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Show hailed despite attendance drop

Friday, March 8, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Bone-chilling weather and the possibility of snow may have kept some people away from Fast Track 2013, according to its chief organizer.

The annual trade show, organized by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, was held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Clock Tower Building at Commonwealth Centre off Franklin Street.

An official visitor count was not available Thursday. Chamber President Amanda Witt estimated that about 5,000 people visited the expo during its two days, about 1,000 less than most years.

Chamber officials have said they usually distribute about 5,000 tickets for VIP Night, an invitation-only event designed for business people to network. Witt said about 3,500 people attended the event Tuesday night.

The show was open to the public Wednesday night. Indications were that about 1,500 attended, according to Witt, down from roughly 2,000 on the same night during past expos.

She said she thinks cold temperatures, high wind that made it seem colder than it actually was, and maybe the forecast of snow on Wednesday kept some people away.

Snow that fell overnight was mostly gone by the morning.

Despite the attendance drop, overall, Fast Track 2013 “went really well,” Witt said.

More than 130 exhibitors, including nearly two dozen new ones, showcased their products and services at the show.

“Exhibitors did a great job” of preparing their booths, Witt said, and “the visitors were interested” in what the exhibitors presented.

Furthermore, “The Taste of Martinsville-Henry County continues to be a favorite” attraction on VIP Night, she said. Local restaurants and caterers serve samples of their foods to guests.

A popular exhibit on both nights, according to Witt, was the Henry County Schools’ “Thank a Teacher” booth, where visitors could write messages of gratitude to teachers who were special to them and their children.

The booth will be dismantled, and sections of it reserved for particular county schools will be given to those schools, Witt said.

She also mentioned that several puppies at the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA booth have been adopted since the expo.

“I love to see those (canine) babies walking around” the trade show floor, led on leashes by SPCA volunteers, she said.

Admission on Wednesday night was $2 or two cans of food to help needy families. Witt said the chamber collected “six huge tubs full” of food for the Grace Network.

She did not yet know exactly how many cans were received.

Witt acknowledged that some parts of the exhibition space on Tuesday night became extremely warm due to the crowd and a lack of air circulation.

That problem was fixed for Wednesday, when chilly air from freight elevator shafts and fans permeated the space, she noted.

Parking was challenging for trade show-goers because the paved lot in front of the Clock Tower Building was reserved for employees of businesses there. Visitors had to park in other lots nearby, and that resulted in some people having to walk quite a distance to get to the show.

Witt said the chamber will strive to improve the parking situation for future trade shows.

Still, she said the Clock Tower Building is the perfect place for the expo due to the roominess on the third floor. The event has been held at the building for the past few years.

The chamber ultimately hopes that a new business will move into the space and bring the community some much-needed jobs, Witt said.

Until then, “hopefully The Lester Group will let us use it” for the trade show, she said.

She added that the chamber is open to using other spaces around the area if any that are large enough to accommodate the expo become available.

Planning for Fast Track 2014 will start this summer, Witt said.


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