ANNAPOLIS — If there was ever any doubt that inequities and vulnerabilities exist in rural communities across Maryland, those doubts were silenced over the past 20 months as Marylanders struggle to cope with complications created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to health care and high speed Internet as well as issues in the supply chain are just a few of problems facing rural Marylanders.
Although conditions are improving, small businesses continue to struggle while community leaders and legislators try to figure out how best to help their constituents not only to recover, but also to build stronger, more resilient communities while the pandemic continues on.
The concept of creating a stronger new normal for all Marylanders is the theme of the upcoming two-day Rural Summit titled “Redefining Resilience and Recovery,” hosted by the Rural Maryland Council, which will be held on Wednesday, December 1 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday, Dec. 2, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel, 210 Holiday Court, Annapolis.
“Our 2021 Summit is particularly relevant as communities throughout Maryland struggle to recover and try to respond to the challenges of creating their own version of a new normal,” said John Hartline, RMC Board Chair.
The conference is open to the public. Social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols will be implemented.
Advance registration is $60 per person. If attendees would only like to attend one day of the summit, the cost is $40 per attendee. Meals are included. The deadline to pre-register online is 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 29.
Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. will open the Summit with welcoming remarks at noon on Dec. 1. In addition to the Governor, featured guest speakers include: Whitney Kimball Coe, Director of National Programs at the Center for Rural Strategies, who will give the keynote address at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday.
Kenrick Gordan, Director of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Office of Statewide Broadband, who will provide an update on Maryland’s broadband expansion efforts at a plenary at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. The session will be moderated by Kenneth C. Holt, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Summit breakout sessions include updates from Maryland State Secretaries as well as a panel of State Legislators. Other breakout sessions include topics such as: emerging markets in cyber agriculture and bio agriculture, unique approaches to rural workforce development, rural health transportation, building resilient food systems, health care workforce development, updates in Forestry Market Development, and new community development and state funding opportunities.
The Summit program will close with an Ag Showcase at noon on Thursday. Presented by the MidAtlantic Farm, the showcase will feature finalists who will present their ideas/business plans to compete for cash and related business services. To view a full Summit agenda, visit rural.maryland.gov/2021-rural-summit/.
“Bringing all the rural stakeholders together to share challenges as well as successes has always been the hallmark of our biennial Summit,” says Charlotte Davis, RMC Executive Director. “However, this year it seems that idea generation and sharing insights are more important than ever before,” she adds.
In 1994 the late Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer signed an executive order to designate a “rural development council” for Maryland. One year later the council organized itself as the “FORVM for Rural Maryland” and was permanently established by an act of the State legislature. Today the Rural Maryland Council operates under the direction of a 40-member executive board in a nonpartisan and nondiscriminatory manner.
It serves as the state’s federally designated rural development council and functions as a voice for rural Maryland, advocating for and helping rural communities and businesses across the state to flourish and to gain equity to its suburban and urban counterparts.