Kofi Armah is an account executive with Lamar Advertising and has represented his company at the annual Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Show at the First National Bank Arena in Jonesboro for the past five years. He told Talk Business & Politics on Wednesday (September 14) that he is excited about the networking opportunities the expo will provide.
“I definitely get some value out of participating … I get leads,” he said. “Overall it’s a good experience.”
The event is said to be the largest of its kind in the natural state. The theme for this year’s event was “Peace for America.” Many vendors and attendees decorated their booths with patriotic colors and themes.
It has been held since 1990. Newly hired Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Todd Shields gave the keynote address at the luncheon and was surprised by the selection. He said he is excited about the bond between the local business community and A-State.
“I’m amazed at how big this is,” he said of the expo.
The trade show is traditionally held in April, but the Covid-19 outbreak has pushed the schedule, Chamber CEO Mark Young told Talk Business & Politics. The plan is for the 2023 Expo to be held in April. After speaking with vendors, business leaders and attendees, it was clear that the event needed to return in the spring.
Vendors range from large commercial firms operating in Northeast Arkansas, such as Ritter Communications and St. Bernards, to small family-owned operations. Banks, real estate firms, internet service providers, healthcare companies and others had many booths.
During the morning session, exhibitors were able to network and mingle in booths. The public is invited at 1 p.m.
The 2020 event has been canceled due to the pandemic, Yang said. It was held last year, but the number of exhibitors and attendees decreased significantly due to the fear of the virus.
Up to 5,000 people participate in a year. Mandy Cook, the chamber’s vice president of operations and director of membership, said they had about 200 vendors this year.
In 2019, they had 265 sellers. Cook said the goal is to have 275 vendors by next April to return to the 5,000 range. Young and Cook aren’t sure how many people attended the event, but the number was in the thousands.
In September, Covid affected the running of the event, but the atmosphere was much improved from last year.
“It was a really great, calm crowd,” Young said. “We saw a lot of smiling faces…it’s good to see things getting back to normal.”