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Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo Draws Hundreds of Small Business Representatives

By Colin McEvoy on October 18, 2017

More than 200 people attended the Lehigh Valley Meet the Buyers Expo today, where they had the opportunity to connect with more than 50 professionals to discuss business opportunities, develop leads, and discuss procurement deals for products and services.

Held at the ArtsQuest Center at Steelstacks in Bethlehem, the bi-annual event allows small businesses to meet face-to-face with multiple government and private industry professionals in a “speed dating” style format, all in a single place.

“Everybody has been very busy meeting with the buyers and getting great referrals,” said Sally Handlon, president of Handlon Business Resources and a Meet the Buyers Expo steering committee member. “It’s looking like a great day in South Bethlehem.”

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) was among the sponsors of this event.

April Cobb of Phoenix Capital Associates, a Bethlehem-based staffing and IT firm, was among the small business representatives in attendance. Cobb said she has attended similar events in Philadelphia, and was surprised to find the Lehigh Valley expo was about the same size in terms of scale and attendance.

“I didn’t think the turnout would be this good,” Cobb said. “We’re meeting a log of fantastic companies. It’s been very valuable for us, and has opened up a lot of doors and a lot of opportunities.”

This marks the third time the Expo has been held, and the first time since 2015. Buyers at this year’s event included some of the Lehigh Valley’s largest companies.

Among them were Air Products, B. Braun, Capital BlueCross, Crayola, Guardian Life Insurance of America, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Lutron Electronics, Mack Trucks, Olympus, PPL, Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, St. Luke’s University Health Network, and UGI Utilities.

Dara Connelly, Supervisor of Supply Programs and Administration at PPL Electric Utilities, said this is her second time attending the expo as a buyer. During her first event two years ago, she connected with several different types of companies, including consultants, event planners, printers, and travel planning firms.

“It was very advantageous for us, and I’m seeing a lot of familiar faces again this year,” Connelly said. “We actually expect this year’s Expo to be even better for us because, having gone through it before, we’ve improved and refined our presentation and we’re even better prepared this time around than we were last time.”

Murtaza Jaffer, co-owner of EBC Printing, a Lower Macungie Township-based commercial print shop, attended this year’s Expo and called it one of the most valuable events in the entire Lehigh Valley.

“This provides people with a direct connection with buyers, and for myself, as a small- and minority-owned business, this is a perfect opportunity to meet with people, network, and make connections,” Jaffer said. “This is the support that helps small businesses like EBC Printing thrive in the Lehgih Valley.”

Buyers were available at tables set up on multiple floors of the ArtsQuest Center. Attendees had 3 to 5 minutes to talk to the buyers in a one-on-one setting, similar to a “speed-dating” style, then could move on to another table. Afterward, the Blast Furnace area was made available for further follow-up discussions.

Handlon expressed thanks to the nine sponsors of the expo, including LVEDC, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation, the Community Action Development Corporations of Allentown and Bethlehem, the Lehigh University Small Business Development Center, the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board, the Manufacturers Resource Center, the Nazareth-Bath Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Slate Belt Chamber of Commerce.

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Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

By the Numbers
$43.3 Billion

2020 Gross Domestic Product

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City Center Lehigh Valley
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10.6% of Labor Force
Employed in Manufacturing

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$3.8 Billion

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14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

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69th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. by population

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10,754 degrees awarded by Lehigh Valley colleges (2017-18 academic year)

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149,000

Population between ages 18 and 34

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