Center for Rural Affairs' MarketPlace Conference Set for February

Center for Rural Affairs' MarketPlace Conference Set for February

California rural tourism specialist is keynote speaker at annual Nebraska event.

The Center for Rural Affairs says the sixth annual MarketPlace rural entrepreneurship conference will be held Feb. 22 at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center in Kearney.

"Entrepreneurship and small businesses are the economic backbone of Nebraska's rural economy and especially important during times of economic hardship," says Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs and the conference's luncheon keynote. "MarketPlace is focused on creating jobs and building the rural economy and anyone who is committed to creating their own opportunities and shaping their own destiny through entrepreneurship should attend."

According to Hassebrook, the conference offers a space to share ideas and learn from other attendees. It features strong, hands-on learning opportunities for potential and existing farm, ranch, home-based and mainstreet business owners as well as community leaders and young people interested in entrepreneurship.

"Entrepreneurs who attend MarketPlace tell us it is making a difference. Fifty-two percent of small business participants have started, expanded, or made changes to their business because of the conferences; and nearly 88% of small businesses who made changes or expanded their business as a result of Marketplace sought financing to do so," explains Hassebrook. "They borrowed money from banks, USDA Rural Development and often from personal resources like saving and credit cards as sources of capital. And 79% of attending small businesses reported using new resources because of their participation in MarketPlace and their networking there."

Joanne Steele, CEO and owner of the Rural Tourism Marketing Group in Dunsmuir, Calif., kick off the conference as the opening keynote speaker. She will share the kind of knowledge and enthusiasm each up-and-coming entrepreneur, as well as established

entrepreneurs, needs to succeed. 

Steele, has worked for over 15 years helping rural small businesses, and rural communities learn effective marketing strategies, and community development techniques that utilize local resources. She worked as director of tourism for a rural California county for 10 years, utilizing a small operating budget to generate over $4 million equivalent press coverage for rural businesses. 

Through workshops, presentations and her blog,, she teaches state of the art marketing strategies retooled for the small local business owner. Her dedication to rural culture and values has helped her work effectively with small towns and locally owned businesses, assisting them in building and marketing a tourism industry that serves their needs while welcoming visitors. She has worked with rural development organizations in Oregon, Kansas, California and Arkansas and consults through her blog with rural development specialists throughout the U.S.

"For rural based businesses the road to success involves creating and nurturing relationships to help you get what you need to be successful, from your town, your support organizations and even yourself," says Steele. 

Businesses and organizations have a chance to tap into many outstanding marketing

opportunities by having an exhibit booth or through a sponsorship to MarketPlace. The diverse sponsorship levels offer opportunities for organizations and businesses to choose the level which best fits their marketing budget.

Those interested in sponsorship information should contact Shawnna Silvius, [email protected] or 402-873-4027. For more on MarketPlace visit:

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