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Arizona Rural Policy Forum Heads to Graham County

Annual event brings rural leaders and advocates from around the state to connect and share resources

June 26, 2017 (Thatcher, AZ) – The Rural Policy Forum, hosted by the Local First Arizona Foundation and Arizona Rural Development Council, connects rural economic development professionals, nonprofits, community leaders, business owners, and other rural stakeholders who are interested in sustaining rural communities. This year’s event will be hosted in the Safford and Thatcher communities August 9-11, 2017, showcasing what the region has to offer in terms of amenities and economic development opportunities.


“Our goal will be to hear strategies from national experts as well as learn about success stories from around Arizona that will give our rural leaders the tools, resources and relationships they need to face current challenges,” said Kimber Lanning, Executive Director of the Local First Arizona Foundation and Arizona Rural Development Council. “We are thrilled to be bringing this event to southeastern Arizona, an area of our state that has been successful in identifying new opportunities for economic and community development that we are excited to share.”




The Rural Policy Forum will provide an opportunity for skill-building, networking, building relationships and educating each other about the needs and services in rural Arizona. Activities include capacity-building sessions, receptions, workshops, and keynote presentations. A variety of topics will be covered, including growing and retaining small businesses, nonprofit collaboration, youth retention, working with local governments, microloans, healthcare, tourism, strategic planning, and much more. Panels and sessions will be led by local leaders from across Arizona. A full agenda is posted on the AZRDC website.


Keynote speakers include Peter Kageyama and Deb Nelson. Kageyama is the author of For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places and the follow-up, Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places. Planetizen recognized For the Love of Cities as a Top 10 Book in 2012 in community planning, design, and development. He is the former President of Creative Tampa Bay, a grassroots community change organization and the co-founder of the Creative Cities Summit, an interdisciplinary conference that brings citizens and practitioners together around the big idea of ‘the place.’ Peter is a Senior Fellow with the Alliance for Innovation, a national network of leaders that is dedicated to improving the practice of local government. Since speaking to them in 2013, Peter has become a special advisor to America In Bloom. He is an internationally sought-after community development consultant and grassroots engagement strategist who speaks all over the world about bottom-up community development and the amazing people who are making change happen.


Deb Nelson is founder and president of DLN Consulting Inc. She graduated with a degree in secondary education and taught high school for several years. Nelson left education to work in the nonprofit sector in 1982. In 1998 she turned her experience as an educator and a community coordinator into a business that trains community coalitions, nonprofit organizations and government agencies in the areas of strategic planning, grant management, program evaluation, and community assessment. Nelson has served as a lecturer and presenter at various national, state, and local conferences. She has also served as the principal administrator for several research-based studies for local, state and federal agencies. She is an avid student and educator of rural culture. Nelson’s business, DLN Consulting, Inc., is contracted as the administrator/facilitator for the Vision West ND Consortium serving a 19-county area in western North Dakota.




In addition to main conference programming, there are several events that attendees can choose to add on to their Safford/Thatcher experience. These events allow attendees to see firsthand the programs and businesses that the area has in place to accelerate economic development opportunities, as well as continue important conversations with fellow attendees at social gatherings.

  • Graham County Economic Development Tour, August 9, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Explore some of the sites that make Graham County’s economic engine run. Stops include Discovery Park Campus, Mt. Graham International Observatory, Open Loop Energy, Sun Pumps, DRG Technologies, and Freeport-McMoRan’s Safford Operations. Cost: $25

  • Taste of Graham County, August 9, 5:30 p.m. – Join us for the opening night celebration featuring delectables from 5 area restaurants including a diverse array of the region’s best offerings. Located on the beautiful greens of the Mt. Graham Municipal Gold Course, we’ll be celebrating and networking under a large canopy with live music and great fun. Cost: $25

  • Chuckwagon Cookout, August 10, 5:30 p.m. – Continue your Rural Policy Forum networking over delicious food and beverages following Thursday’s sessions. The main course features Dutch oven cooked pulled beef and will also feature Arizona wines grown in the region, freshly-made fry breads, a Salsa Trail Tasting Bar, and locally-made pastries. Cost: $30




Early bird tickets are now on sale for the Arizona Rural Policy Forum and can be purchased for $99 (plus ticketing fees). After July 7, ticket prices will increase to $125. Tickets for the Forum and additional events can be purchased at https://azrdc.org/2017-rural-policy-forum/tickets/.


About the Local First Arizona Foundation


The Local First Arizona Foundation (LFAF) is the 501c3 nonprofit sister organization to Local First Arizona and is alsoArizona’s certified Rural Development Council. LFAF is an award-winning organization focused on community and economic development throughout the state in order to build self-sufficient, healthy and prosperous communities. LFAF is creating a movement that has proven results across a wide variety of measurables including youth retention, job creation, and economic gains. More information is available at www.localfirstazfoundation.org and www.azrdc.org.

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