The theme for this year's conference is "Building Successful Communities in the New Millennium."
Last year's conference attracted nearly 500 community leaders, state and local government workers, industry leaders, health care workers, chambers of commerce directors and others interested in economic development.
"Attendance has grown each year at the conference because of the excellent quality of speakers and the shared need for economic development in TennesseeÕs rural areas," said Virginia Moore, Interim Dean of TTU's College of Business Administration.
"This conference provides a forum for sharing best practices in rural counties throughout the United States," she added.
A reception sponsored by TVA kicks off the conference on Wednesday, April 18, at 5:30 p.m. at the Cookeville Country Club.
Registration and a continental breakfast begin the next morning at 7:30 a.m. at TTU's Bryan Fine Arts Center followed by the official conference opening remarks at 8:30 by TVA Director Skila Harris and USDA Rural Development State Director Ruth Tackett.
At 8:45 a.m., a Plenary Session to discuss "How to Ensure the Financial Future of Rural Communities" will be moderated by Ellen Lehman, president and founder of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
Sheldon Petersen, governor of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Cooperation of Herndon, Virginia, will be the luncheon speaker at 11:45 a.m.
Workshops will be divided into three categories: Business Development, Leadership Development and Community Development. Titles of workshops include:
"Re-Wiring Your Community's Brain - The Impact of Future Trends on Your Community," with Rick Smyre from the Center for Communities for the Future in Gastonia, N.C.
Fawn McLaughlin, Economic Development Consultant from Alameda, Calif., will tell the participants how to get their community ready to attract industry.
Richard Teach, with the Center for Entrepreneurship at Georgia Tech University, will discuss how to both find and encourage entrepreneurs in your community.
Ron Crouch, Director of Kentucky State Data Center in Louisville, will discuss "New Realities and New Rules for the Rural Economy."
Jenny Atkinson, Program Coordinator with the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center in Nashville, will discuss "Leadership for the Common Good."
A panel moderated by Cindy Nance will discuss Regional Rural Health Initiatives. Panelists Ben Middleton, Senior VP of the Centerstone Community Mental Health Centers Inc.; Bruce A. Behringer, with ETSU's M.P.H. Rural and Community Health Partnerships; and Marilyn Musacchio, Dean of TTU's School of Nursing, will talk about new visions for rural health.
Laundrea Lewis, Grants/Scholarship Coordinator for Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and Michael McDaniel, Donor Services Coordinator for Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, will discuss "Asking Others to Invest in Your Community and It's Needs."
Ellen Lehman, President of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, will discuss "How to Build a Savings Account for Your Community."
Michelle Flynn, Director of Tennessee Network for Community Economic Development, will discuss "The Role of Non-Profits in Rural Communities."
Jim Worstell, Executive Director of Delta Enterprise Network; Dr. Sandra Hodge, Director of the Outreach and Extension Program for the University of Missouri; and Susan G. Harkins, farmer, Duntreath Farm, will discuss "Entrepreneurial Agriculture Opportunities."