The Great Plains: In Focus Webinar Series

The Great Plains: In Focus Webinar Series


Starting January 13, 2016, the Rural Business Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio – Institute for Economic Development is teaming up with the University of Nebraska, Sam Houston State University and the University of Minnesota to bring you a quality rural webinar series.

This no-cost webinar series will focus on positive trends impacting the Great Plains states from Minnesota to Texas and places in-between. This monthly series will be offered to local elected officials, economic development specialists, housing agencies, and others engaged in rural development practices. These webinars are educational in focus and will lead up to the Minnesota Symposium on Small Towns June 8-9, 2016 and the Texas Rural Challenge on June 9-10, 2016.

Save the Dates

All webinar times are Noon – 1pm Central.

January 13 – Welcome: Rewriting the Rural Narrative

It seems the rural story has already been told. Small towns keep getting smaller.  Churches, schools, clinics, businesses, and now post offices, have closed their doors as the lucky few migrate out to the big cities. This deficit framework dominates how we discuss and envision our rural communities. However, the story of rural America since 1970 is rich and diverse, with positive trends occurring under the radar. Learn how these important positive changes have been occurring across the rural landscape that require us to rewrite the narrative of rural community change.

February 24 – Brain Gain of the Newcomers to Rural America

The population of rural America has changed significantly during the past 40 years, which is commonly referred to as the rural rebound. Nationally, the rural population has increased by 11% since 1970. While retirement and recreational counties account for the bulk of this population growth, the story of rural population change is interesting and nuanced – especially when we consider that 40% of all people move to a new home in any five year span. Since 1970 there have been newcomers aged 30-49 moving into small towns, which positively impacts our social and economic structures. At the same time, there is a new urbanity found across the rural landscape that changes how we look at urban-rural interactions. The next 15-20 years appears to be a great opportunity for American small towns, as a once tight housing supply begins to open up through the changing residential preferences of the retiring baby boomer generation. Overall, as we look to the future, the implications of these changes are positive ones for all of our small towns and open country places.

March 2 – Leadership Demands in Rural America

How many people do we need to run our small towns? How many leaders are available?  These simple, but related, questions are seldom (if ever) asked. There is an expectation that public offices and community organizations will be able to find enough people to serve year after year. These leadership demands of community can be compared to the number of residents (supply) available to serve in a community. This “social organizational infrastructure” is a critical component of rural communities and must be maintained. On one hand a large number of community organizations can reflect a healthy diversity of social options for residents. On the other hand it is a challenge for organizations that depend on the finite talent, time, volunteers, and financial resources of these residents to survive. The changing patterns of social involvement, and the impact this has on current community groups, will also be discussed.

April 6 – Baby Boomers and the Rural Housing Supply

The discussion around workforce housing shortages is a narrow view of a complex continuum of residential housing dynamics. The baby boomer generation recently began expressing their residential preferences across America and the implications for rural communities can be profound. As rural communities have a greater proportion of those in this demographic group, we must explore the supply challenges, as well as the demand opportunities, this trend presents for small towns and rural places over the next 20 years.

May 4 – Rural Entrepreneurship and the Quest for an Empowered Rural Economy

Community support of entrepreneurial talent and interest among rural youth and adults has become a popular strategy for economic development. So, what constitutes entrepreneurial activity in a rural setting and how do we track entrepreneurial numbers and outcomes? How are self-employment and proprietorships understood in the context of a “1099 economy?” The answer goes beyond simply counting businesses. In this session we will consider the concept of rural entrepreneurship and examine the data resources that contribute to our understanding of entrepreneurship in the economy of the Great Plains.  We will also examine the ways that entrepreneurs support unique, differentiable local economies, and how local culture, history, and leadership can impact local entrepreneurial success – positively or negatively.  Finally, we will examine some simple strategies for supporting local entrepreneurship in rural areas in which anyone can take part.

June 1 – Great Plains Opinions and Attitudes

How one measures success in rural development is generally seen as being quite straight-forward. If job and population numbers increase, then development must be occurring. But, if the goal of development goes beyond growth to enhance quality of life for rural people and places, then public opinion should logically be part of the equation. What do rural residents see as important indicators of their community’s success? What development strategies do they see as being important? How are the community level changes that occur with the success of traditional development models received by the people who live in those places? Both Nebraska and Texas have polled rural residents on these and other questions that are relevant to understanding rural development and, in this session, we will consider the results of those polls.


Please RSVP via this link:

Virtual seating is limited and registration will close on January 8. Links to webinars will be provided the day before each session.

Program Presenters