IMPERIAL—Businesses and residents from all over the Valley gathered at the Imperial Valley Expo on Thursday night for the 15th annual Business Showcase, an event filled with music, food, prices and networking opportunities.
The aisles were filled with people who exchanged business cards and greetings while others, like George McFaddin, were just looking at the many booths, he said,
“It’s pretty nice,” said the El Centro Elementary School District trustee, “you don’t realize what the Valley has until you see it (all) in one spot.”
Some 100 businesses were at the event, said Jeanette McLaughlin, the event’s coordinator, who explained that at least five businesses joined the Imperial Valley Joint Chambers of Commerce just to be part of the event, meet the public and network.
And while perhaps not all of the Valley’s businesses were present, the event did summon representatives from many of the county’s businesses and organizations, such as the Joint Strike Fighter Coalition.
The coalition, which continues its effort to see the Navy’s F35C Joint Strike Fighter squadron based at Naval Air Facility El Centro, was gathering signatures at the event.
“It’s going well; there is a lot of interest,” said Imperial City Manager and coalition member Marlene Best.
She noted that the draft environmental impact statement listing the preferred alternative of the fighter jets has been postponed and could be ready in April.
“We see it as a good thing,” said Best about the document’s postponement and explained that this could mean that the federal government is considering more factors in the decision.
Another organization present was the Imperial County Film Commission, which was promoting the Imperial Valley Film Festival now set for August.
Charla Teeters, the commission’s executive director, also confirmed that skateboarding legend and acclaimed filmmaker Stacey Peralta will be visiting the Valley to present his movie, “Bones Brigade,” as part of the Film Forward Film Festival.
The schedule is finalized and the festival will run from Feb. 26 to March 1, she said, and added screenings will be held in Mexicali and various venues in the Valley including Slab City.
Meanwhile, and on a different aisle, attendees were buying raffle tickets from Denise Rogers, who explained there were cash awards of $250, $500 and $1,000.
The first prize of the night went to Joel Ohnstad, Rogers & Rogers Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealer Internet director.
He was apprehensive about buying a ticket at first, Ohnstad said, but his co-worker James Canada convinced him to buy one.
“Now he (Canada), wants 20 percent,” said Ohnstad with a laugh. “He might get a lunch; if he’s lucky.”
Nearby, the city of El Centro was promoting the business incubator, a facility funded by the economic development arm of the city that offers office-like spaces for small business.
“We only have four spaces left,” said Deborah Harold, community development specialist. She noted the incubator’s water, sewer and trash are subsidized by the city.
The event wasn’t only about businesses organizations and programs, but also about grabbing a bite and learning about the Valley.
And snowbird Sharon Zimmerman, who’s been in the Valley for about a week, was getting exactly that from the event.
The Business Showcase “makes us aware of what there is in the area,” said Zimmerman.
There were also locals present, like Brawley resident Karla Jimenez, who comes with her family every year.
Accompanied by her 2-year-old nephew, Michael Graham, the 17-year-old noted that the event is a tradition for her family.
“It’s a fun time for the family (and) an opportunity to see what’s new in the Valley,” said Karla. When asked what she liked the most about the Business Showcase, she smiled and promptly responded, “I think probably the food, I’m not going to lie.”
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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