2019 Midstates Speakers & Breakout Sessions

Featured Speakers

Scott Siepker


Scott Siepker is an actor, writer, producer, and filmmaker. Scott started off as a stage actor at Iowa State University and has gone on to co-found Iowa Filmmakers, which has been responsible for the Iowa Nice series of hit videos that included a two season run on ESPNU’s College Football Daily


In his presentation, Scott will talk about growing up in a small rural town and why he has decided to stay in Iowa even though his career is in acting and filmmaking, the benefits of embracing technology and the arts for rural communities moving forward, and how with Midwest culture being based in the community and leaning on each other to solve problems, we must surround ourselves with talented people AND ask for help.

V.J. Smith

V.J. Smith has over 20 years of public speaking experience and has given over 2500 presentations across the United States. He worked in management roles for a Fortune 500 company and a mid-sized university and has authored several books. During his morning session, you will be captivated by the message and life lessons in his talk, “The Richest Man in Town.” This is a true story about Marty, a man who ran a cash register at a big box store. He did three simple things that made him a superstar: 1) listened with his eyes; 2) made other people the center of attention; 3) was always grateful - for the people who came through his line and a job he loved. You will go on an emotional rollercoaster ride and think about this presentation for years to come.

Breakout Sessions

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

1912 Emporium & Rustic Treasures, Wayne, NE

Mark Kanitz and Lukas Rix, owners of Rustic Treasures and the 1912 Emporium in Wayne, NE will describe what they've learned in 7 years of business in their rural community. Hear about the start-up of their large consignment thrift store and how it landed them a new store in Omaha, NE.

More information: 1912emporium.com

Brookings Economic Development Corporation, Brookings, SD

The Brookings Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) works to enhance economic development through entrepreneurship and business startups. Their efforts are showcased through impactful and intentional programming, events and collaboration designed to support and develop a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. In this session, you will learn about the programs made possible through the BEDC, and the impact and recognition it has brought to Brookings.

More information: brookingsedc.com

Emergency Response

Woodbury County Emergency Management, Woodbury County, IA

Rain and snow melt caused significant flooding throughout all of Woodbury County starting on March 13, 2019, resulting in multiple communities declaring a state of emergency and the City of Hornick being evacuated. City, county, state, and federal resources were required in response to this disaster in Woodbury County. In this session, Woodbury County Emergency Management will share about their role in assisting individuals and organizations to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters in Woodbury County, IA.

More information: woodburycountyiowa.gov

Grassroots Disaster Recovery, Knox County, NE

After the horrible floods that decimated much of our region, one woman in Knox County, Nebraska worked to help four neighboring households that lost everything and spawned a grass roots recovery movement that spanned communities and states and is still in effect today. Learn how Lorie Kreycik Knigge, a private citizen, utilized Facebook and local agricultural organizations to raise thousands of dollars of relief money and donated supplies for a local farmers and the rural veterinarian affected by the flooding caused by the sudden failure of the Spencer dam on the Niobrara river.

More information: co.knox.ne.us

Childcare & Community Services

Community Connection Center, Vermillion, SD

After the 2010 Census, the community of Vermillion, SD was shocked to discover that their poverty level was over 35% - the highest for a non-reservation community in the entire state. United Way of Vermillion brought stakeholders together in the Clay County Poverty Task Force to exchange information and discuss solutions. Their work resulted in the Community Connection Center, a one-stop shop that addresses the needs of community members by coordinating the efforts of local non-profit organizations, including a food pantry, community meals, diaper bank, and emergency fund.

More information: unitedwayofvermillion.org


Building Community Child Care Solutions Collaborative, Rural Communities in IA

22 communities across Iowa are now exploring innovative ways to exchange ideas among business and community leaders, employees and organizations to promote child care investments that support children’s healthy development and a competitive business environment—both for the short and long term. The collaborative efforts, led by the Iowa Women's Foundation, are based on community-led change. Through listening and learning, educating and engaging, the collaboration ultimately supports successful families, a steady Iowa workforce and a stronger economy. The collaborative has already brought people together from all corners of the state to learn from each other and share their success stories—saving time, money and energy so communities can focus on real solutions.  


More information: iawf.org


Tucker Hill Vineyards, Hinton, IA

Learn how Barry and Brenda Dittmer planted a vineyard in corn and bean country and grew it into a successful boutique winery. Barry will talk about how a hobby grew into a full-time business that has seen growth and the addition of a larger scale reception and meeting facility that hosts weddings and other events almost every weekend for nine months of the year, bringing up to 250 people to their small town.

More information: tuckerhillwine.com

Cardinal Farms Greenhouse, Dakota City, NE

Cardinal Farms Greenhouse is a family owned and operated hydroponic greenhouse that has been producing high quality tomatoes for the Siouxland area and beyond for fifteen years.  This year has been one of experimentation and dreaming; additional varieties of vegetables have opened new possibilities for an old farm.

More information: facebook.com/CardinalFarmsGreenhouse

Community Marketing & Branding

Marketing Hometown America, Mt. Vernon, SD

The small City of Mount Vernon was in a crisis concerning the population that had declined 7.5% since 2000, and needed to attract people to the town to allow the school to stay open. This presentation will cover how the Mount Vernon city council partnered with South Dakota State University Extension to facilitate a Marketing Hometown America program to address their needs.

Marketing Hometown America is available through the South Dakota State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Iowa State University Extension programs.

More information: mtvernonsd.com

Dakota Resources, Renner, SD

Dakota Resources is building a platform for rural economic development leaders to grow their skills, connect to experts, download tools and share ideas—and to belong to a community of practice like never before. 18-months in, this hybrid online/in-real-life community learning network is over 30 subscribers strong and growing. This session will focus on the development of the Rural Economic Development Leader Learning Network, which has helped over 40 local economic development leaders from South Dakota and Nebraska!

More information: dakotaresources.org


Panel Discussion: The Sioux County Housing Boom

Located in the heart of Northwest Iowa, Sioux County has seen a steady increase in workforce housing starts in the past decade. Communities in Sioux County recognized the opportunity for their companies to expand, and efforts were needed to facilitate housing opportunities on all fronts locally. All three communities have similar initiatives, yet uniquely different approaches to tackle the challenges of housing development in a rural community.

This panel discussion will feature economic development professionals from Rock Valley, Orange City, and Sioux Center who will share their experiences in addressing their workforce housing challenges.

© 2019 Midstates Community and Economic Development Conference

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.


The fees for service will be used to offset direct expenses and to support the Midstates Community and Economic Development Conference County Extension Program.


Iowa State University Extension and Outreach does not discriminate on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, national origin, pregnancy, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or status as a U.S. veteran, or other protected classes. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies may be directed to the Diversity Advisor, 2150 Beardshear Hall, 515 Morrill Road, Ames, Iowa 50011, 515-294-1482, extdiversity@iastate.edu. All other inquiries may be directed to 800-262-3804.

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