Rural Futures Institute’s North Platte, Chadron Regional Forums to Highlight Successes, Address Critical Nebraska Challenges

Nebraskans are invited to attend the Rural Futures Institute’s Rural Regional Forums. Steering committee members from three Nebraska host communities have weighed in and the agendas are set.

The forums in West Point, Sept. 22, North Platte, Sept. 27 and Chadron, Sept. 28 will include overviews of the Rural Futures Institute’s Competitive Awards projects, tours of the communities that highlight successes, a “community visioning” process for area youth, discussions with business, education and health care leaders and group work that aims to address challenges in each region.

North Platte’s forum will be held at the Sandhills Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (CST). Chadron’s forum will be held at the Chadron State College Student Center from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (MT). The full agendas and registration are available at The cost is $25.

“When you bring a group of people together from communities like West Point, North Platte and Chadron for an event like this you are in awe of the work they are doing and the solutions their communities have found,” said Chuck Schroeder, Founding Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute. “And then they take it a step further with what their hopes are for the future—you just want to work with them.


“The forums, specifically, are an opportunity to get many different people in the same room with the focus being—how can we all work together to get rural communities in Nebraska where they want to go? RFI is here to facilitate those discussions, offer options and ideas and learn from these communities on behalf of other rural communities in Nebraska and beyond.”


Challenges identified by all steering committees include housing, business development, leadership transition and recruitment of residents and professionals. Chadron also identified tourism development, retaining younger residents and technology-based entrepreneurship.

North Platte details
University of Nebraska Regent Bob Phares will welcome attendees, and three Competitive Awards projects will be presented by leading scholars and practitioners. Each project is a collaborative effort among several sectors including educational institutions, businesses and communities. Projects presented in North Platte will include Rural Community Action Project, Pediatric Obesity Treatment Program for Adoption by Rural Communities and Collaborative Capacity Building in Rural Nebraska Schools via Technology.

Tours will include an overview of the renovations on Main Street led by Vice President of Economic Development for the North Platte Chamber of Commerce Megan McGown, leading innovation in rural health care at Great Plains Health and harnessing technology at the Walmart Distribution Center.

The afternoon’s panel discussion will include University of Nebraska Interim Vice President and Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice Chancellor Ron Yoder, Mid-Plains Community College President Ryan Purdy, David Fudge of NebraskaLand Days, Jake Tiedeman of Baldridge Company and Tony Orr of Union Pacific Railroad.

“We want people to come and be part of this important conversation,” McGown said. “We want to hear success stories, and we want to know more about the challenges. We are all stronger together.”

Chadron details
After a welcome from Chadron State President Randy Rhine, featured Competitive Awards projects will be presented by leading scholars and practitioners: Healthy Food – Healthy Choice, Enhancing Nebraska’s Ecotourism Industry and Bridging the Skills Gap.

Tours will focus on capitalizing on community strengths with a walk through the Rangeland Complex and Sandoz Heritage Center on Chadron State’s campus, innovative collaboration at Chadron Community Hospital and entrepreneurial investment downtown.

The afternoon’s panel will discuss regional entrepreneurship and innovation and include Ron Rosati, dean of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

“We all need to think and talk regionally, and this forum will help us do that,” said Chadron steering committee member Jenny Nixon who serves as a University of Nebraska Extension community vitality educator for the region. “It will give us a chance to focus, and put some action around some of our biggest issues such as housing, tourism and retaining youth.”

For ongoing updates about the forums, follow the Rural Futures Institute on Twitter (@rural_futures, #RFIforums) and Facebook (RuralFutures).

Rural Regional Forums
9 a.m. Opening and Overview of the Day
9:15 a.m. RFI Competitive Awards Overview and Examples
9:45 a.m. Tours (three options)
11:15 a.m. Youth Visioning Projects
12 p.m. Panel Discussion
1:15 p.m. Issues Discussion
2:00 p.m. Small Groups
3:30 p.m. Adjournment