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Appreciation felt for legions who make EXPO great


It is such a simple word, but as all of us learned by our kindergarten years, it is an important one, filled with power, gratitude and outright appreciation. It is also one appropriate for this space today.

Our recently completed 26th annual Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO, held at the Mississippi Trade Mart, was a rousing success, mixing new and innovative ideas and services with an eager-to-improve audience, honoring dozens of committed and emerging state leaders for their roles in making companies and communities better, providing topical seminars full of helpful hints and suggestions and offering a casual, comfortable business-after-hours setting that enabled friendships to begin, relationships and partnerships to deepen and fun to be shared.

It was, to be certain, a unique and beneficial event for both givers and takers.

But it didn’t just happen. It was the result of quality companies, businesses and industries coming together, of countless behind-the-scenes hours of coordination and cooperation, of dozens of details falling into place and of teams of tireless workers whose individual roles blended nicely into a final product unlike any other in the southeastern United States.

Hence that special and important word. Thanks.

Comcast Business Class assumed the role of title sponsor and a better partner could not be found. Talented people, classy organization. The Mississippi Development Authority and Teklinks shared sponsorship of a kickoff breakfast that saluted the 50 best places to work in Mississippi. BancorpSouth and CellularSouth teamed to present the Top 40 Under 40 luncheon that honored emerging leaders under age 40 from across the state. And BankPlus, the Mississippi Economic Council and St. Dominic Health Services continued their overview of the 2009 Businesswoman of the Year luncheon, citing Joey Garner as this year’s distinguished winner but also recognizing 49 other ladies, again from around Mississippi, for their accomplishments.

More than 1,200 appreciative supporters and proud family members took part in those activities, suggesting that rarely has so much talent been assembled in a single site. And rarely have so many grassroots leaders, folks whose love for their communities and our state is so obvious, shared so important a spotlight.

Howard Ballou was superb as our celebrity master of ceremonies and presenters Whit Hughes, Michael Girouard, Devin Rivers, Rhonda Thompson, Dave Miller, James Threadgill, Morgan Sartain, Donna Sims, Sandra Maxwell and Frances Smith all handled their brief, but significant, parts well while speakers Bill Rayburn, Dr. Bob Litro and DeAnna Adams inspired and challenged us all.

There was more, too, with lots of additional praise in need of sharing.

Business Communications Inc. (BCI), with a little help from those talented members of The Chill and restaurateurs like AJ’s on the Lake, A VIP Grand Event/Luckett Lodge, Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, Bravo, Broad Street Bakery, Julep, Mint, Sal & Mookies, Steam Room Grille and The Parker House created an enjoyable, exciting and exhilarating business-after-hours function that opened avenues of networking and friend-making that was a highlight for everyone.

Trade Mart officials estimated 2,500 people in attendance and no one, to the best of my knowledge, left hungry or disappointed. Truth be known, many would have stayed well beyond the closing time.

The EXPO itself, spread over two days, was a good one, matching curious shoppers and browsers with the latest in technology, products, services and thinking. Even an unexpected conflict with the opening of the new Jackson Convention Complex or the chilling cold weather, didn’t deter meaningful conversation and contacts. Ambassadors from the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership helped with logistics and Comcast’s Cyber Café enabled us all to maintain electronic contact with our offices throughout the show.

More than 100 exhibitors took part, displaying their messages in an assemblage of booths the professional likes of which they were justifiably proud.

Has the word “thanks” appeared recently among these words?

A seminar area, organized by Gay Saxon of Hinds Community College’s Eagle Ridge Conference Center with an assist from Mississippi State University, shared an assortment of thought-provoking topics that prompted out-of-the-box thinking, benchmarks and even a few economic solutions in 11 hour-long sessions that featured highly qualified presenters like Saxon, Anthony Keith Lowe, Jason Pope, Jim Harper, Bill Lancaster, James Bennett, Terry Maum and Shawn Borkus.

Read on. There is more. The EXPO is a big undertaking, one that consumes 58,000 square feet of the massive Trade Mart which is run so efficiently by Jamie Laird and his hardworking team.

Wingfield High School’s Junior ROTC Color Guard, under the lead of SFC Calvin Mote, inspired us all with their precision work and ministers Stan Buckley, Jamie Wallace and Chris Webb established early the value of our work as part of life’s larger community.

A year-round advisory group, made up of Mary Cross, Lauren McGraw, Charlotte Reeves, Gay Saxon and DeAnna Adams, works with the businesswoman’s program and again proved invaluable.

Not only did event participants applaud award-winning efforts, they were treated to concert/stage-quality entertainment, arranged by Raphael Semmes. Jesse Robinson, Swing de Paris featuring Allison Jenkins and Bill Ellison and Temperance Babcock, gifted musicians all, were simply outstanding.

And meals, prepared by Jeff Good and the Mangia Bene team that brings you Broad Street Bakery, Bravo and Sal & Mookies, bordered on the gourmet dishes you would expect.

One more group, as critical to the success as anyone, merits a special bow in a bright unsung heroes’ spotlight of their own.

Talented, energetic and terrific staff members of the Mississippi Business Journal occasionally performed herculean feats in doing whatever was necessary to stamp “success” on the wonderful week.

While Kathy Arich and Ashley Varnes assumed the key roles of coordination, they had marvelous help and support from the likes of Charina Rhodes, Kathryn Albritton, Linda Huff, Wally Northway, Leslie Galloway, Perry Patterson, Virginia Hodges, Melissa Killingsworth, Ross Reily, Sonny Naquin, Jeni Inabnet, Tacy Rayburn, Steven McDill, Kasandra Thomas, Clay Chandler and Kelley Fuller.

Their thanks should be in capital letters, perhaps accompanied by a “whew” as well.

Plans have already begun for next year’s EXPO. It’s set for the Trade Mart, Jan. 13-14. And while we repeat our delight and appreciation for the 2009 event, we genuinely believe another year of experience and meaningful lessons learned will make EXPO 2010 even better.

One last time with genuine sincerity. Thanks. Recognizing excellence and serving your business information needs is a pleasure.

Contact MBJ editor/publisher Ed Darling at ed.darling@msbusiness.com.


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