PARKERSBURG - Nearly 500 people- from members of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley to people from the community- attended Monday's Chamber Business Expo in Parkersburg.
Jill Parsons, chamber president and CEO, said more than 80 booths were set up Monday evening at the E.L.I.T.E. Sports Center, including a mixture of commercial businesses, nonprofit agencies and organizations offering a variety of services and programs in the Parkersburg area, from financial to banking to technology and more.
During the first half of the Expo, the event was open to chamber members to permit networking and discussion among the participating businesses, Parsons said. The Expo then opened to the public, at no charge, allowing people from the community to see the types of products and services available locally.
Wayne Towner Special to the Times
Justin Kendall, a massage therapist with Marietta Health and Wellness, offers free massages Monday to attendees at the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley's Business Expo in Parkersburg.
"Folks were able to go around, visit those booths and learn more about the other businesses in our community," Parsons said of Monday's event.
Parkersburg resident Mae Blough said she has been attending the Business Expo for several years and enjoyed attending the public portion of the event on Monday evening. She was interested in the different products and services available and found the people she talked with to be helpful.
"I love to see it all," she said. "It's fascinating to me. My father was a businessman when he was living and this was always going on when I was a kid."
The Business Expo was originally scheduled for early March, but had to be rescheduled due to bad winter weather at that time. Parsons said the delay resulted in more vendors joining the expo.
"In that interim, they saw the momentum and the activities that were going to be presented at the event and decided that they also wanted to participate," she said, adding the idea of making the expo an April or May event will be considered in the future.
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel was one of the event sponsors and advertising director Matt Tranquill served as chairman of the Business Expo. He said the newspaper was proud to partner with the chamber and all of the participants at the event.
"We are very happy with the great turnout this evening. It is so exciting to see so many community partners under one roof," he said.
Participation in Monday's event included a mixture of new and old businesses and chamber members.
Michele Coleman, owner of Michele Coleman Photography, said she joined the chamber earlier this year after operating for the last three years in Parkersburg, having operated previously in Ravenswood and Vienna. As soon as she learned about the Business Expo, she became interested in participating.
"I thought it would be a great opportunity," she said of the Expo, adding she was enjoying herself at Monday's event and was making positive contacts with other local businesses and individuals through the evening.
"Sometimes when you're a busy small business owner, it is hard to get out in the community and mingle and talk to people. This is a great opportunity to do that," she said.
Tommy Hathaway, a representative of Superior Toyota, said the Parkersburg car dealership has been participating in the Expo for several years and believes having such an event is beneficial for the company and for the community.
"We're very involved in the chamber," he said of Superior, adding that participation in the Expo is part of that involvement. On a personal level for himself, "just making the rounds beforehand, talking with people, I've already gained a lot of new contacts with a lot of nice people throughout the business community," Hathaway said.
Russ White, project manager with Murray Sheet Metal of Parkersburg, said the company has been part of the Parkersburg community for many years. Events like the Business Expo help the company get its name out to the public and the business community and let people know about its products and services.
"We're well-known for our roofing and sheet metal, but a lot of people don't know us for our HVAC services. This lets us get that out to the public and let them know we're a well-rounded company," White said.
Christina Smith, director of The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said the Business Expo is helpful not only for commercial businesses, but also for nonprofits like The Arc.
"We've been at the Expo every year. We do it not only to let people know about our agency... but we also have the opportunity to interact with other vendors and find out resources in the community that we can help those that we serve," she said.