Rural Partners (RPM)


The Rural Partners of Michigan is excited to host the 16th Small Town & Rural Development Conference. Over the past 15 years, we have brought together those working to strengthen rural and small towns across the state. From downtown revitalization to housing, this is the premier statewide conference for those working in rural communities. Don’t miss this year’s keynote speaker Whitney Kimball Coe, coordinator of the National Rural Assembly, which is a rural movement made up of activities and partnerships geared toward building better policy and more opportunity across the country. Back again (and bigger!) this year is the Consumers Energy Foundation Pitch Competition. Communities have the opportunity to pitch a project that will put their community on the map. Three grants will be awarded for $10,000, $15,000, and $25,000. Learn more below!

Conference Date: April 20-22, 2020

Location: Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, MI

View the conference agenda.

Registration for the conference is open now.


Consumers Energy Foundation Pitch Competition

Consumer EnergyConsumers Energy is hosting a session for communities to pitch ideas that will help put their community on the map. We are seeking innovative ideas that will help energize your town and create momentum that builds a stronger sense of community. If your submitted idea is selected you will be invited to present your idea to a panel of judges during the Wednesday morning session. The top three presentations will be awarded one of three Consumers Energy Foundation grants: $25,000 for first, $15,000 for second and $10,000 for third.

Qualifications for Submissions

  • Representatives of rural municipalities with a population of approximately 10,000 or less
  • Representatives of the municipality could be local government, non-profit (501c3), chamber of commerce or similar group
  • This competition is community-focused – no individuals, businesses, corporations or LLCs
  • You must be able to present your idea at the 2020 Small Town and Rural Development Conference at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Michigan on April 22 during the morning session
  • Idea presented must be conceptual or in the startup phase; previously attempted projects not permitted
  • Community must be in the Consumers Energy (CE) gas or electric service territory
  • One submission per community/municipality

2020 Pitch Competition Schedule

  • March 2: Submissions due at CEDAM by 11:59 p.m.
  • March 9 : Finalists selected and notified
  • March 27: Any PowerPoint presentations due at CEDAM
  • April 22: Pitch presentations held during the morning conference session

If your idea is selected to pitch, your digital presentation in PowerPoint or PDF format must be sent to at CEDAM by 11:59pm on Friday, March 27. At this point, all presentations are final and no changes can be made once submitted.

How to Submit Your Idea

Complete the online form and click submit to complete.

Sample Topics to Put Your Community on the Map

  • Downtowns – store vacancies, attracting visitors, housing, etc.
  • Social – housing, education, employment, etc.
  • Youth community engagement
  • Tourism
  • Community pride
  • Unifying the community; strengthening the community
  • Placemaking
  • Business acceleration, retention, attraction, etc.

Presentation Guidelines

If your community is selected to make a pitch, the following guidelines must be followed at the Wednesday morning session:

  • You will have 5 minutes to pitch your idea
  • A/V equipment is not required, but if it is used it must be in PowerPoint format — no audio, video or web-based formats allowed
  • Can be a group of community representatives presenting
  • Presentation should include answers to the following questions:
  • What gives your community rural character?
  • How does your idea put your community on the map?
  • How is your project unique to your community?
  • Who are you collaborating with in your community?
  • How will you use the funding?
  • There will be no Q & A after the presentation
  • Judges will deliberate after all presentations and pick the winners
  • CEDAM and Consumers Energy reserve the right to remove any presenters from the competition at any time for any reason
  • If you drop out after being selected to present, CEDAM and Consumers Energy reserve the right to select an alternate community to take your place.

Judging Criteria

Projects presented will be judged based on the following criteria:

  • Probability project will be launched and sustained over time
  • Degree of innovation and potential to disrupt the status quo
  • Community collaboration with a strong public/private component
  • Demonstrated energy to build momentum and engage the community
  • Likelihood project will be replicated in other rural communities
  • Community served by Consumers Energy

Winners of the grants will be selected and announced by the judges following the pitch competition. Grants will be presented to winning communities at a scheduled time following the 2020 Small Town and Rural Development Conference.

Thank You to Our 2020 Conference Sponsors

Platinum Sponsor

Premier Sponsor

Consumer Energy

Dinner Sponsor

Session Sponsors

FHL Bank
Green Stone

Keynote Sponsors