Save the Date! May 5-6, 2020 Energize! Conference, Milbank, SD

Monday, January 27, 2020


Save the Date!  May 5-6, 2020
Energize! Conference, Milbank, SD

Keynote speaker is Amanda Brinkman, co-host of TV series Small Business Revolution

The SDSU Extension Community Vitality Team and the Community of Milbank will host the Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference May 5-6, 2020 in downtown Milbank businesses.

Designed to energize South Dakota’s rural communities by inviting them to network with community leaders from across the state, share success stories, get ideas and take action to improve their own communities, the conference will offer several sessions including: Funding for Community Projects, Supporting Local Business, Uptown Revitalization and Engaging Community Members.

“This event will have information for communities, resources and ways to become involved, as well as information for current and potential entrepreneurs,” says Paul Thares, SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist. The program is a collaborative effort between leaders in the community of Milbank and the SDSU Extension Community Vitality Team.

Bobbie Bohlen, executive director of the Grant County Development Corporation, is excited to bring this conference to her region. “We are fortunate to have several unique businesses in Milbank. Breakout sessions will be held in storefronts on Main Street to bring focus to the opportunities and share what could be replicated in other places,” she says.

As one example, Bohlen points to the Valley Queen Heritage Center which opened in August 2018 on Milbank’s Main Street in a renovated building that is over 100 years old. “The Center gives the history of Valley Queen Cheese and the families who started it in the community. We are excited to have that,” says Bohlen. The Center’s interactive displays were developed by the same firm that created the Children’s Museum of South Dakota in Brookings.

Keynote speaker for the conference is Amanda Brinkman, co-host of the acclaimed TV series Small Business Revolution. A former corporate marketing executive working with icons including General Mills, Allianz and UnitedHealth Group, Brinkman has earned a reputation as a revolutionary brand marketer. With attendees at the Energize! Conference, Brinkman will share her mantra “Do Well By Doing Good.”

Milbank’s Bohlen will also be a presenter at the conference sharing details about how to define success within your own community. She notes that often population and sales tax are looked at as “success indicators,” but instead, Milbank gathered community input to create their own Milbank Index to guide community efforts and gauge success. Bohlen explains, “Each community is different, so you have to figure out what works in your community,” she explains.

Other presentation highlights will include Volga’s focus on reviving their Main Street; funding for the Roberts County 4-H Building; fostering community engagement with Sisseton-Wahpeton College as well as with immigrants through the Glacial Lakes Multi-Cultural Center at Watertown, and much more. The conference will also include opportunities to connect with staff from entities across the state with available community resources and grant funds.

This marks the third year for the Energize! Conference in South Dakota, with previous programs hosted in DeSmet and Lemmon. At those conferences, Thares notes that bringing community leaders and business owners together to share their experiences and knowledge on a variety of topics proved to be powerful with all groups learning from each other. “We anticipate a similar experience in Milbank May 5 and 6,” he concludes.

Registration information

For more information or to register for the Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference, contact SDSU Extension’s Paul Thares at 605-374-4177 or e-mail



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