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Fort Nelson putting on more than a show

Trade Show this weekend expected to attract 5,000
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When the Fort Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce Trade Show opens its doors this weekend, Rob Cheyne, office manager for Vector Geomatics, will be among those representing more than 100 businesses showcasing their products and services.

"It is extremely important for local businesses to connect with the general public and other service providers," he said. "Many people don't know about your business or services, so putting a friendly face to a company brand is huge for future opportunities."

This is the largest trade show for hundreds of kilometres around, with close to 5,000 people entering its doors annually. This year, the 18th annual show takes place May 3 and 4 at the Rec Centre.

Businesses and associations from all sectors of the economy will be there, including Fort Nelson Golf & Country Club, Northern Lights College, Northern Rockies Engineering and Fort Nelson Hospice Society. Community organizations such as the Fort Nelson Employment Centre, Fort Nelson Community Literacy Society, Fort Nelson Public Library and Fort Nelson Snowmobile and Motocross Club will also be there to spread awareness of their services.

Bev Vandersteen, the executive director of the Fort Nelson Chamber of Commerce, said the trade show brings together business and community, and ultimately looks to promote business and economic development in the Northern Rockies.

"It showcases local businesses, but also brings businesses from other communities to Fort Nelson, often products and services that aren't available locally," Vandersteen told the Alaska Highway News. "This exposes the community, the hospitality sector and other businesses to new visitors and customers."

Beyond highlighting local businesses, Vandersteen said the trade show is a showcase for Fort Nelson's friendly community, which will promote it as a potential destination for outside businesses and people.

"I am proud to say Fort Nelson is the friendliest community I know," she said. "We want people to want to come back, not just for the trade show, but to bring their families and visit or move here and establish new businesses."

Jaylene Arnold, economic development and tourism officer for the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, said it gives proprietors an opportunity to get out in the community and network with customers and potential customers.

"The Trade Show makes it possible for small businesses to meet and speak to thousands of customers, in one location," she said. "The Trade Show reminds the community of the strength that local businesses bring to our local economy by putting them front and centre."

Arnold said the trade show is also an opportunity for vendors from outside Fort Nelson to visit the community and provide access to products and services.

"At the 2013 trade show for example, there were automobile and recreational vehicle vendors who provided information and products where there is currently an absence of that type of supply," Arnold said.

"Trade shows are also a social affair - it's a great opportunity for residents to meet and converse with other members of the community. There are as many conversations in the aisles as there are between vendors and visitors."

Jason Whale, CEO of Vector Geomatics, said it is now an invaluable marketing tool. "It's a booth to raise awareness of our services and capabilities for our geomatics surveying firm in Fort Nelson. We're raising awareness of our company there. We're also hoping to gain support from local industries to use local vendors in the Fort Nelson region."

Doors open at the Rec Centre at 10 a.m. and the show runs through 6 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday.