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Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference
South Dakota Ag Connection - 06/14/2018

Over 100 rural community leaders from across South Dakota came together to participate in Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference. It was hosted by the SDSU Extension Community Vitality Team and the Community of De Smet.

The event was held in downtown De Smet businesses. Shop owners and managers shared their entrepreneurial journeys, while speakers and presenters shared their experiences & knowledge on a variety of topics: Funding for Community Projects, Entrepreneurial Experiences, Agritourism and Value Added Agriculture, and Engaging Community Members.

The idea for creating and hosting the Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference came when members of the SDSU Community Vitality Team spent two days in April 2017 attending a "Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities" Conference in McCook, Neb. That conference, hosted by University of Nebraska Extension, offered an interesting venue twist: conference sessions were held in main street businesses. First tried by Michigan State University with success, the University of Nebraska Extension duplicated the innovative idea in McCook. Now SDSU Extension has reproduced the idea in De Smet.

There were also resource providers who were available to discuss tools to assist communities and entrepreneurs alike. The following were represented: South Dakota Community Foundation, Lake Area Tech, SD Department of tourism, Dakota Resources, SD Small Business Development, SD Rural Life and Census Data Center, SD Planning Districts, East River Electric and SDSU Extension Community Vitality.

"The combination was powerful, with all groups learning from each other," said Paul Thares, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist and one of the event coordinators.

To learn more about how the SDSU Extension Community Vitality works to strengthen South Dakotans and their communities, contact Kenny Sherin, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Program Director by email. The team plans to host a similar event in 2019.

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