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Fast Track 2014 set to show off area

Sunday, March 2, 2014

About 130 area businesses and organizations — including more than two dozen first-timers — will showcase their products and services this week at the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s annual trade show.

Fast Track 2014 will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in the building behind the Clocktower Building at Commonwealth Centre, previously the Tultex factory on Commonwealth Boulevard. Tuesday is VIP night for invited guests only.

Chamber President Amanda Witt said she thinks the expo, now in its 20th year, will have “something for everyone” to enjoy.

For example, people thinking about going to college can stop by the booths of several local higher education institutions to get information. Animal lovers can visit with representatives of Infinity Acres and the local SPCA and maybe meet some animals.

Racing enthusiasts will be entertained at the booths of drivers Matt Bowling and Trey Jarrell. People who love to shop can stop by the booths of retailers such as maurices and the Sears Hometown Store, both first-time exhibitors.

“We have a really great group of exhibitors” this year, Witt said.

The trade show is intended to showcase local businesses and organizations. However, about 13 percent of this year’s participants will be from outside Henry County, Martinsville and Patrick County. Some will be from as far as Roanoke and Greensboro, N.C., according to Witt.

More than likely, they have local customers and want to reach out to them as well as drum up some new business, she said.

They want to participate in “the region’s premier trade show,” Witt added.

Fast Track has spawned other local chambers of commerce in the region to develop similar trade shows, albeit on a smaller scale. Witt said officials from chambers in Eden and Reidsville in North Carolina plan to visit, and the Patrick County chamber will have a booth.

She doesn’t mind.

“We all are very regional (in focus) and work together,” supporting each other and wanting each other to grow, she said.

Tuesday will be VIP Business Night at the trade show. Open only to invited guests, the night is designed for business people to network.

Invitees are expected to dress in “business casual” — no denim or athletic wear will be allowed, Witt said.

Nobody younger than 18 is allowed to attend the VIP night unless he or she is working at an exhibit and under adult supervision, she said.

Again this year, the VIP night will feature “The Taste of Martinsville-Henry County,” in which 15 area restaurants and caterers will provide samples of their homemade treats.

Fast Track will be open to the public on Wednesday. Admission will be $2 or two cans of food that will be donated to The Grace Network for distribution to the needy.

Witt said some of the “Taste” participants will stick around for the public night this year. She said she expects some will give out samples that night, but they likely will not have as many on hand as they will for the VIP night.

Trade shows in recent years were held in the Clocktower Building, but space in that building no longer is available. According to Witt, the new location on the same property will provide for larger booths and wider aisles, and it will keep Fast Track fresh because visitors will experience new surroundings.

The Lester Group, which owns the property, has made some improvements to the new location’s facade to impress visitors and “showcase a building in the community that’s available” to prospective companies, Witt said.

Parking spaces for Fast Track will be limited. Exhibitors and disabled people will be able to park in a lot near the building with access to Commonwealth Boulevard. Several other parking areas are nearby and uptown for others, although people might have to walk a slight distance.

Shuttles will be available for people to ride from parking areas to the show. Locations where visitors can wait for shuttles will be marked.

Exhibitors and visitors will not be allowed to park in a lot on Franklin Street used by employees of businesses in the Clocktower Building, Witt said.

“Parking is going to be our biggest hurdle, as it is every year,” she said.

But she feels confident that once people reach the expo, they will enjoy it.


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