Now is the time for rural leaders, state officials and information technology/telecommunications representatives to meet, network, learn and discuss the future of their communities at the Telepower 2002: e-Vision Your Future conference.
This year's conference, the 11th, sponsored by Fort Hays State University's Docking Institute of Public Affairs, will be held Oct. 24 and 25 in Garden City, KS.
The event focuses on how rural community leaders can use information technology for business, community and economic development. It typically draws 150-200 attendees representing economic development agencies, local governments, telephone, cable, utility and IT companies, state agencies, non-profits, educational institutions, and private businesses. Telepower 2002 features 15 sessions presented by more than 30 speakers and promises to provide updated news on information technology from the experts as well as practical applications from local economic development staff and business owners.
Highlights include panels of Main Street and value-added agriculture business owners who are using technology to market their products; sessions on how to build community demand for broadband services; and presentations from education representatives on developing a local community's information technology workforce.
The several keynote addresses this year include Hilda Gay Legg, administrator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service in Washington, DC, and Rick Forsgren, executive director of Traill County Economic Development Coalition in Mayville, ND.
Legg will address the problem rural communities face in keeping their talented young people from moving away to larger cities. Based on years of experience helping rural communities in Kentucky, Legg will discuss the issue of how communities can use information technology to develop high paying jobs for their citizens, thus reversing the brain drain and revitalizing the heart of rural America.
Forsgren will describe how Mayville, population 2,000, created a business incubator that caters to startup and expanding companies that rely on IT to do business. The community's success in developing the Traill County Technology Center has allowed it to diversify a declining farm economy and bring in new businesses with higher paying jobs.
Additional keynote presenters include Tracy Taylor, president of Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp.; Randy Tomlin, president of Kansas operations for Southwestern Bell Telephone; Edward H. Hammond, Ph.D., president of Fort Hays State University; and Kendall Mikesell, president of Southern Kansas Telephone Company.
Special features of this year's event include three pre-conference workshops focusing on resources and information that local economic developers can use to recruit and grow businesses in rural communities. Topics presented include using survey tools and techniques, assessing a community's information technology capabilities, and building rural entrepreneurship through grants.
In addition, the Garden City Information Technology Cooperative will sponsor tours of its member agencies, where visitors can see community technology in action.
Conference attendees who want an early kick-off can join fellow golfers for a morning of networking on the greens at the Buffalo Dunes Golf Course. An optional dinner will also be held at the Finnup Center, located in beautiful Finnup Park, home to the third largest tourist attraction in Kansas, the Lee Richardson Zoo.
The dinner will include steak, prepared by the Beef Empire Days Rodeo, along with entertainment featuring the orneriest cowboy poets this side of the Mississippi.
Underwriting sponsors include Fort Hays State University, Southwestern Bell, Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation and Hubris Communications. Corporate sponsors are Nex-Tech/Rural Telephone, Information Network of Kansas, Garden City Information Technology Cooperative Inc., High Plains Public Radio and the Kansas Small Business Development Center.
Additional sponsors include Aquila, WestLink Communications, Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and Southern Kansas Telephone.
Registration is drawing to a close, but it's not too late. For more information, or to register to attend Telepower 2002, contact Jean Walker or Jodie Wear-Leiker at the Docking Institute, (785) 628-5952/5949. Online registration is available at www.fhsu.edu/docking/telepower.