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2024 Wisconsin Rural Summit Speakers

Rural Wisconsin: Building from the Past, Poised for the Future

May 14 & 15, 2024 | AmericInn, Ashland, Wi 

Rural Communities: Trends and Challenges

Garret Zastoupil, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Rural Economic Development, Northland College

About Garret: Garret has called the upper-midwest home for most of his life, in mid-size and large cities, and small towns. Most recently he spent the last two years between Fargo, ND and west-Central North Dakota, while completing his dissertation research. His professional experience has focused on building, supporting, and sustaining transformative partnerships between institutions of higher education and mission-based organizations. Through these efforts, Garret has worked with conservation, public health, education, and arts-based organizations.

At Northland College, an Assistant Professor of Sustainable Rural Economic Development, with a joint appointment in the Business and Sustainable Community Development Programs. He has trained as an interdisciplinary and emancipatory social scientist, working alongside community organizations aiming to build more just, sustainable, and democratic futures. He works with “third sector” organizations (Nonprofits, Nongovernmental Organizations, Voluntary Associations, Cooperative) who are deliberately creating new possibilities. The aim of his praxis is to support regenerative rural economies through the creation and growth of organizations that root wealth in communities, with a focus on dismantling extractive, colonial economic development practices and policies.

Community Engagement in Local Government

Brad Gingras, Superior Strategies LLC

About Brad: Brad Gingras is a professional trainer, facilitator, generational strategist and consultant. Throughout his career he has been providing professional development workshops and strategic planning facilitation to thousands of youth and professionals. He has been in executive leadership throughout his career and in addition to Superior Strategies is also the Executive Director of Northwest Wisconsin Area Health Education Center (NWAHEC), coordinating healthcare education and workforce initiatives. His series of topics and expertise range from multi-generational training and strategies, leadership development, team-building activities, career preparation & counseling, and motivational speaking. His goal for every seminar is to have fun, laugh, inspire, and leave everybody more knowledgeable about themselves and the individuals in their work or personal lives.

Brad and his family live in rural northern Wisconsin. He is an avid outdoorsman. When he isn't goofing around on stage, he enjoys hunting, fishing, rock hounding, birding, making maple syrup, harvesting wild rice and pretty much anything else that allows him to enjoy the outdoors.

We’re all in this together - Housing partnerships and thinking outside of the box

Mike Scholl, Planning and Economic Development Professional, Ayres Associates

About Mike: Mike has two decades of nationwide planning experience with consultants, community groups, and most recently as economic development manager for the City of Loveland, Colorado. More than five years as a legislative assistant to U.S. congressmen adds to the depth of his understanding of planning, from funding through community implementation.

Through vision and persistence Mike has brought success to many development projects. He conceived and managed Loveland’s Foundry redevelopment project, which opened in 2019 and won the Governor's Award for 2020 Best Project with New Building, and he managed Loveland's Gallery Flats redevelopment project, which was awarded the Governor's Award for best 2015 infill project in Colorado.

His responsibilities include research and evaluation of data related to social, housing, economic, population, environmental, and land use trends; developing planning studies and reports; performing plan reviews; preparing permits; researching and analyzing residential and commercial development projects; reviewing and preparing environmental assessments, plans, and documents; and conducting field evaluations and assessments.

Steve Bitzer, Ed.D, Vice President Student Affairs and Campus Operations, Northwood Technical College

About Steve: Steve Bitzer is the Vice President of Student Affairs and Campus Operations at Northwood Technical College. He is responsible for the student services and operational processes at the college which includes campuses in Ashland, Superior, New Richmond and Rice Lake along with the Health Education Center in Shell Lake, and outreach centers in Hayward, Balsam Lake, and Ladysmith. Steve has a BS from UW Stout, an MBA from UW Oshkosh, and an Ed.D from Nova Southeastern University. He has been with Northwood Tech for 17 years and had previously worked at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau and Northeast Wisconsin technical College in Green Bay.

Moderator: Melissa Hunt, Planning and Economic Development Professional, Ayres Associates

About Melissa: Melissa Hunt joins Ayres on January 2, bringing nearly two decades of experience assisting communities with crafting and implementing effective economic development strategies.

Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Hunt collaborates with regional and state organizations, community leaders, business owners, and key stakeholders as she guides visioning, data analysis, master planning, and studies that successfully lead to and support opportunities for growth and development. She is a certified economic developer (CEcD) and economic development finance professional (EDFP), as well as Wisconsin Rural Partners’ newest board member, she is an active board member for the WDAC and the Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA). She holds a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional studies from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. In addition to her dedication to her profession, Hunt is extremely involved in her community. Hunt is a member of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Alumni Board and is LGBTQA+ liaison to alumni and the campus, is on the New Harvest Foundation Board in Dane County, chairs the Girl Scouts of Badgerland Wisconsin Properties Committee, and is president of the Middleton School District Parent Teacher Organization.

Rural Livability - the Economic 5 community analysis – what did we learn from all of this

Matt Kures, Community Development Specialist, University of Wisconsin, Division of Extension’s Community Development Institute

About Matt: Matt Kures is a Distinguished Community Development Specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension’s Community Development Institute. Matt works in partnership with Extension’s statewide network of resources to assist communities and organizations in the areas of regional economic analysis, labor force research, socio-economic impact analysis and industry sector competitiveness.

Land Use, Renewable Energy, Local Government - Siting process
  • Michael Goff, Business Development Manager, Pattern Energy

About Michael: Coming Soon

  • Chris Kopel, CEO, Bayfield Electric Cooperative

About Chris: Chris has been the CEO at Bayfield Electric since 2020. He grew up on a farm in western Minnesota, and has lived most of the last 30 years in the twin cities. He has been in the power industry for more than 30 years. Prior to joining Bayfield Electric, he was the CEO at Central Municipal Power Agency & Services, which is a member based municipal power supplier. Prior to the Agency, Chris served in various leadership and business development roles at NextEra Energy Resources, Avangrid Renewables, and NRG Power Marketing, as well as various regulatory, operations, and planning roles at Xcel Energy

  • David Fulweber, Operations Manager, Xcel Energy

About David: Dave Fulweber is the Senior Operations Manager at the Bay Front Power Plant in Ashland. Dave oversees the operation of two biomass power units that provide 27 mW of power to the transmission system.

Michael Goff presentation unfortunately cannot be shared

Water Quality, Regenerative Agriculture, and Sustainable Small Communities 

Dr Tina Lee, Professor, University of Wisconsin - Stout

About Tina: Tina Lee is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and is the director of the emerging UW-Stout Center for Sustainable Communities. She has also been the co-director of the Linking Applied Knowledge in Environmental Sustainability Research Experience for Undergraduates, or LAKES REU, since 2020. Contact information: leetina@uwstout.edu; 715-232-1100


Wisconsin Rural Partners
601 Sawyer Terrace #5184
Madison, WI 53705

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