Gainesville CRA wins international economic development award for creative annual report

GAINESVILLE, Fla.--“What would it take to get you to read an annual report?” That’s the question the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) tried to solve when it partnered with a local cartoon/graphic novels school to transform its state-mandated annual report into a piece of art

This unique community outreach effort was awarded a 2015 Bronze Excellence in Economic Development Award in the Annual Report category for small cities (with a population of 25,000-200,000) from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

More than 31,000 copies of the “Sunday comics” annual report parody were distributed through the Gainesville Sun newspaper, City Hall and other outlets—breaking a new engagement record for the agency. Cartoonists from the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW) hand-drew 16 custom illustrations ranging from a Peanuts-styled sketch about the CRA’s façade grant program results to a Dilbert-inspired office strip about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into revitalizing urban spaces.

With more than 4,500 members across the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other nations, the IEDC is the world’s largest professional organization for economic development practitioners.

“From localized community projects, to large scale endeavors, economic development efforts have played a vital role in the global economy,” said JoAnn Crary, CEcD, Chair of the International Economic Development Council and President of Saginaw Future Inc. “The award serves as a salute to pacesetting organizations like the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency for leading the charge."

CRA projects like the Bo Diddley Plaza renovations, 32-acre Depot Park construction, Power District revitalization, Heartwood neighborhood and GTEC area commercial development are designed to draw economic energy to Gainesville.     

“The CRA had a great message and were game for an experimental, fun way to get it across. We got to draw in the style of our favorite comic strips, think creatively about a project, and share in the great work the CRA does in our community!” said SAW founder and artist Tom Hart.

Illustrating the CRA’s year-in-review increased the public’s understanding of urban revitalization program impacts—and showcased local talent.

“Headquartered within our Downtown redevelopment area, the SAW is one of only three comic schools of its kind in the whole country,” said CRA Interim Director Sarah Vidal-Finn. “We embraced the opportunity to work with local artists to convey our stories. One of Gainesville’s best kept secrets, they are a terrific testament to South Main Street’s burgeoning art scene and the amazing talent that resides right in the heart of our city."

Recipients of IEDC's Excellence in Economic Development Awards demonstrate to an experienced panel of judges that they are at the forefront of the economic development profession. They are recognized as the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. These awards honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

Click here to read the report:
Click here for a quick video about the making of the annual report:
Click here to learn more about the artists Justine Mara Andersen, Tom Hart & Sally Cantirino:


About the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency

The Gainesville CRA’s goal is to build awesome things that make a difference in Gainesville, FL. Bridging the gap between public and private investment, the agency awakens potential in underserved urban areas. Its toolkit includes: buckets of fresh paint, robust public infrastructure assistance, motivated community do-ers, economic incentives, and ambitious creative vision.

The City of Gainesville established the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) in 1981. The authority to establish the CRA is enabled by Sections 163.330-163.45 Florida Statutes. Redevelopment is undertaken in four distinct redevelopment districts: Downtown, Fifth Avenue Pleasant Street, College Park University Heights, and the Eastside Redevelopment Area.  Redevelopment projects are coordinated in these districts by the CRA and implemented by a team of partners that includes other City departments and private citizens.

About the International Economic Development Council

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 4,600 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base.  From public to private, rural to urban, and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience. Given the breadth of economic development work, our members are employed in a wide variety of settings including local, state, provincial and federal governments, public private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities and a variety of other institutions. When we succeed, our members create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities, and improve the quality of life in their regions.