Kofi Armah is an account executive with Lamar Advertising, and for the last five years he’s represented his company at the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Business expo annually held at First National Bank Arena in Jonesboro. He told Talk Business & Politics on Wednesday (Sept. 14) that he enjoys the networking opportunities the expo provides.
“I definitely get some value out of participating … I get leads,” he said. “Overall, it’s a good experience.”
The event is touted as the largest of its kind in the Natural State. The theme for this year’s event was “Salute to America.” Many vendors and attendees brandished patriot colors and themes in their booths.
It’s been held since 1990. Newly hired Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Todd Shields gave the keynote talk during the luncheon and was surprised by the turnout. He said he was impressed by the connectivity between the local business community and A-State.
“I’m surprised by how big this is,” he said of the expo.
The business expo is typically held in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw the schedule off, Chamber CEO Mark Young told Talk Business & Politics. The plan is to hold the 2023 expo in April. After talking to vendors, business leaders, and attendees, it was clear the event needs to return to the spring.
Vendors ranged from large businesses that operate in Northeast Arkansas such as Ritter Communications and St. Bernards to smaller family-owned operations. Banks, real estate firms, internet providers, healthcare companies and many others had booths.
During the morning session, vendors were able to network and mingle amongst the booths. The public was invited in at 1 p.m.
In 2020, the event was cancelled due to the pandemic, Young said. It was held last year, but the number of vendors and attendees dropped significantly because of fears about the virus.
In a typical year, as many as 5,000 people attend. Chamber vice president of operations and membership director Mandy Cook said this year they had about 200 vendors.
During 2019, they had 265 vendors. Cook said the goal is to have 275 vendors next April to get the attendance back to the 5,000 range. Young and Cook said they are not sure how many people would attend this event, but the numbers were in the thousands.
COVID and holding the event in September had an impact, but the atmosphere was much improved from last year.
“It’s been a really great, steady crowd,” Young said. “We’ve seen a lot of smiling faces … it’s nice to see things getting back to normal.”