Iowa City Chamber, ICAD Decide Against Merger

August 17, 2018 |

Recognizing a need for proactive change and leadership within the community, the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Iowa City Area Development Group have announced the results of “Project Penguin,” a six-month study over how the two organizations can align their efforts and missions.

The two organizations plan to more formally align operations in order to execute a shared economic and community vision that will be announced in the coming months.

“We are organizations that touch a lot of different local entities, and so we have the power to bring a lot of folks together on a long-term holistic vision for the community,” said Kim Casko, President of the Chamber. “We saw that as an incredible opportunity.”

Project Penguin was named for the book Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter. The book is a fable about penguins who discover cracks under the iceberg they live on, and look to proactively rectify their situation.

The Chamber and ICAD began discussing ways to align efforts in January 2018. The two organizations spent the spring speaking with Chamber members, ICAD investors, community leaders, and experts from around the country.

“What we found was, there seemed to be this underpinning of concern that maybe we don’t have a vision as a community, and that we’ve just been lucky and complacent so far,” said Mark Nolte, Executive Director of ICAD.

“If we’re not looking ahead and trying to assess where changes are happening in our economy, and then helping our local businesses get there, then we aren’t relevant as organizations. So it was really important for us to ask, ‘What does our community need from us right now, and what will it need in the years to come?”

After extensive research, the Chamber and ICAD have announced the following plans of actions:

  1. Our two organizations will share and lead execution towards a holistic, long-term vision for the economic vitality of our community.
  2. Our two organizations will look to more formally align our operations in order to execute on the shared vision and reduce duplicative efforts in serving our business community.

The Chamber and ICAD are aiming to unveil their shared vision for the community by the end of this year.

While merging into a single entity was an option that the Chamber and ICAD considered, the two organizations have opted not to take that step at this time. Instead, over the next year, the Chamber and ICAD will assess

alignment of their location, staff and programming where it makes sense to most effectively execute on the vision and reduce operational duplication.

“We have a good sense of where this community has been in the past, and what it’s been good at,” said Nolte. “But what will it be in the future, and what will it take for us to get there? What we need to do is be bold and help to set a direction and a vision for the community. We need to act now, and we’re excited to be rolling out our shared vision soon.”