Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities 2024 - Sidney

CEC 2024 | Sidney, Nebraska

connecting entrepreneurIal communities

May 1st & 2nd

The CEC Conference empowers community members by showcasing tools and resources designed to fuel community growth and prosperity. Engage with local, regional, and national presenters as they share their successful strategies in building entrepreneurial ecosystems. Join in dynamic discussions covering vital aspects of community development, including placemaking, people attraction, regional food systems, leadership development and transition, entrepreneurship, childcare, housing, and more.

Say goodbye to boring meeting rooms—CEC sessions take place in vibrant locally-owned businesses, offering participants an immersive experience of the downtown area as they seamlessly transition between sessions. This innovative approach not only ensures an enjoyable experience, but also creates ample opportunities for networking and witnessing the entrepreneurial community in action.

Registration is $175 per person. If 3 or more members of your community are attending, contact Jason at jason.tuller@unl.edu for a discount code of $25 off per person.

Tours

Optional tours will be available before and after the conference. The ghost tour and Camp Lookout/Boot Hill historical tour need to be registered for ahead of time so they know if they have enough people to hold the tours. Information will be available in your packets for self-guided tours of other sights in the county. Walking tour of Downtown Sidney

Hotel Information

Fairfield Inn & Suites Sidney
$98/night (Tuesday, April 30, & Wednesday, May 1 night)
Must be booked by Monday, April 15

Book a group rate for the Conference

Other Available Hotels

Please use #CECSidney on your social media!


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

10:00 am
OPTIONAL TOUR: Camp Lookout/Boot Hill History Tour

One hour tour. Please note that there are no restrooms available

11:00 am
Registration & Lunch

Location: Worldwide Trophy Adventures, 812 13th Ave, Sidney

11:45 am
Welcome to Sidney and Opening Keynote

Location: Worldwide Trophy Adventures, 812 13th Ave, Sidney

No Wrong Door

The Cheyenne County Energizing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (E3) group will discuss their work in the community and partnerships with other organizations.

Speaker(s):
Cheyenne County E3,
1:00 pm
Walking & Networking Break
1:30 pm
Breakout Sessions
Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture: Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development

NCTA has a statewide mission of preparing students for successful careers in agriculture, veterinary technology and related industries. This session will provide an overview of the programs offered and the connections to business and industry. You will also hear about successful NCTA graduates that have created businesses across the state and region.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Dr. Larry Gossen,
Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture
Bio

Larry has been the Dean of NCTA for almost 4 years. During his tenure he has focused on one mission: student success. Prior to moving to Nebraska, Larry worked for the National FFA Organization for 14 years. He has also served as the state supervisor for agricultural education in both Nebraska and Kansas. He is a lifelong agricultural educator having taught in southeast Kansas for 24 years.

Sidney Creative District (Walking Tour)

Explore the highlights of the Sidney Creative District, including Hickory Square, our new mural, dumpster art, and creative businesses, in a walking tour of historic downtown Sidney.

Location: Start at Worldwide Trophy Adventures, 812 13th Ave, Sidney

Speaker(s):
Sidney Creative District Committee,
Grant Writing: A Tool for Communities

K-State Research and Extension teaches grant writing; since 2021, the classes have been online.  In the first year after class was over, 34% of participants reported writing $42 million of successful grants. Grant writers are extension professionals, City and County employees, non-profit professionals, and 25% are volunteers. When people have the ability and confidence to write grants, community conversations change from “the problems we have” to “the possibilities we can create together.”

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Nancy Daniels,
K-State Research and Extension
Bio

Nancy Daniels is a Community Vitality Specialist for K-State Research and Extension. She works with communities to appreciate their assets and build on their possibilities. In addition to teaching Grant Writing Basics, Daniels conducts the First Friday e-Call to highlight resources to build Kansas’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Unique Funding Models: Investment Clubs & Real Estate Investment Cooperatives

Learn how local investment clubs [private] and cooperative investment models [community] work to support new economic development and business startups from successful clubs and grassroots organizational efforts in Ord, other Nebraska communities, and rural Montana. 

