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Chamber hosts Business Expo

October 08, 1999|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

After five years of teaming up with other chambers of commerce to showcase local businesses, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce went back to a solo event this year.

The daylong Washington County Business Expo '99 didn't feature as many exhibitors as last year's sold-out Quad State Business Exposition, which had 75 exhibitors, said Fred K. Teeter Jr., president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

But the 61 businesses, nonprofit agencies and government entities participating represented a big increase over 1993, the last year the Chamber sponsored its own expo, Teeter said.

That event, held at the Ramada Inn Convention Center on Dual Highway, was deemed very successful with 47 booths, he said.

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This year's event also drew a smaller crowd than last year to the Hagerstown Community College's Athletic, Recreation & Community Center, according to exhibitors.

Teeter estimated between 500 and 600 people had walked through the free exposition by mid-afternoon. He expected a surge in attendance for the cocktail reception at 4 p.m.

Organizers said at least 900 people attended the event last year.

While high foot traffic would be nice, it's not quantity but quality that counts for an event like the business expo, meant to be an opportunity for local businesses to market their goods and services to other local business, Teeter said. It's better to have a smaller group of people in decision-making positions for their firms than a multitude of people going through for the freebies, he said.

Mary Pearson, owner of a Hagerstown-based Val-Pak direct mail marketing franchise, said she was disappointed with the lower public turnout and planned to suggest how organizers might improve things next year. If the attendance doesn't pick up, it might not be worth coming back for a fifth year, Pearson said.

The crowd was steady all day, and there were a lot of interested people, said Jim Santos, manning the booth for Shepherdstown, W.Va.-based Intrepid Technologies Inc.

The company, recently acquired by Pittsburgh-based Stargate Industries, has exhibited three years, both to support the Chamber of Commerce and because the event is an important showcase for businesses, said Santos, sales and marketing director.

Large expo crowds often are filled with "trick-or-treaters," who go from booth to booth taking the company's pens, keychains and other giveaways but aren't really interested in learning about their products or services, he said.

Santos said this year he had an opportunity to have good discussions with a number of people interested in what the company has to offer.

Having worked a booth for Tri-State Printing in Hagerstown in past years, Kathy Harple said she came to the expo with two co-workers to see what they were missing not having a booth this year. It's a great venue to generate business, Harple said.

Co-worker Chris Cowdrick said she was looking forward to putting faces to the names of people she deals with on the telephone but has never met.

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