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2008 Symposium on Small Towns kicks off three-year focus on energy

The University of Minnesota, Morris' leadership and commitment to renewable energy inspired the theme of the Sixth Annual Symposium on Small Towns: "The Power of Small: Building Solutions for Energy Self-Reliance."

The symposium is June 3-4, at the University of Minnesota, Morris and will offer energy solutions for schools, higher education and government agencies.

Energy comes in many forms, and this event will focus on the development of efficient food, fuel and power systems that power our vehicles, buildings and people.

Attendees will learn about the social, economic and political factors that surround the building of these systems through workshops, networking, mentoring and other educational opportunities.

The UMM Center for Small Towns is partnering with the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership and Minnesota Public Radio to host this annual event.

"P-12 schools, higher education institutions, and local units of government are the core institutions of our small towns," said Ben Winchester, coordinator of data analysis, research, and evaluation at the Center for Small Towns. "The symposium provides a venue to share stories of energy self-reliance, so we can better advance energy efficiency across our landscape."

Scheduled for this year's symposium are:

• Keynote speaker: Peter C. Hutchinson, president of the Bush Foundation;

• Energy 101 Classes: will focus on bringing participants up to speed on the basics of energy such as purchase power agreements or the economics of local ownership;

• Energy Project Presentations: will allow participants to ask questions, share stories, and discuss energy challenges and opportunities with other participants in their industry. These will be broken down into different tracks that will tailor to the primary audience for this Symposium;

• Local Food Supper; and

• Evening of musical entertainment by Peter Ostroushko and Ruth Mackenzie.

Area legislators will also be on hand to answer questions during the popular legislative panel on Wednesday morning. Senators Ellen Anderson and Bill Ingebrigtsen and Representatives Bill Hilty and Mary Ellen Otremba, among others, will serve as panelists.

New this year, the legislative forum will be followed up by a state and federal policy panel that will explore the relationship between the state and federal government on energy issues. Representatives from Sen. Norm Coleman's office, Sen. Amy Klobuchar's office, and Congressman Collin Peterson's office will attend, along with representatives of the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

The symposium is the first of a three-year focus on energy. In 2009 the symposium will look at energy issues internationally, and in 2010 it will feature UMM as part of the school's 50th anniversary celebration.

For more information about the Symposium on Small Towns visit or call the Center for Small Towns at (320) 589-6451.