Simplified: RuralX – an annual conference hosted by Dakota Resources – aims to help people in rural communities connect, learn and get inspired to make positive changes in their towns.

Why it matters

  • Dakota Resources has been helping rural communities thrive for more than 25 years, and the seventh annual RuralX conference will continue that work.
  • It can be easy for leaders in small towns to get burnt out, said Ellie Naasz, director of community impact for Dakota Resources. The conference gives them a chance to connect, re-energize and know they're not the only one out there dreaming big dreams in small places.
  • Attendees can also take inspiration from this year's keynote, Melody Warnick, who will deliver a talk about the "secret sauce" of how to attract and retain residents – especially as remote work is becoming increasingly common.
"It's really about connecting people who love their rural place to each other and to new ideas," Naasz said. "We hope it inspires them to leave the conference and take on a big project in their communities."  

What makes this conference unique?

One of the most unique aspects of RuralX is that attendees help set the agenda.

Part of the conference includes "OpenX" where the audience gets to call the topics for breakout sessions.

  • For example, someone in the audience could say they wanted to talk about entrepreneurship in rural communities, then that topic would be added as a breakout option.

The conference is also unique in the blend of rural people it brings together.

"It's people that all care deeply and want to see rural communities succeed," Naasz said.

Who is this for?

The conference is aimed at three specific subsets of people:

  • People in rural towns who have a formal title (i.e. mayor, councilor, economic development specialist, etc.)
  • People who are working behind-the-scenes to make their town better (i.e. small business owners, people serving on boards, volunteers in the community.
  • Resource providers, or people who might work for organizations that work with or provide outreach to rural communities.

How can I attend?

The conference takes place June 7 and 8, and the event has both a virtual and in-person option.

  • The in-person event will take place in Vermillion. It's at Valiant Vinyards day one, and the Old Main building on the University of South Dakota campus on day two.

Tickets for the event can be found here.

Scholarships are also available for people who wouldn't otherwise be able to attend. Learn more here and apply here.