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Virginia Beach business expo closes the gap

Jordan Crawford | 11/14/2013, 9:56 a.m.

Organizers discovered the word was not getting out. Business owners wanted more networking opportunities. New owners wanted to know how they could take proven skills and launch a business in a sluggish economy. Fixing these problems, organizers say about an additional 200 people registered for this year’s event. About 200 people attended last year.

“This year’s event was a culmination of key items geared toward you,” said Sharon Foster, the minority business coordinator for three years at the MBC, an agency that advises the city manager and the city council on the city’s procurement policies and procedures.

The conference aims to answer questions. “How can you market your business?” Foster explained. “What can you can do to empower yourself? We eliminated workshops to allow the participants more face-to-face time to promote their goods and services.”

“This way they can provide detailed information about their products and services,” Foster explained. “They can learn what they need to do and can do to increase profits. By taking this approach we hope it will promote our theme of removing the barriers and closing the gap. Then, comes the hard part: Getting people to know who you are.”

Business owners can listen to the voice of experience to navigate. Wilson said his message is simple. See yourself as a leader in your community.

“I encourage businesses to see they hold leadership positions,” Wilson said. “As a result you need to solve a lot of different problems. Become certified, get involved in your community, and see yourself as a leader.”

“And I urge them to encourage more businesses to relocate to Virginia Beach,” Wilson said. “I urge them to constantly solve an array of problems. As you solve problems, you will create a lot of jobs.”

“A lot of people in our community are unemployed,” Wilson continued. “The recent federal shutdown shows no one should be dependent on the federal government. You can work for yourself in your community and enjoy what you do. I try to encourage people to be community leaders. Help others see there are other ways to make a living, and enjoy it as well.”

In September, several hundred Maryland vendors gathered to determine what role they play in the MGM casino and resort development project that predicts revenues will hit $650 million in its third year of operation.

The casino project is expected to create an estimated 7,500 jobs with 4,000 jobs located at the new casino. The 21-story hotel and spa will feature seven restaurants, a 1,200 seat theatre, and parking for 5,000 vehicles. Visitors from as far away as Hong Kong are expected to play in the facility that will include 3,600 slots, 140 table games, and poker.

Still, the Virginia Beach event was loaded with opportunities. Prior to the event Foster said, “You should come if you are a small biz owner who is serious about learning more, meeting more people. It is a fabulous networking experience.”

Representatives from the state Department of Minority Business Enterprise, Small, Woman and Minority (SWaM) Program and the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program were also available for consultation.