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Caleb Pollard,
Sandhills eCoach & Entrepreneur
Bio

Caleb Pollard is owner/operator at Scratchtown Brewing Company with his three business partners in Ord, Nebraska. Starting in 2012, and opening their doors in 2013, Scratchtown has been dedicated to a dual purpose: brewing world class beer in rural Nebraska and catalyzing positive change through investment and business activity. Caleb calls this 'positive transformation through fermentation'.

Since 2013, Scratchtown has won numerous accolades and awards for their beer quality, put Ord USA on the map, and built a community mainstay that acts as both a hub for fun and fermentation. With his team, they have demonstrated that world class, small business operations can exist in rural America and make a real difference on the economic trajectory of rural communities.

In July 2022, Caleb began part-time contract work with UNL Extension serving as an entrepreneur and business coach in the Nebraska Sandhills. Caleb served this role in Valley, Cherry and Custer counties. In December of 2023, Caleb accepted the role of Valley County Economic Development Executive Director, a role he held from 2008-2013, when he left to open Scratchtown.

Caleb lives in Ord with his wife of 21 years, Christina, and his youngest son Elijah (16). Caleb's oldest son Calen is a sophomore biosystem engineering major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In his free time, Caleb enjoys gardening and tending to his small orchard, small scale fermentation farming, hunting, fishing, kayaking and long walks on the Calamus beach.

Nicole Borner,
Montana Cooperative Development Center
Bio

Nicole Borner grew up in Roundup, MT where she shared many adventures with her siblings, horses, and loyal dogs while roaming the prairie and hills of the Bull Mountains.

Having served both as a city council member and county commissioner, Nicole remains deeply engaged in her community, lending her time and expertise to various projects and organizations in Musselshell County. She is the chair of the Musselshell Rural Investment Cooperative (MRIC), she co-chairs Roundup Community Partners (RCP), and she serves on the Trust for Montana Libraries board, demonstrating her commitment to collaborative community initiatives.

Nicole's passion lies in fostering economic development, nurturing community bonds, and advancing social welfare through her collaborations with diverse groups and organizations. She loves to be outside in her orchard gardening, taking walks with her dogs, practicing yoga, and spending time with family and friends.

First Impressions

What first impression does your community make? Does that first impression vary between your internet presence, tourist presence, event presence, and resident presence? Discover what Sidney learned about their experience with the First Impressions Online program. Learn about new programs from UNL Extension that can measure these various platforms and how you can improve your community’s first impressions!

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Jason Tuller,
Nebraska Extension
Bio

Jason has been working in the economic development field in rural Nebraska for more than a decade. He has worked as a small business consultant and as a rural economic developer. His goal now is to help grow stronger communities in Southeast Nebraska and throughout the state.

Kendra Mitchell,
Cheyenne County Tourism
Bio

Kendra has been working as the Tourism Director for Cheyenne County for two years and has an MBA in Strategic Management and Marketing from the University of North Texas. She stays involved with the two creative districts in the county, Sidney and Potter, and serves as a board member for the Cheyenne County Chamber of Commerce.

2:30 pm
Walking & Networking Break
3:00 pm
Breakout Sessions
"The Launch Program": An Entrepreneurship Collaboration Between Engler and Nebraska FFA

Imagine: students and teachers collaborating to create a school-based enterprise, guided by Engler experts every step of the way. Through engaging workshops, pitch competitions, and video coaching, they'll build essential skills in communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Launch! is more than just a program; it's a transformative experience. It's about students and teachers working together as a team, turning a blank sheet into a thriving business. In just one year, they'll witness the power of their own ideas coming to life, gaining invaluable real-world experience that will stay with them long after graduation.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Brennan Costello,
Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Bio

Brennan Costello currently serves as the Chief Business Relations Officer of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska. A pioneer at heart, Brennan empowers students to envision entrepreneurship beyond academia. Specializing in connecting students with real-life entrepreneurs, he leads classes on idea generation, negotiation, and prototyping, and guides students through the intricate journey of starting and scaling businesses.

