BOZEMAN — Twenty-three rural Montana communities are set to participate in a Montana State University Extension program that focuses on providing Montana’s small towns with opportunities to shape their future.

The Reimagining Rural virtual gathering is a series of three evening events where people come together in their communities to listen to virtual speakers discuss positive examples of successful rural communities. Following the speakers, local groups will discuss how those ideas might work in their community. The program is intended to bring residents together to brainstorm ideas for enhancing local communities and to build excitement and pride.

Sessions are set for Sept. 13, Sept. 27 and Oct. 3. Each session will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Golden Triangle residents can attend these sessions at four locations:

  • Cut Bank - Logan Health EMS Conference Room
  • Shelby - Dempsey-Gibbons Room, Comfort Inn
  • Chester - Liberty Community Senior Center
  • Valier - Valier Public Library

As part of the series, featured speaker Ben Winchester of the University of Minnesota Extension will share research on the rural “brain gain,” including new research by MSU Extension about who is moving to rural Montana communities and why. Other speakers include community leaders from around Montana that have launched successful local projects, including a summer concert series, a community-wide tourism and branding strategy, and a nonprofit childcare center using an abandoned school. Members of the Winnett community will discuss success in revitalizing their community, which included a beef to schools program, a new community center and a housing project.

Participating communities include Arlee, Carter County, Chester-Joplin-Inverness, Columbus, Cut Bank, Daniels County, Forsyth, Glendive, Hays, Hysham, Malta, Manhattan, Miles City, Plevna, Powder River County, Powell County, Roundup-Winnett, Sidney, St. Regis, Toole County, Valier, White Sulphur Springs and Worden-Ballantine. Organizers of local events said they applied to Reimagining Rural because they see the program as a way to engage local volunteers, learn new ideas and enhance their communities.

Reimagining Rural is made possible through support from MSU Extension, the Burton K. Wheeler Center, Montana Community Foundation, First Interstate Bank Foundation, The O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation, and local hosts in each community.

Community members interested in joining the discussions can participate by contacting their local MSU Extension office for information on their local host. For more information, visit msuextension.org/communitydevelopment/reimagine-rural.html or contact Tara Mastel with MSU Extension at tara.mastel@montana.edu.

- by MSU News Service -