Growing up, Nicolas Hockenberry lived throughout the country.
“My dad worked in the hotel industry, so we moved around a lot,” he said. “I came to Dubuque my freshman year of high school and fell in love with eastern Iowa from there.”
Hockenberry later returned — and now works to make Jackson County, Iowa, and the surrounding region a place where residents want to stay, and others want to come visit.
As director of the Jackson County Economic Alliance in Maquoketa, the Bellevue man’s days vary greatly. One day he might meet with a large manufacturer to help with a facility expansion, and the next he might work with the Conservation Board to help find funding for a trail expansion.
With every project Hockenberry pursues, he relies on the power of collaboration.
“If you are aiming for success in a workplace or community endeavor, you are going to need to be able to draw out the best in others around you to yield the greatest results,” he said. “Finding common cause and working with others to achieve something is a special kind of magic.”
Hockenberry’s job allows him to get involved with several organizations working on beautification efforts, highlighting history and arts and enhancing recreation opportunities. But he’s especially passionate about his work with Climb On and the Grant Wood Loop.
Hockenberry and his wife, Allison Simpson, started the nonprofit Climb On, which promotes rock climbing, adventuring and environmental education.
“Eastern Iowa has incredible outdoor spaces, and one of the most notable aspects are the striking limestone bluffs,” he said. “I love sharing the experience of climbing those bluffs with those who may not have even realized this area had such incredible outdoor rock climbing opportunities.”
His work with the Grant Wood Loop follows that same vein. The regional nonprofit focuses on enhancing, promoting and sustaining the region’s recreation, arts and cultural opportunities. Through the organization, Hockenberry works with communities “to help elevate the incredible places they have to offer,” he said.
“From the Pictured Rocks Park outside Monticello (where I rock climb a lot), to the Codfish Hollow outside Maquoketa (where national music acts play in an incredible barn venue), to the National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque (where you can often see Smithsonian exhibits), we are arguably in the most interesting region in the Midwest,” he said.
Hockenberry and his wife will soon welcome another resident to the region. The couple is expecting their first child in October.
“I’ve lived all over the country, and I think that the more I can help share the story of the great communities here in eastern Iowa, the more converted Iowans we’ll see following the path my family did,” Hockenberry said.