Get connected at Chamber's business Expo 2002

Look for business to pick up in Tacoma this Wednesday and Thursday, as the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber hosts its largest event of the year, the annual Expo 2002, at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.

The program, featuring 128 exhibitors and free seminars presented by area businesses, is one of the biggest trade shows in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition, lunch will be provided at no charge at “Sample the South Sound,” where local restaurants and caterers provide food during lunch hours.

There will also be prize giveaways – including a trip to Hawaii – that will take place every fifteen minutes.

Between 5,000 and 7,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event, said Sonja Hall, Chamber communications manager.

“The staff has worked hard to provide a grand Expo event this year. We are especially appreciative of our faithful sponsors who continue to support the Chamber through tough economic times,” said Chamber President and CEO David Graybill.

“This event promises to be one that everyone can enjoy and gain something from,” he added. “We encourage our visitors and guests to make use of all that Expo has to offer this year.”

The Expo’s second day will include the Chamber’s 119th Annual Meeting and Breakfast and features guest speaker, Dennis Madsen, president and CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI).

Madsen’s topic is “In the Mountain’s Shadow – Business and the Outdoors.”

His speech will highlight the importance outdoor recreation plays in the regional economy and expansion in Tacoma-Pierce County.

The meeting and breakfast will be moderated by Bob Moawad of Edge Learning Institute.

Also, the gavel will be passed from outgoing Chamber Chair Melanie Dressel of Columbia Bank, to incoming Chair Joe Wilczek of Franciscan Health Systems.

“We are very excited about this year’s Expo and Annual Meeting. This year’s breakfast will top all others in years past,” said Chamber Membership Services Manager Judie Lloyd.

“Columbia Bank is sponsoring this year’s meeting and is providing wonderful gifts for our guests,” she said. “REI has graciously provided us with spectacular recreational decorations and props, and Bob Moawad will no doubt be witty and entertaining. We are truly putting on an exciting program this year.”

While some other area trade shows have fallen by the wayside – including events in Seattle and Bellevue – Tacoma’s Expo has prospered.

Olympia hosts a one-day event, and the South Hill Mall is the site of a trade show in Puyallup.

“Expo is the most successful chamber business-to-business trade event in Western Washington,” Graybill said. “While the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber has had other trade shows in its history, the current Expo format, which is approximately 8 years old, has survived while others have run their course.”

He continued: “This is a tribute to the energy of Tacoma-Pierce County businesses and their commitment and response to Tacoma-Pierce County’s revitalization. This type of event has been very popular across the nation due to its unique format of serving general businesses to business marketing as opposed to industry specific trade shows.”

The event that would later become the Expo of today was originally held on a distinct set of dates that were separate from the Annual Meeting.

Later the Annual Meeting was introduced during Expo to bring added traffic to the second day of the event, so that a full range of attendees would be present.

“Out first trade show in the Tacoma Dome actually took place in 1984 to celebrate Tacoma-Pierce County’s 100th birthday. However, other shows had occurred in various smaller venues in earlier years,” Hall said.

“The first Tacoma Dome event was called ‘Chamber Centennial Celebration,’ and was a different show format from years prior,” she explained. “It was open to the general public as opposed to membership only trade events and small table-top type shows. This one-time only celebration actually took place in the Tacoma Dome Rotunda. Then, several years later our Expo evolved into an annual Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall event. Expo continues to fill the Exhibition Hall space.”

Other innovations, like the introduction of the “Sample the South Sound” and entertainment and prizes, were added over the years for the present format.

Primary sponsors of this year’s Expo include: Bratrud Middleton Insurance, BenefitPort Northwest, Business Examiner Newspaper Group, Franciscan Health Systems, King Oscar Hotels & Convention Center, 770 KNWX, Lamar, Northwest Physicians Network, Pierce Transit and Thomson Travel.

Expo 2002 hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 9, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 10. Admission is free.