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Santa Barbara, Calif., expo brings together businesses, government
[November 05, 2007]

Santa Barbara, Calif., expo brings together businesses, government

(Santa Barbara News-Press (CA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Nov. 3--Small businesses mixed with state and local government agencies at the 2nd annual Santa Barbara County Business Research Expo, which was held Friday at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion and sponsored by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara.

"I spoke with chambers of commerce from across the county last year and they told me the sector they most needed help with was networking between the private sector and the government, so we started this conference," said Nava.

Government agencies offered small businesses information on their benefits and insurance while private organizations advertised their loan options as well as upcoming business coaching seminars and networking mixers.

Many of those events will take place during the next two weeks and are intended as after-party gatherings for different business sectors, according to Keith Yeager, director of sales and marketing for the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce.

"Companies planned upcoming mixers after everybody meets here today," said Yeager.

Since many companies heard about the expo from the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce Web site, businesses attending the event approached Yeager asking for Internet visibility.

"The biggest difference between this year's expo and last year's is that Google's marketing has made the search engine a powerful business tool," said Yeager. "Local businesses see space on our online directory as key."

Many of those small businesses looking for exposure were also looking for government-contracted work, according to Bill Hornung, general services manager for the City of Santa Barbara Finance Department.

"We've mostly been approached for jobs to do landscaping, construction and interior office design," said Hornung.

Companies hoping to land government contracts included Santa Barbara-based Smart! Business Interiors, Santa Barbara Movers and James Johnson, a Santa Barbara native and SBCC alum, who recently moved his construction firm, James Johnson Construction, back to the South Coast after living in San Diego for a few years.

"I do high-end finished carpentry and I'm here today trying to get information on joining the government contracting scene," said Johnson.

"I came home since it's easier trying to network in a small town like Santa Barbara."

Nava got input from small businesses that benefited from the expo last year and plans to host it again next year. "We have a list of contacts and I'll call the businesses later to ask how we can improve the conference."

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