The 77th NRECA Annual Meeting and Expo is just around the corner, with co-op leaders headed to Orlando, Florida, March 7-13.

This year's event returns to the Orange County Convention Center, the site of the 2015 gathering.

"We're excited to return to Orlando where there've been a number of changes since our last visit," says Tracey Steiner, NRECA's senior vice president, education and training. "In addition to more attractions and restaurants on International Drive, the city has made getting around a lot easier with the I-Ride Trolley and an additional pedestrian bridge linking our headquarters hotel, the Hyatt Regency, with the convention center."

In addition to site improvements, the 2019 annual meeting schedule includes several enhancements:

  • Breakout sessions on the meeting's first two days have been extended 15 minutes to a full hour to allow for more discussion.

  • The NRECA International Lunch returns to Day One of the annual meeting to avoid overlap with the business meeting on Day Two.

  • The Lab is back, this time in the TechAdvantage Expo hall and with a utility-connected home.

  • Skills assessments for participants in NRECA's Next Generation Leaders Experience will help identify strengths and areas for improvement.

Tickets are still available for the NRECA International lunch, Entertainment Night on March 12 and the ACRE® Breakfast on March 13. The 11th annual Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives Community Service project on March 9 at the Covenant House is full. However, if you'd like to be placed on the waiting list, please email

Each general session will be livestreamed on, and there will be frequent updates on NRECA's Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts on the highlights of the gathering, using the hashtag #NRECA19.

The Headliners: Travis Tritt, Jon Meacham, Michael Eisner and a New 'Home Town'

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson will kick off the opening general session on March 11. He will be preceded by the annual Parade of States.

Entertainment executive Michael Eisner will be the keynote speaker at the first general session. The former CEO and chairman of The Walt Disney Co., Eisner is founder and CEO of the Tornante Company, a media and entertainment investment firm.

The Touchstone Energy Annual Meeting will take place during the second general session on March 12. "We are excited for our 2019 Annual Meeting and the opportunity to showcase our best in class cooperatives and a renewed focus on community engagement," said Lynn Moore, executive director of Touchstone Energy.

A group of experts on small-town resurgence will describe how struggling communities can attract and retain people. Zachary Mannheimer, principal community planner at McClure Engineering Company in Clive, Iowa, will discuss the "creative placemaking" approach to retain and recruit young people in rural downtowns.

Josh Nowell and Mallorie and Jim Rasberry, entrepreneurs and cast members of HGTV's "Home Town," will describe their revitalization efforts in Laurel, Mississippi, which later became the basis for the hit national show.

"As strong community leaders, we can all support efforts to provide service excellence and create opportunities to strengthen our home towns," Moore said. "Vibrant communities will attract and retain the next generation seeking an ideal lifestyle in which to live and work."

Grammy Award-winning country artist Travis Tritt will headline Entertainment Night.

During the third general session on March 13, NRECA will honor the recipients of its annual awards. The closing general session speaker will be Jon Meacham, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. His presentation is titled, "The Soul of America."

More Meeting Highlights

Can't get to the Touchstone Energy Community Service Project? You can support central Florida's A Gift for Teaching by assembling art kits for students on March 10 in the Convention Center.

During the second general session on March 12, NRECA President Phil Carson will address the membership for the final time before his term expires. That session will also include introductions of the current Youth Leadership Council and the address of this year's YLC spokesperson, Wallace "Bubba" Bass, a member of Central Electric Power Association in Carthage, Mississippi, along with the NRECA Business Meeting.

Other national cooperative organizations will hold their annual meetings in Orlando that week:

  • National Information Solutions Cooperative and National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, March 10.

  • National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC), March 11.

  • Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, March 12.

Read More:

2019 TechAdvantage: Where Co-ops Forge Their Futures