Daily Archive for November 13 2009
The column below about the Alliance’s Speed Networking with the Stars event from State Journal Editor Dan Page appears in this week’s edition.
Business is built on relationships, and the Charleston Area Alliance put together its first Speed Networking with the Stars event Nov. 8 to create meet-and-greet opportunities.
Many who attended the event at the Charleston Civic Center called it a success — and so did Matt Ballard, president and CEO of the Alliance. He said Suddenlink, the principal sponsor for the event, has signed on for two more years.
The concept was simple: In early September, the Alliance started recruiting Charleston area business executives and community leaders — the “stars,” so to speak — to meet with young professionals. The round-robin format called for younger professionals to stop at a station for three minutes — enough time to exchange business cards and greetings with a star — and then move on to the next station. All told, about 180 people took part in the event.
It was a high-velocity Business After Hours with more structure and a purpose: make connections.
Despite a few glitches, the system worked. I spoke to several who attended the session, and they were pleased with the opportunity to meet key business decision-makers.
“You just can’t get that many players in one room in this state,” a young woman commented.
It was an excellent mix of seasoned professionals. They represented higher education, banking, law, marketing, energy, technology, philanthropy, financial services, the arts, health care and small businesses. And political leaders were there, too: state Sens. Truman Chafin, Brooks McCabe, Dan Foster and Corey Palumbo, Delegate Carrie Webster, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and several Kanawha County and Charleston officials.
From a reporter’s perspective, it was an informative evening.
Here’s an example:
Gene Papa, a native of Clarksburg, owns Central Van & Storage, which he bills as West Virginia’s largest moving company. Law firms and other businesses use his company when they pack up and relocate. So do families. And so does the West Virginia University football: Central Van & Storage carries the football team’s equipment to away games. A member of the WVU staff travels with the Central crew to game sites.
Papa said his family was in the moving business in Clarksburg, but he wanted to establish his own business. He headed south to manage his own operation in Poca.
Papa expanded his business from the Charleston area, and he now has operations in Parkersburg, Clarksburg and Pittsburgh. All told, he has 125 full-time employees.
Pittsburgh, he said, has been a special challenge.
“I pay more in property taxes on one operation in Pennsylvania than I do on all three in West Virginia,” he said.
To make matters worse, he said, government there makes business difficult. West Virginia may well have a reputation for having a challenging business climate, but he said Pennsylvania is in its own league.
I met young West Virginia natives who are eager to build their lives in their home state, and newcomers to the Mountain State who have launched their careers here.
A young Charleston native aspires to a career in political consulting. A college fund-raiser was looking for connections. A young Charleston native has returned home to build his culinary career, and he was reacquainting himself with the community.
I have been impressed with many young West Virginians I’ve had the privilege to meet the past few years, and the Alliance event reinforced that impression.
Before the event, the Alliance suggested we would have 20 to 25 encounters lasting three minutes each. I believe most of us made that many contacts.
The Charleston Area Alliance may be uniquely capable of putting together such a large event in West Virginia, but I believe other chambers of commerce may be able to do something similar. The Speed Networking concept was fresh, enjoyable and rewarding. It was a good idea that paid off for a significant number of people. The Alliance plans to improve the product and roll it out again.
The Alliance is in the midst of organizing its business mission and cultural tour to China in April 2010.
The trip is designed to assist local businesses in identifying new markets and increase exports from West Virginia around the world. A cultural tour track also is available for spouses or for those who want to experience the wonders of China.
Please join us at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Charleston Area Alliance, 1116 Smith St., for an orientation meeting.
We will be offering a series of expert-led seminars for participants of the business mission & cultural tour of China. These seminars will focus on:
- Chinese culture
- Chinese business practices
- Basic Chinese language skills
- Traveling in China: What You Need to Know
The Alliance is now accepting reservations for the Business Mission & Cultural Tour of China. To join the Alliance on this nine-day, all-inclusive trip to Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, which will expose participants to the global economy and to the historic and cultural wonders of China, contact Jeri Adkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (304) 340-4253.
Space is limited and the deadline for reservations is Dec. 15, 2009.