Thousands flock to Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Expo

by George Jared ([email protected]) 768 views 

Jim Heath has operated his Jonesboro-area business, Jim Heath Floor Care for more than 35 years. When he hired Makaleigh Wright as his marketing coordinator she had some new ideas about how he could reach potential clients.

One of those ideas was a booth at the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Expo held Wednesday (April 4) at the 1st National Bank Arena on the Arkansas State University campus.

It helped spur business, Wright told Talk Business & Politics. Up to 70 people visited the booth, and they passed out as many business cards in a few hours as they would in a month, she said. Before the event ended, she had received three or four calls from new potential clients, she said. Cold calling businesses or individual clients can be a time consuming and daunting task. To have hundreds of businesses in one space is beneficial, she added. JHFC is a floor cleaning service that caters to a variety of floor surfaces.

“This was our first year. … I would say it was worth it,” she said. “A lot of our business comes from word of mouth and this allows us to get in front of a lot of businesses at once and show them what we have to offer.”

Chamber Executive Vice President Cari White told Talk Businesses & Politics the event is the largest of its kind in Arkansas based on the number of vendors. This year 243 vendors took part, a slight increase from last year, she said. The Expo has been held in April each year for the last 28 years, she said. When she started with the chamber more than 18 years ago, there were about 170 vendors, and each year that number has steadily increased.

An estimated 5,000 people attended the expo, according to the Chamber. About 3,000 visited during the chamber members only session from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and another 2,000 came through the doors during the general public session the next two hours.

“The goal is for our vendors to get new customers … based on its track record it’s obviously working,” White said.

The event was started to aid businesses in one-on-one interactions, White said. The more businesses that come into come into contact, the better chance of expanding their client base. Networking is a key element in the successful development of any business, she said. Many vendors come back year after year, she said.

St. Bernards Vice President of Marketing Laura Pickens told Talk Business & Politics the Expo is a way for area businesses to support the Chamber. A healthy, thriving chamber is a key element in developing a strong local economy, she said. St. Bernards was able to show visitors what their facilities will look like once a ongoing renovation project is complete. The $137.5 million project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, and will increase the building space on the campus by 25% to 1.026 million square feet.

Four areas were targeted: cancer care, heart care, surgery and intensive care. The first phase involved revamp of the Ben E. Owens Cancer Treatment Center. It was completed in August 2016. The $10 million Heartcare Center is virtually completed, she said. The third phase involves the construction of a five-story, 245,000-square-foot surgical tower. Tower construction and a reconfiguration of the emergency room/services department will begin next year and cost about $75 million. It’s slated to be completed in late 2018. The fourth phase is a renovation of the existing medical center. Patient rooms will be remodeled, as will designated public areas.

Wright is glad she was able to talk her boss into participating in the Expo. Will she try again next year?

“Oh yeah … I wish they had two or three of these a year,” she said.