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EAGAR – Rural Arizona is about to get some special attention this month in the form of the Arizona Rural Development Council’s 13th Annual Rural Policy Forum which is being held August 7th – 9th in the Round Valley High School.

“We are really excited that they are coming to our area,” Springerville Town Manager Joe Jarvis said. “We think that the forum will be a great opportunity for rural businesses, individuals, governments and other entities to come together to discuss ideas that matter to us.”

Eagar’s Town Manager, Terry Hinton, has attended this forum before when it was held in southern Arizona, and he is excited at the prospect of attracting new visitors who will hopefully fall in love with the area. “It’s also good for cross-promotion of the areas,” he said.

As this event will draw interested parties from all over the state, there will likely be some good opportunities to create cross-promotion between businesses, organizations and localities.

This year’s Rural Policy Forum will feature over 60 presenters during the three-day event, and around 300 attendees are expected, including business owners, tourism professionals, local and county government officials, higher education, tribal leadership and non-profit leadership. And while the event might include some important attendees, such as Rep. Tom O’Halleran on Thursday morning, the event is not exclusive.

“Locals there are more than welcome to attend if they’re interested in coming out,” Kimber Lanning, executive Director of Local First Arizona, says. “It’s for those who are rural advocates and stakeholders.” “Stakeholders,” she explained, include the people who live and work in rural areas of the state and also politicians, business owners, city and county government officials and non-profits that want to see rural Arizona thrive.

Local First Arizona is the foundation that oversees the Arizona Rural Development Council program. The Arizona Rural Development Council (AZRDC) program is Arizona’s officially recognized State Rural Development Council.

State councils such as the AZRDC bring together governmental entities from federal, state, tribal and local branches, along with private businesses and non-profits, to promote development and opportunities to rural areas. The AZRDC’s Rural Policy Forum is an event where rural leaders and stakeholders from all over the state can come together with business and non-profit entities to collaborate on solutions to the unique problems of rural living and entrepreneurship, such as sustainability, economics, health care, broadband, grant writing, and other key issues.

Round Valley was chosen for this year’s forum location over other rural areas in the state after a convincing proposal put together by Karalea Cox of Eagar showed AZRDC’s Rural Advisory board that Springerville and Eagar offered everything they needed for a successful event and that the event would have the support of local governments and businesses.

“The Rural Advisory board includes one person from each county, and they review the different communities that are interested in hosting,” Lanning said. “[The proposal] was selected based on the criteria, and people are really excited about the opportunity to come here.”

“Arizona will not be successful unless rural Arizona is successful,” Kimber Lanning said. “It has to be a broad look on how we can be successful. Most of our food comes from rural areas. There’s a lot of innovation happening in rural areas. It’s unconscionable that we wouldn’t be out there, trying to spread the word about great things that are happening.”

General admission tickets are available for $125. The event is being catered for breakfast and lunches by local restaurants and businesses. Special evening events as well as an AAED professional development credit module are listed as optional add-ons. Tickets, as well as a full agenda for the event, are available online at AZRDC.org.

Amber Shepard is an local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.

Amber Shepard is an local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.

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