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2024 Wisconsin Rural Summit Agenda

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

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2024 Schedule




4:00 pm

Tour of Ashland Area

Bus Leaves The AmericInnn of Ashland

    Ashland, Wisconsin is nestled on the south shore of the greatest of the Great Lakes - Lake Superior. Ashland County’s top 3 employers include C.G. Bretting Manufacturing, The Bad River Lodge & Casino, and Tamarack Health Ashland Medical Center. Ashland’s economy is very diverse and includes businesses in most of the industry sectors. Ashland is also both a four-season destination and a 4-season community. Ashland’s Main Street is 99% locally owned and operated with over 30 retailer’s located in our historic district.

    Ashland Resources, Businesses, and Leaders: Touring and visiting Ashland's shoreline.

    5:15 pm 

    Downtown Ashland | Main Street

    Ashland is the “Historic Mural Capital of Wisconsin” with 13 original life-sized murals painted on buildings throughout the downtown area. From 5:15 pm - 6:30 pm.
    Seven participating retailers will have tastes and specials for the tour attendees as they stroll. Hors d’ Oeuvres and Wine/Sparkling Water Stroll

    6:30 pm

    Welcome Reception

    The Union Event Center, 100 Main Street W

    Enjoy appetizers and drinks 

    7:45 pm

    Bus Returns to AmericInn Ashland

    Wednesday, May 15, 2024 Schedule
    All sessions are held in the Ballroom, including exhibitors




    7:30 am

    Registration & Continental Breakfast

    Visit Exhibitors

    8:30 am

    Welcome to Ashland

    • Kenyon Kies, WI Rural Partners President
    • Ashland Leaders 

    8:45 am

    Ashland's Strength | Stories of Collaboration

    9:15 am

    Break - Visit Exhibitors

    9:30 am

    Rural Communities: Trends and Challenges

    Rural areas and small towns in the United States are at the forefront of social, economic, and ecological transformation and change. These rural communities often grapple with social and economic challenges resulting from deindustrialization, environmental regulation, population loss, and a declining tax base. The Northwoods features communities both thriving and distressed, and provides an opportunity to imagine, research, and implement development that creates more sustainable, resilient economies and communities.

    Garret Zastoupil
    Assistant Professor of Sustainable Rural Economic Development
    Northland College

    10:15 am

    Community Engagement in Local Government

    We know that without proper plans in place, including a strong community engagement strategy, municipal governments face challenges throughout the entire community. How do we bring the community together (age, background, technology knowledge) to bring programs, projects to completion? This session will talk about the challenges and provide ideas and resources from communities who have met these.

    Brad Gingras, Superior Strategies LLC

    11:00 am

    Break - Visit Exhibitors

    11:15 am

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

    Two examples of successful housing projects that were community partnerships where the hospital was a major partner. One in Wisconsin and one in Colorado.

    This session focuses on a case study from Craig, Colorado, where Memorial Regional Hospital partnered with the City of Craig to build 20 units of affordable housing. The housing units, consisting of two and three-bedroom units from 1,100 to 1,300 square feet will be made available to income qualified hospital employees.

    Northwood Technical College collaboration with Impact 7 , the HOMES grant addressed both advanced manufacturing workforce and affordable housing shortages, focusing on unemployed and underemployed adults and underserved populations.

    "• Mike Scholl, Planning and Economic Development Professional, Ayres Associates

    • Steve Bitzer, Ed.D, Vice President Student Affairs and Campus Operations, Northwood Technical College
    • Moderator: Melissa Hunt, Planning and Economic Development Professional, Ayres Associates "

    12:00 pm


    Top Rural Development Initiatives (TRDI) Presentation

    1:00 pm

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

    In many rural areas of Wisconsin, access to grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, healthcare and other critical institutions and services is becoming increasingly challenging. At the same time, rural communities are seeing changes to their economic foundations as well as declines in civic engagement. These factors can make it difficult for rural residents to reliably meet their needs, reducing the livability of their communities. The aim of the Rural Livability Project is to identify the key assets needed to sustain rural communities, and to find the best ways forward in developing community economic development policies and strategies to support rural livability. This project will help communities identify their local challenges along with the assets that can be mobilized to support a stronger future.
    Matt Kures, Community Development Specialist, University of Wisconsin, Division of Extension’s Community Development Institute

    1;45 pm

    Break - Visit Exhibitors

    1:55 pm

    Land Use, Renewable Energy, Local Government - Siting process

    As the momentum behind renewable energy continues to grow, the process of site selection can pose significant challenges for both local governments and developers. However, with a strategic approach, this process can be simplified and made more efficient. This session aims to provide insights into collaborating with local governments and stakeholders to facilitate a seamless and efficient process, which will pave the way for the responsible development of renewable energy projects. Our panel of experts will guide you through site identification, regulatory navigation, and more, assisting communities in reaching their renewable energy targets while conserving their natural resources.

      • Michael Goff, Business Development Manager, Pattern Energy
      • Chris Kopel, CEO, Bayfield Electric Cooperative
      • David Fulweber, Operations Manager, Xecl Energy
      • Moderator –Donna Walker, Economic Development Manager, Dairyland Power Cooperative

      2:45  pm

      Water Quality, Regenerative Agriculture, and Sustainable Small Communities in America’s Dairyland

      Many small communities in Wisconsin are dealing with the negative effects of declining water quality in lakes, rivers, and streams as well as drinking water quality issues. This session will discuss interdisciplinary research and practice under the umbrella of UW-Stout’s Center for Sustainable Small Communities that aims to both better understand the causes and effects of poor water quality and to support innovative solutions. Efforts in the areas of water quality monitoring and remediation, ecological restoration, supporting small agricultural businesses, and supporting farmer decision-making through technology will be outlined.

      Dr Tina Lee, Professor, University of Wisconsin - Stout

      3:30 pm

      Thank you! Looking forward to 2025


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

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