Business leaders in Rome will once again have an opportunity for greater exposure to their peers at the annual Rome Floyd Chamber Business Expo, set for Thursday night and Friday at the Forum River Center.

Thursday night the expo hosts the Rome Floyd Chamber’s monthly Business After Hours gathering from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Admission for local business executives is $5 in advance at the chamber website, romega.com, and $7 at the door. On Friday the expo will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are available in advance for $3 and will be available at the door for $5.

“We’re excited to have added Kerry as a sponsor this year,” said Chamber President Jeanne Krueger.

Kerry is the Irish bakery that purchased Southeastern Mills’ coatings and seasonings division almost a year ago. Other major sponsors for the event include Publix, ServiceMaster by Twins, Hawthorn Suites and Active Pest Control.

Krueger said that cultivating a relationship with Kerry was key to bringing the newcomer to Floyd County on board as a major sponsor.

“They have already proven how they give back to the community and want to get involved,” Krueger said.

She and Expo Chair Dawn Ables both indicate that building relationships is probably the greatest benefit of the expo.

“This is our largest Business After Hours and it’s a great time for businesses to network,” Krueger said.

Ables said that more of the business representatives come out Thursday night.

“You get to interact with one another and you get to see their booths, what they do and what they have to offer,” Ables said.

Booth space at the expo is completely sold out. Chamber Programs Coordinator Taylor Ritchie said there will be 100 booths and 80 vendors inside the arena at the Forum for the event.

“We’ve got some new food vendors this year as well. We’re real excited to have Dos Bros,” Krueger said.

Dos Bros is the new casual Mexican restaurant located at 44 Carter Ave. in West Rome. McDonald’s is also new to the expo this year. Krueger said that Jim Aaron, owner of the restaurants on Martha Berry Highway and Turner McCall Boulevard, has been a great friend of the chamber.

Most all of the schools in the community will have representation at the expo, including Georgia School for the Deaf in Cave Spring. Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Shorter University will also be represented.

“Almost everybody will have giveaways and door prizes,” said Ables, who has participated in the expo every year for the last two decades.

The expo benefits the chamber’s Shop Rome campaign.

“We want to make an even bigger splash with Shop Rome this year,” Krueger said. “We’re going to look at new and even bigger ways to promote Shop Rome.”

The chamber president said it’s critical to drive home the message that supporting local businesses not only helps keep that particular business going but helps create jobs.

Years ago, many would have considered some of the large shopping centers in the north metro Atlanta area as primary competition for local businesses during the important holiday shopping season. Now, online shopping appears to be the major threat.

“We have to be much more aggressive in how we market,” Krueger said. “When you’re supporting a small business locally, you’re supporting a family. You’re supporting jobs that belong to your neighbors and friends. It’s important for people to realize how much their dollars that are spent locally matter.”

Krueger actually said the campaign probably ought to be Shop Rome, Shop Floyd, “because we need people shopping with Murphy’s Appliance in Garden Lakes, Powell’s Auto Parts in Lindale and Lavender Mountain Hardware in Armuchee.”

The chamber offers statistics from the Andersonville Study of Retail Economics that claim that for every $100 spent in a local business, approximately two-thirds of it stays within the community. Ideally, according to the chamber, as community businesses thrive, it helps promote Rome as a destination for people from outside the community.

Ables said that when the expo is open to the public Friday she thinks people get a better chance to see who some of the business partners in the community are.

“I always enjoy going around and making new friends – business partners that, as long as I’ve been in Rome, I’ve never thought about meeting with,” Ables said.

She suggested that residents in the community might be surprised at the diversity of the businesses that are represented.

“Every year we have somebody who walks away and says they had no idea that’s what some business did,” Krueger said. “It’s a huge benefit to be able to see up close and personal, for both the business and the consumer.”

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