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Conference to highlight area's ag-based research

WORTHINGTON -- A year ago, organizers of Worthington's first bioscience conference described the event as an opportunity for southwest Minnesota to highlight its potential as an ag-based animal research and biofuels center. This year's event, supporters hope, will carry the ball further.

The overriding theme of the conference, staged last year at Travelodge Hotel but this year at Worthington High School, will always be agricultural biosciences and human health bioscience, said Glenn Thuringer, manager of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. (WREDC). The 2006 event will emanate from the local high school Feb. 23-24, he said, "because the emphasis this year is on workforce development and education."

Prairie Holdings is planning to operate a lab tech training center in Worthington by fall of this year, which may be moved to Worthington's bioscience park at a future date when funding is in place. At the '06 conference, partnering initiatives with District 518 Schools and Worthington Community and Technical College will be discussed.

"We really recognize that the future success of the lab tech training center starts at the high school level, if not sooner," Thuringer said.

People interested in attending the conference can register and sign up for tours at The schedule of events hasn't yet been finalized, but a preliminary plan has the conference beginning at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 with the topic, "Advancement of Rural Health Services," from Worthington Regional Hospital. Also on the first day, economic development opportunities for Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa will be presented.

The second day of the conference begins with a 7 a.m. breakfast. Later discussions may involve wind turbines, Minnesota's bioscience economy, medical genomics, competition and public policy, partnership formation and workforce development. A legislative panel is also tentatively scheduled for the morning session.

Slightly more than 100 visitors attended the 2005 conference, which Thuringer termed a success.

"The quality of the presenters made it successful," he said. "We did a nice job of getting a cross-section of presenters -- not only from Minnesota, but we pulled in some from Nebraska and Iowa. We had some big companies and some smaller companies. It was just such a versatile group."

Thuringer said the one criticism he heard last year was that there wasn't enough time on the first day for speakers to elaborate on their messages.

But that was planned, Thuringer said.

"We wanted to hit 'em fast and with a full load. We designed it just that way," he explained. "We wanted people to come away and say, 'Hey, this is way bigger than I thought.' Because that's just what it is."

In 2006, Thuringer said, the pace will slow down a bit. "This year we're going to go with light content," he said, "but very thought-provoking for Thursday evening."

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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