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Longboat Key Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2018 1 year ago

East Meets West celebrates 10th year

The annual networking event put on by the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance will take place on Sept. 20.
by: Katie Johns Community Editor

For business leaders looking to network across county borders, the East Meets West Regional Business Expo is quickly approaching.

This year’s expo, which takes place from 4:30-7 p.m. Sept. 20 at Robarts Arena, has already sold out its 90 vendor spots. The event, hosted by the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce and Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, brings business operators together from Longboat Key and Lakewood Ranch in a central location.

Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce President Gail Loefgren said she thinks the booths sold out earlier than last year, which she said shows how much businesses value the expo. However, there is still plenty of networking to be had at the actual event. Loefgren said she expects around 750 people or more to attend this year’s event. Last year’s event drew a crowd of 750 after it was postponed to November because of Hurricane Irma.

This is the 10th year of the event, which has remained steadfast in its duty of networking across the areas of Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“Well, they [attendees] can expect everything that has made it successful for 10 years,” Loefgren said.

Nine restaurants, including The Chart House, Flemings Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, The Resort at Longboat Key Club and California Pizza Kitchen, will be on-site offering appetizers as well, so as people network they can taste bites from local businesses.

Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance President and CEO Heather Kasten said the fact that vendor booths sold out a month in advance speaks to the excitement surrounding the event. Kasten said time is a precious commodity, so to have all these business leaders under one roof on the same night is a great opportunity for people to connect.

New this year is a vendor appreciation event, in which the 90 vendors will meet and greet two days before the expo, Sept. 18, at The Terrace at Surf Shack on St. Armands. Loefgren said vendors often can’t network with other vendors during the event because they are tending to their booths.

Along with the tasting samples, a cash bar will be on-site, and the first 250 guests will receive a goodie bag. Attendees will have the chance to win two round-trip Southwest Airlines tickets for anywhere in the continental United States by visiting 15 booths and collecting stamps from each on their Networking Navigator Passport. Once their passport is full, attendees will turn their passport in and be entered to win the tickets.

Kasten said this is one of the Business Alliance’s top events of the year.

“If you’re going to attend an event, this is the one to attend,” she said.

Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. For information, visit

I’m Katie. I’m the Longboat Observer community editor, which means I cover all people, places and things pertaining to Longboat Key. I graduated from the University of Missouri in 2016 with degrees in journalism and Spanish. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 364.

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