Hometown competitiveness focus of SPUCC meeting Tuesday

January 13, 2014

CAMBRIDGE, Nebraska — The South Platte United Chambers of Commerce invites all rural Nebraskans interested in attracting graduates of rural high schools back to their communities to dinner and a presentation Tuesday, Jan. 14, at the Town Talk Restaurant in Cambridge, Nebraska.
The social hour will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and a presentation by Craig Schroeder, senior associate at the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship in Lincoln.

Since 2003, Craig’s primary focus with the center has been youth entrepreneurship and helping communities develop effective youth engagement systems.

Craig is also responsible for leading the Center’s work with the nationally-recognized Home Town Competitiveness (HTC) Initiative, which integrates youth engagement, entrepreneur-focused economic development, leadership development and community-focused philanthropy in a comprehensive framework for rural community revitalization and growth.

The Center’s research is about those who live in rural Nebraska, the youth and the overwhelming numbers of young people who want to return to their rural roots to live and work. Schroeder says.

Of particular note is Craig’s work in creating the “Youth Attraction Formula,” a tool for Great Plains communities to address persistent population decline largely due to significant youth out-migration. The audience will have an opportunity to respond to a several actual tools employed by successful communities that are attracting their youth back home.

For reservations to the dinner and presentation, contact Ashley Rice-Gerlach, Cambridge Economic Development Director, (308) 697-3711 or

The South Platte United Chambers of Commerce business meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Social hour is 5:30, dinner 6 p.m. at the Town Talk Restaurant in Cambridge, 606 Patterson, $20 per person.

In 1992, Craig was asked by the City of Cambridge to direct its economic development program. That same year, Craig also undertook the conversion of the Holbrook Public School building into a regional business incubator after the school was closed in a consolidation with nearby Arapahoe, which then became home to GROW Nebraska. Craig also began his service with the Nebraska Rural Development Commission in 1992, as an appointee of then Governor Ben Nelson.

Of particular note is Craig’s work in creating the Youth Attraction Formula and Youth Engagement System, tools for rural leaders seeking to address chronic out-migration and attract young people to their communities

Craig has initiated and served with a number of organizations engaged in rural development at the local, state and national levels over the past three decades. These include:

* Heartland Center for Leadership Development, Currently Serving as President

* National Rural Development Partnership, Strategic Assessment Task Force

* U.S. Senator Nelson Institute, Board of Directors

* Nebraska Information Technology Commission, Commissioner

* Nebraska State Records Board, Governor Appointee

* Intrastate Universal Service Fund Task Force, Governor Appointee

* State Government Information Task Force, Nebraska Legislature, Appointee

* Southwest Nebraska Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), Board Member

* Southwest Nebraska Development Network, Board Member

* Southwest Nebraska Community Builders, Graduate

* Furnas County Area Development Committee, Founder and Board Member

* Holbrook School Board, Elected Board Member

Craig and his wife, Dawn, now have four young daughters, three dogs and are thankful for a very blessed life.

Schroeder’s focus with the Center is on youth entrepreneurship and developing effective youth engagement within communities. He spoke at a banquet of the Furnas/Harlan Partnership in November in Orleans on ways to bring youth back to rural Nebraska. His data showed that over half of youth want to return home, but many do not.

He also said youth have a large impact on critical issues with the historical out-migration trends. There has been a loss of farms, industry and small business as well as erosion of leadership capacity. With youth leaving the area, the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next goes with them.

Schroeder stressed that the key is to work with youth and invite them back home. “Youth in your community may well represent your greatest resource for economic growth and community sustainability. The challenge is to engage these youth, equip them with the skills and knowledge to be successful, support them and their enterprising ventures, and then invite them home,” Schroeder said.