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IOWA ANNOUNCES "CULTIVATION CORRIDOR" INITIATIVE
Des Moines Register reports:

Now that an effort to market the Ames-Des Moines area as the hub for bioscience has a name - the "Cultivation Corridor" - the campaign's organizers have the difficult work ahead.

"Right now it's an interesting catch phrase and it's a promise, but the truth about branding is: Can you keep the promise?" said Drew McLellan, CEO of McLellan Marketing Group. "The real rubber meets the road if and when you can keep the promise."

On Monday, members of Capital Crossroads, the multiyear vision plan for central Iowa, unveiled the new brand for what had been called the Capital Corridor.

The corridor, which is one of 11 sectors the vision plan is analyzing, is intended to attract agriculture and bioscience companies and professionals to central Iowa.

"It is an audacious thought to announce that this is what we are the best at in the world," Steve Zumbach, campaign co-chairman, said during Monday's unveiling. "Today, we are prepared to pound that stake in the ground."

To ensure that stake stays in the ground and the brand succeeds, Capital Crossroads has hired Brent Willett to serve as the corridor's executive director.

An economic development official who most recently led the North Iowa Economic Development Corridor, Willett said part of his job is ensuring the marketing campaign effectively tells the story of central Iowa.

Willett said he is also responsible for recognizing potential funding sources to support the marketing effort. He said the group is still determining how to measure the brand's performance.

Initially, the marketing campaign will require $1.5 million during a three-year period, but a larger investment is likely, organizers said Monday.

While original plans for the corridor had it running along Interstate Highway 35 from Ames to Des Moines, campaign organizers said Monday that the corridor's brand represents a 50- to 60-mile radius of Des Moines.

By leveraging central Iowa's existing strengths, such as Iowa State University and Johnston-based DuPont Pioneer, the campaign's organizers are hoping to put Iowa on the map as the main place for bioscience and agriculture.

"We don't want to just be a leader (in this industry), we want to be the leader," Willett said.

The Cultivation Corridor's tag line is "The science that feeds the world."

"The challenge of the Cultivation Corridor isn't just about economic opportunity here, it's about global food security," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

The former Iowa governor also said the corridor would help persuade Iowa's young adults to enter science-related fields, which is key to meet the state's need for qualified workers.

"This Cultivation Corridor is about cutting-edge bioscience ... It's cutting-edge stuff and it can be done in rural areas," Vilsack said. "That's the message that I think has to be conveyed."

Still, the work is cut out for Willett and the campaign's other members if they want to see the brand succeed.

"I'm sure it was difficult to come up with that brand, but the real work begins now," McLellan said, adding that he does not think the campaign is taking on an impossible task.

McLellan's company was one of the firms vying to develop the corridor's brand. The campaign eventually chose Flynn Wright, a Des Moines-based advertising agency.

The difficulty behind creating a successful regional brand, McLellan said, is making sure every stakeholder, from communities to businesses to universities, marches to the same drum.

"What that takes is a long-term concerted effort and investment in dealing with and working with all of those different entities and getting them to understand how it is in their best interest to step in line, if you will, and what they can do to keep up with that brand," he said.

The corridor must fill a specific need, distinguishing itself from other business regions around the U.S., such as the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor or North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.

"You have to carve out your niche," said David Edwards, director of animal biotechnology at the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

"You have to have a really clear understanding of what the corridor is trying to do."

After Monday's unveiling, Willett said he recognized there is more to be done to put central Iowa on the bioscience industry's radar.

"What we've revealed is the approach, the package, but now we have to deliver it and bring back success," Willett said.


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