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Thousands brave chilly winter weather for EXPO 2007

JACKSON — The 24th-annual Mississippi Business & Technology EXPO again proved itself worthy of being called the state’s premier marketing opportunity. The event has enjoyed steady growth, and this year was no exception in spite of freezing rain falling during the first day January 17th. The title sponsor for this special event of the Mississippi Business Journal was Comcast Business Class.

Thousands of people toured the more than 200 booths and attended luncheons, seminars and more during the two-day event. A wide range of products and services were featured by booth sponsors; everything from flags to office furniture, non-profit organizations, telephones, catering services, digital imaging and wildlife management services. Attendees could also pick up numerous freebies and watch demonstrations that included cooking, crafts making and perfecting their golf swing.

Publisher Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is pleased with the 2007 EXPO. “The faithful came out to the show and all the reports I’ve heard have been very positive,” he said. “EXPO is a good opportunity for us to recognize excellence in the business community.”

Noting that the luncheons were sellouts, Jones points out that the Top 40 Under 40 program and the 50 Leading Business Women are well recognized throughout the state.

Participants in these programs are honored at EXPO each year.

“Our Best Places to Work program is becoming well established too and is one of my personal favorites,” Jones added. “Employees anonymously rate their employers on a number of factors and the highest ranking employer in each category wins the cheese. You can’t PR your way out of what your employees think about their jobs and work environment.”
Comcast’s regional director of business services, Doug Hodnett, says the company is involved with EXPO because of the type of people the event draws. “It brings in businesses and attendees from all over the state,” he said, “and we’re interested in playing a role, not just in Jackson, but all over the state. It’s a good fit for us.”

M&F Bank is a newcomer to the EXPO but plans to return. The Kosciusko-based bank was one of the sponsors of Business After Hours, one of EXPO’s most well-attended events that featured food from the metro area’s best restaurants and live music.

“We had a good time at the EXPO and feel our sponsorship was worthwhile,” said Ginger Harbour, M&F Bank’s vice president and director of marketing. “We made some good business contacts.”

In addition to sponsoring the Wednesday evening networking event, M&F Bank had a double booth that was manned by 20 of their associates over two days. The booth gave them a steady stream of visitors.

“Our first time at the EXPO was absolutely good and we’ll do it again,” Harbour said. “We thought it was a wonderful event and provided great exposure for us.”

Although Comcast has been involved with EXPO for a number of years, this year marked their third as title sponsor. In addition to the title sponsorship and a company booth, Comcast also sponsored the Cyber Café where attendees had access to Internet services. Some 25 to 30 Comcast employees participated in EXPO where most of the information they provided centered on commercial customers.

Networking is a key element for EXPO attendees. Jackson Realtor Brett Baxter says he looks forward to attending each year, mainly for the networking.

“We use the term networking very loosely as though everyone understands its importance,” he said. “As many of us realize, we never know where the next handshake will take us or where the next introduction will lead us. Every contact in the business world is important, some more than others, but you never truly know which contact will make a lasting difference.”

Baxter believes so firmly in networking that he founded Networking in the Neighborhood in Jackson, an event that combines a business-after-hours mindset and a mini trade show environment in a fun and entertaining setting. They are held regularly in different neighborhoods to bring neighbors and new residents together.

Robbie Bell, vice president of business development at the Mississippi Business Journal, leads the herculean effort of producing the EXPO each year. “We try to make the EXPO experience better each year for our sponsors, exhibitors and attendees,” she said. “I am extremely pleased with this year’s event from many perspectives.”

MBJ general manager Ron Jones says the EXPO has grown over the years. “The growth has been in both booths and attendance, and over the last eight years participation has tripled,” he said. “Exhibitors are doing more planning for the event and are having better displays and more marketing opportunities for their businesses.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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