The 2019 Rural Rise Summit, a three day event for rural based entrepreneurs, kicked off Tuesday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. The event will host multiple successful entrepreneurs and government officials including Mayor Shirley Washington and Governor Asa Hutchinson.


Rural Rise organizer Joe Kapp said that he and his team are excited to come to Pine Bluff.


“Thank you to the community for hosting us,” said Kapp. “Rural Rise is about helping local models of entrepreneurs and development that are in smaller communities, and help expose them to things that are working in other communities. We are super excited to bring the folks from over 38 states to join us to learn about entrepreneurship and local development, and to really talk about entrepreneurship in a rural setting.”


This is the second year of the summit. Last year it was held on the west coast, and the plan is to move across the country to the east coast. Kapp said that Pine Bluff was the perfect location for this year’s event due to its location.


“This site was chosen for a variety of reasons,” said Kapp. “We started on the west coast and are heading to the east coast, then we will head back. We are looking for around 200 people to be in attendance. I think the location is great. We like to find communities that are on the cusp of redevelopment with opportunities, but who are also experiencing some challenges. It is a beautiful area. There are some industries here, but there is also a lot of opportunity of development and for growth. The amazing people have been super helpful, and have really stepped up to the plate to organize this and make it happen.”


Kapp said that Rural Rise is excited to be one of the first organizations to use the Pine Bluff Convention Center since upgrades have been made to the facility over the past year.


“With this location at the Convention Center, it is one of the first times that it has been used in quite some time,” Kapp said. “We are super excited to be a catalyst for that type of revitalization for this space.”


Kapp also said he is excited to have Mayor Shirley Washington and Governor Asa Hutchinson speak at the event.


“It is exciting to see that level of support from public policy officials and from government officials,” said Kapp. “We also have folks from federal government agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Small Business Administration, and others. Having all of those folks saying entrepreneurship is important to them is an important message for people to hear, and an important message for people to see public officials recognizing the communities where there are exciting opportunities.”


Erik Pedersen from Network Kansas will be a part of the Government Opportunities Panel at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday. He said Rural Rise is about helping people form a large nation-wide network of fellow entrepreneurs to lean on and to learn from.


“This is a place for people to start drawing on each other’s expertise, so I give a lot of credit to those who put this together,” said Pedersen. “There are not a lot of long, drawn out speeches, there are a lot of short ones. You get to be exposed to a lot of the best practices over the three days. Some of them are meaningful to you, and some of them aren’t, but last year at the end of it there was a group from West Virginia that found some value in what we are doing in Kansas from sitting around the table and talking, and a couple of months after the summit ended they flew to Kansas and spent two days with myself and my staff learning about what we are doing. That is a big part of this.”