Prepared for Opportunity: The Role of Planning and Zoning in Growing Entrepreneurial Communities

Community planning and zoning regulations sometimes carry a reputation of being "anti-development." At its heart, planning and zoning seeks to balance sometimes competing interests of individual freedom and community good. How can this be done? This session will discuss the basics of planning and zoning and how thorough planning and good regulations can support positive entrepreneurial development in Nebraska towns. Contrary to anti-development, this session will show how planning and zoning is indispensable for towns that want to make their future happen, rather than let their future happen to them.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Daniel Bennett,
Nebraska Planning and Zoning Association Vice President
Bio

Daniel Bennett (AICP) manages the rural civic health programs at Civic Nebraska and is vice president of the Nebraska Planning and Zoning Association (NPZA). Daniel facilitates conversations across the state for youth and adults to identify civic assets, learn about their local institutions, and set a course for stronger relationships and engagement in their communities. Daniel has ten years of experience working in community planning and development and has a bachelor's degree in Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State University.

Local Entrepreneurship Ecosystems

Participants will learn about the process of developing an entrepreneurial community. Learn how eCoaches and Community Navigators work with economic development leaders, and entrepreneurs from Ord, Sidney, Central City and Columbus work together to support their business communities. Ask questions about how their communities support small business development and how this could benefit yours.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Profile picture of Alisha Juelfs
Alisha Juelfs,
Bio

Alisha Juelfs of Potter, Nebraska was hired March 2023 by E3, Energizing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, as the Entrepreneurial Navigator for Cheyenne County, Nebraska. The role is the first of its kind in Western Nebraska and is becoming a paradigm for strong economic development across the state. With a background in education, customer service, business, training, and community prosperity, Alisha uses her passion for serving people to help business owners get connected to resources based on their individual needs. She also works with local high schools to support and encourage career development pathways.

Molley Jeffres,
Bio

Community Development Coordinator, Keith County Area Development

Doris R Lux,
Nebraska Extension
Bio

After her five-year career as a high school teacher and forty-four years as an Instructor/Administrator in the Business Administration program and Director for the Entrepreneurship (E-Ship) Center at Central Community College she retired. While at the E-Ship Center she developed a middle school in-school Entrepreneurship program and summer Entrepreneurship and STEM Camps. Ms. Lux next adventure was to create a high school EIA nine month program. Currently she is working with UNL Extension on a Community Entrepreneurship grant as an eCoach.

Caleb Pollard,
Sandhills eCoach & Entrepreneur
Bio

Caleb Pollard is owner/operator at Scratchtown Brewing Company with his three business partners in Ord, Nebraska. Starting in 2012, and opening their doors in 2013, Scratchtown has been dedicated to a dual purpose: brewing world class beer in rural Nebraska and catalyzing positive change through investment and business activity. Caleb calls this 'positive transformation through fermentation'.

Since 2013, Scratchtown has won numerous accolades and awards for their beer quality, put Ord USA on the map, and built a community mainstay that acts as both a hub for fun and fermentation. With his team, they have demonstrated that world class, small business operations can exist in rural America and make a real difference on the economic trajectory of rural communities.

In July 2022, Caleb began part-time contract work with UNL Extension serving as an entrepreneur and business coach in the Nebraska Sandhills. Caleb served this role in Valley, Cherry and Custer counties. In December of 2023, Caleb accepted the role of Valley County Economic Development Executive Director, a role he held from 2008-2013, when he left to open Scratchtown.

