The conference will focus on rural development topics and provide an opportunity for citizens, community leaders, nonprofit and governmental groups, and elected and appointed officials to connect with others dedicated to improvements for rural Montana. Scholarships are available and preference is given to those who register by April 3.
"The Rural Community conference is a great opportunity for people who live and work in rural communities to network and learn about important issues," said Dan Clark, Director of the MSU Local Government Center. "This conference provides a forum for discussion about key questions regarding natural resource and energy development, population changes, impacts of federal policy, and rural entrepreneurship. Each collaborator will leave with a greater awareness of the changing landscape of rural Montana and be equipped with new ideas and tactics to address changes in their communities," Clark added.
Three nationally known keynote speakers will be featured at the conference. Don Macke, Director of Strategic Engagement and project director for Hometown Competitiveness at the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Lincoln, Neb., will provide the opening address. Macke will address intergenerational transfer of wealth and apply it to Montana communities. Bruce Nelson, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency, will deliver the May 15 dinner speech. Nelson is the former state executive director for the Montana Farm Service Agency and will share perspectives from Washington, D.C., as well as from his hometown of Fort Benton. John Robert Smith, President and CEO of Reconnecting America and former mayor of Meridian, Miss., will close the conference with an address on community revitalization.
A panel featuring representatives from USDA Rural Development, American Farm Bureau, the Montana Economic Developers Association, and the Energy Promotion and Development Division of the Montana Department of Commerce will take place the morning of May 16. The two-day conference also includes ten breakout sessions on rural community topics including: Growth in oil country, transfer of wealth, rural entrepreneurship, organizational strategic planning, tourism/agri-tourism, rural health, e-commerce, disaster planning, and more.
The 2012 Rural Community Conference is supported by Rural Dynamics Incorporated, the Montana Community Foundation, NorthWestern Energy, the MSU Office of Rural Health, the Montana Department of Commerce, Triangle Communications, 3 Rivers Communications, Blackfoot Telecommunications, and Montana State University Extension.
The cost of the conference is $99 before April 3 and $125 after and includes four meals.