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East Meets West brings business together

The annual business expo has been postponed due to Hurricane Irma.

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  • | 8:10 a.m. September 14, 2017
Renee Ryckman, Taura Agar and Angela Scroggins at last year's expo.
Renee Ryckman, Taura Agar and Angela Scroggins at last year's expo.
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It’s not all work and no play for the businesses in the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance.

For the past nine years, the two organizations have teamed up to create a trade show for members to show off their businesses and network from the east to the west of the area.

This year will be no different, but it will be later than expected.

Originally scheduled for Sept. 19, the event has been postponed because of Hurricane Irma. 

“And the reason being is that Florida Power & Light uses Robarts Arena as a staging area and there are still hundreds of thousands of people without power, and they are busy trying to restore power to everyone,” LWRBA Executive Director Heather Kasten said.

 The expo gives business people the chance to showcase their businesses to potential clients and customers from Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“I think they continue to come because it showcases their business to businesses out east that we may not know about,” Longboat Key Chamber President Gail Loefgren said.

An estimated 750 people are expected to attend this year, much like past years. About eight restaurants will offer bite-size samplings, and there will be wine and cash bars. The first 250 guests will receive goodie bags.

“My favorite part is it’s really an opportunity for businesses to showcase what they’re really about,” Kasten said. “We do a lot of networking things, luncheons, but what’s great about the expo is that businesses get to put on a show and display products or services. It’s an opportunity to leave that night with some great leads to follow up on.”

Since its inception nine years ago, the expo has grown so much that it has changed venues multiple time including the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the Municipal Auditorium and Robarts. 

“... and what’s great about Robarts is it really is a great halfway point between Lakewood Ranch and Longboat Key, and they’ve been a great partner as well,” Kasten said.

Kathleen Williams and Maribeth Phillips at last year's event.
Kathleen Williams and Maribeth Phillips at last year's event.

In keeping with the raffle variation, attendees this year will have the chance to be entered into a raffle for two tickets on Southwest Airlines to anywhere in the United States. Attendees will have passport wheels, and if they visit every booth, they will be entered in the drawing, Kasten said.

The venue can hold 100 booths. Last year, the expo was filled to over capacity, Loefgren said.

“We’ve got great commitment because people do know there is a little sense of urgency to get a booth,” Kasten said.

Overall, Loefgren said it’s a good cooperative effort between the Business Alliance and Chamber of Commerce to have their members network. Kasten echoes those thoughts.

“That’s what this is all about, connecting these businesses with the intent that they grow their business by being a part of the expo,” Kasten said.


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