Fourth bioscience conference nearing

WORTHINGTON -- Numerous bioscience professionals from across the country will gather in Worthington later this month. The fourth annual bioscience conference, coordinated by the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. (WREDC), will take p...

WORTHINGTON -- Numerous bioscience professionals from across the country will gather in Worthington later this month.

The fourth annual bioscience conference, coordinated by the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. (WREDC), will take place March 27-28 at Minnesota West Community and Technical College. At a time of soaring gas and oil prices and an increasing emphasis on "green energy," this year's conference will focus upon renewable energy.

"We're incorporating more renewable energy than we ever have," WREDC Manager Glenn Thuringer said. "It aligns itself with the WIRED (Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development) grant that was awarded to 36 (Minnesota) counties."

Thirty-six contiguous Minnesota counties stand to benefit from a $5 million training grant announced in June 2007 by U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. The grant, which will be administered over three years, was awarded to Minnesota's Ag Innovation Triangle, which encompasses counties in the southwest, west central and south central parts of the state.

The WIRED grant, won by 12 other U.S. regions, is designed to coordinate the efforts of workforce development and economic development agencies to ensure an ample supply of skilled workers. Southwest Minnesota counties that are part of the Ag Innovation Triangle include Cottonwood, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone and Rock.


Dick Hemmingsen, director of renewable energy, University of Minnesota, believes alternative energy sources are integral to a strong state economy,

"I first got hooked up with the bioscience conference when I attended one of the first ones they did three or four years ago," Hemmingsen said. "I knew of Glenn and the efforts in Worthington at that point.

"The discussion about renewable energy being one of the themes struck me as important because I think it is one of the defining issues of our time," he added. "The field of renewables is immense and rather than try to cover the entire renewable energy waterfront, I think over the course of a few discussions we decided to narrow this down to how are we going to grow biomass materials, how we are to convert them and how we utilize them. If we're going to convert biomass to what are sometimes referred to as second- and third-generation biofuels, we want to make sure there's a way to utilize these products."

Hemmingsen is slated to serve as moderator for the conference's first session, "Renewables: Growing It, Converting It, Utilizing It." Five other panelists have been tapped to participate in the session.

Hemmingsen said he and Minnesota West agriculture instructor Rolf Mahlberg -- "who, parenthetically, I knew from teaching vo-ag in Pipestone several years ago" -- worked to brainstorm names of session speakers.

"Rolf and Glenn continued to kick these names around and continued to add to this array of panelists that are going to be on that program," Hemmingsen said.

Following Thursday afternoon's opening session, a session titled "Commercialization and Business Incubator/Accelerators" will follow. One of the panelists in that portion of the conference will be Mark Crowell, associate vice chancellor for economic development and technology transfer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"I just heard him speak at a conference not long ago," Thuringer said of Crowell. "I think he's absolutely outstanding. ... We're glad to have him coming here."


Additional sessions during the two-day conference include "New Technology," "Education -- Industry Workforce Development" and "Bioscience: Research at Work."

The public is invited to attend the conference. Registrations are requested by going to or , or by calling the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce at 372-2219 or WREDC at 372-5515.

Additionally, a gathering for conference participants will again take place this year at the Historic Dayton House. The social is planned for the evening of March 27.

"That's really liked, especially by out-of-town people," Thuringer said of the social. "It's amazing how many of the Twin Cities people come down and say how great it is to get connected here after trying to get together for weeks in the Cities."

Thuringer added that he is enthusiastic about having another successful gathering of bioscience professionals converge in Worthington.

"I'm really impressed with the support, not just locally but across the state," he said. "Having the university's input and local input with Minnesota West is a ton of help in organizing an event like this."

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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