RALEIGH – This week, over 400 economic development and community leaders will convene at the North Carolina Rural Center‘s annual NC Rural Assembly.

The conference, held November 21-22 at Hilton Raleigh North Hills, centers around the theme: “Make Your Place: Create. Transform. Celebrate.”

Interactive keynotes and breakout sessions will explore creative solutions for improving economic sustainability and quality of life among rural communities.

NC Rural Center Senior Director of Public Affairs Todd Brantley says the goal of this year’s Rural Assembly is to inspire attendees to think differently about “identifying new assets and untapped opportunities” in their communities.

“We wanted to make the point that creativity and innovative problem solving are not unique to urban communities alone, so we are highlighting rural communities from across the state and nation who got creative in their approaches to rural economic development,” Brantley said.

Brantley added that the Rural Center hopes attendees will leave the program with “a better understanding of and appreciation for new and innovative approaches to building more sustainable and equitable rural communities.”

The Rural Center will also recognize the winners of this year’s Rural Excellence Awards, which spans five categories: Rural Leader, Rural Advocate, Rural Entrepreneur, Small Town and Community Bank. Awards will be presented between sessions on both days of the conference.

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Rural Assembly kicks off Thursday at 1:30 p.m. with an interactive keynote session from artists Lori McKinney and Robert Blankenship. They’ll present Create Your State, a multimedia performance and workshop using music and visual projections to tell a story about how the town of Princeton, West Virginia inspired community development through arts and creativity.

Several breakout sessions throughout the afternoon will cover rural housing challenges, ROI of creativity, rural narratives and engaging Latino communities.

Day one closes with a rural resource fair and reception.

Friday’s agenda features a keynote from Connie Stewart, executive director of the California Center for Rural Policy, former mayor and city council member of Arcata, California. Stewart will share her experience with boosting creativity and collaboration within California’s Redwood Coast.

Day two breakout sessions will cover how entrepreneurs can perfect their pitch, resourcefulness and turning trash into treasure, resilience-centered design and innovative infrastructure development.

Lunch and a session on collaborative economy will close out Rural Assembly.

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