Big Rural Brainstorm

Here it is, the third

There’s so much happening in Kansas right now, and we’re all a part of it. Come to the best “un-conference” in the state to meet other Great Kansans and talk about the things we can do to sustain and grow our communities. If you are working hard for your community, this is for you. If you don’t know where to start, this is for you. If you want to interact in a positive way with other Kansans and leave with a plan for action, this is for you! We can ALL make a difference!

WHEN:  Monday, March 7, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
(Registration starts at 9 a.m.)

WHERE: Meridian Event Center, 216 N. Meridian Road, Newton.  Located at  I-135 and Broadway.

COST:  $50.

Register Here »


An anonymous Kansan has pledged to match sponsorships up to $5,000 in order to help keep expenses low for all who attend. This Kansan believes in fostering civic engagement among all Kansans, and wants to help make a difference. Will you help us reach this goal? We will recognize you incredible folks and your commitment to sponsoring this collective brilliance. There’s a place on the registration page to designate your sponsorship. Thank you so much!



  • Anyone who lives or works in rural communities and wants to be part of a solution.  Small communities are valued here! 
  • PowerUps!  21-39s who are rural by choice or have an affection for rural.
  • Anyone who wants to make a difference, but maybe doesn’t know where to begin to make positive change in their community.
  • Risk takers! People willing to try new things and engage in new ways. Maybe even take part in public service or by serving on a board of a local organization.
  • Good rural advocate thinkers, people who can see the big picture.  
  • All ages passionate about rural living. 

The exciting thing is the prospect of having people from every aspect (health, education, government, volunteers, etc.) of rural life here, sharing ideas.  The mix of perspectives will help us think more creatively.  

You might pass on this if you just want to give advice or tell about your program.  This is about listening, shaping answers that are meaningful to a specific situation, and thinking with innovation. 



A questionnaire on the registration form will help generate topics and the direction of planning.

The focus of this year’s BRB is civic engagement – what it means and what it looks like. What does civic engagement look like in 2016 in Kansas? What should it look like? And how can we make it happen?

We will spend time thinking about what we can do to make good, positive change in our communities. If you are the busiest person you know, this will be a time to take a breath and think about how you can make your actions better. If you have no idea who to call, where to start, or what to do, but a deep desire to do something, you’ll have time to figure that out!

The day will consist of many small groups of discussion.  We’ll shape and reshape the groups, hear from people, plan together. The goal is to lead to ACTION!

Civic Health Summit 2016


Register to save your (FREE) spot today!

Civic health is something we all own together. Join with other Nebraskans to bridge generational, cultural, and geographic gaps through civic action.

April 2, 2016 | 10am – 4pm

University of Nebraska–Lincoln, City Union | 1400 R St. Lincoln, NE 68508

What to Expect:

  • Create plans for increased civic action in your community
  • Collaborate with other Nebraska community leaders
  • Talks and training from speakers Mike Stout and Peter Kageyama
  • Present your own ideas for a chance to win micro-grants
  • Learn about current civic health work in Nebraska
  • Free lunch and more!

Stay tuned for updates and invite your friends to the event on Facebook!

For more information, check out the 2015 Nebraska Civic Health Index or contact Kelsey Arends or (402) 904-5191.

Small-Town America Primed to beat Silicon Valley in Innovation

Here’s how small-town America is primed to beat Silicon Valley in Innovation

Robert Scoble
January 27, 2016

As Rackspace’s Futurist I’m known as one of Silicon Valley’s top tech influencers. I didn’t say that, Ivy did.

So, when I say Silicon Valley is being beaten, and is at risk of losing more companies to small towns, here’s why. In the past week I’ve visited three of those towns, Urbana, and Champaign Illinois and Blacksburg, Virginia.

You might not know, but YouTube, Tesla, PayPal, Mozilla started in Urbana/Champaign at University of Illinois there, and Blacksburg is home to many of the leading thinkers of autonomous vehicles, and others, thanks to being the home of Virginia Tech.

Yes, Silicon Valley has traditionally come to places like this and convinced innovators and companies to come to San Francisco area to build their technologies. Heck, just this week Apple grabbed a computer science professor out of Blacksburg to work on its AR/VR efforts.

I’m seeing signs that the flow of talent from small town America to Silicon Valley is reversing, though, and wanted to understand it.

One huge reason? Housing costs. Everyone loved taunting me with their homes with big yards that cost a few hundred thousand compared to more than a million back home.

But it goes further than just housing costs. After all, that gap has always been there as far as I can remember.

No, now they are winning people and company because way of life is much more friendly to families and, small town leaders have worked to fill in a “livability gap.” Things like having nice bars, music events, and restaurants for entrepreneurs to hang out in after a long day working. Things like high speed internet. In Virginia they have gigabit wifi in some areas.

Here, let’s take a look at some of the companies and innovators I visited who are doing amazing work.

