In October 2023, federal officials, financiers, researchers, and energy experts gathered for conversations centered on the game changing opportunities to increase economic inclusion and productivity in rural communities during the Rural Renaissance Roadshow. Speakers shared why it is important to look to cities like Bentonville, Arkansas, and how these goals can be progressed through community inspiration and education paired with strategic public and private partnerships. As the first part of a series of Roadshow events designed to help rural communities take advantage of the largest infrastructure investment in a century, organizers recognized both past and future innovation in the home of rural economic innovation - at the Ledger in Bentonville, Arkansas.  

The Rural Renaissance Roadshow was inspired by the book authored by Michelle Moore CEO of Groundswell, a 501(c)(3) that builds community power by eliminating energy burdens and increasing economic opportunity. As a social entrepreneur and former White House official with roots in rural Georgia, Michelle and Groundswell are on a mission to unlock the power of rural communities to build clean energy futures with energy systems that reflect the needs and values of the communities they serve.  

Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Ozark Mountains, Bentonville’s cityscape combines a blend of contemporary architecture and preserved historical buildings. The downtown area boasts a wealth of small-town charm featuring a mix of brick-paved streets, boutique shops, art galleries and eateries.  

The Ledger, Bentonville’s one-of-a-kind modern coworking space and bikeable building and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art served as the perfect backdrop for the three-day event. The roadshow featured 16 educational sessions with topics ranging from how to connect corporate clean energy purchases with rural economic opportunity, to agrivoltaics and rural housing equity. 

These sessions featured local changemakers like Lauren Waldrip, Executive Director of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation, in addition to an address from Will McIntee, Senior Advisor for Public Engagement at the White House. Roadshow honoree Curtis Wynn, who serves as the CEO of SECO Energy, delivered the keynote address speaking to his work as a national innovator in leading electric cooperatives working to integrate rural consumers and households into the imminent clean energy transition.  

For more information on the roadshow, please view the clip above. Stay tuned for additional resources created as part of the Roadshow and updates about the next event at Groundswell’s Rural Renaissance Roadshow website.