Norris Institute events arrive at an opportune time
Life on the Plains has never been easy, and modern times are no exception.
Today, however, technology provides opportunities the pioneers could never have dreamed off, connecting farmsteads to the world and dissolving the miles.
Isolation is no longer a barrier for entrepreneurs wishing to reach a wide market, thanks to broadband Internet combined with the availability of fast delivery of products -- or even electronic delivery of goods and services.
Norris Institute workshops next week will examine the present and future of telecommunications in rural America, featuring a keynote lecture at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Delivering this year's Norris Lecture will be Dr. Laurence J. Malone, who will speak on "The Power of Telecommunications in Rural Economic Development," in the Weeth Theater at McCook Community College. Admission is free, open to all.
A professor of economics in New York state, Malone became well known for his paper, "Commonalities: The REA and High Speed Rural Internet Acess," which helped shape federal and state policies as they relate to making broadband Internet available in rural areas of the nation.
On Tuesday, the Hormel Technology Center for Business and Industry will be the site for three Norris Institute workshops, including "Cultivating Rural Entrepreneurship" at 9 a.m., featuring moderator Cinch Munson of the Mid-Plains Center for Enterprise, with Malone as a commentator, and Weldon Sleight of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, and Rex Nelson, McCook Economic Development Corp. taking part as well.
At 10:45 a.m., panelists Dick Shoemaker of Pinpoint Communications and Cody Dame of Game On Games will speak on "Creating a Sustainable Rural Economy," and at 1 p.m., "Next Steps for Future Action" concludes the event with a full panel and interactive audience discussion.
The Norris Institute was probably right in contending that Sen. George W. Norris was right when he predicted that rural residents wouldn't be content without the conveniences their big-city cousins enjoyed.
And while Norris' vision led to rural electrification, the modern equivalent is the high-speed Internet now finding its way into the most distant regions of the nation.
But bringing new urgency to the topic is the pressing need for economic development, as hard times challenge traditional off-farm employment in Southwest Nebraska, and self-employment becomes an needed option for more and more budding entrepreneurs.
The Norris Institute events Monday and Tuesday offer a timely opportunity to explore an important topic. For more information, or to reserve a seat in the workshop, contact the Mid-Plains Center for Enterprise at (308) 345-8122.