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Project Penguin FAQ

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. However, they will remain separate organizations. 

In an effort to keep our members and investors informed, below are responses to commonly asked questions about the project, including video comments by ICAD's Mark Nolte and the Chamber's Kim Casko. If you have a question that is not answered below, please email us at

 1) Why did you call this “Project Penguin?” 

 The name of the project is based on a book called Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions, a fable about penguins who discover their iceberg is melting and look to proactively rectify their situation. The actions in the book are based on a leading organizational change model developed by Harvard Business School’s John Kotter


 2) What is the purpose of this project?

 The purpose of Project Penguin is to evaluate the relationship between the Chamber and ICAD at this point in time and explore possibilities for alignment of missions, functions, and resources to best serve the current and future needs of the business community.


3) What did you learn, and what will be your course of action? 


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

 1. Our two organizations share and lead execution towards a holistic, long-term vision for the economic vitality of our community.

 2. Our two organizations formally align our operations in order to execute on a shared economic and community development vision.


 4) Why did you choose to work together, but not merge? 


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.

Some additional background on our two organizations: ICAD was originally started as an economic development committee within the Chamber, and became its own entity in 1984 so that it could focus on recruiting interstate commerce companies to the area. Over time, ICAD’s focus has expanded to include the retention and expansion of existing businesses, attracting talent to the region, and fostering start-up businesses. Recently, a new regional entity, ICR IOWA, was created and tasked with business recruitment and workforce development initiatives.

The Chamber has been in existence since 1936 and supports both local and interstate commerce businesses. The Chamber provides a wide array of programs and services to connect, educate and advocate for businesses. However, with the emergence of virtual platforms providing networking opportunities and other organizations providing informational and educational events, the Chamber is facing ever-greater competition for some of its core services.


5) So, what happens next?


We get to work on developing a shared vision! 

We have a good sense of where this community has been in the past, and what it’s been good at. 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, hopefully by the end of this year.