Caleb lives in Ord with his wife of 21 years, Christina, and his youngest son Elijah (16). Caleb's oldest son Calen is a sophomore biosystem engineering major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In his free time, Caleb enjoys gardening and tending to his small orchard, small scale fermentation farming, hunting, fishing, kayaking and long walks on the Calamus beach.

Building Bridges: WNED's Collaborative Approach to Economic Growth in Western Nebraska

Join an inspiring discussion on how Western Nebraska Economic Development (WNED) is encouraging collaborative economic growth. Discover how WNED's innovative strategies in housing, workforce development, regional marketing, and childcare initiatives are transforming multiple communities in Western Nebraska. Learn firsthand how WNED's collaborative efforts are creating a sustainable and prosperous future for the region. Gain insights into the power of community partnerships and collective action in driving economic development. Don't miss this opportunity to be inspired and empowered by WNED's success story.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Jordan Diedrich,
Twin Cities Development
Bio

Jordan Diedrich is the Executive Director of Twin Cities Development. He started with the organization in January of 2022. He has lived in Nebraska for 12 years, 7 of those years in Western Nebraska. Jordan was previously the Deputy Director of Public Works for the City of Scottsbluff for five years. He has a passion for community engagement and has been involved with NEXT Young Professionals, Riverside Discovery Center, and United Way. He is also a graduate of Leadership Scotts Bluff. Jordan has a 6-year-old daughter, Olivia who is a kindergartener at St. Agnes, and a two-year-old, Charlotte. His wife is a counselor at Gering Public High School. He looks forward to continuing to work with entrepreneurs, local businesses, and the many communities to serve the TCD mission to connect business to possibilities.

USDA Rural Development Overview

USDA Rural Development grants and loans support many businesses and provide community development opportunities. During this session, you will learn how funding has been utilized across Nebraska to strengthen development efforts and help communities reach their goals.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Marla Marx
Marla Marx,
USDA Rural Development
Bio

Marla Marx brings 15 years of Rural Development Experience working with businesses and communities in economic development.

Spencer Rien
Spencer Rien,
USDA Rural Development
Bio

Spencer Rien brings experience from a previous role with the Small Business Development Center program and now works for Rural Development and focuses on energy programs.

4:00 pm
Walking & Networking Break
4:30 pm
Breakout Sessions
Pathways to Prosperity: Empowering Western Nebraska's Youth with Career Connections

Discover how Career Connections of Western Nebraska is paving the way for the region's youth to thrive in their careers. Explore our innovative initiatives aimed at connecting students with local employers, cultivating a skilled workforce, and fostering a sense of opportunity in rural Nebraska. Learn about our recent endeavors, including a comprehensive teen opportunity survey and engaging business tours for high school students. Join us to uncover the strategies behind our efforts to retain local talent, create a robust workforce pipeline, and build a brighter future for Western Nebraska.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Jordan Diedrich,
Twin Cities Development
Bio

Jordan Diedrich is the Executive Director of Twin Cities Development. He started with the organization in January of 2022. He has lived in Nebraska for 12 years, 7 of those years in Western Nebraska. Jordan was previously the Deputy Director of Public Works for the City of Scottsbluff for five years. He has a passion for community engagement and has been involved with NEXT Young Professionals, Riverside Discovery Center, and United Way. He is also a graduate of Leadership Scotts Bluff. Jordan has a 6-year-old daughter, Olivia who is a kindergartener at St. Agnes, and a two-year-old, Charlotte. His wife is a counselor at Gering Public High School. He looks forward to continuing to work with entrepreneurs, local businesses, and the many communities to serve the TCD mission to connect business to possibilities.

Creative Uses of LB840

The Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (LB840) has been a local economic development tool since 1991. LB840 funds have provided loans and grants for businesses, infrastruture repairs, city park upgrades, tourism, and housing developments.  Discover how communities have creatively used LB840 funds to support their community and economic development strategies. 

