2020 Highlights

Building a Statewide Network
Illinois Rural Partners connects communities, not-for-profits, businesses, state and federal agencies, and others to create opportunities and resolve impediments to progress. Rural Partners provides networking opportunities, shares information via the website, publishes a weekly newsletter, shares success stories, identifies funding opportunities and ideas, and responds to requests for assistance and initiatives across the state.

Member Events
The COVID-19 pandemic altered our plans for 2020, but like our members, we adapted. Prior to the pandemic, Rural Partners sponsored the annual Rural Community Economic Development Conference hosted by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University (WIU) and in partnership with the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council (GRAC). Many of our directors and general members attended the conference, where we held our annual meeting and elected our Illinois Rural Partners directors and executive leadership to new terms. Rural Partners offered a webinar series that began in October with a presentation from the IIRA on “The Impacts of Dollar General Stores on Rural Illinois Communities.” In November, Dr. John Jackson with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) presented “The 2020 Presidential and Congressional Elections: Rural America’s Impact and Stake.”

Sharing Information through the Newsletter and Website
The Rural Partners weekly newsletter includes articles about funding opportunities, 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!

Keeping You in Touch with State Government Leadership
As a member of the GRAC, 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. The State of Illinois introduced Connect Illinois, an initiative to expand broadband networks in the state, and Rural Partners offered and provided written support for grant requests to build broadband networks in rural Illinois communities. Rural Partners provides a voice for rural communities and organizations through these and other statewide and regional programs and 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. Blanche Shoup, past chair and current board member of Rural Partners, represents Rural Partners 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 within tight budgets, advocating for broadband, and supporting businesses and entrepreneurs.


What’s in store for 2021?

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

  • Support the Rural Community Economic Development Conference held virtually on February 24 & 25, 2021.

  • Host webinars and develop rural research reports in partnership with the IIRA and University of Illinois Extension.

  • Continue our support for broadband network buildout, supporting the funding efforts of Connect Illinois.

  • Rural Partners will host membership events either in person or virtually depending on safety considerations.