CEC Conference Promotes Local Entrepreneurial Development

by Russell Schaffer | Rural Prosperity

Jonathan Jank
Jonathan Jank, president and CEO at Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership, speaks at the Sunrise Bakery in McCook during the 2019 CEC Conference.” (Photographer unknown)
April 20, 2022

Lincoln, Neb. —The Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference will be held April 27 to 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 Extension Educator Amanda Kowalewski, lead organizer for the conference.  

What sets this event apart is the focus on entrepreneurship is embodied in the organization of the conference itself. It has been coined a “walking conference.” Rather than lectures presented in a central meeting hall, the 30 unique breakout sessions are each hosted by and held in a different area business. 

“Participants not only get to hear from some amazing speakers,” said Kowalewski, “but they get to experience the downtown area and support local entrepreneurs directly.” 

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, said Kowalewski. “The sessions are designed to be engaging and interactive. 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. Basically there’s something for everyone. 

“The CEC Conference is open to anyone with a desire to develop or enhance the entrepreneurial environment within their community,” said Kowalewski. “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 currently open on the conference website. In-person registration and lunch begin on April 27, 11 a.m., at the Friedhof Building, 1270 27th Ave., Columbus. The conference welcome and keynote begin at 11:45 a.m. 

For additional registration information, and a complete lineup of sessions and presenters, visit the conference website at https://ruralprosperityne.unl.edu/connecting-entrepreneurial-communities.  

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Community Vitality | Education | Entrepreneurship | Nebraska Extension | Professional Development