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Panhandle gets some ‘nibbles’ at trade show

Business Development Corp. director participates in Chicago’s Fab Tech

November 27, 2011
By LINDA HARRIS - Business editor , The Herald-Star

WEIRTON - Efforts to market the Northern Panhandle to outside investors took the director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle to Chicago recently for Fab Tech, the nation's largest metal forming, fabricating and welding exposition.

BDC Director Pat Ford joined Keith Burdette, West Virginia Secretary of Commerce and executive director of the West Virginia Development Office, other state development personnel and representatives of Putnam and Morgan counties at the trade show.

In addition to manning the state's new trade show booth, they also met with potential prospects.

Article Photos

ATTEND TRADE SHOW — A week spent at Chicago’s Fab Tech, a trade show for metal forming, fabricating and welding interests, yielded a number of serious nibbles, according to Pat Ford, director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle. Ford, at right, is shown with Keith Burdette, West Virginia Secretary of Commerce and executive director of the West Virginia Development Office. - Contributed

Ford said they had a number of "serious nibbles," though it would be premature to identify the companies involved.

"We were able to showcase the Northern Panhandle," he said. "We were able to highlight the metal and metal-related industries we already have to show (prospects) the high concentration of businesses here and how strong the steel culture still is here. We showed national and international industries that West Virginia is still extremely strong in metal and metal-related industries, and why this is a great location for them to expand to."

Ford said they also unveiled a new marketing tool, a 55-page brochure identifying metal and metallurgical companies in the Northern Panhandle, including contact information and a business summary for each. It was designed and printed with funds from a $10,000 marketing grant from WVEDA.

Burdette had said the new booth is part of an effort "to be seen and to be heard."

"We can't expect companies to find us we have to go out and find them," he'd said. "We have to bring investors to West Virginia."

Ford said the new booth offers private meeting space where before there was none, as well as a half-dozen flat screens touting everything from testimonials from companies already doing business in the Mountain State to an interactive touchscreen where visitors could find out tidbits about business life in West Virginia things like business costs, available sites and the quality of life. The slick, high-tech appeal, coupled with a highly visible location at the heart of the lobby, helped them attract national and international attention, he said.

Ford said the trade show "helps us strengthen existing relationships with companies already located in West Virginia and accelerate new business relationships."

"When businesses are considering the Northern Panhandle, we talk to them about how they can capitalize on our access to a strong regional market, low business operating cost, skilled and dedicated work force and high quality of life," he said.

More than 30,000 visitors attended the trade show, he added.

"What was interesting was a couple of businesses showed interest simply because of the booth," he said. "We had not planned on meeting, they happened to come by and saw the booth. The state got us in one of the hottest spaces in the (show)."

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