Sue Smedley, left, Lisa Smedley, Center, and Liz Simonton try samples at Tim Poulos’ Tropical Smoothie Cafe booth at the Springfield Business EXPO at the Clark State Performing Arts Center. Bill Lackey/Staff

Springfield business expo opens to public for first time

Chamber of Greater Springfield leaders are betting that opening their annual business expo to the general public will bring bigger crowds and more exposure to the more than 30 businesses planning to participate.

The expo, along with its annual dinner and awards ceremony afterward, are early highlights of the year for local businesses, said Chris Schutte, vice president of destination marketing and communications for the chamber. The expo has always been open to chamber members, but will be free and available to the general public for the first time this year.

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John Fimiani, a partner at Upward Brand Interactions, will serve as the dinner’s keynote speaker.

“After surveying our exhibitors over the past couple years, they love the expo and the exposure they get,” Schutte said. “The one thing that kept coming up though is they would love for it to be open to the public to give them a bigger platform. I would expect a record number of attendees.”

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In most years, the expo sees about 400 attendees, mostly in the last few hours of the event. Opening the event to everyone should mean a big boost for attendance, he said.

Guests will also be encouraged to visit numerous booths and get a passport stamp, entering them into a drawing for one of five $100 Speedway gift cards, he said. Many companies manning the booths will also have games, raffles and other events to keep visitors entertained.

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“Having more people in the room will be great for everyone hopefully,” Schutte said. “It’ll create a different atmosphere.”

The annual dinner at the Hollenbeck-Bayley Center will follow the expo. Anthony Kenney, president of Speedway, will be honored with the Richard L. Kuss Lifetime Achievement award.

“Speedway obviously is a great philanthropic partner for the community and Anthony has been a great leader for that company,” Schutte said.

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Fimiani, the dinner’s keynote speaker, said his speech will focus on the role organizations like the chamber and local non-profits can play to improve a community.

“The theme is going to be built around the idea of bringing people together to help build a greater community for the future,” Fimiani said. “A role like that can only be achieved through the collective energy of the people who are a part of that organization. I’m going to talk about the opportunity we have to leave a legacy for the greater good of the community and how we can all become champions for that cause.”

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