Recapping Nebraska’s 2015 Rural Futures Conference

rural nebraskaIf you were at the Lincoln Innovation Campus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln or the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture this past weekend, you may have noticed a little more buzz surrounding the schools than usual. That’s because both institutions were host sites for the 2015 Rural Futures Conference, the third annual event hosted by the Rural Futures Institute.

If you aren’t familiar with efforts to develop rural economies, a major trend in economic growth these days is attempting to shift the locus of business development from only cities, to rural landscapes and cities simultaneously.

The theme for the conference was ‘Hope Inspires Vision,’ a call for faculty, staff, students, and partners to build hope and invigorate the rural landscape. There was no shortage of heavyweight speakers who came out to show their support for rural America, including Warren Buffett’s son, Howard G. Buffett, and grandson, Howard W. Buffett.

According to the North Platte Telegraph, “the two Howards have developed strong rural connections. Howard G. has been farming since 1977, and raised his son, Howard W., on the family’s farm near Decatur, Illinois. They are also co-authors of the 2013 book “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World” and both aim to improve rural economies.

Another notable speaker was Governor Pete Ricketts, who talked about both the importance of rural communities to Nebraska’s future, and the importance of manufacturing, according to the North Platte Bulletin: “With manufacturing as the second largest industry in Nebraska, there needs to be a focus on how to develop that workforce. Manufacturing allows us to create jobs all across our state, not just in Lincoln and in Omaha. Great Nebraska companies are creating jobs in our small towns and rural communities.”

There were all sorts of interesting panels and presentations throughout the two-day conference that were meant to inspire and explore the poignancy of rural culture in attracting people who are unhappy in their urban environments. Shane Farritor, a UNL professor from Ravenna, Nebraska, said that states should explore creating maker spaces in the state’s rural communities. Rural maker spaces could be hubs for entrepreneurship.

Shane Lopez, a research director at Gallup, discussed the importance of a future-oriented mindset for a community’s success. You can check out other snippets from a World-Herald article here, but what’s most important to glean is that an awareness and attention to change, as well as a positive outlook, can make all the difference in changing the future of a community.

We’ll just be here working our hardest to promote rural Nebraska manufacturing, because there’s some outstanding work being done in tiny cities and towns across our state that isn’t always properly recognized or acknowledged. If you have a rural manufacturer you’d like us to highlight, please share in the comments section below so that we can feature their hard work!

Buffett ended the conference with some compelling words: “Conferences like this are one of the most important things happening in America. This country was built on rural communities, and it’s important that they continue to grow. Rural America has to survive and stay strong.”

photo credit: Oregon Trail Marker Vicinity via photopin (license)