The Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO will once again feature a very patriotic setting at the Mississippi Trademart on January 18-19 when red carpet is rolled out for close to 5,000 guests. For the second consecutive year, Time Warner Cable Business Class is the title sponsor of the special event organized by the Mississippi Business Journal since 1983.
“From MBJ’s standpoint, EXPO provides an opportunity for us to participate in networking opportunities with exhibitors and attendees,” said MBJ publisher Joe Jones, who has been involved in EXPO for a decade. “We renew old acquaintances and make new friends every year. And, EXPO is different every year. We work hard to keep it fresh. It stretches our capabilities and tires our staff but it’s well worth it.”
The 23rd-annual EXPO begins Wednesday, January 18, with a kick-off breakfast saluting a brand new program for the state: Best Places to Work in Mississippi. Festivities end Thursday, January 19, shortly after the 2005 Mississippi Business Woman of the Year is named.
“The ambience is festive and lively, and when you add the attractive array of exhibits provided by the participating companies and the anticipation of attendees as they canvass aisle after aisle, it all adds up to the state’s biggest and best networking party of the year,” said Robbie Bell, MBJ vice president of business development.
Trustmark National Bank of Commerce, Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and SuperTalk MS 97.3 FM are sponsoring the Best Places to Work Kick-Off Breakfast, beginning at 7:30 a.m. The Mississippi Society for Human Resource Management and Southern Research Group are partners on this inaugural special event.
The ribbon-cutting for EXPO 2006 will take place at 9:30 a.m. At noon, Mississippi’s young rising business stars will be honored at the Top 40 Under 40 Luncheon, sponsored by Adams and Reese, LLP, and Health Management Associates Mississippi Division.
Opportunities and relationships
“Adams and Reese is once again pleased to be among the sponsors of the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO,” said Charles P. Adams Jr., managing partner of the law firm. “We are optimistic about the future of business and the continued economic growth of our state as we proudly support one of the preeminent business expos in the South. Being part of the EXPO gives us the opportunity to exchange ideas, build relationships, lend support and just say ‘thank you’ to our many clients and friends in business throughout the state.”
EXPO guests will be treated to live music by Debbie Buie and The Yes Men, great food from more than 20 restaurants, a cash bar and door prizes at the Business After Hours Party. Sponsored by the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce, AmSouth Bank and WLBT-TV3, the event will run from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with a $5 admission fee.
On Thursday, January 19, EXPO doors will open at 10 a.m. The Business Woman of the Year Luncheon highlights the second day of festivities, beginning at 11:30 a.m. The Mississippi Economic Council, BellSouth Mississippi, St. Dominic Hospital and Regions Bank are sponsoring the event, which will honor the state’s 50 leading businesswomen for 2005.
EXPO Extras include an abundance of networking opportunities throughout the exhibition hall, which will be filled with nearly 200 exhibits and feature live remote radio broadcasts by SuperTalk MS 97.3 FM and taped television broadcasts by WLBT-TV3, the NBC affiliate in Jackson.
“We’ve been very pleased to see that EXPO will again have a full house of exhibits,” said Bell.
Research conducted by Southern Research Group (SRG) shows that nearly 92% of last year’s exhibitors returned for EXPO 2006 to showcase their products and services to thousands of executives, managers and purchasing agents. SRG research also shows that one-fourth of attendees are decision-makers who will spend nearly three hours visiting the EXPO.
‘Premiere business-to-business event of the year,’ exhibitor says
“L-3 Vertex Aerospace participates in the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO because it is the premiere business-to-business event of the year,” said company spokesperson Chris Blount. (L-3 Vertex has been an EXPO exhibitors for at least eight consecutive years.) Our participation, because we are a government contractor with no local customers, may seem surprising. Yet we are a part of this business community with nearly 500 employees and many local vendors and suppliers.”
Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada, PLLC, Nissan Mississippi and the Mississippi Technology Alliance will feature Technology Clusters.
“Technology companies are out in force,” noted Bell. “We have great groups of clusters, located throughout the building literally in clusters of non-competing companies. What’s new: the latest technology solutions and applications.”
