Detailed Agenda

Click here to view or download the Regards to Rural program.

This year’s conference features sessions built around four tracks, inspiring plenaries, a Friday pre-session, networking opportunities, lunch and dinner on Saturday, May 19, breakfast on Sunday, May 20, and all conference-related materials.

Featured Speakers Include:

Becky McCray, Rural and Small Town Business Expert and Author
Delivering Practical Steps You Can Put into Action Right Away to Shape the Future of Your Town

Janet Topolsky, Executive Director, Community Strategies Group, The Aspen Institute
Helping Rural and Urban Community Leaders, Organizations, and Policymakers Across the Country Find, Create, and Spread Community and Economic Development Strategies That Work

Deborah Markley, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, a National Nonprofit Organization Supporting Business, Social, and Civic Entrepreneurs

Steve Brown, The Bald Futurist and CEO of Possibility & Purpose
World-Renowned Speaker, Author, Strategist, and Executive Coach

Please note, session details are subject to change. Check back often as we will continually update the website.

Friday, May 18, 1:00–4:00

Shift Happens: The BOLD Question Behind Rural Problems We All Face

Presented by Becky McCray, Rural and Small Town Business Expert

What are our common challenges in rural communities? Is it the loss of young people? Lack of volunteers? No funding? Missing out on opportunities? Downtown is dying?

Now, what are the real challenges underlying all of those? What if we missed a major shift that affects all of these? There’s one underlying factor that leads to the loss of young people, lack of volunteers, our dying downtowns, and all the rest: we’re too closed to new ideas. We’re trying to navigate our way into the future using the same old procedures that we inherited from the past. Young people feel shut out, so they move. New volunteers feel marginalized and forced into existing structures, so they stay home. Complex problems force us to build ever more complicated organizations and structures to face them. Do you see a pattern? Together in one afternoon, we’re going to use this insight to reshape the future of our towns into being open to new ideas, prosperous, moving forward, and Idea Friendly.

Cost of this pre-session is $45.

Friday, May 18, 1:00–4:00

Are you a staff or board member of a philanthropic organization? The following pre-session is for you!
“Building Prosperity for Rural People and Places: Finding Your Foundation’s Niche”

Presented by Deborah Markley, Co-Founder and Managing Director of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, and Janet Topolsky, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Community Strategies Group

Attend this three-hour session to gain useful principles for investing in rural based on the work of seasoned practitioners; get clearer on what qualifies as a “prosperity outcome” in rural; explore a process for finding your foundation’s niche; and learn how innovative foundations have successfully acted to improve rural outcomes and engage in dialogue.

Cost of this session is $35.

Please note: This pre-session is only open to staff and board of philanthropic organizations. Contact us at for questions.

Friday, May 18, 6:00–8:00

Bridges Between Rural & Urban Networking Reception
Join us for conversation and networking over hor d’oeuvres and refreshments.
Hosted by The Ford Family Foundation
RSVP required. (Look for the RSVP option on the registration form.)

Saturday, May 19, 8:30–9:30

Welcome & Opener: Hacking the System: Simplicity on the Far Side of Complexity

Saturday, May 19, 9:30–10:00


Saturday, May 19, 10:00–11:30

A Watershed Moment Cascading Forward: Economic and Ecologic Approaches to Water Management in the Northwest
Mark Owens, Harney County Commissioner
Meta Loftsgaarden, Director, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
Tom Byler, Director, Oregon Water Resources Department
Ken Helm, State Representative, District 34, Chair, House Committee on Energy and the Environment
Adam Denlinger, General Manager, Seal Rock Water District
April Snell, Executive Director, Oregon Water Resources Congress

Roadmap for Building Community Networks: Presented by a Network of Rural Community Builders
Megan Fehrman, A Greater Applegate
Brooke Nuckles Gentekos, A Greater Applegate
Megan Peterson, Siskiyou Revitalization Network
Della Harp, Umpqua Connects
Christine Turvey, Umpqua STEAM Hub
Lindsey B. Gillette, Illinois Valley Network and Roadmap Co-Coordinator
Roi Crouch, CommUNITY Consulting Coach and Roadmap Co-Coordinator

Creative Community Capital: Four Ways to Secure Funds for Building Your Economy
Chris Miller, Economic Development & DDA Coordinator, City of Adrian, Michigan
Louisa Schibli, Milk Money, Vermont
Janice Shade, Milk Money, Vermont
Amy Pearl, Founder/Former CEO, Hatch Innovation
Lisa Dawson, Executive Director, Northeast Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD)
Judy Goodman, Founder, BGOOD Bars, Joseph, Oregon
Brian Beckon, Attorney, Cutting Edge Counsel

An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: What Is It? How Do You Build One?
Deborah Markley, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship
Janet Soto Rodriguez, Entrepreneurship Strategist, Business Oregon

Embracing Tomorrow’s Workforce: How Rural Communities Can Prepare Their Workforce for Tomorrow’s Jobs
Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, President, Klamath Community College
Melissa Brandao, Founder and CEO, HerdDogg
Heather Ficht, Executive Director, East Cascades Workforce Investment Board
Heather Stafford, Director of Adult Education, Siskiyou County Office of Education
Wally Corwin, JELD-WEN

