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Harness the Wealth! Workshop to Focus on Rural Revitalization
May 11, 2006
Mainers Hope to Learn From Midwest Success, Keep Wealth Local
UNITY, Maine - Sometimes great ideas about how to keep things local come from away. That's why Maine Rural Partners is bringing together representatives from federal, state, and local agencies, citizen groups and non-profit organizations throughout the state to hear about an approach that's helping to revitalize rural Nebraska.
Maine Rural Partners, a UMaine Orono-based non-profit devoted to providing networking and resource sharing services for rural community development volunteers and professionals throughout Maine, will host Harness the Wealth!, a two-day workshop on the Common Ground Fairgrounds in Unity, Maine, May 18-19.
In addition to providing an opportunity to find ways to better share in-state ideas and resources relevant to community building, the workshop will showcase Hometown Competitiveness (HTC), a program developed to revitalize Nebraska's rural communities, which is gaining popularity in other parts of rural America. Developed by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, the Nebraska Community Foundation, and the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, HTC is built on the integration of four community building "pillars": youth engagement, entrepreneurship, leadership development, and building local endowments.
"This is a unique opportunity to learn from the accomplishments of others, and to bring a new perspective to community capacity building in Maine," USDA Rural Development State Director Michael W. Aube says.
The fourth "pillar," called "Wealth Capture" by HTC, is particularly interesting to Mary Ann Hayes, Executive Director of Maine Rural Partners.
"We realize that we are facing similar demographic trends with our aging population here in rural Maine and believe that the HTC wealth capture model presents a powerful approach for sustaining rural communities," says Hayes. "I think a lot of people in rural Maine want to do what they can to help the communities they love, but really don't know what they can do. This approach, which has been really successful in other parts of the country, provides an opportunity for folks to feel good about giving back to their home town without necessarily hurting their pocket books. It's built on core values we share of generating widespread community engagement and building on local assets to secure a sustainable high quality of life."
Hayes adds that there is still room available for interested community members who'd like to attend.
"We strongly encourage rural community representatives to come and hear this presentation for themselves next week," she says.
The workshop's first day, Thursday, will be devoted to an exploration of how rural communities can work towards a healthy future by engaging their young people, developing leaders, and creating environments which nurture entrepreneurship.
Thursday's featured speaker will be Chris Frank, 2006 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Association (SBA). President and founder of Orono-based Intelligent Spatial Technologies, Frank is one of the founders of FUSION Bangor, an organization formed to engage young people in community leadership. Frank also will participate in a discussion panel on entrepreneurship in rural Maine with Tracy Stutzman of the Maine Highlands Guild and Harold Clossey of the Downeast Business Alliance.
Friday's sessions will focus on the Hometown Competitiveness approach to building local endowments to fund community building work in the future, and will include a panel of Mainers discussing the viability of this adopting approach in their communities.
Those who attend Harness the Wealth! will be treated to Maine-made meals - including Thursday evening's lobster bake and Friday's 100 percent Maine pizza. Those staying overnight will be able to stay at nearby Unity College, one of the event's sponsors, or at the Copper Heron B&B. On Friday evening attendees will be treated to a reception and Michael Gulezian concert at the Unity Centre for the Performing Arts, a model of heritage-based revitalization. Anyone interested in attending Harness the Wealth! should call 581-4520 or go to Maine Rural Partners' website, http://www.mainerural.org
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