National, regional and local energy managers and key account and energy services professionals at electric cooperatives will gather next month in Bonita Springs, Florida, for Touchstone Energy® Cooperative’s signature business-to-business event, the NEXT Conference.

This national forum connecting co-op employees and national business members, now in its 23rd year, will take place Feb. 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point. The deadline for discounted hotel reservations is Jan. 13.

Program content will focus on cutting-edge technologies and national perspectives on important industry issues and will demonstrate how businesses and co-ops are embracing the future. Participants will also learn about promising community development initiatives to strengthen rural America.

“This year, Touchstone Energy celebrates 25 years of helping our member cooperatives strengthen relationships with their members. As part of those efforts, the NEXT Conference has been a flagship event to engage national business members and key accounts,” said Jana Adams, Touchstone Energy executive director.

Pre-Conference Activities

Two workshops and a networking lunch for energy managers will kick off the conference on Feb. 6. In “The Art of the Key Account Member Experience,” participants will learn about best practices to engage non-residential members from a master key accounts trainer and others. “Electric Vehicle Infrastructure” will look at trends, technologies and initiatives to support this growing energy load.

Speaker Lineup

Futurist and economist Shawn DuBravac is the conference’s keynote speaker. In the Feb. 6 opening general session, he’ll discuss the forces shaping tomorrow that are operating on the periphery of society and business today.

In the first of two general sessions on Feb. 7, Janet and Eric Rehberg, co-op engineers and spouses, will talk about the importance of emotional and relationship intelligence in building personal and professional relationships. Also, economist and futurist Linda Nazareth will discuss the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital and natural worlds.

Later that day, Sioux Valley Energy’s Jay Bucholz, a master key accounts representative, will moderate a panel of national energy managers on their priorities and goals.

The closing general session on Feb. 8 will focus on “The Rural Community of the Future.” Participants will hear from creative placemaking expert Zach Mannheimer on his latest venture, Alquist 3D, which builds affordable 3D houses to tackle the rural housing shortage.

Breakout Sessions

The nine breakout sessions will address a variety of topics related to leveraging new technology to strengthen relationships with commercial and industrial members. These include incorporating real-time energy data for energy efficiency and cost savings; robotics and drone technology; the growing possibilities of battery storage; and technology, connectivity and electric solutions in agriculture.

Other topics include collaborating on beneficial electrification, exploring energy mix diversity, serving dynamic and unique loads, and supporting small and local businesses. Walmart officials will also discuss how utilities can work together in preparing for and recovering from national disasters.

Additional Highlights

The conference’s Expo and “Innovation & NEXTworking Showcase” will provide opportunities for networking and education on cutting-edge energy solutions. And for a fee, participants can choose from three recreational activities on Feb. 8.

Visit the NEXT conference webpage for more information and to register.