The Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference will take place April 27-28 in Columbus’ historic downtown business district. Organized by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Rural Prosperity Nebraska program, the two-day event features workshops, seminars and keynote lectures focused on strengthening and developing the entrepreneurial environment in rural Nebraska communities.
“The CEC Conference is an opportunity to educate communities on the tools and resources available to assist them in helping entrepreneurs grow and prosper in their communities,” said Amanda Kowalewski, Nebraska Extension educator and lead organizer for the conference.
The focus on entrepreneurship is embodied in the organization of the conference. It has been coined a “walking conference.” Rather than lectures presented in a central meeting hall, the 30 unique breakout sessions are hosted by and held in area businesses.
“Participants not only get to hear from some amazing speakers, but they get to experience the downtown area and support local entrepreneurs directly,” Kowalewski said.
The walking conference concept has multiple benefits for attendees and hosting communities. Moving from location to location between sessions not only offers attendees more time for networking and witnessing first-hand an entrepreneurial environment, but it showcases those thriving businesses to visitors and locals alike. Networking is a key aspect of the experience, Kowalewski said.
“The sessions are designed to be engaging and interactive,” she said. “We want to offer space for dialogue about how other communities have found success.”
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kowalewski and fellow organizers worked closely with Columbus to make up for lost time. This year’s conference showcases a breadth of expertise, including economic developers, public affairs specialists, representatives from the Federal Reserve, workforce development consultants, social media experts, leadership scholars and more, as well as the resources available to entrepreneurs through the university’s various economic development programs and the extension educators who run them.
“The CEC Conference is open to anyone with a desire to develop or enhance the entrepreneurial environment within their community,” Kowalewski said. “City administrators, county commissioners, council members, economic development professionals, chamber of commerce leaders, school district leaders, even youth leaders all benefit from attending.”
Pre-registration is open on the conference website. In-person registration and lunch begin at 11 a.m. April 27 at the Friedhof Building, 1270 27th Ave. in Columbus. The conference welcome and keynote begin at 11:45 a.m.
For additional registration information and a complete lineup of sessions and presenters, click here.