The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute’s (WCRI) Annual Issues and Research Conference is breaking over 30 years of tradition this year. Held annually in Boston every year since WCRI was founded, they have broken out of the northeast winter doldrums and are headed for sunny Phoenix, AZ. The conference will be held February 28 and March 1. Inclement weather kept some people from attending WCRI last March. I was one of them. I’m not a betting man, but I would wager that we will not be seeing a repeat this time around.

Unlike last year, I will not be kept away by snowy weather.

From an agenda basis, this year’s WCRI AIR Conference looks as solid as ever. This is one of the events that draws the true data enthusiast, and they should not be disappointed. The opening keynote will be given by one of the 50 highest-ranked economists in the world, Princeton University’s Professor Alan Krueger. He will kick off the event with an address focused on the future of work and the impact of technology on the economy, and how the opioid epidemic has affected the labor force participation rate. He will also share his experience working in Washington as the former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and as a member of President Obama’s Cabinet from 2011 to 2013. He is the only economist to have served as the chief economist of both the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Sessions that follow that will reveal the latest research on opioid issues in our industry, and a presentation on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) efforts to pilot a community based coordinated services program in eight other states following the rollout of a program in Washington state.

There will also be presentations on unions and management working together for successful RTW efforts as well as a session on “Innovative Employer Ideas.” You can see the full agenda here.

Registration and full information for the event is available here.

Ultimately the biggest “new thing” with WCRI is the venue itself. Dr. John Ruser, CEO of WCRI, told our own Nancy Grover last week that the move was not solely intended to avoid snow and ice. They are also interested in expanding their exposure and are hopeful that more people from the west coast will attend the event. It is, from my own experience, not a misguided effort.

Years ago, when the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference uprooted itself from its traditional home of Chicago and moved to Las Vegas, I was not supportive of that change (I’m just not a Vegas fan, and I prefer Chicago). However, the first year in Nevada convinced me it was the right move. Attendance surged dramatically, and there was no doubt that better proximity to the west coast was behind the increase.  

I think WCRI will see a very similar result. But with them, we won’t have to guess. Ruser’s actual quote regarding the move was, “A lot of folks from the west coast may attend. We’re expanding our exposure. Later, we’ll evaluate.”

I have no doubt they will. If anyone will take the time to break down and analyze the results, it will be the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute. It sounds as though they will be giving themselves just one more thing to think about.

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