources to our community.”

As Project Better Together moves forward, there will be opportunity for more to get involved.

“In order for any of these efforts to be successful, it’s absolutely vital that this be structured in a manner to where our community voices are heard. And not just heard, but an ability to participate, to get involved…whether that be through serving on one the many coming necessary task force or subcommittees or by simply sharing your thoughts or ideas.” said Nancy Bird, Executive Director of the Iowa City Downtown District. “This Better Together Network is just the start. It’s a large group as it is but again, we aim to be as inclusive as possible. The Network itself doesn’t have any direct ability to effect change. Nor should it. Any substantive change or impact has to come from the community itself. We know that and it’s why we aim to make this as inclusive a framework as possible.”

Updates on Project Better Together will be provided on the joint website established by the four partner economic development organizations:


About Mark Nolte:  Mark has been working to help Iowa companies and entrepreneurs for the past 20 years. A native Iowan, Mark believes our state’s best days are ahead of us if we continue to innovate and support each other. Mark was with the Iowa City Area Development Group as Business Development Director then President from 2007-2020.  Prior to that Mark was the National Training Director for the Abilities Fund. Mark is the father of 5, the husband of an entrepreneur and solid youth baseball coach.  Mark can be contacted at [email protected] or 319-321-1546. 

About Iowa City Area Business Partnership: Formerly the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce – the Iowa City Area Business Partnership exists to serve your business and the Johnson County community. We are enthusiastic advocates and partners who advocate for a strong business climate and member businesses, connect businesses to resources, cultivate community leaders, and provide greater visibility for area businesses.  Learn more at

About Iowa City Area Development: The Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD)’s mission is to create, collaborate and lead regional economic development initiatives that contribute to the creation and growth of companies, wealth and quality jobs through a spirit of innovation and a culture of sharing that transforms knowledge into economic opportunity. Learn more at

About Think Iowa City: Think Iowa City is the visitor brand identity for the local Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.  The CVB works to attract visitors, meetings, groups, and events to the area through destination marketing, outreach, and facilitation. Learn more at

About Iowa City Downtown District: The ICDD provides a leadership directive that advocates for the District mission and serves as a mechanism to more efficiently implement District-wide marketing, programs, events, and projects that support vitality for the benefit of all the businesses within it, the University of Iowa, community members, and the region at large. Since its inception, the Downtown District continues to forge an exciting and deliberate path forward towards cultural vibrancy, resiliency, and sustainability. Learn more at

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