Summit to Focus on Building Rural Communities & Economy

Radically Rural, the annual two-day summit focused on issues and opportunities in small cities and towns, opens Sept. 19 and is expected to attract 800 people from the Monadnock Region, the Northeast and throughout the country.

The Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship and The Keene Sentinel partner to present Radically Rural, which provides a uniquely rural point-of-view for community-building, news coverage, entrepreneurship and economic development. Radically Rural includes program tracks on entrepreneurship, arts and culture, community journalism, Main Streets and downtowns, working lands and renewable energy.

Mary Ann Kristiansen, executive director at Hannah Grimes said, Broad shifts in demographics, technology and values are creating opportunity for innovative thinkers, entrepreneurs and community-builders who love their rural communities and know their advantages.”

Kristiansen notes that recent studies indicate that people are increasingly interested in living in rural areas and that technology advances make living and working in rural areas easier than ever. “Radically Rural spotlights and shares new ideas.”

Terrence Williams, president and COO at The Keene Sentinel, said, “Last year’s event exceeded all expectations in attendance and the quality of programs. More is planned this year, and we are delighted with our slate of speakers and panelists.”

Williams and Kristiansen noted that Radically Rural includes the popular CONNECT event on Sept. 19, a major gathering that attracts local business leaders and event attendees. This year’s theme is “What’s Next!,” with a focus on the future in each track.

Hannah Grimes, for the second year, is featuring The PitchFork Challenge, a business pitch competition that will award the winning business a $10,000 cash prize. The PitchFork Challenge is now accepting applications and will conclude with final presentations at the summit and the prize award at CONNECT. Details can be found on Hannah Grimes’ website, at Applications to participate are due July 23, 2019.

The summit also features keynote presentations by Wendy Guillies, executive director and president of the Kauffman Foundation, a major funder of entrepreneurship, and Art Markman, executive director of IC² at the University of Texas Austin, the oldest business incubator in the country.

“Rural communities have distinct challenges and opportunities that are not adequately addressed by conventional economic development conferences,” said Williams. “Radically Rural prioritizes innovative approaches specifically designed for rural places.”

The summit transforms Keene’s downtown into a conference center, utilizing small venues. Attendees will pass coffee houses, restaurants, shops, and meeting places to find event locales at The Colonial Theatre, old County Courthouse, the Historical Society of Cheshire County, Keene State College, Keene Public Library and the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship.

Radically Rural is built around six engaging program tracks that are highly relevant for rural communities and small towns:

Renewable Energy Certain to be more and more a part of the sustainable lifestyle many seek, renewable energy offers economic and household opportunities to small towns everywhere. Tax credits, net zero construction and solar power are all part of a new business and personal landscape taking hold in rural settings. What makes regions like your most likely to adapt to and adopt this approach to energy use?

Arts and Culture Arts and culture bring creativity, energy and civic engagement to rural communities. But they are robust economic engines, too, and often ignored for that potential. How do artists and arts-based organizations not only survive, but thrive as sustainable businesses in rural communities? How do they give back to their towns? Explore how artists can develop their business models, their markets and, in turn, become advocates and catalysts for their rural communities.

Entrepreneurship Entrepreneurship has a powerful impact on creating regional prosperity through job creation and building local companies, which care deeply about their communities. But we see growing disparity between rural and urban entrepreneurial activity and a corresponding socio-economic and political gap between the two. Distinct solutions are needed for there to be a rural advantage. Innovative small town ecosystems are bubbling up across the nation. Join us to learn about the creativity and change that is driving local economies AND building small communities, which thrive.

Community Journalism Small town journalism is at risk. Consolidation of media companies, the closing of newspapers and reduction in journalism jobs have conspired in some cases to create news deserts. What happens to small communities when the news they have relied upon for decades erodes or disappears? What can be done to preserve local journalism and news coverage? We have solutions.

Main Street It’s an idea as much as a location. Throughout rural America, nothing represents small businesses, friendly neighbors and unmatched customer service better than Main Street. Equal parts contemporary life and nostalgia, Main Street is a feeling of timelessness and of community. Main Streets are survivors – of malls, of flight to cities and now online commerce. Can they continue to thrive? Yes. Think radically.

Working Lands Land. It is the asset of rural life. It is what defines much of small-town life and what so many of us seek to use, conserve or preserve. It is through which water flows, in which food grows and upon which we in rural communities uniquely rely. So, what is being done to sustain it; to keep it robust and producing; to enrich it and keep it? If so much of our rural character is because of the land, what should we expect ahead?

Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship Key Partners