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Past Conference

A panel hosted by Richmond Fed senior economist Laura Ullrich discusses issues affecting rural communities
Wed., March 30, 2022

Investing in Rural America 2022: Capacity Building

The Richmond Fed  hosted its third annual Investing in Rural America conference in March 2022, both in person and virtually. The one-day event featured discussions with national experts, community leaders and Richmond Fed economists who shared their perspectives on key topics related to capacity building in rural communities and small towns, such as workforce development, small businesses and entrepreneurship, rural development hubs and demographic changes.

Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin shared his assessment of where challenges and opportunities lie for rural communities, now that a wealth of federal dollars have been allocated to help these areas become economically sound.

"Billions of dollars are being made available for small towns across the country, but getting access to this funding is hard,” Barkin said. “Communities need help building their capacity and they need it now. What can those of us who want to make a difference do to reduce those barriers?”

Interested in the content presented at the conference? Recordings of all sessions from the 2022 Investing in Rural America conference can be accessed on YouTube.

Speakers, Panelists and Moderators

Zurilma Anuel
Western Women’s Business Center
Kartik Athreya
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Nate Barber
SC Community Loan Fund
President Tom Barkin
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Brandy Bynum Dawson
NC Rural Center
Shonterria Charleston
Shonterria Charleston
Housing Assistance Council
Jerry Cutts
First Children’s Finance
Chris Estes
Aspen Institute
Kathy Glazer
Virginia Early Childhood Foundation
Sarah Grymes
Dogwood Health Trust
Thomas Hall
Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub
Community Development Regional Manager Tiffany Hollin-Wright
Tiffany Hollin-Wright
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Jaime Laughter
AICP County Manager Transylvania County
headshot of Ann Macheras
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Kim Phinney
Rural Youth Catalyst Project
Molly Pyle
Center on Rural Innovation
Priscila Santos
West Virginia University
Erica Sims
HousingForward Virginia
Jason Smith, Senior Community Development Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Travis Staton
United Way of Southwest Virginia
Rebecca Tippett
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Stephanie Tyree
WV Community Development Hub
headshot of Laura Ullrich
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
headshot of Sonya Waddell
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Kristen Westover
Mountain Empire Community College
Van Wilson
Brightpoint Community College
headshot of Alan Wood
Burke Partnership for Economic Development

Who Should Attend

Policymakers, community representatives, business executives, nonprofit leaders, investors, workforce development professionals


All live stream events are marked with an *.

A recording of all conference sessions, both in-person and virtual, will be available on this page the week after the conference.

  • Tuesday, March 29, 2022
    05:00 pm

    Welcome Reception

  • Wednesday, March 30, 2022
    08:00 am

    Registration & Continental Breakfast

    09:00 am


    09:15 am

    Opening remarks*

    Tom Barkin 
    President, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

    09:45 am

    Morning plenary*
    The Changing Demographics of Rural America

    Rebecca Tippett
    Director of Carolina Demography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    10:30 am


    Move to Breakout Sessions

    10:45 am

    Morning Breakout Sessions

    Panel Discussion: Investing in the Rural Workforce of the Future*

    • Leaders in education and workforce development will discuss strategies for building a strong rural workforce pipeline and facilitating transitions from high school to post-secondary education and training for in-demand careers. The panelists will provide insight into the essential roles that community colleges and student-centered programs can play in educating students on career pathways and workforce opportunities available in rural communities and small towns.


    Panel Discussion: Investing in Housing: Developing Strategies to House the Rural Workforce

    • In this panel discussion, rural leaders will examine the topic of workforce housing and why it is a priority for rural communities seeking to attract and retain employers and their workers. Panelists will offer strategies for rural community leaders to identify opportunities for improving the housing stock in their communities. The panelists will discuss how partnerships between nonprofits, lenders, and community organizations can lead to the development of quality, affordable housing for the rural workforce.
    11:45 am


    01:00 pm

    Afternoon plenary panel:

    Building the Capacity of Rural Development Hubs and Intermediaries*

    • Rural development hubs (hubs) approach wealth-building and community wellbeing by taking an integrated approach to address a region’s systems that either advance or impede prosperity. In this plenary panel, the audience will hear directly from hubs that are making it happen. These tangible examples from local, rural communities will help small towns and rural communities think about next steps for capacity building whether starting from scratch or expanding the reach of an existing hub. The speakers will explore how communities can invest in system-level changes, competencies needed to serve as a hub, and how multiple sectors can take shared action towards a common goal.
    02:00 pm


    Move to Breakout Sessions

    02:15 pm

    Afternoon Breakout Sessions

    Panel discussion: Investing in Locally-Driven Economic Opportunity: Supporting Rural Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses*

    • In this session, panelists will discuss strategies for rural communities to turn local assets and ideas into economic opportunity. Leaders from organizations serving rural communities will discuss initiatives aimed at supporting small businesses and empowering entrepreneurs. The panelists will share how increasing access to capital and infrastructure, providing training and technical assistance, and building local and regional partnerships can expand a rural community’s capacity to support entrepreneurship and small businesses development.


    Panel discussion: Investing in Rural Early Care and Education

    • In this panel discussion, experts representing national, state, and local perspectives will discuss how rural communities can develop and leverage the resources required to develop a thriving early care and education (ECE) ecosystem. Panelists will offer insight into strategies and innovative partnerships that have empowered rural communities to overcome common barriers to providing affordable and sustainable ECE programs. They will also discuss the critical role of ECE in workforce participation, and how employers and policymakers can engage with providers to support ECE initiatives in their communities.
    03:15 pm

    Closing Remarks*

    03:30 pm


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