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Deb Poehling
Deb Poehling,
Nebraska Department of Economic Development
Bio

Deb Poehling began working for the Business Development Field Service Division with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development in December of 2014. Along with serving the Northeast area of the state, Deb also manages the LB840 program for the state.  Previously, Deb worked eight years as the Scribner Economic Development Director and was part of a team that was successful in implementing LB840 at the local level.  Poehling has served on the NENEDD’S NED INC. board, Scribner Area Foundation Board and Good Samaritan Advisory Board. Deb has three children, 2 bonus children and 6 grandkids that are the joy of her life.

Phone: 402-380-7253

Email: deb.poehling@nebraska.gov

Website: opportunity.nebraska.gov 

Michelle Coolidge,
BBA Consulting
Bio

Michelle is a life-long resident of the Nebraska panhandle. Her background includes 10 years in elected municipal leadership, including the role of Mayor; economic and community development; work in the mortgage servicing industry; mediation and facilitation services; and higher ed administrative services. Her community involvement has included volunteering for community boards and local youth organizations. Michelle has used her background to connect needs to resources, navigate the limitations of budgets and legislation, and motivate groups to complete their projects. In 2022, she started BB Associates Consulting and is sharing her expertise at bringing together communities, businesses, private individuals and NGOs in the ways that best serve the area’s development.

Business Pitch Competitions: How to Make Them Successful

Join us to learn strategies and best practices for planning and hosting a successful idea competition in your community or organization. Attendees in this session will be exposed to the processes used to rally stakeholders and generate an entrepreneurial buzz as they develop a successful business idea pitch competition. Main topics of discussion include:

  • Creating a brand for the pitch event and a marketing campaign
  • Recruiting and promoting the opportunity to participants
  • Securing event sponsorships and prize money
  • Judging protocols and criteria
  • Project timeline and event schedule
  • Using technology and other tools.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Doris R Lux,
Nebraska Extension
Bio

After her five-year career as a high school teacher and forty-four years as an Instructor/Administrator in the Business Administration program and Director for the Entrepreneurship (E-Ship) Center at Central Community College she retired. While at the E-Ship Center she developed a middle school in-school Entrepreneurship program and summer Entrepreneurship and STEM Camps. Ms. Lux next adventure was to create a high school EIA nine month program. Currently she is working with UNL Extension on a Community Entrepreneurship grant as an eCoach.

Lisa Tschauner,
Doane University
Bio

Lisa Tschauner is Associate Professor of Practice and Chair of Entrepreneurship at Doane University and previously served as the Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development at UNK. She is a member of the Nebraska Entrepreneurship Task Force and the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers. She is active in the startup community in the Lincoln area.

What Can You Rob & Duplicate (R&D) from the HomeNE Learning Network

The HomeNE Learning Network is designed to connect and engage rural community leaders with one another and explore innovative approaches to housing development and redevelopment. The goal of HomeNE is to inspire action and encourage local expertise to successfully embrace their housing opportunities.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Sharon Hueftle,
South Central Economic Development District
Bio

Sharon Hueftle, Executive Director of South Central Economic Development District, Inc. (SCEDD), is passionate about helping rural communities assess and address opportunities, from idea development through funding and completion of projects. She also provides business consulting and oversees SCEDD’s housing and business loan programs. Her vision and leadership helped create the HomeNE program, a state-wide learning network showcasing housing successes in rural communities.

Practical Public Art Selection Process

There are many things to think about when selecting artwork for your city and community. Let's discuss what an art selection process might entail, including who might be involved, what to include in a call for art, what criteria to ground decisions, and ongoing artwork considerations, and more.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Meagan Dion,
Nebraska Arts Council
Bio

Meagan Dion, Public Art & Artists Programs Specialist for the Nebraska Arts Council, primarily administers the state-mandated 1% for Art public art program. After receiving her BA in Art History, she earned her MS in Arts Administration at Drexel University. She has held art-related positions in museums, galleries, and non-profits.

