Radically Rural – Remote Summit: Main Street sessions explore creating vibrant, thriving downtowns in rural communities

As communities grapple with a changed world and begin the process of rebuilding in the wake of a global pandemic, collaboration and creative thinking are keys in the struggle for a comeback in rural areas, many agree.

Radically Rural Main Street track leaders Shannon Hundley, owner of Life is Sweet Candies in Keene; Beth Wood, downtown coordinator for the city of Keene; and Emily Lavigne, manager, Prime Roast Coffee, have assembled three sessions aimed at connecting participants to ideas and resources that will promote growth and support of rural downtowns. Change should represent the diverse qualities and needs of any community, but sustainability is key, they say.

Radically Rural-Remote is Sept. 24, and is being held online this year starting at 8 a.m., with a keynote speaker, and followed by track sessions at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and a closing speaker at 4 p.m. An interactive idea jam, comprised of successful initiatives in the areas of Main Streets, community journalism, entrepreneurship, community and land, arts and culture and clean energy is presented at 1 p.m.

The Brighter Future of Empty Buildings – 9 a.m.

Deb Brown co-founder of SaveYour.Town will lead a discussion on how to fill empty buildings on Main Streets, getting entire communities involved. By starting an “empty buildings tour” in her small town, Brown was able to fill 10 out of 12 empty spaces and has a wealth of information to share on towns that have since followed her lead. Brown will discuss the importance of putting empty spaces to good use, and why taking these actions is more important now than ever. Participants will be given practical steps for implementing an “empty buildings initiative” in their own communities.

Operating a Business in a “New Normal” – 11am

Businesses and business owners have been tasked with blind decision-making and radical business- model pivots in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this new normal, small businesses need to find ways to safeguard the health of their employees, support morale in the remote workplace and ensure financial stability. With the cautious reopening of the economy, business owners must forge ahead with new plans for hiring, training and taking care of their workforce. Join a panel discussion lead by small business owners who are ready to share ideas that have worked for them as they maneuver through difficult times. Discover the resources available to small businesses and how to take advantage of them.

Livable downtowns – Stevens and Associates – 2pm

Stevens and Associates of Brattleboro, Vt., is an award-winning architecture, civil and structural engineering and landscape architecture consulting firm specializing in livable communities, historic building preservation and campus design. Join founder and President Robert Stevens in a discussion on what makes a viable downtown. Stevens works to support a Main Street model by first embracing the fabric of that which already exists. This means adaptive reuse of old buildings, sensitive design of new buildings and the creation of pedestrian-friendly downtowns. The goal of this session is to inspire individuals to consider what is already available in their communities and to move forward with change that is appropriate and supportive of a diverse, robust and thriving, downtown.

For more information on the Radically Rural – Remote Summit, or this year’s track themes, visit the event’s website at www.radicallyrural.org

Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship Key Partners

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