Showing up at NEC

By Holly Jessen | February 20, 2013

In early February I was at the National Ethanol Conference in Las Vegas. I may have even seen you there.

There are some big advantages to attending these events. Since I’m stuck at home during a North Dakota blizzard today, it’s hard not to mention the weather factor. The people that live in Las Vegas might consider temperatures of 50s and 60s cold enough to bundle up in coats and sweaters (I saw them!) but coming from Grand Forks, it was warm enough for me, and a few others, to go swimming outside.

While the warmer weather and the venue at the Wynn casino was fun, that’s not the main reason I’m glad I attended NEC. It’s the best way for me to get a pulse on what’s going on in the industry. To meet people, listen to the presentations and get story ideas for the magazine. The late Kathy Bryan, co-founder of BBI International and a pioneer of the ethanol industry, summed it up with just two words: “Show up.” I met Kathy the first time I worked at BBI, back in 2006, and I got to know her a little bit—enough to know that what she said was worth listening to.

While we do travel periodically, most of what the writers of Ethanol Producer Magazine do is from our offices in North Dakota, meaning we talk to people on the phone and via email. There’s no doubt it’s possible to cover the ethanol industry this way—we do it every day. We cover the entire North American ethanol industry as well as global ethanol stories so it’s just not possible to be everywhere at once.

But, when we can, it’s really nice to have the luxury of showing up. That means attending conferences like NEC and our own International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo. Several months ago, my colleague, Sue Retka Schill, went to The Alcohol School, held in 2012 in Canada. Whenever we can, we take the opportunity to visit ethanol plants. There’s just something about talking to people face to face and seeing things first hand that’s really valuable. That’s true, I suspect, whether you’re a reporter or not.

While something else might come up before June, the next big event on my list is FEW. It’s set for June 10 to 13 in St. Louis, Mo. Are you going to show up?