Register Now for the Michigan Small Town and Rural Development Conference

The seventh annual Michigan Small Town and Rural Development Conference is set for April 18-20, 2011 at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Mich. A welcome reception is set for the evening of April 18 for those arriving early. The conference will officially kick off at 8 a.m. Tuesday, April 19. 

Register now at and save. This year the Tuesday evening dinner has been split out in the registration to allow the conference to grow in size and make it more convenient for our daily commuters. Early registration is $100 for the two-day conference including the Monday night reception. The Tuesday night dinner is an additional $25 and guests are welcome. Book early to secure lodging at special conference rates, reservations at Crystal Mountain can be made by calling (800) 968-7686.

Featured sessions for the 2011 Conference will include:

The Sweet Spot for Job Creation in Small Communities – Mark Lange, Executive Director, Edward Lowe Foundation   Mark and the Edward Lowe Foundation focus on entrepreneurship as a source and strategy for economic growth, community development and economically independent individuals. His work encompasses the research on the potency of second stage entrepreneurs who are positioned and often motivated to grow and create jobs in a community. And, since these are firms with 10-100 employees, nearly every community in Michigan has them. Learning what these firms need to expand can be significant in the economic prosperity of communities, both small and large.

Sustainable Economic Development Strategies for Small Communities – Della Rucker  Della is one of only a few who hold professional certifications in both planning and economic development. Among Della’s areas of expertise is economic diversification strategies and she is increasingly refining these to be relevant to smaller communities. She sees eight steps for sustainable small towns: (1) Know thyself, (2) Focus on assets, (3) Make a plan, (4) Retain healthy businesses, especially small ones, (5) Recruit and grow small businesses in healthy segments, (6) Prune retail, (7) Keep a consistent focus, and (8) Be in is for the long haul.

Economic Development 101 for Small Towns – Maury Forman  Maury is an author, entertaining speaker and award-winning innovator in economic development education.  He is a senior manager with the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Innovations and Policy Division, and his work is now focused almost exclusively on rural areas of Washington. Maury has an extensive network of economic and community development practitioners from whom he draws ideas and concepts that can be practically applied in smaller communities.

Got’em, Got’em, Need’em – Keepin’em  This session title suggests  that certain key businesses and institutions in our communities are like the baseball cards in a kid’s collection – some of them are just really important to have.  A number of Michigan communities have come up with unique ways to keep these iconic businesses and create other enterprises that are good and valuable to our towns. Six examples of a range of businesses that were saved and/or created will be presented by those closely involved with their success.  These tentatively include:  ● Cops and Donuts (a Clare bakery) ● Bloomingdale Market (a grocery)  ● Copper Nail (Grass Lake resale shop)  ● MIUpperHand (a UP regional arts)  ● Garden Theatre (a Frankfort movie theatre) and  ● The Echo (an Athens newspaper).

New Snyder Administration Invitees – Newly appointed directors in Governor Snyder’s administration will be contacted to address the conference.  In a statement made on November 30, Govenor-elect Synder said ” job creation in rural areas sometimes gets shortchanged at the expense of economic development areas in cities”. Among those we plan to invite to speak will be:  

  • Dan Wyant, former director of the Department of Agriculture and named as the new Director of the Department of Environmental Quality. Wyant will head a group called “quality of life” which will include environmental quality, natural resources, agriculture, and rural development.
  • Keith Creagh, who had 33 years of prior experience in state government, named as the new Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  • Other appointees as named.

For more information contact Allan Hooper at