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Giveaways, goodwill: exhibitors rolling out red carpet

Even though booking exhibition spaces for the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO 2006 had a sluggish start post-Hurricane Katrina, there was a steady pace of booth reservations two months before the special event, resulting in a full house.

After the Category 4 storm ravaged South Mississippi, “most companies experienced some degree of slowed down operations for a few weeks,” explained Robbie Bell, vice president of development for the Mississippi Business Journal and director of the EXPO. “However, EXPO will look and feel just like it has in the past few years: fully decorated and colorful with highly professional and crisp-looking exhibits, and sharp businesspeople there to create more and better business for 2006.”

Longevity and loyalty will be rewarded at EXPO 2006. Trustmark National Bank will be highlighted as a long-time annual EXPO exhibitor and sponsor, even when the bank was known as First National. “It’s only because of generous supporters like Trustmark that we’ve been able to host this special business-to-business event year after year,” said MBJ publisher Joe Jones.

‘Superb’ timing

Other exhibitors are supporting community service projects, especially following the loss of 70,000 displaced Mississippi families as a result of the devastating hurricane. This year, WLBT-TV3 will allow St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to man the station’s exhibition booth, with hospital representatives explaining to EXPO attendees details of the fifth annual St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in Jackson.

Open house tours of the $400,000 dream home, located in Madison County’s Bear Creek Crossing subdivision, will end January 15, and winners will be announced live during the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway on WLBT on Sunday, January 22, beginning at 3 p.m.

“The timing of EXPO 2006 is superb,” said Olga Cendejas, a senior event marketing representative for the Memphis-based hospital. “We never turn away any child that cannot afford treatment, and fundraisers like this help us keep St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital running. WLBT has been a huge media partner for years, and has been especially generous this time to donate their booth space to us.”

Going high-tech

At the Cyber Café, with its new open-air look and style, Time Warner Cable Business Class will give away a free ThinkPad including all accessories, a 30-second cross channel TV spot, and three free months of commercial service. Account executives will be on hand to answer questions and feature a new “analyzer,” an application that determines the type of bandwidth needed by a company based on certain criteria. Direct sales representatives for residential service will also be on hand to answer questions about Time Warner’s “New Digital Home” being featured in new neighborhoods and apartment communities. They will also demonstrate how to use the Digital Video Recorder. A high-definition television, set up to show its crystal clear picture and theater-quality sound, will feature the cable company’s new infomercial, which will be available on business size CDs for EXPO attendees.

When leaders at Jones County Junior College (JCJC), an exhibitor since some of the first Mississippi Business EXPOs, decided to market the school’s technology programs to a broader area, they signed up for an EXPO 2006 booth after “many of the industries that we were involved with in the Jackson metro area suggested that we again participate in the EXPO,” said Robert Landrum, a JCJC WorkForce Development team member.

At the EXPO, JCJC representatives will also be passing out invitations to the school’s Technology Symposium, scheduled for January 26, which will emphasize economic development and feature nationally known speakers.

“We still feel that it’s a wonderful opportunity for JCJC to continue this exposure,” said Landrum. “In addition, our WorkForce Development Training extends to many industries in the areas represented at the EXPO.”

Healthy experience

Preferred Hospitals of Metro Jackson, which manages several hospitals in the metro Jackson area, including Central Mississippi Medical Center, will feature screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose at its ‘50s themed “Don’t Be Cruel to Your Health, Baby” exhibition booth.

Paul Tauchar of First Class Linen, one of Mississippi’s 40-fastest growing companies in 2005, said he continues to be an exhibitor because “we believe it’s good to support the local community and local businesses. We are a smaller family-owned and -operated business — Jackson family and predominately woman-owned — and we are very loyal to our customers. Community involvement is a big part of that loyalty. Thankfully, we have great customers who are loyal to us as well.”

At the EXPO, First Class Linen will give away a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant, “also one of our loyal customers, of course,” added Tauchar.

Volunteers from the Mississippi Animal Rescue League, which helped relocate displaced pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, will man a booth showcasing the construction of its much-needed new shelter in progress, which should be occupied by July 4.

Scott Sledge, regional manager of the MMI Hotel Group, said personnel from the Cabot Lodges of Jackson, exhibitors since 1999, “look forward to participating in this year’s EXPO.”

“Having participated in the event for the past several years, we’ve found it to be a wonderful and productive venue and have enjoyed the ability to communicate our message to such a captive audience,” he said. “We’ve started many new relationships through contacts that we’ve met at the EXPO and it has proven to be worth the investment of our time. Every local business, large or small, owes it to themselves to be involved in the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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