5:30 pm
Walking & Networking Break
6:00 pm
Networking Reception

Location: Worldwide Trophy Adventures, 812 13th Ave, Sidney

Network with fellow attendees over a brew and appetizers. Reflect on the day's sessions and consider new ideas and collaborations that may work in your community.

Established in 2021, Boss City Brewing Co. recently expanded and moved to its new location. Boss City Brewing is a family run brewery that was formed with the intent to remember Sidney's torrent past and to pay tribute to a town that has risen from the darkness numerous times to become a thriving small town with a laid-back attitude and hard-working mentality.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

8:00 am
Morning Keynote

Location: Worldwide Trophy Adventures, 812 13th Ave, Sidney

Local Entrepreneur Panel

Learn how the robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sidney is inspiring new business ventures, business expansion, and business diversification.

8:45 am
Walking & Networking Break
9:15 am
Breakout Sessions
Western Nebraska Community College Construction Trades Programs

WNCC began offering non-credit, entry level construction trades training programs in the summer of 2023. Rob will discuss the various programs, their curriculum, and update on the current status of these trainings in western Nebraska. Please note this session will be meeting outside to view the mobile trailer they use for training.

Location: Parking lot south of Security First Bank (1205 Jackson St)

Speaker(s):
Doug Mader,
Western Nebraska Community College
Bio

Doug is the Workforce and Lifelong Learning Executive Director for Western Nebraska Community College. He has been with the college since the fall of 2008. In his current role, he oversees non-credit vocation and community education programs.

Rob Conn,
Western Nebraska Community College
Bio

Rob Conn is the Construction Trades Director for Western Nebraska Community College. Rob has been in this role for a year and a half. He developed the non-credit training programs for electrical, plumbing, HVAC and carpentry.

Creative Business Pairings and Formats

From pop-ups to partnerships, business owners in Cheyenne County work together to provide services to the community. Hear from local entrepreneurs about their success with collaboration.  [Invited: Sidney business owners]

Location: TBD

Business Transition Planning: Critical to Community Prosperity

Economic development and business transition go hand in hand as losing a business can severely impact a community. Helping owners understand the importance of their business to the community, creating a safe environment for planning, and providing transition resources and referrals can be the difference between a closed business and a thriving, next generation business. Gain ideas on how you can help kepp a business in your community.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Odee Ingersoll
Odee Ingersoll,
Nebraska Business Development Center
Bio

Odee has 22 years of experience serving small businesses throughout Nebraska. Clients include all phases of business planning and operations, from start-up planning and launch through growth and expansion, and on to exit and succession planning. He is also an experienced business owner and has training in financial forensics. He has worked on projects valued up to $260 million. He is a credentialed business valuation analyst and exit planning advisor. He has completed over 500 valuation engagements and is recognized as an expert in business valuation.

Momentum Shifts and Community Development Change

Community development professionals seek to understand and address the complex factors that drive positive change. The findings of a recent qualitative study of community change at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln show positive community change begins with the community having the "right stuff" in place, such as the capacity for change, a community growth mindset, a sense of civic engagement, and effective local leadership. With these conditions in place, strategies can then be implemented successfully to create long-lasting change within the community. These strategies range from community economic development efforts to partnerships and collaborations across communities. This session will provide an overview of the study and present a model of community momentum that would support local initiatives to build and prosper rural communities.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Shawn Kaskie,
Nebraska Extension
Bio

Community Economic Development and Leadership facilitator, coach, and researcher who is passionate about leveraging University and partner resources to help small communities, businesses, and stakeholders achieve their visions.

