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IIRA's 24th Annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference Set for March 6 & 7 in Peoria

January 17, 2013

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MACOMB, IL -- The 24th Annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference, "Meeting New Challenges with Innovative Approaches," will be held Wednesday-Thursday, March 6 and 7 at the Four Points by Sheraton in Peoria (IL). Organized by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University, in conjunction with the Governor's Rural Affairs Council and Rural Partners, the conference's agenda features speakers from throughout the country who will offer tested solutions and strategies designed to address rural economic development.

A welcome reception opens the conference at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, providing attendees the opportunity to network and socialize. The March 6 opening session presentation, "Rural Wealth Creation: A New Approach," will feature Barbara Wychoff of Dynamica Consulting. In addition, the opening session will include Gardner Carrick from the Manufacturing Institute, who will discuss the future of agriculture in the Midwest. Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, chair of the Governor's Rural Affairs Council, is also tentatively scheduled to provide updates regarding her rural development agenda.

According to IIRA Director Christopher Merrett, the conference is geared toward individuals who would like to learn about efforts in promoting prosperity and economic development.

"Interest has grown among community members, along with the professional developers, over time," Merrett said. "Many of the communities that have received services from our programs attend the conference each year so they remain current on new and innovative ideas and continue growing their local economies."

Scheduled speakers will include Craig Lindvahl from Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) and Mary Lou Surgi, who will discuss the potential for communities interested in developing a food business incubator. The conference will also feature George Venios, who has worked to encourage teen entrepreneurship in Milton, PA.

Other sessions include strategies for financing businesses in rural areas, creating a green economy, creating jobs and building a workforce. Attendees will also have important networking opportunities to meet colleagues from across the state, as well as representatives from state and federal agencies serving rural communities, Merrett noted.

To receive the early-bird conference rate, register by Friday, Feb. 15 online at For more information about the 24th annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference, visit or contact Karen Poncin at the IIRA at (800) 526-9943.

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