Tony Bailey, CEO of Business Communications Inc. (BCI), one of the Southeast’s leading providers of business communications technology solutions, said BCI maintains a presence at the EXPO “primarily because of opportunity for face-to-face contact. Our people are what make the technology happen. The EXPO allows us to meet prospects and show them how our people can turn technology into applicable, understandable solutions that make life easier for them.”
Time Warner Cable Business Class will once again sponsor the Cyber Café, where attendees may retrieve e-mail and a lucky one will win a new computer. With no tent and no canopy this year, the café will feature an open and inviting den with comfortable furnishings where people can sit down and explore new technology.
“We have participated in the EXPO for many years, and we find it to be one of the best opportunities in the state for networking and recruitment,” said Bill Farmer, CEO of Time Warner’s Monroe, La., and Central Mississippi division. “Our members who participate have told us they enjoy similar results.”
The Mississippi chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors will again sponsor the Construction Zone, and the MDA Tourism Division and Southwest Airlines will host the Meetings, Conventions and Tourism Mall.
“The EXPO provides our tourism industry partners an excellent venue to promote their property/area,” said Craig Ray, director of the MDA Tourism Division. “Our industry is a vital part of the economic development engine that is critical to our continued success. We understand and appreciate the value of the exposure our partners will have by their participation. They understand this concept, also.”
Jackie’s International and Community Coffee will host the Exhibitor Lounge. Jackson Coca-Cola Bottling Company and Exell Bottled Water also provide complimentary beverages for exhibitors and sponsors throughout the set-up on Tuesday and the two days of EXPO.
“The Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO is one of the largest networking events in our great state,” said Monica Harrigill, vice president of Canton-based Jackie’s International, a hotel and restaurant group owned by the Sethi family. “We have gotten great exposure for our Western Sizzlin catering by being involved. Each year at the EXPO, people rave about our great food. In turn, we get catering requests throughout the year. The EXPO is the highlight of every new year.”
Enhancing an all-star lineup
The Mississippi Braves will sponsor the center Activity Aisle, which will feature massage therapists and other pampering treatments by Optimum Health Institute, and golf pro Bob Ford, a nationally-recognized clinician, who will videotape individual golf swings and provide detailed evaluations at no charge. Artists from Bobbi Brown Cosmetics will offer free make-overs, and artisans from the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi will demonstrate their skills.
For the first time, Eagle Ridge Conference Center will provide presenters for free training seminars sponsored by Cingular Wireless throughout the two-day event. For each session attended, seminar attendees can register for a pair of free Southwest Airlines tickets to fly anywhere within the continental U.S.
The hourly seminars will be presented in room one in the entrance foyer.
Replacing the exhibit area previously occupied by the Seminar Tent will be The Mississippi Braves Dugout, an open-air area located in the northwest corner of the Trademart with an inviting display of Mississippi Braves paraphernalia, free hog dogs, crackerjacks, souvenirs, an exciting video of their opening night ceremony with fireworks, mascots and other surprises.
“We’re very excited to include the metro area’s dynamic new ball team to our two-day business networking party,” said Bell. “They’ve already contributed in a very positive way to the quality of life and economic base in our community and we expect EXPO attendees to really enjoy what they will bring to the EXPO family.”
TempStaff has participated in EXPO activities for several years, including providing temporary help for set up, registration and post-event chores because “we find the EXPO is an excellent opportunity to network with business people and showcase our services,” said company president Carolyn Boteler.
“Each year, we generate new business and also use it as a recruiting source for applicants,” she said. “We look forward to starting each New Year at the EXPO.”
The Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau is assisting the EXPO by providing registration helpers, sending press releases and assisting with hotel discounts for exhibitors and attendees.
A few more details
Admission to the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO 2006 is $5, or free with a business card. Tickets are available from exhibitors, sponsors, major bank branches and the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce.
Event hours are 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 18, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, January 19. No one under 18 will be allowed entry. No students, strollers or résumés. For ticket information, call (601) 364-1000 or visit www.msbusiness.com and click on Special Events, and then EXPO.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.