Penn State Extension will host “Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities” Oct. 20 and 21 in downtown Lebanon. The two-day event is geared toward business owners, economic development professionals, and community leaders.

Supported in part by a grant from the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development this conference is a community development initiative. CEC focuses on showcasing examples of entrepreneur-driven community successes. Carla Snyder, Penn State Extension program lead marketing and marketing development, said the intent is for participants from Lebanon and across northeastern US to strengthen their skills in collaborative and community revitalization. She’s hoping the event will attract about 100 participants from a multi-state area.

“We have incredible community revitalization happening in small towns and cities in the northeastern US. We hope to bring together communities large and small in every stage of development to learn together from successes around the country. Everyone can learn from the speakers and from one another,” Snyder said, “Through this event, our Lebanon business owners will have resources they can go to in the future. The goal is to revitalize small communities by encouraging entrepreneurship.”

She had been a speaker in April 2019 at similar conference in Beatrice, NE. Her topic: craft beer and how it can transform communities. “The concept for the conferences originated with Michigan State University. They’ve been hosted in communities throughout Michigan and have expanded into other communities in the Midwest,” Snyder explained, “This will be the first one held in the northeast.”

She said conferences are generally held in small and rural communities. “We evaluated a number of communities across several counties as a location for the conference. Lebanon was selected since it seems to be poised for economic development; as a town it has a lot to offer,” she said adding that being the site of the conference brings a bit of an economic boost.

It is too early to tell whether the novel coronavirus will impact plans for the conference. “At this time, the conference is not yet open for registration because it is too early but our team is seriously considering the effects of COVID-19 on the community and how we can best adjust the conference format to meet new needs as they emerge,” Snyder said.

The CEC conference is a “walk-in” conference. Snyder explained that it will start at noon Oct. 20 with lunch and a keynote speaker in a larger venue. There will also be a resource area where vendors such as banks, commercial insurance agents, organizations that offer assistance to budding entrepreneurs and economic development organizations can provide information.

Following lunch, there will be three breakout session time slots. Snyder said breakout sessions will be held in business venues or potential business venues throughout downtown Lebanon; both highlighting the city’s achievements and showcasing its opportunities for growth. Breakout venues will be walkable from the main venue as well as each other. Sessions will be geared towards both the business owner and community development professional. After the breakout sessions, conference participants are free to return to their hotel and have dinner on their own.

The following day, Oct. 21, will begin with coffee and pastries and a speaker who will provide “30 Ideas in 30 minutes.” One or two breakout sessions are planned and then a closing session.

Breakout session topics may include financing, making your retail shop pop, collective marketing, understanding your sales potential, event-driven downtown commerce, food and beverage driven tourism, and how to collaborate for business and community success.

Snyder said the team of organizers is currently looking for venue spaces in downtown Lebanon to hold sessions as well as partners and sponsors for the event. Vendor table spaces are also available. Businesses or organizations interested in these opportunities may contact Carla Snyder ( or Tanya Lamo (

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Rochelle A. Shenk is a writer with over two decades experience. Her work appears in regional business publications and lifestyle magazines as well as area newspapers. She writes about business and municipal sectors as well as arts and entertainment, human interest features, and travel and tourism. Rochelle...


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