Childcare Funding Opportunities

Quality childcare is critical to child development and student achievement. Quality childcare is also critical to economic development. Business and civic leaders, economic developers, working parents, and professional educators all need to work together to make quality childcare part of our community's success. First Five Nebraska advocates for policies to strengthen early childhood education & care. Learn about recently passed legislation that can help your community.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Mike Feeken
Mike Feeken,
First Five Nebraska
Bio

Mike came to First Five Nebraska after spending many years as the economic development director in St. Paul, Neb., where he managed and coordinated retention, attraction and expansion efforts of the St. Paul business community. He has served in numerous local, regional and statewide organizations including the Nebraska Economic Developer’s Association (NEDA), South Central Economic Development District (SCEDD), Rotary, and Central Nebraska Community Action Partnership (CNCAP). Mike was elected to the St. Paul City Council in 2020 and is the current Mayor. Feeken received a B.A. in Communication Production from Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska.

10:15 am
Walking & Networking Break
10:45 am
Breakout Sessions
Future-Proof Your Biz: AI for Entrepreneurial Excellence

Discover how a large language model can revolutionize your small business operations. In this engaging overview, you'll learn how to harness the power of AI for unmatched efficiency, improved customer interactions, and deeper strategic insights. Designed to ignite your entrepreneurial spirit, this presentation unveils the boundless opportunities AI presents for streamlining processes and accelerating growth. Embrace the future of business and unlock your full potential with the transformative capabilities of AI.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Cory Keen,
Keen Tech
Bio

Cory Keen masterfully combines entrepreneurship with tech savvy, steering an innovative AI company aimed at small businesses and a forward-thinking CAD company. Balancing a rich family life with his professional ventures, Cory's journey showcases his intellect, creative spirit, and unwavering commitment to small business innovation.

Sidney Creative District (Walking Tour)

Explore the highlights of the Sidney Creative District, including Hickory Square, our new mural, dumpster art, and creative businesses, in a walking tour of historic downtown Sidney.

Location: Worldwide Trophy Adventures, 812 13th Ave, Sidney

Speaker(s):
Sidney Creative District Committee,
Empowering Youth through Entrepreneurship

E3 created the Youth Entrepreneurship Competition to empower students to develop non-traditional strategies to return home post-graduation. Juniors and seniors enrolled in a semester long class, developed a business idea, and created a full business plan with the assistance of local mentors. They then engaged in a three-phase competition where over $15,000 of awards were delivered in forms of cash, technology, and college scholarships. Hundreds of community members attended and funding has been committed to future years due to the success of the first year. All students noted the value of the program and several have the intent to return after college.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Sarah Sinnett,
Cheyenne County E3
Bio

Sarah Sinnett has her Master's in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and a diverse work background in multiple fields of business. Sarah is an advocate for Sidney and rural prosperity. She is most proud of her work with the Sidney Park Project and Cheyenne County’s E3 chapter which, combined, have privately fundraised over $1 million dollars back to local community in less than three year’s time.

Profile picture of Ashley Fehringer.
Ashley Fehringer,
Sidney High School
Bio

Ashley Fehringer is a proud native of Sidney, Nebraska. After graduating from Sidney High School in 2005, she attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln earning a Bachelor's degree in Finance and Accounting. Equipped with a solid foundation in business, Ashley ventured into the corporate world, where she gained invaluable expertise across diverse sectors. Driven by a passion for giving back and effecting positive change, Ashley made a pivotal career transition into the classroom. Drawing upon her extensive background in business, she brings a wealth of practical knowledge and real-world insights to her role as a high school business teacher. Ashley is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of business leaders and empowering her students to make meaningful contributions to their community.  Ashley inspires her students to explore the boundless opportunities within the business world through the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, a competition created to challenge youth, encourage business community members to partner with and mentor the younger generations, and foster a community spirit for entrepreneurship.

To Co-Op or Not: Exploring Childcare Options

The lack of childcare in Nebraska costs $745 million per year in direct losses according to a UNL Bureau of Business Research Department of Economics 2020 report prepared for First Five Nebraska. Learn how organizations such as C4K and NCDC are working together to identify models and assist communities in building upon their assets to address this critical need. Learn about the cooperative models (i.e., employer assisted and parent) and other unique approaches. In addition, we will identify how many organizations are working together to address childcare shortages and how your community can utilize resources based off your assets.  

