2022 Wisconsin Rural Economic Summit

Rural Summit

Recently, UW-Extension Community Economic Development offered their virtual 2022 Wisconsin Economic Summit. It was a fantastic collection of updates for the rural Wisconsin economy from experts around the state and country. Below, I listed the highlights from each section and at the end I included UW-Extension’s link to the full recording and the presentation slides if you are curious to check them out.


  • General Economic Trends in Rural Wisconsin:
    • Steven Deller started the presentation by defining what is rural and dividing Wisconsin into metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas and discussing various statistics of both.
  • General Population Trends in Rural Wisconsin:
    • David Egan-Robertson shared that Wisconsin’s population growth has slowed and is growing at a smaller rate than the national average – just a 3.6% change in the 2010’s decade. He also stressed the declining birth date in the state.
  • Labor Force Trends, Workforce Shortages in Rural Wisconsin:
    • Reflecting off of David’s presentation, Matt Kures dove into a labor force presentation where he highlighted how the job openings numbers have risen at dramatic numbers, paralleled by a plummeting unemployment rate in a state that experiences a very high labor participation rate as it is. Wisconsin’s labor participation rate for ages 25-54 is 91.1% for male and 81.6% for female – both of which are several percentage points over the national average.
  • Tech Entrepreneurship in Rural America:
    • Molly Pyle, from the Center on Rural Innovation, shared some successful rural entrepreneurship programs from across the country, including Wisconsin’s own IDEA Hub Accelerator.
  • Health Care in Rural Wisconsin:
    • Marie Barry gave a state of the state in rural healthcare in Wisconsin and shared that several of the national top 100 rural hospitals call Wisconsin home, in addition to several critical access hospitals as well.
  • Child Care in Rural Wisconsin:
    • Ruth Schmidt identified the gap of services here in the state and the potential economic impact of being able to close those gaps. She identified that over 70% of rural Wisconsin is identified as a child care desert, coming far short of the needed spots for care for those under 5 years old.
  • 4th Wave of Economic Development and the Importance of Economic Development Planning to Rural Wisconsin:
    • Steven Deller then returned to close out the Summit by discussing what’s known as the fourth wave of Economic Development, which is local economic growth that’s driven by a sense of place. He focused on such potential initiatives as free public wi-fi, early childhood education, networking opportunities for small business owners, and being receptive to newcomers in the community.

If you have the opportunity to either watch the recording or flip through the PowerPoints, I would highly recommend it. I found the presentations enlightening and riddled with opportunities for economic development in the small business sector specifically.

Click this link to watch the full 3-hour summit as well as find the links to the presentation slides:

To sign up to receive notifications about future events like this from the UW-Extension Community Economic Development office, click here.