City leaders from communities big and small outside Minnesota's metro region will descend on Bemidji next week for an annual conference.

On July 24-26, nearly 100 officials from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities will meet in Bemidji's Sanford Center for panel discussions, meetings and networking. Coalition President and Bemidji City Council member Ron Johnson will also close out his one-year term during the conference.

"I've been involved with the organization since 2001," Johnson said. "Being president was kind of the culmination after all of these years. I was already a secretary for eight years and other members suggested (that I) become president. It's a real honor, you get to meet a lot of people and learn about cities in Greater Minnesota that you usually just drive by."

The coalition is a nonprofit advocacy organization representing more than 90 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. During each session, the coalition lobbies on behalf of those cities on a variety of topics, such as increasing Local Government Aid.

"It's an ongoing valuable resource for cities like Bemidji," Johnson said. "There are some cities pretty close to the metro, but it's a four our drive for us in Bemidji to go lobby. The farther you are away from there, the better it is to have people looking out for you down there."

The conference starts Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. and goes through Friday afternoon, concluding with a coalition membership meeting followed by adjournment.

Features at this year's conference include a discussion by coalition Executive Director Bradley Peterson on the 2019 legislative session and a keynote address by Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove.

A panel discussion featuring state legislators from Greater Minnesota is also scheduled for the conference. Panelists include District 55B Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, District 4B Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, District 3 Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook and District 10 Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point.