Saturday, May 19, 11:45–12:45

Bridging Together Networking Lunch

Saturday, May 19, 1:00–2:30

Bring on the Broadband: Infrastructure in Rural
Joseph Franell, Chair, Oregon Broadband Advisory Council, and CEO, Eastern Oregon Telecom
Carrie Pipinich, Program Manager, Mid-Columbia Economic Development District
Betty Buckley, Executive Director, Washington Independent Telecommunications Association
Andrea Alexander, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Energy & Telecommunications
The Honorable Representative Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, Washington
The Honorable Representative Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, Oregon
Mario Villanueva, Executive Director, Partners for Rural Washington

What Is This Community Building Thing?
Roque Barros, Director, Ford Institute for Community Building
Max Gimbel, Associate Director, Ford Institute for Community Building
Amazing Rural Community Builders

Transforming Rural Economies with the WealthWorks Approach: Stories from the Field
Amy Hause, Economic Vitality Consultant, Rural Development Initiatives
Barbara Wyckoff, Co-Founder, Creative Disruptors, Inc.
Michelle Martin, Director of Community and Economic Development, NeighborWorks Umpqua
Leslie Schaller, Director of Programs, Appalachian Center for Economic Networks
Jason Coomes, Energy Programs Manager, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED)

Participación de la Comunidad (Community Participation)
Christian J. Vazquez Rivera, Bilingual Program Manager, Rural Development Initiatives
Maria A. Verano, Bilingual Program Coordinator, Rural Development Initiatives
Gustavo Morales, Executive Director, EUVALCREE

Opportunities to Invest in Rural: The Rebirth of Traditional Rural-Based Sectors
Tyler Freres, Vice-President, Freres Lumber, Lyons, OR
Angelina Skowronski, General Manager, Fishpeople Seafood Market at Garibaldi Landing
Cory Carmen, Owner, Carmen Ranch, Wallowa, OR
Bruce Nissen, CEO, LDB Beverage, Stevenson, WA

Saturday, May 19, 2:30–3:00

Networking Break

Saturday, May 19, 3:00–4:30

Rural Economic Diversification and Innovation: The New Growth Sectors
Jenny Taylor, Director of Infrastructure, Insitu, Inc., Hood River, OR/Stevenson, WA
Ray Doering, Director, Corporate Communication, Coquille Economic Development Corporation (CEDCO), North Bend, OR
Orion Falvey, Co-Owner, Orchid Health, Estacada/Oakridge, OR
Tim Fry, President, 468 Communications, Bellingham, WA

Bridging Rural and Urban? Efforts to Connect Across Real and Perceived Divides, Geographic and Otherwise
Mariana Lindsay, Urban Rural Project Coordinator, American Leadership Forum
Adam Davis, Executive Director, Oregon Humanities
Robin Teater, Executive Director, Healthy Democracy

Rural Development Through Land Stewardship
Nils Christoffersen, Executive Director, Wallowa Resources
Susan Jane Brown, Member, Blue Mountains Forest Partners & Staff Attorney, Western Environmental Law Center
Maia Enzer, Planning & Public Engagement Advisor, US Forest Service
Phil Chang, Federal Forest Restoration Lead, Oregon Department of Forestry
Karen Hardigg, Director, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition

Align to Thrive: Philanthropy and Rural Prosperity
Janet Topolsky, Executive Director, Community Strategies Group, The Aspen Institute
Deborah Markley, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship

Navigating the Challenges of Rural Housing
Marty Miller, Director, Office of Rural and Farm Worker Housing
Kim Herman, Executive Director, Washington State Housing Finance
Shawn Irvine, Economic Development Director, City of Independence
Dwight Unti, President, Tokola Properties, Inc.
Kim Travis, Housing Integrator, Oregon Housing and Community Services

Saturday, May 19, 5:30–6:00

Raffle Drawing

Saturday, May 19, 6:00–7:30

Dinner & Celebration

Sunday, May 20, 7:30–9:15 

Rural Priorities Networking Breakfast

Sunday, May 20, 9:30–11:00

The Future of Rural Farms, Ranches, & Businesses
Oregon Senator Bill Hansell
Mark Bennett, County Commissioner, Baker County, Oregon
Nellie McAdams, Farm Preservation Program Director, Rogue Farm Corps
Diana Tourney, Adviser and Instructor, Clackamas Small Business Development Center
Jared Gardner, Nehalem River Ranch

Reservation Capitalism: Economic Development in Indian Country
Robert Miller, Author of Reservation “Capitalism”: Economic Development in Indian Country
Ray Doering, Director, Corporate Communication, Coquille Economic Development Corporation (CEDCO), North Bend, OR
Amber Schulz-Oliver, Executive Director, The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Economic Development Corporation (ATNI-EDC)

Leading Across Our Political Divides
Heidi Venture, Heidi Venture Consulting

Catalytic Community Building: Assessment and Action!
Amy Carlson, Organizational Development Consultant
Lola Jones, Executive Director, Samaritan House
Toby Winn, Executive Director, Neighbors for Kids
Maria Caballero Rubio, Executive Director, Centro Cultural de Washington County
Gustavo Morales, Executive Director, EUVALCREE
Eric Johnston, Executive Director, Todos Juntos
Harv Schubothe, Executive Director, Greater Bandon Association
Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Director of Development and Communications, Centro Cultural de Washington County

Sunday, May 20, 9:30–4:00 

Private WealthWorks National Peer to Peer Gathering

Sunday, May 20, 11:15–12:00

Plenary: Bold Rural Leadership, One Tiny Step at a Time