Iowa Rural Summit 2021 - Celebrating #5!!


August 18- 20, 2021


Hotel Kirkwood, Cedar Rapids

Rural Summit 2020 – Mission Accomplished

The annual gathering of rural Iowans took a turn in 2020.  The COVID-19 pandemic forced it online, into a virtual celebration.  More than 350 attendees from 6 states participated, sharing and learning and networking.

Recordings of the sessions are available on the IRDC YouTube Channel!

Rural Summit 2021 – Five Years of Rural Networking!

Registration is open  for the fifth annual Iowa Rural Summit, to be held August 18-20 at the Hotel at Kirkwood Center on the campus of Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Past gatherings of leaders from Iowa rural communities have drawn crowds of almost 400 and organizers are hoping a larger venue, in a post-pandemic setting, will lure a record crowd.

Due to COVID, the 2020 Rural Summit was held virtually. Now that the 2021 event will be held in-person, rural communities are once again being asked to bring a three-person team to the Summit, an approach that has helped generate consensus and momentum in those places that were represented. Three-person community teams can go online and register, as can interested individuals.

The Summit is sponsored by the Iowa Rural Development Council (IRDC), a public-private state non-profit that works to support small towns addressing issues such as housing, broadband access, business development and leadership.

“We are excited to gather on the campus of an Iowa community college for the 2021 Summit,” said IRDC Chair Mark Reinig. “Community colleges are key partners for rural communities, small and large businesses, and our next generation of workers. Kirkwood will give us a venue to see this work first-hand.”

The 2021 Rural Summit will feature keynote addresses from two well-known Iowa speakers. Former state representative Helen Miller will talk about her perspective as a Black Iowan and the importance of rural places that are open, inclusive and diverse. Cedar Falls business owner and former Saturday Night Live cast member Gary Kroeger will describe his journey that led him back to his hometown and the assets rural communities can boast.

“Helen and Gary provide great bookends to the Summit,” Reinig said. “But in between we will have sessions on issues ranging from public infrastructure to arts-based development to the important role of agriculture in our small towns. Our break-out session tracks are Facilities and Projects, Critical Issues and Facing the Future – and the content will be of use to anyone who lives in rural Iowa.”

For more information, contact


Summit Highlights from Virtual 2020

  • Small Towns, BIG Projects
  • Rural Health and Health Care
  • Small Business Innovations During COVID
  • Rural Innovations Via Technology
  • Community Colleges Driving Rural Community Development


Summit Speakers

Former State Representative

Helen Miller

Former State Representative

Representative Miller has more than 45 years of experience and leadership as an attorney, legislator, mediator, legislative bill drafter, volunteer, arts educator and executive director of several nonprofits. Miller served in the Iowa House from 2003 through 2018, representing a district that included Fort Dodge and parts of rural Webster County. During her House tenure, she served as ranking member of the Agriculture Committee.
Actor, Writer, Business Owner

Gary Kroeger

Actor, Writer, Business Owner

Gary Kroeger, a Cedar Falls native, ad a 20-year career in the entertainment industry, which took him from Chicago to New York and, finally, Los Angeles. He was an SNL cast member from 1982-1985. In 2003, Kroeger decided to leave Los Angeles and the entertainment field and come home to the Cedar Valley. As the father of two sons, he decided it was important to raise them with those same “Iowa Values” that guided him through life. Altogether, he has logged 38 years as an actor, director, writer, producer, restaurateur, advertising executive, politician, and columnist.

LOCATION | Hotel at Kirkwood Center

The Hotel at Kirkwood Center welcomes you with contemporary elegance, award-winning facilities and exceptional service. You’ll find its AAA Four Diamond hotel in Cedar Rapids, just a few minutes from The Eastern Iowa Airport; over 100 pieces of local and artisan art are dotted throughout the accommodations and public spaces, lending a sense of uniqueness and modern charm.

Summit Sponsors