For fifteen years, the Portage Chamber of Commerce has held their community-business expo known as the Portage Community and Business Night. This year, a whopping 85 businesses showed up to promote their products and services to over 800 business people and community members, furthering the relationships between Portage, its citizens, and its businesses.
The event featured a scavenger hunt, multiple raffles, wacky photo opportunities, great local food, and an entertaining DJ to lead the festivities. At its core, however, the event was all about forging new partnerships and encouraging mutually beneficial relationships between individuals and businesses.
“The community gets a lot out of it,” explained Nancy Simpson, Executive Director for the Portage Chamber of Commerce. “[There are] several businesses that many do not know much about, so they’re allowed to put out their information, they’re allowed to put out discount coupons, they’re allowed to put out flyers.”
Nonprofits and businesses alike participated in the evening. For Porter Regional Hospital, it was a unique opportunity to educate citizens with the ultimate goal of improving the health of the community as a whole.
“What we’re trying to do is educate the community, educate them on issues that they should be aware of,” said Karin Birchel, Regional Community Programming Coordinator at Porter Regional Hospital. “For example, we have had a lot of people coming up and asking about the [sleep apnea] masks we have on display.”
The Porter booth also featured information about stroke and heart health as well as a mobile appointment app that many can now use to their benefit.
The event also proved valuable for a smaller nonprofit, Hannah’s Hope. Known for the construction of an accessible park in Portage, this organization decided to participate for the first time this year because of the unique opportunity to forge partnerships.
“We joined the Portage Chamber this year, so we looked at it as an opportunity to get our name out amongst the other businesses that are affiliated with the Chamber,” said Scott Carr, Treasurer at Hannah’s Hope. “A lot of people kind of know about us - [now] they know more about the playground which is nice...We just try and build relationships to foster some sponsorships or interaction between all of our businesses.”
After having the opportunity to engage with hundreds of community members, the businesses were able to have a more laid-back networking experience at the “After Hours” event.
“It’s great for businesses in the community to know other businesses in the community,” explained Simpson. “At this 'After Hours' - which is only the vendors here - they will be able to really network with each other and try to see how they can do business with each other.”
The “After Hours” part of the evening was the opportunity for businesses to find other local products and services that meet their needs. This is just another way that businesses engage in the self-sustainable, cyclical structure of the local economy that makes up the livelihoods of so many people.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Simpson. “It’s a viral circle: the community needs the businesses and the businesses need the community.”
To learn more about the Portage Chamber of Commerce, visit their website.