Milbank, SD, to host Energize! Conference in August

South Dakota State University Extension

BROOKINGS, S.D. — The South Dakota State University Extension Community Vitality team has been patiently waiting to hold their third annual Energize! Conference, which was postponed due to COVID-19 precautions. The event, known for inspiring South Dakota rural communities toward new innovations, will now be Aug. 11-12 in Milbank, S.D.

"We considered online options for this event, but in the end decided participants need to network in-person and attend sessions inside small businesses," says SDSU Extension Community Vitality Program Manager Kari O'Neill. "Those highlights of the conference just can't be duplicated online, so we've waited until meeting together is safe again."

The scheduled keynote speaker for this year's "Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities" Conference is Amanda Brinkman, co-host of the TV series "Small Business Revolution." A former corporate marketing executive, Brinkman has worked with icons such as General Mills, Allianz and UnitedHealth Group, and has earned a reputation as a revolutionary brand marketer. With attendees at the Energize! Conference, Brinkman will share her mantra "Do Well by Doing Good."

Other breakout sessions during the conference will include community leaders from across South Dakota who have put innovative ideas to work in their small towns. Breakout session presenters will be hosted inside Milbank businesses, whose owners will talk briefly about why they have located in a rural area.

The Energize! Exploring Innovative Rural Communities Conference is a collaboration between SDSU Extension's Community Vitality team and the community of Milbank. The event provides opportunities for attendees to network with community leaders from across the state, share success stories and be inspired to take action to improve their own communities. 

Registering for the conference also gives event-goers an invitation to an evening on Main Street in Milbank. Plans include an optional bus tour of the region, bringing in a local band for live music and offering several choices of food, beverages and make-and-take crafts.

Krista Atyeo-Gortmaker, executive director of the Grant County Development Corp., is excited to roll out the red carpet in her community.

"We are fortunate to have several unique and successful businesses here," Atyeo-Gortmaker says. "Bringing people in to visit storefronts on Main Street, meet our people, and enjoy an evening of local music, crafts and food are some of the ways we plan to show our spirit in Milbank."

Registration and further details about the conference can be found at: For more information, contact Peggy Schlechter SDSU Community Vitality field specialist, at