2019 Highlights

Building a Statewide Network
Illinois Rural Partners provides opportunities to network at conferences; shares information via the website; publishes a weekly 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.

Member Events
In May, Rural Partners board and members visited Mattoon to learn more about Mattoon in Motion and the community and economic development work happening in the eastern Illinois region. Following the Rural Partners board meeting, attendees heard from Mattoon Chamber of Commerce executive director Ed Dowd, Americorps/Peace Corps Fellow Carlos Ortega, and WIU Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs Director Chris Merrett about how Mattoon in Motion was planned, organized, funded, and implemented. Mattoon in Motion recently received a community development grant supported by Google.

Our second member event for members and guests will be held in late 2019, which will focus on the 2020 census and its impact on rural communities.

Sponsored Conferences
Rural Partners supports conferences focused on business development, broadband, leadership and other topics to help rural leaders learn about and implement creative approaches to community development, and co-sponsored the annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference in March. In August, Rural Partners hosted the annual Partners for Rural America (PRA) national conference in Springfield. As part of the conference, we celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Rural Partners, and hosted panel discussions and a reception for PRA conference attendees and Illinois Rural Partners members.

Shares Information through the Newsletter and Website
The Rural Partners weekly 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.

Providing Leadership and Input to the National Organization, Partners for Rural America (PRA)
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, Rural Partners, transitioned from serving on the PRA Board for many years and Blanche Shoup, past chair of Rural Partners, now serves in the role.

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


What’s in store for 2020?

  • Continue to advocate for the rural agenda with the new statewide leadership in Illinois and at the national level.

  • Support the annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference. February 26 & 27, 2020, in Springfield.

  • Rural Partners hosts two membership information events, usually in late spring/summer and in November.