Each successive recession in recent history has left in its wake an ever-widening economic gap between rural communities and national trends. Along with a stunning lack of new business formation in rural America, if this trend continues after this current pandemic-induced recession, it will perpetuate ever-widening gaps in income, population, education attainment, innovation, politics, employment and opportunity. Radically Rural seeks to provide solutions, guidelines and models for community leaders, groups and individuals to create a rich culture of entrepreneurship, a thriving local economy and a vibrant community.

Who Should Attend: Entrepreneurs, economic and community development professionals, government leaders, business leaders, community and downtown advocates, entrepreneur support organizations, lenders and other business funders


Creating Conditions for a Successful and Uniquely Local Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

September 24 | 9:00 am – 10:45 am

In Belgium, beer is brewed without adding yeast. Rather, breweries set conditions that allow local yeast strains to enter the brew to work their distinctive magic. Embedded in this approach is a powerful concept that can also guide your community as you work to brew the next batch of businesses. This session will explore how to leverage local conditions and multiple sources of funding to work their distinctive magic as you work to create your next batch of local business. Panelists will discuss the strategies they’ve used to work the assets they have and marshal the resources at hand to help businesses (and the communities in which they’re located) start, grow and pivot.

Speakers: Ben Doyle, Associate Director of USDA Rural Development; Rich Grogan, Executive Director of Northern Border Regional Commission

Panel Discussion: Laura Oswald, Director of Economic Development, Washington County, NY; Lance Willard, City Manager of City of Columbiana



PitchFork: Connecting Rural Startups with Local Funding

September 24 | 11:00 am – 12:45 pm

Startup rates are negatively impacted in rural areas because they lack funding.  The Hannah Grimes Center launched a distinctly rural pitch event in the fall of 2016 and has been gaining experience and learning lessons about funding local startups since. This session opens with a live pitch event, followed by a discussion with its organizers and a shared “operating manual” about how you can take this concept to your community. The session ends with the announcement of the winners and the presentation of cash awards of $10,000 and $1,000. PitchFork provides money and momentum for local rural entrepreneurs. For the Radically Rural Summit, the PitchFork Challenge offers cash awards, but this pitch event can also serve as a model to bring together banks, community organizations, individuals and others interesting in ensuring local businesses can access local loans and local investors. Join the excitement as these local rural entrepreneurs pitch their business and receive the “operating manual” on how to run this event in your own community.

PitchFork Challenge Emcee: Kate Kirchhofer, Program Director of Hannah Grimes Center

Speaker: Laurel Adams, President of REDC



Rebuild Your Community Co-operatively!

September 24 | 2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

Co-operative enterprise has a long and successful track record as a powerful economic development tool in rural communities.  Co-ops help market agriculture products and provide everything from farm supplies to financial services to electricity in low-density, underserved markets. Today, we also see co-ops used in new and innovative ways. Learn how co-ops help small towns provide access to fresh food when the last independent grocery store closed; or how co-ops in the South are playing a key role in community development and supporting land ownership for Black farmers; or how retiring business owners use the co-op model to transition to shared ownership with their employees and communities. Co-operatives are member-owned and democratically-governed, offering a business model that is more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient. As we work to rebuild from the social and economic impacts of COVID-19, learn how to rebuild co-operatively.

Moderator: Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of Neighboring Food Co-op Association

Panel Discussion: Rob Brown, Program Director of Cooperative Development Institute; Lori Capouch, Rural Development Director for North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives; Paul Bradley, President of ROC USA, LLC; Terence Courtney, Director of Cooperative Development & Strategic Initiatives of Federation of Southern Cooperatives

Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship Key Partners

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