Magazine article Government Finance Review

Milwaukee's Old World Charm a Perfect Backdrop: 2004 Annual Conference Recap

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Milwaukee's Old World Charm a Perfect Backdrop: 2004 Annual Conference Recap

Article excerpt

Downtown Milwaukee and its spectacular Lake Michigan shoreline served as an ideal setting for GFOA's 98th annual conference--the third time Milwaukee has hosted the conference. Some 6,000 people gathered in the city for the four-day event held June 13-16 at the Midwest Airlines Center. Themed "Financing the Future of Government," the conference provided a timely opportunity for members to exchange ideas on managing government finances in the 21st century.

GENERAL SESSIONS

Frank Abagnale delivered the keynote address at Monday's general session. Abagnale is best known as the author and protagonist of Catch Me If You Can, the bestselling book (and later a motion picture starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio) about Abagnale's evolution from one of the world's most notorious con artists to a leading authority on forgery, embezzlement, and document security.

On Tuesday, GFOA members were privy to an assessment of the national economy by one of the most respected economists in the country, Diane Swonk of Bank One. Swonk identified the "big picture" issues that will impact consumers when interest rates go up, including the effects on the housing market (especially for those who recently purchased a home with an adjustable rate mortgage). She pointed out that business spending is increasing, and that the federal government has created a lot of fiscal stimulus to get the economy moving, cautioning that the long-term effects of growing deficits--both nationally and individually--and increased defense spending could create problems down the road. Swonk also touched on health care costs and spending, emphasizing the need for creative solutions to address this growing portion of government and consumer spending.

CONCURRENT SESSIONS AND DISCUSSION GROUPS

This year's expanded conference program offered the potential for 20 continuing professional education credits--three more than in recent years. The program featured 59 concurrent sessions and 12 discussion groups across seven "tracks." As always, these sessions covered a wide spectrum of topics, from new accounting and auditing guidance to long-term financial planning to technology procurement. Sessions in the management and policy track drew unusually large crowds, a testament to member demand for information in this area and the quality of the speakers. Discussion groups featured such topics as analyzing financial statements, reducing treasury costs, and negotiating pension benefits. Most speaker presentations and handouts are now available online at www.gfoa.org, and audio recordings of most of the concurrent sessions are available for purchase through the GFOA e-Store.

EXHIBITION HALL

This year's exhibition hall featured not only a record number of exhibitors, but also some of the most creative exhibits the conference has ever seen. The number of exhibitors increased 17 percent from 2003 to 179, including 18 first-time exhibitors. As always, exhibitors showed off the latest products and services of interest to financial decision makers in state and local government. Heavily trafficked throughout the conference, the exhibition hall offered a perfect venue for attendees to share ideas, evaluate new product and service offerings, and network with peers.

BUSINESS MEETING

At the annual business meeting oil Tuesday, Edward Harrington passed the presidential gavel to Nancy Zielke. …

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