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Statewide Rural Conference to Focus on Boosting Economic Development

SPOKANE, Wash. — Identifying and taking advantage of resources to help rural communities throughout the state pursue local economic development will be the focus of the Rural Washington Conference 2011. The theme for the two-day event is “Pathways to Prosperity.”

The conference will be held Friday and Saturday, Mar. 18 and 19, at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake. The event will begin with four pre-conference workshops on Friday afternoon beginning at 1 pm. Saturday will feature a full day of workshops on a range of topics focused on providing tools and resources to help rural communities purse economic development and poverty reduction.

The conference is open to anyone. Early bird registration is $85 per person through Mar. 7, and $125 beginning Mar. 8. Walk-in registration at the conference is $195 and attending Friday’s pre-conference workshops is an additional $10. The registration fee includes refreshments and lunch on Saturday. More information including the full agenda and online registration is available at http://extension.wsu.edu/ruralwaconference/Pages/default.aspx.

The keynote speaker on Saturday morning will be Roger Brooks, a founding member of the award-winning Destination Development International team and author of “Your Town: A Destination.” Brooks has helped nearly a thousand communities with their branding, tourism, downtown development, and marketing efforts. He’s known as a highly entertaining and motivating speaker and is one of the most frequently quoted experts in the field.

Several of the attendees will be from the 40 rural communities that participated in the Horizons Project, a rural poverty reduction program funded by the nonprofit Northwest Area Foundation and administered in Washington by Washington State University Extension. Horizons communities have developed and pursued strategic plans to improve economic conditions and reduce poverty.

“In addition to the great economic development information and tools being presented at the conference, this is a great opportunity for people from other communities to learn firsthand from people in the Horizons communities what they’ve done and what is working for them,” said Doreen Hauser-Lindstrom, WSU’s Horizons Project Director. “It’s a chance to learn how to mobilize your own community to counter some of the root causes of poverty.”

Several agencies and organizations are sponsoring the Rural Washington Conference 2011 including the WSU Extension Horizons Project, Washington State Department of Commerce, Washington Asset Building Coalition, and the state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board.