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Business expo impresses
Networking event draws large crowd to Pinecrest
Biz Expo 8 es
Robbie Ouzt and Jane O'Gorman visit by North Georgia College & State University's table during the local business expo at Pinecrest Academy.


Several honors were awarded during the annual business expo, including:

* Best use of theme in a booth: Jeff Bucchino

* Best overall booth: Flower Girl

* Best new exhibitor booth: Custom Media Solutions and Jitterbug Media


Jen Bruno was looking to show the local side of her Germany-based company. Harold Master was eager to persuade businesses to use his company for their uniforms.

Both got their chance Wednesday during Business Expo 2009-Your Passport to Success.

Bruno told Master about Hansgrohe, the leading manufacturer of decorative bathroom and kitchen fixtures.

Master, owner of MASTER Corporate Image, heard about Hansgrohe but also learned the company is taking bids on a product his firm offers.

“Maybe they are using a company that’s out of state and they didn’t know one existed in their back yard, so I think it could help a local business,” he said.

“I am very, very impressed [with the expo]. Because I think the key today is look, if we’re all local businesses, we should buy from local businesses and we should help local businesses.”

The local networking theme was apparent throughout the fourth annual event put on by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.

The 100 vendors and 500 participants seized every opportunity to shake a hand and exchange business cards.  

Brian Dill, the chamber's vice president of economic development, said the event was “by far the best one in the four years we’ve done this.”

“I certainly didn’t see a recession going on [Wednesday], and I’m excited about the prospect activity we’ve seen an increase in over the last two weeks,” he said. “This might be a segue into a great fourth quarter for 2009.”

Before chatting with Master, Bruno met with representatives from North Georgia College & State University, which offers an evening MBA program through classes at Cumming City Hall.  From that conversation, a partnership was born.

“I’m going to bring in some of their MBA students to do a project with us at Hansgrohe,” she said. “I’ll gladly take those college students in and have them work on a real-life project in our facility.

"It’s great for them and it’s good for us. I think we all need to support each other, especially in difficult economic times.”

It’s during a recession that going back to school becomes a priority, said Jane O’Gorman, director of continuing education for NGCSU.

"When the economy goes down, people are looking to improve their skill sets to make themselves more marketable and we’re here to help them do that,” she said.

O’Gorman also said many businesses at the expo had no idea the college offers online classes and customized training, tailored for individual companies.

“We are informing a lot of people about what opportunities we have here in the county,” she said.

The expo, sponsored by the Forsyth County News, was held at Pinecrest Academy. Like last year, it ran in conjunction with the chamber’s monthly Business After Hours.

This year the local chamber joined with the neighboring Greater North Fulton chamber for the after hours event, bringing in more businesses from the Ga. 400 corridor.

Guest speaker Rieva Lesonsky opened the event, sharing information on preparing for an economic recovery.

Lesonsky is the chief executive officer of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in small businesses and entrepreneurship.

Three groups of about 20 people each took advantage of speed-networking sessions. During the sessions, people paired off to share information about themselves and their businesses before switching to the next person.

By the end of the 20-minute session, participants had a chance to network with everyone in the group.

The rapid introductions and time limits allowed people to filter out the traditional format and  “get to the point," said Patty Everette of New York Life Insurance.

"What do you do, what do I do, how do our businesses work together, how can we refer business to each other. It’s a starting point to start developing a relationship with somebody new in the community," she said. “Even though the economy has its struggles, most people are still interested in growing their business, and therefore these relationships become important.

“I love this event. I went to it last year for the first time and it’s even better this year ... I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

Gina Vreeland of Everybody’s Business won a Sandestin Resort vacation during the event, while Karen Wenk won a year’s worth of Pinecrest tuition, valued at $10,000.