Entrepreneurial Resource Provider Conference Insights: Why didn’t I think of that? Back »

Written collaboratively by Kari O’Neill and Paul Thares.

"Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities" Conference

Members of the SDSU Extension Community Vitality Team spent two days in April attending a “Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities” Conference in McCook, Nebraska. The 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, McCook replicated the innovative idea.

Shop owners and managers shared their entrepreneurial journeys, while resource providers like Extension, Small Business Development, and Economic Development discussed tools to assist entrepreneurs. The combination was powerful, with both groups learning from each other.

Del Gines presenting on Developing Entrepreneurial Leadership in Brown’s Shoe Store.


Conference Sessions

The team attended sessions such as: Rural Grocery Stores - More than Groceries; Learning. Building. Growing YEBO (Youth Entrepreneurship & Business Opportunities), Measuring Readiness in Communities, and Is Your Community Prepared for Entrepreneurs? Kari and Peggy presented sessions on the SDSU Extension Entrepreneurial Support DDN Conference, Small Business Beginnings, and Marketing Hometown America. The opportunity to network with colleagues, McCook business owners, and Economic and Community Development staff yielded rich conversations

Jim Crandall presenting; Rural Grocery Stores – More than Groceries - in the Art Guild building

Evening Activities

During the evening conference attendees met at the Bieroc Café for a reception and networking dinner with entertainment. The Bieroc Café is interesting because the building also houses the Sehnert’s Bakery and Tied House; between these three businesses you can get great food, all types of beverages, and live music. Conference participants listened to five talented local high school students perform. Sehnert’s Bakery and Tied House is worth a stop in McCook.

Two of the High School Students that entertained the group in Bieroc Café.

Keynote Speaker: Dell Gines

In addition to attending a variety of conference sessions we also to listened to keynote speaker, Dell Gines, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Omaha. Dell spoke about how to develop place, people and community. He shared how we need to care about all communities and need to demand better strategies. Local development research in the 1970’s showed incentives are not the best way to do economic development work in most communities, however, every decade incentive giving continues. For small rural communities’ incentive giving does not work. Rural communities suffer from lack of self-depreciation. Dell reminded us...what one community can do...another can do... communities need to share their stories. Small communities need to cultivate the sense of resiliency. Dell ended on the note of starting with the powerful question of “how do we?”


In Summary

McCook’s size of 7800 people made it a good mid-sized fit, and it was exciting to see the business ideas that were possible there. Good connections were made, conference attendees came from Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota and similar conferences will likely happen again. Maybe in South Dakota?!

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