ALPENA - Business owners and employees from around Alpena participated in the first Business After Hours at the APlex Friday night. The event gave businesses a chance to connect with other businesses, something they don't have much of an opportunity to do during the Business Expo.
"This is for business to business interaction and networking because that doesn't tend to happen a lot on the actual day of the Expo," Jackie Krawczak, executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce said. "Some of our members really wanted more of that interaction. A lot of businesses have customers that are another business, so this is an opportunity for them to talk to each other and find that potential business client."
The event was invite-only to area businesses, and Krawczak said she was excited about the number of people in attendance.
"For this being our first year we were really surprised and pleased with the turnout," she said. "The number of people came showed us there really is interest in doing this."
Staples assistant manager David Powierski thought the Business After Hours event was a great opportunity and said he enjoyed talking with other businesses.
"I think it's a great idea," Powierski said. "We tend to lose the ability to talk to the businesses when we have the large groups of people showing up during the Expo. This gives us some time to talk to each other and be able to network. With Staples, for example, we get to talk to people about how we can help with their business and maybe share some ideas on how we all can help each other."
Pete Wilson, co-owner of Alpena Agency, said he thinks the event is a good opportunity for other business owners to talk with each other about what's happening in the community and where things are going with Alpena in the future, all while in a relaxed environment.
"In the regular show, you're consumed with talking to other potential customers, so this gives us the opportunity to meet everybody and take a few minutes to talk with each other," Wilson said. "From a community standpoint, anytime the local businesses get together and work together and understand each other better gives the opportunity for the community to go forward. We're all in this together. All these businesses are in the same environment trying to do the same thing; carve out a living, provide a good product to the community and see the community grow."
Business owners had a chance to get ideas for growth from one another, and find common ground with similar businesses in the area.
"In my eyes, this reduces some of the barriers we might otherwise have from a competition type standpoint," State Farm Agent, Neil Seabase, said. "There's a lot of us that have similar businesses here whether its the cellular phone business to the insurance world to whatever. It allows us to communicate in a non-competitive situation."
Hal Neiman, owner of Neiman's Family Market, said the event had been in the works for a while, and he was glad to see the number of businesses present. Neiman agrees with the idea there is a need to communicate with other businesses and appreciates the opportunity to shop locally for needed goods and services.
"This is a new idea, and I think it's always tough to get something new going like this, but ultimately I think this was a great idea," Neiman said. "Renewing connections to the local community is important. We're big on trying to shop locally and I think we'll find more businesses working with other businesses through events like these and working one-on-one with members and customers to lay the groundwork for a better community."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.