  1. Michael Fleming is running TORC Robotics, where he’s building self-driving tractors and cars (works for a bunch of brands) in Blacksburg, Virginia. Why? He told me it comes back to the talent he finds at Virginia Tech, where his team came in third in the DARPA challenge back in 2007. Heck, just look across the street at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, where Google and others test out their self driving cars on its “smart road.” Video tour here.
  2. Frasca is building new kinds of flight simulators for commercial pilots and military in Champaign, Illinois. I got a video tour here.
  3. John Deere has its R&D lab in Champaign, Illinois, where it’s developing new technologies for farmers. Here, take a video tour with meWhile we are talking about farming, visit Agrible with me, which is growing virtual crops to tell farmers what to do in their fields next to have better crop outcomes.
  4. is in Blacksburg, Virginia. Here’s my video visit. Why? They are seeing a good community of people who are pushing Blockchain technology (right next door is Bitshares, a new crypto currency).
  5. Aeroprobe is building a new kind of additive manufacturing (think huge 3D printer for metals) along with building new kinds of wind speed sensors for drones. Video tour here.
  6. Steve Lavalle, VR pioneer (his team built the sensor systems in Oculus Rift) moved back to Illinois and is running a VR lab at the University there. Visit that lab with me.
  7. Wolfram Research continues to develop interesting new technologies from software for mathematicians to an engine that lets people do research on the Internet in ways that Google hasn’t yet enabled. Visit their headquarters in Illinois.
  8. Visit Yahoo’s R&D lab with me in Champaign Illinois and understand why it kept this sizable lab in Illinois instead of moving it to Silicon Valley.
  9. Visit a group of startups housed in Enterprise Works, part of the research park in Champaign, Illinois. You’ll see everything from battery innovators to new kinds of software to run police departments. Come along on this quick paced tour of about 10 companies. Part IPart II.
  10. See where famous video game “Saints Row” is developed, at the headquarters of Volition, come on a video tour with me.

Other influences:

  1. Virginia Tech has a crazy $15 million VR building.
  2. Pixo builds mobile apps and other technologies for other companies in Illinois and its founders sit down with me and talk to me about why the local community is gaining strength.
  3. The world’s biggest/fastest computer is in Champaign, Illinois. Here follow me through the Petascale Computing Facility.

If you watch even a few of these videos you’ll see just how high quality these companies and innovators are and why I believe these small communities are primed to see rapid growth over the next decade as both new kinds of startups and bigger companies decide to move more people to these kinds of communities due to the very high costs in Silicon Valley.

I came away so impressed by what I saw over last week. Hope you are too.

View original post here »

Nebraska Main Street Network Webinar

“Simple Building Improvements for (Almost) No Money”

Many property owners and tenants, especially in small towns want to improve their property, but they simply can’t afford to do an expensive total rehabilitation. Learn how even very small budget projects can have a big visual impact on a building and help create the important positive momentum for your Main Street program.

PRESENTER:  Tim Reinders, Design Specialist, Main Street Iowa/Iowa Downtown Resource Center

DATE:  Monday, February 22, 2016

TIME: 11:30am to 1:00pm Central Time



  • Lincoln at theSoutheast Community College Entrepreneurship Center (285 S. 68th Street Place, Room 211). RSVP to Elizabeth Chase, Nebraska Main Street Network office at 402-499-3703
  • Wayne at the Wayne Area Economic Development/Chamber/Main Street office (108 W. 3rd Street).  RSVP to Irene Fletcher, Main Street Wayne at 402-375-2240 or
  • Beatrice at the Beatrice Carnegie Building/Beatrice Chamber (218 N 5th Street) upstairs conference room. RSVP to Michael Sothan, Main Street Beatrice at 402-223-3244 or
  • Plattsmouth at the Plattsmouth Library (401 Avenue A).  RSVP to Charles Jones, Plattsmouth Main Street Association at 402-408-3727 or
  • Neligh at the Neligh Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Office (105 East 2nd Street). RSVP to Lauren Sheridan-Simonsen, Neligh Chamber of Commerce at 402-887-4447 or
  • York location TBA. RSVP to Rhonda Veleba, York Area Chamber of Commerce at 402-362-5531
  • Hastings at the Chamber of Commerce (301 S. Burlington). RSVP to Tiffany Crouse, Downtown Center Association at 402-310-9179 or

NOTE:  Each site has a different policy re: lunch so please consult with each site host. Some of the sites will provide lunch for a fee, others are BYO brown bag lunch.



MEMBERS:  Tuition is $5 per person for Nebraska Main Street Network Member attendees from designated Main Street, Co-op Partner, Associate Member and Rural Associate Member communities.

NON-MEMBERS: Tuition is $10 for non-members



If you have questions about this webinar, please contact the Nebraska Main Street Network 402-499-3703

The Nebraska Main Street Network inspires downtown revitalization through education and is an accredited coordinating program of the National Main Street Center. Designated Main Street communities in Nebraska include: Beatrice, Falls City, Fremont, Grand Island, Plattsmouth, Sidney and Wayne.  Associate and Rural Associate Members include: Bassett, Hastings, Lexington, McCook, Minden, Milford, Neligh, Schuyler, Taylorand York. Co-Op Partners include Farmer’s Cooperative (Dorchester) and Frontier Cooperative (Brainard).  State Agency Partners include the Nebraska Department of Roads, Nebraska State Historical Society, Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Architecture.

NCTA at Curtis Named in Top 150

NCTA Ag Hall

NCTA Ag Hall

Curtis, Neb. – The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture at Curtis has been named as a Top 150 two-year institution by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program.

“NCTA is proud to be selected for this prestigious honor which recognizes the college’s statewide mission with the University of Nebraska system for an affordable, quality education,” said Ron Rosati, NCTA dean. “We educate skilled, career-ready graduates in agriculture.”

The nomination enables NCTA to compete for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and up to $1 million in prize funding and scholarships.

High achievement and performance criteria in four areas are evaluated:  student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings, and access and success for minority and low-income students.

NCTA has a strong record of facilitating student success. The graduation rate is 46 percent, and the retention rate is 66 percent, both well above the state average for two-year institutions and community colleges, Rosati said. 

A full list of the selected colleges and details on the selection process are available at  Information about NCTA can be found at or by calling 1-800-3-CURTIS.

Download a PDF of this Press Release