A traveling expedition called “Iowa 365” rolls into Mason City for a “breakfast jam” this morning, plans lunch in Marshalltown and an after-work concert in Des Moines. The fast-moving road trip is the brainchild of Brad Parks, a Vision Iowa board member who also underwrites entertainment and sporting events for the insurance company Lloyds of London. He says they’re launching 17 “high-end platform community networking websites” to tell the story of Iowa’s towns and 6,000 young professionals who live in them. The group’s got a list of sponsors for its trip, publicizing what it’s giving away for free…a website framework. A group of five young profesionals in Dubuque — men who were former Jaycee presidents and chamber of commerce board members — started a website for friends that’s grown to bring in 10,000 people a week using the site. With sponsors ranging from the state Department of Economic Development to Budweiser, they’ve re-invested about $100,000 in making it a statewide network, and now they’re giving it to local community groups to tell everyone what’s great about their towns. It’s a tool to promote business and invite people to move into communities, Parks says. He calls it “a big superhighway of other information,” where pretty much anyone in a local community can have their own website and can easily “click and drag” to put their own information and stories on the internet. He says the “Iowa 365” promotion has three basic goals: helping people find relationship opportunities, business opportunities, and the experience-of-life opportunities he says meet the desires of people who’ll see they would like to call Iowa home. The tour which this week swept through towns from Red Oak to Fort Dodge continues tomorrow in Oskaloosa, Iowa City and Burlington, then winds up in Dubuque on Thursday. Parks says the tour culminates with a conference for all the contacts they’re making among young business people interested in promoting their communities and guiding growth. They’ll hold a conference in Ames for Jaycees, YP — Young Professionals — and other leaders to talk about where they want to go the next ten years, and let state leaders know the young professionals want to “raise the flag” and help build Iowa’s future. Local distributors and Budweiser Dubuque provided a bus and underwriting for the tour, which features live music at its 17 stops. For more information and to get on the list for future events, surf to iowa365.com.
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