2017 Highlights

Building a Statewide Network
Illinois Rural Partners provides opportunities to network at conferences; shares information via the website; publishes a newsletter; shares success stories; identifies funding opportunities and ideas; and responds to initiatives across the state. Rural Partners connects communities, not-for-profits, businesses, state and federal agencies, and others to create opportunities and resolve impediments to progress. For example, broadband networks are being built through critical partnerships. “Partnerships with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Universal Service Fund (USF) and USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) broadband loan program have allowed Illinois-based rural broadband providers, such as Shawnee Communications and scores of others, to provide rural customers with fiber-based, high-speed broadband internet services,” according to Matt Johnson, Shawnee Communications Vice President of Government Policy and Rural Partners Board member.

Sponsored Member Events
In May, Rural Partners Board members and guests toured Trefzger’s Bakery in Peoria Heights. The Economic Development Group sponsored a panel of planners and funders who described the funding package that supported the development of the bakery and the Trailside Event Center.

In November, SIU School of Medicine hosted the Rural Partners Board and members. Dr. Sameer Vohra, SIU School of Medicine, made a presentation on collaborative approaches to rural health. State Senator Andy Manar discussed the Illinois school funding reform plan that he spearheaded.

Sponsors, Plans and Participates in Conferences
Rural Partners co-sponsors and attracts exhibitors to conferences focused on business development, broadband, leadership and other topics to help rural leaders learn about and implement creative approaches to rural community development. Rural Partners co-sponsors the annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference.

Shares Information through the Newsletter and Website
The Rural Partners newsletter includes articles about funding, conferences, success stories and more. Members and others are encouraged to contribute articles and information which can help promote your company, your community, your cause or your ideas. The Rural Partners website is informative, responsive and interactive to better serve our members and others. Visit, or email us for the latest!

Keeps You in Touch with State Government Leadership
As a member of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, University of Illinois Extension Partners, and other task forces, Rural Partners follows state rural development initiatives and funding opportunities to share issues and address problems facing rural communities and businesses. Rural Partners provides a voice for rural communities and organizations through these and other statewide and regional organizations.

Provides Leadership and Input to the National Organization, Partners for Rural America (PRA)
Illinois Rural Partners is active in PRA, the national coalition of state councils, to have a national voice in rural policy, programming and legislation and to share and learn best practices from across the country. Jerry Townsend, Illinois Rural Partners, serves on the PRA Board.

Seeks Feedback from Members
Rural Partners seeks input from members and others to determine needs and priorities. High priority goals are continuing services amidst tight budgets, advocating for broadband, and supporting businesses and entrepreneurs.


What’s in store for 2018?

  • Continue to advocate for the rural agenda in our state and at the national level.
  • Support the annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference, held in March in Springfield.
  • Illinois Rural Partners will host the Partnership for Rural America annual meeting and tour in 2019.