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Charlotte Narjes,
Nebraska Cooperative Development Center
Bio

Charlotte is a Rural Prosperity Nebraska Extension Educator in the UNL Ag Economics Department focused on cooperatives. She is the director of the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center and has worked with communities in forming cooperatives. She has guided and worked with numerous groups including the Valley Foods Cooperative in Lynch and Post 60 Grocery Store in Emerson. Currently she is working with the Norfolk Area Childcare Collaborative, a nonprofit cooperative as well as other communities exploring the childcare model. Charlotte has facilitated and developed educational programs, visioning and networking opportunities for rural communities including working with businesses through the Gallup EAS project.

Originally from a farm in Sidney, Nebraska, Charlotte is passionate about serving rural Nebraska and helping communities achieve their vision.  

Profile picture of Melissa Polinoski
Melissa Polinoski,
Nebraska Children & Families Foundation
Bio

Melissa Polinoski is an assistant vice president of early childhood programs with Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, and provides technical assistance to communities involved in the Communities for Kids Initiative. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney and has community experiences in both urban and rural Nebraska. Her expansive 30-year career in the fields of education, program development, facilitation, small business ownership, and community systems utilization has honed her skills in collective impact for the betterment of children and families, and the communities in which they live. Currently, Melissa utilizes her expertise in 18 counties throughout northern and central Nebraska to create sustainable childcare infrastructures, works in developing full-service community school models, serves on the Nebraska Early Childhood Leadership team, and participates in the Responsive Equitable System for Preparing Early Childhood Teachers development group. She and her family reside in Atkinson, Nebraska.

Traditional Arts, Heritage Tourism, and Cultural Placekeeping

The folk and traditional arts are often misunderstood as something static, something of the past. This presentation discusses the ways towns and communities can celebrate the contemporary practice of traditional artforms as a part of broader economic and community development strategies. Using case studies and examples, attendees will learn best practices for working with traditional artists, see different project examples, and hear the intangible and tangible benefits of centering the folk and traditional arts.

Location: TBD

Speaker(s):
Stephanie Plummer,
Nebraska Arts Council
Bio

As Program Coordinator, Stephanie Plummer provides assistance to organizations and artists through the Nebraska Arts Council’s community-based grants. Additionally, Stephanie coordinates the agency’s Folk and Traditional Arts program. Her background includes nonprofit administration and grants management experience, a stint as a college instructor, and education in folklore and popular culture.

11:45 am
Walking & Networking Break
12:00 pm
Lunch & Closing Session

Location: Worldwide Trophy Adventures, 812 13th Ave, Sidney

Keynote: What Hamilton Teaches Us About Building Entrepreneurial Communities

Artists are not often thought of as entrepreneurs, yet all are entrepreneurs at heart. They create something new, release that creation to the public, and hope to sell enough to be able to repeat the process again. We also know that communities who support creative endeavors are often locations where entrepreneurship thrives. Drawing on decades of professional and personal experience in the creative economy, this presentation will draw parallels between creative pursuits and the building of entrepreneurial communities, highlighting the ways that these creative activities help us to understand the challenge – and opportunity – in building entrepreneurial communities.

Speaker(s):
Rob Russell,
University of Missouri Extension
Bio

Rob Russell is the Senior Program Director for the University of Missouri Extension’s Business & Communities Program. A reformed trumpet player, pianist, and college radio DJ, he has long been interested in the role that the arts – and particularly popular music – play in our economies and communities.

1:00 pm
Main Conference Concludes

Please stick around for the optional activity in the afternoon!

2:00 pm
Entrepreneur Networking Event

Location: Western Nebraska Community College, 371 S College Dr, Sidney