Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference

Cornhusker Economics March 29, 2017Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference

The inaugural Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference (CEC) will be held April 19-20 in McCook, Nebraska.

What Is It? The CEC Conference is an opportunity to educate communities on the various tools and resources available to assist them in helping entrepreneurs grow and prosper in their communities. Presenters are found locally, regionally and from other states to share how they found success in a variety of aspects of building the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference logo

One of the unique aspects of the CEC Conference is that it is not held in a conference setting. Breakout sessions are embedded in shops and venues throughout the downtown area so the conference offers the unique opportunity to learn about and experience an entrepreneurial community. Rather than sitting in a meeting room with no windows, participants will wander around downtown as they move from session to session. This creative approach, modeled after the Michigan State connecting entrepreneurial communities conference, offers plenty of opportunity for networking and seeing first-hand the entrepreneurial efforts in the community.

Who Should Attend? This conference is most valuable to teams of community leaders and service providers that have a desire to develop or enhance the entrepreneurial environment in the community. City administrators, county commissioners, city council members, economic development professionals, chamber of commerce leaders, school district leaders and youth leaders all benefit from attending. When communities bring several participants together, they have greater leverage to implement some or all of the strategies they learn at the conference.

About the Venues. All of the sessions will be embedded in various venues such as local restaurants, retail stores, libraries, arts centers, etc. and will be determined closer to the conference dates. This will enable attendees to meet business owners and experience the community. Each session is one hour long. The local business owner will first have an opportunity to briefly share about their business.

Where is it? The 2017 conference is in McCook on April 19th and 20th.

About the Sessions Keynote speakers include Dell Gines, Federal Reserve Board of Kansas City, who defines economic development as fostering a dynamic environment where economic opportunities can be discovered, taken advantage of and maximized to their fullest extent to create balanced and sustainable economic growth, jobs, a positive sense of ‘place’ and an improved quality of life.

Breakout sessions include local and statewide presenters as well as a number of presenters from other states. The sessions are organized around the following topics:
  • Youth Entrepreneurship
  • Creating e-Communities
  • Attraction and Retention
  • Entrepreneurship Financing Options
  • Healthy Food Access
  • Resources to Assist Entrepreneurs
  • Foundational Support 
Full Agenda

Why is the conference being offered? Nebraska Extension Community Vitality has developed programs such as Entrepreneurial Communities Activation Process (ECAP) and Marketing Hometown America. Both programs have been successful at engaging communities to move to some type of action. The ECAP evaluation in the pilot communities found that communities would like to continue to learn from each other. At the same time, extension professionals have explored how to keep the momentum moving forward. Other states have also explored this question and it led to a North Central Regional Center for Rural Development grant with Michigan State. The conference is being modeled after the Michigan State CEC conference.

Scholarships are available. The Rural Futures Institute Scholarships are still available to those living in rural communities. Contact Connie Hancock at if interested! To register, view the full agenda, or for more information about the conference visit Or contact one of the team members listed below:


Charlotte Narjes
Department of Agricultural Economics
University of Nebraska-Lincoln