GroBiz heads event toward new horizons

Organizers shake things up to pump new life into the Expo.

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U-B photo by JEFF HORNER A new layout of vendor booths and a center stage at center court of the Dietrich Dome greets traffic Saturday morning at BizGro 2011.

WALLA WALLA - Of the several major changes to the chamber's trademark event formerly known as the Business Expo & Home Show, it was probably the new name and layout that was most noted by spectators at Saturday's all-day event at the Dietrich Dome.

"What would the chamber look like if we opened it as a new chamber? Because business models are changing," Susan Schaefer, vice president of operations, asked.

In answer to Schaefer's hypothetical questions, the Business Expo & Home Show is now called GroBiz. Though it was obvious from the strong showing of home vendors on Saturday that GroBiz also still catered to homeowners.

Another notable change was the end of the straight aisles of what usually was close to 70 vendors throughout the Dietrich Dome.

Instead, about 48 vendors were lined along the perimeter or placed in small inner islands that surrounded a center stage, also new this year.

"It (the old Business Expo) was good for some folks, but I think it seemed like the event was a bit tired," said Dave Woolson, chamber president and CEO.

Throughout the day, the stage was used to allow vendors to talk about their services, hold raffles and give public service announcements.

What was missing from the new GroBiz when compared to previous Business Expos was about 20 vendors, with a total of 48 vendors on Saturday.

On the flip side, GroBiz added a full-day Friday conference, which featured author and consultant Brad Worthley, who presented "Ten Critical Steps to Make or Break Your Business." His talk was co-sponsored by Walla Walla Community College.

Other conference programs included "Branding for Success in a Closely Held Market," "Using Social Media to Grow Your Business," a "Start-Up Boot Camp," and several other programs.

Lecturers from Key Technology and Nelson Irrigation also gave a presentation on "Growing Global Markets."

"It was terrific; it was a street-level view of developing international markets," Woolson said.

Also missing this year was a Sunday event, which was dropped, and the price. Last year's Business Expo was $2 for adults. This year it was free to all.

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