University News

Rural Economic Development Conference Set for March 4 and 5

January 23, 2009

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MACOMB, IL -- The 20th Annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference will be held Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5 at the Holiday Inn City Centre in Peoria (IL). The theme for this year's conference is "Rural Community Economic Development: Promoting a Rural Renaissance."

According to Christopher Merrett, director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA), the conference will feature innovative local community and economic development approaches. Nationally recognized speakers and development practitioners will share their insights and possible strategies that could succeed in communities.

The conference is sponsored by IIRA, in conjunction with the Governor's Rural Affairs Council chaired by Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, and Rural Partners. Sponsors include USDA-Rural Development and Thomas Jacob and Associates -- Economic Development Group.

This year's conference will cover four broad areas: Rural Illinois in the Future, Successful Community Development Strategies, Innovative Community Strategies and Workshops on Community and Economic Development. A total of 20 sessions will feature speakers and panel discussions.

Scheduled speakers and topics include:

  • Lt. Governor Quinn: "Rural Illinois: How Far Have We Come?"
  • Don Macke, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship: "How to Launch and Use Community Foundations"
  • David Ivan, Michigan State University: "Can Small Towns Be Cool?"
  • Sam M. Cordes Purdue University: "New Administration: Rural with a Regional Focus?"
  • Greg Wise, University of Wisconsin: "Building a Local Entrepreneurship Program"
  • Bill Konyha, President and CEO, Wabash County, Indiana
  • Brent D. Hales, University of Southern Mississippi, Southern Entrepreneurship Program

Sessions also will include presentations on innovative community practices being implemented in Illinois, such as using geographic information systems; a case study of Strasburg's community development efforts; options for financing infrastructure development; and tax increment financing. The conference will end with the post-conference workshop, "Community and Economic Impacts of Rural Health Care Provision." The workshop is scheduled from 12:30 - 2:00. Preregistration is required.

Registrations postmarked by Monday, Feb. 16, 2009, will receive the early bird rate of $150 per person. Registrations postmarked after that date and at the door will be $160. The registration deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2009.

For more information, call Carol Harper at (309) 298-2637, toll free at (800) 526-9943 or at The announcement and program are also available at

Western Illinois University is an Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity institution. For more information about the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, see If you care to comment about this column, please contact Timothy Collins at (800) 526-9943 or

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