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Rural Conference Encourages Innovation and Collaboration

Nearly 300 policymakers, business leaders, community advocates and community investors participated virtually in the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s second annual Investing in Rural America Conference on Oct. 8.

Richmond Fed leaders shared insights about the economy and the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, and specifically discussed the impact on rural areas of the Fifth District and the nation during the four-hour program, which was broadcast over Zoom and live streamed on YouTube.

Scott Hamilton, President and CEO of the Golden LEAF Foundation, a North Carolina grant-making organization, served as the keynote speaker and offered creative solutions in the message he delivered from the campus of Martin Community College in North Carolina.

"A resilient community will intentionally focus on the good,” he said, describing the need for rural communities to sustain themselves by capitalizing upon their area’s uniqueness. “Once you've done that, it is okay to look over the hill and see what your neighbors are doing. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.”

Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin echoed those sentiments and noted that even in the midst of the global pandemic, small towns should be showcasing their appeal to both newcomers and current residents.

Now more than ever, Barkin said, Americans may consider small town living attractive, due to remote working arrangements, access to telemedicine, and virtual learning and workforce training opportunities. As broadband access expands, small towns should be ready to tell their stories and partner with each other to overcome challenges and leverage resources, he said. “The path to success isn’t going it alone; it’s working together.”

Richmond Fed Regional Economist Laura Ullrich led the conference planning team. The level of interest and participation in this year’s conference was a testament to the need to support and shore up rural areas of the Fifth District, and beyond, in the near future and long-term, she said.

Visit the Richmond Fed’s YouTube channel to watch a replay of the conference.

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