*Panel times may change. Please check back.

Tuesday, April 23

4:00 p.m. – Registration / Happy Hour

4:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.

Come early and enjoy a little lagniappe hospitality while you register.

Location: Atrium

5:30 p.m. – Keynote Conversation: David Begnaud and Mayor Paul TenHaken

5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Mayor Paul TenHaken of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a problem solver. And in Sioux Falls, that means taking ownership of problems no one else will. In this candid conversation with David Begnaud (CBS Morning Lead National Correspondent), hear about Paul’s journey from entrepreneur to public servant, and how that has shaped his approach to getting things done in Sioux Falls. 

7:00 p.m. – Meet and Greet: Insider’s Salon

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Meet and greet your fellow Big Towners during an evening reception that takes you inside Festival International, Lafayette’s annual world music festival and celebration. Drinks and snacks provided.

Wednesday, April 24

7:30 a.m. – Registration / Breakfast

Grab a coffee, some Acadiana-style breakfast and get ready to learn. Open while supplies last.

7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Breakfast

7:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Registration

8:30 a.m. – Welcome

Opening remarks by Big Towns organizers with an overview of the day’s program.

8:45 a.m. – Who’s telling the Big Town story?

8:45 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.

The landscape in local media is changing fast. A movement of new digital outlets are rethinking what local journalism looks like in cities of all shapes and sizes and the role it plays in fostering civic engagement and bearing witness to Big Towns’ stories. 

Panelists: Margaret Coker (The Current), Richard Young (CivicLex), Josh Benton (NiemanLab)

Location: Moncus Theater

Track: Civics & Media

9:45 a.m. – How to thrive through transition

9:45 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Big Towns are navigating seismic shifts in their economies, especially where they were built on keystone industries. With the right strategies, Big Towns can do more than survive the turbulence of transition, they can thrive. 

Panelists: Dell Gines (International Economic Development Council), Allison Forbes (Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness), Mary Ellen Wiederwohl (Accelerator for America), Mandi Mitchell (Lafayette Economic Development Authority)

Location: Moncus Theater

Track: Growth and Economy

9:45 a.m. – Setting the table for prosperity

9:45 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Food insecurity is linked to poverty. Big Towns are developing ideas that attack hunger not just as social problem, but an economic one. Investing in food security is a compelling strategy for empowering undeserved communities.

Panelists: Marc Jones (Homeland Grocery/RestoreOKC), AJ Johnson (Oasis Fresh Market)

Location: Art House

Track: Health and Healthcare 

11:00 a.m. – Cracking the housing code

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Mid-sized cities are no stranger to America’s housing crisis. Today’s shortage is a side effect of how we designed our communities. Forward-thinking Big Towns are rethinking that design, block by block. 

Panelists: Monte Anderson (Neighborhood Evolution), Coral Troxell (National Zoning Atlas), Deonna Anderson (Next City)

Location: Moncus Theater

Track: Growth and Economy  

11:00 a.m. – Healthy Big Towns work together

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Community Health Assessments can be platforms for collaboration helping Big Towns knock down barriers and tackle thorny health problems. Hospital systems in South Louisiana have taken an innovative, coordinated approach to the CHA process. 

Panelists: Jessica Diedling (Ochsner Health), Stephanie Manson (Our Lady of Lourdes Health), Erica Spears (Louisiana Public Health Institute) 

Location: Art House

Track: Health and Healthcare 

12:00 p.m. – Lunch: Dine Around Downtown Lafayette

Get to know Big Towners while you get to know Lafayette’s legendary food scene. Pick a restaurant, and we’ll put your party together for a little blind networking. (Optional)

1:45 p.m. – Big Towns can bet big on arts and culture, too

1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

Cultural economies are essential to building places that attract and retain emerging generations. Investing in that economy can happen at a mid-sized scale, helping Big Towns compete with America’s largest metros in quality of life. 

Panelists: José Cotto (Small Center for Collaborative Design), Caitlin Strokosch (National Performance Network), Nancy Whitworth (Former Director of Economic Development, Greenville, South Carolina) 

Location: Moncus Theater

Track: Community and Culture 

1:45 p.m. – Early Learning City

1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

Every child deserves the right to reach their full potential. Their earliest experiences will shape how they get there. Communities that invest in early brain development will brighten their futures, one child at a time. 

Panelists: Carlton Ulmer and Stephanie Montgomery (Build A Brain)

Location: Art House

Track: Health and Healthcare 

3:00 p.m. – Escaping the Housing Trap

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Only local change, on a neighborhood or city-wide scale, can begin to restore balance to the housing market. Author and thinker Chuck Marohn takes us inside the research for his latest book outlining fundamental problems in the U.S. housing market. 

Panelists: Chuck Marohn (Strong Towns)

Location: Moncus Theater

Track: Growth and Economy 

4:15 p.m. – Next City Big Town Success: Lexington, Kentucky

4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

Blue Grass is Lexington’s calling card, but collaboration is what’s driving its success. Close out Big Towns with lessons from a community making meaningful progress across sectors by ignoring boundaries. Hosted by Next City. 

Panelists: Dan Wu (Vice Mayor, City of Lexington), Christian Motley (Results for America), Lisa Adkins (Blue Grass Community Foundation), Richard Young (CivicLex)

Moderator: Deonna Anderson (Next City)  

Location: Moncus Theater

5:30 p.m. – Big Town Send Off: Festival International

Soak up the opening night of Festival International and say a final farewell to your Big Towns family. Refreshments and venue provided by CSRS. Festival kicks off at 6:30 with high energy Cajun phenom Jordan Thibodeaux et Les Rôdaillieurs, followed by Lil’ Nathan & the Zydeco Big Timers.  

Location: CSRS at the Municipal