Business Expo expected to draw thousands

The Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 26th annual Business Expo will fill the halls of the Pine Bluff Convention Center from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Thursday, with doors open to the public from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Expo organizer Kali Walker said that some significant changes have been made to the format of this year’s event, which is expected to host 118 exhibitors.

“We will have a VIP premiere time from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Thursday morning for our exhibitors to meet with their invited customers and clients,” Walker said Wednesday afternoon. “This format was used in the past but in recent years the exhibit area was open to the public for the entire time. Our exhibitors told us that they wanted this change because they were spending thousands of dollars to take part in the Expo and were not able to connect with potential customers due to the large crowds of casual visitors.

“With this format the exhibitors are happy to have the two hours of networking time and the general public is able to enjoy the Expo just as they always have,” Walker said.

Walker said the theme of this year’s Expo is hidden treasures.

“We expect several thousand attendees Thursday and they will get to see 15 new exhibitors including La Quinta Inn, which will have a breakfast buffet and Express Employment Services,” Walker said.

The day will begin with the annual Small Business Breakfast with guest speaker George Makris of M. K. Distributors and Simmons First National Corp. Business of the Year awards will be presented in the categories of small (75 or fewer employees), large (over 75 employees) and non-profit.

The Expo will also host a health fair sponsored by Jefferson Regional Medical Center, an exhibition of Jefferson County charitable organizations and the Community Spotlight.