Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference

Cornhusker Economics March 23, 2018Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference

By Charlotte Narjes

Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference Logo

What Is It? The Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities 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.  

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. The conference offers a unique opportunity to learn about and experience an entrepreneurial community. Rather than sitting in a meeting room with no windows, participants will wander around the downtown as they move from session to session. Participants in the inaugural conference all indicated that holding sessions in the businesses enhanced their learning experience. The sessions were smaller and more informal which allowed for more creative conversation and interaction between the presenters and those attending.

The Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities conference was a fantastic way to learn something new by seeing it in action. Whether it was a small business, community development, marketing or the arts. This format gives participants multiple takeaways to use in their community. 2017 Attendee

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. Anyone with a passion for creating an entrepreneurial environment in their community, including community volunteers, economic developers, chamber of commerce leaders, city administrators, county commissioners, city council members, school district leaders and youth leaders, will 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. 

Where is it? The 2018 conference is in Hastings on April 4-5, 2018. The conference will be hosted at The Lark (809 West 2nd St. in Hastings) and break-out sessions will be situated in venues in downtown Hastings, all within walking distance of each other. Sessions are scheduled to allow time for networking with other attendees and enjoying the various downtown businesses.

About the Sessions Keynote speakers include local entrepreneurs who will share their passions and experiences. Josh Berry, Innovator and Co-Founder of Econic will headline this year’s event with:  “Innovation and Entrepreneurship Can Happen Anywhere!”  Josh enjoys helping businesses grow by mapping and executing their own innovation strategy. With unique experience in both the corporate and startup business worlds, he will bring the mindset of innovation to the challenges faced by rural communities and businesses.

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:

This year’s tracks include:

  • Creating a Vibrant Downtown
  • Effective Business Attraction and Retention
  • Authentic Community Engagement
  • Helping Entrepreneurs Through Challenges
  • Developing an Entrepreneurial Culture
  • Retail Academy

Photos of attendees at last year's conference


Conference registration is $80 which includes breakout sessions, Wednesday lunch and dinner, networking event, and keynote speeches from local entrepreneurs. Registration after March 23 is $100.

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