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2008 Business Market Show a bright spot in a gloomy economy

By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor SPRINGFIELD With today's uncertain economic news, there was one definite bright spot last week: attendance and participation was up at the annual Business Market Show. Russell Denver, the president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, said he has received "good feedback" from exhibitors about the number of people who attended the show and the networking that took place at the MassMutual Center on Wednesday. Denver said the number of attendees ranged somewhere from 3,500 to 4,000 people. The number of exhibitors was up over last year as well as the number of booth space sold. "This is a very viable show," Denver told Reminder Publications. He explained the purpose was to connect local businesses with local goods and services before they look at options outside of the region. Exhibitors ranged from media outlets, advertising firms and local colleges to employment firms, banks and high tech companies. Besides the exhibitions, the show featured a breakfast with guest speaker Steven Antonakes, the Commissioner of banks, and a series of business seminars conducted throughout the day. Besides the usual assortment of shopping bags, pens and other giveaways, the show featured two bars with areas to relax, free hairstyling by the DiGrigoli Salon and School of Cosmetology, free back massages by Branford Hall Career Institute, an opportunity to play "Deal or No Deal" at the TV22 booth, a micro-brew beer tasting and a "Taste the Market" segment in which a number of exhibitors featured free food. Reminder Publications was an exhibitor with its now-signature giveaway of free ice cream from J.B.'s Ice Cream in East Longmeadow. As it has been in past years, the market show is a place where new products and services are introduced. Jay Nomakeo of Western Mass. Golf was at the show riding a Segway, a new feature at Mill Valley Golf Course in Belchertown. Nomakeo said the owners of the course have bought four of the personal transportation devices and are using them instead of traditional golf carts. He said the Segways are seen as a way to attract younger people to the game and within 60 days three or four other golf courses will be including them as well. The Segways are modified to have an attachment to hold a bag of clubs and have no problems going up hills, he added. People who rent the Segways are given a 20-minute lesson on their use. Laura Myers, the director of Ener-G-Save, said response to the energy saving program had been "fabulous" at the show. A program of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, it provides free energy audits to homeowners. Since its launch in January, there have been 1,040 homeowners who have had their heating system, hot water heater, appliances and insulation analyzed. The homeowners receive recommendations and may be eligible for rebates. Myers said that 44 individuals had signed up at the show and 34 companies asked that Ener-G-Save come into their business to explain the program to their employees. Animals were even part of this year's show with the Zoo at Forest Park bringing in a baby kangaroo and African fox to delight attendees. Immortalizing your pet in a formal portrait is the service offered by a new business, Long Leash Pet Photography. Mary McCarthy said her photographer husband John has been in business for about a year and a half and has taken portraits of dogs, cats, birds and horses, either in his Wilbraham studios or on location. So far, she said, the most unusual request has been a portrait of a pet alligator.

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