JACKSON — More than 6,000 business professionals, entrepreneurs and executives will rub elbows at the 18th-annual Mississippi Business EXPO Jan. 10-11 at the Mississippi Trademart in Jackson.
The largest networking event in the state, nearly 200 exhibitors will showcase their products and services during the two-day extravaganza.
“EXPO is an important part of our mission at the Mississippi Business Journal,” said MBJ publisher Joe D. Jones, CPA. “Our dedicated special events staff has worked long hours to bring together a diversity of businesses and industries, to provide a showcase for innovative product and service introductions, to present free seminars, and to provide an extraordinary nonstop networking opportunity.”
EXPO festivities begin with the Salute to Business and Industry Awards and Kickoff Breakfast at 7:30 a.m., an event sponsored by Trustmark National Bank and WJTV that recognizes existing businesses and industries in the metro area that have contributed to the economy and quality of life. The EXPO will officially open at 9 a.m.
“2000 was the first year to present ‘Salute,’ and we received overwhelming praise for recognizing companies that often tend to be overlooked,” said Linda Jacobs, MBJ special events director. “But the impact of the awards program extends far beyond the breakfast itself. It provides an opportunity for CEOs, managers and decision-makers to build relationships. It’s a great way to start off the EXPO and to start off the new year.”
Billy Rainey, executive vice president and chief banking officer of Trustmark, co-sponsor of the program, said participating in the EXPO “provides a great opportunity to showcase Trustmark’s banking, investment and insurance solutions, which meet a wide variety of needs for Mississippi businesses.”
Edmund Brunini, partner of Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC in Jackson, the featured speaker, said he’s glad to be part of a program where existing companies are recognized.
“There’s an obvious need to continue to make sure that the people who are here, who are the backbone of our business community, are recognized for their contributions, and know that we’re very happy with the things they do,” he said. “We don’t require them to expand to be praised, or to leave town and come back to be appreciated. These people work hard, contribute to the community and need to be aware that their presence is appreciated.”
At 11:30 a.m., the Top 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon honoring Mississippi’s leading young professionals, sponsored by SunCom and the MBJ, will feature the Hon. William Winter, who served as governor from 1980-1984, as keynote speaker. The Canton High School Choir, under the direction of Debra Mays-Jones, will perform.
“MBJ offered us the sponsorship last year, and as many people in the business community know, Billy Mounger is a former Top 40 recipient, so we jumped at the chance to be involved in what we believe is such a worthy program,” said Langston Moore, spokesperson for SunCom.
SunCom launched service in September 1999, and in less than a year signed its 100,000th customer, and is on track to sign up its 200,000th customer in record time. Last November, SunCom/Tritel completed a $4.5-billion merger with Arlington, Va.-based TeleCorp, allowing the combined companies to provide coverage from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, Moore said.
“SunCom participates in many trade shows, but EXPO is by far the best,” he said. “The crowds that show up are huge, and it gives us an avenue to display our services and products.”
At 5 p.m., the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce and MBJ will sponsor Metro Mixer, commonly called Business After Hours. More than 500 people are expected to attend, with more than 20 local restaurants providing samples of signature dishes, including Annie D’s, Dennery’s, Grady’s American Grill, Huntington’s Grill, McAlister’s Deli, Olive Garden, Penn’s Restaurant and more.
“We participate because we want to let people know that Krispy Kreme is not just a donut shop,” said Kenneth Gray, manager since the opening of the Ridgeland store in April 1993. “We’re a people-oriented company, with opportunities for fundraising. The EXPO is a good place to get the word out. Besides, who doesn’t like donuts?”
The MetroJackson Chamber has partnered with MBJ for at least eight years because the EXPO is “a natural draw for people,” said Lynda Raines, MJCC director of membership services.
“Business people in metro Jackson always make plans to attend the EXPO, and having our Metro Mixer as part of it gives them a chance to relax after work in a friendly, social atmosphere,” she said.
Metrocenter Mall will host a business fashion show for the second consecutive year, and $500 will be given away at 6:30 p.m. Participants must be present to win. Following the fashion show, a local jazz band will entertain guests until the EXPO closes at 7 p.m.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi is sponsoring Mississippi’s Leading Business Woman of the Year, a spin-off of Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women’s program, where women leaders from around the state are honored every August. To date, 250 women have been recognized, and a reunion is planned around the luncheon.
“Last year marked our first program for this prestigious award, and the inaugural luncheon drew an audience of 400,” said Jacobs. “The recipient was Sister Mary Dorothea Sondgeroth, president of St. Dominic Health Services, and we’re excited about this year’s recipient as well.”
The Mississippi Business Woman of the Year will be announced at the luncheon. Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck is the featured speaker, and Mississippi native and national recording artist Dorothy Moore is the featured singer.
At 2:30 p.m., to commemorate the EXPO’s inaugural tour and travel section, Sandals or Beaches Resort, which represents 15 ultra-deluxe, all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, will give away a four-day/three night package, excluding airfare, and participants must be present to win.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com or (601) 853-3967.