Utah Rural Summit Celebrates 34th Anniversary

Pete CodellaArticles, Center for Rural Development

More than 700 attendees converged on Southern Utah University’s (SUU) campus to celebrate the annual Rural Summit on Oct. 4-6, 2021. The event is the premier gathering place for converging Utah’s top leaders and decision-makers to discuss the state’s rural opportunities and challenges.

“This year’s Summit was very successful and provided attendees with three days of informative and fun-filled activities,” said Stephen Lisonbee, senior advisor for rural affairs and SUU assistant vice president. “The networking opportunities were extraordinary, and individuals made very valuable connections that will serve them well in the future.”

The festivities kicked off with the Summit launch party, where attendees mingled, enjoyed dinner, and a private showing of the play Pirates of Penzance and outdoor Greenshow entertainment. “Several attendees commented on the Festival’s impressive top-notch production and Broadway-quality performance of Pirates. We are very fortunate to count the Utah Shakespeare Festival among our 2021 Summit sponsors and thank them for their generosity and continued commitment to excellence,” said Lisonbee.

Day two activities began with the morning plenary session. 

Highlights of the session included,

  • video welcome from Gov. Cox
  • comments from Greg Bell, president and CEO of the Utah Hospital Association, about the needs of rural healthcare
  • a panel discussion, which included  Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and Larry H. Miller CEO Steve Starks, on building rural communities
  • spotlights of what opportunities are possible for growing businesses in rural Utah that showcased three very successful entrepreneurs; Stephen Neeleman, Brad Bonham, and Annette Meier
  • an update on Farmers Feeding Utah and the Utah Miracle of Ag. project 
  • video comments from Utah’s congressional delegation

Attendees enjoyed lunch while watching entrepreneurs compete for $25,000 in cash prizes at the State Bank of Southern Utah Business Challenge. This competition helps identify and support high-potential early-stage businesses.

In the afternoon, participants were able to select from 12 informative break-out sessions. The sessions included topics such as Utah’s Unified Approach to Water, The Future of Economic Opportunity, and Broadening Broadband in Utah.

The last day of the Summit was Leadership Day and provided opportunities to learn with Utah’s top leaders about best practices and principles.

The next One Utah Summit is slated for May 10, 2022, at The Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.