STEUBENVILLE - Jeff Lyons is looking forward to the chance to meet some decision-makers in the local shale oil and gas industry during Tuesday's Business-to-Business networking event at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville.
"I don't know how huge it will be for a small store like me, but I see it as an opportunity," said Lyons, owner of Richmond Village Hardware. "This is a tough economy, and any opportunity to increase your business isn't to be ignored. We're a struggling small business, we've only been open a year and a half, so any chance we have to improve our business is helpful."
Business-to-Business, sponsored by Progress Alliance and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, is a chance for the local business community to get face time with shale industry representatives. The event will be held from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
PREPARING FOR EVENT — Working on the plans for Tuesday’s Business-to-Business networking event at St. Florian Hall are, from left, Donna Hrezo, Progress Alliance small business coordinator; Ed Looman, Progress Alliance executive director; and Kim Cline, RLF administrator and financial officer. -Linda Harris
Originally billed as an expo, it morphed into a full-scale networking opportunity after its local organizers realized the expo format typically left local business leaders feeling isolated and frustrated.
"We went to several expo-style events where we saw that happen - we heard small businesses complaining that it wasn't doing them any good to be there because they didn't have a chance to get in front of the people they needed to meet," said Ed Looman, Progress Alliance executive director. "Ours is going to be more of an opportunistic-type experience than a standard expo would deliver to local businesses."
Looman said it's a kind of entrepreneurial ice-breaker. He said local business people can use the time not just to talk business, but to hand out their cards, brochures and fliers, "anything they have."
"The idea is to give our local business people a chance to meet these people and talk about their services," he said. "I think one of the key elements is that we hope this is almost a get-to-know-Jefferson County type of event.
"It's a real opportunity for the local business community to learn more about how to do business with the shale oil and gas industries, to understand what they need to do to do business with them and get to know, or at least meet, some of the people they can do business with," he said.
Lyons said he doesn't figure his company is big enough to get the attention of an industry giant like Chesapeake Energy, "but they use a lot of sub-contractors and they're the one's I want to get hold of. I want to (connect with) the ones out in the field."
But Looman said big or small, there are opportunities to be had by local entrepreneurs.
"These shale companies are anxious to do business with local merchants, at least, that's what we're hearing, and we've compiled pretty in-depth lists of the types of things we're told they'll be looking to the local business community for. ... things like tires, truck repairs, security, catering, industrial supplies, welding services, construction services. This is kind of an awareness event, at least, that's my vision, to help these companies become aware of what Jefferson County has to offer in the way of services that can be of benefit to them once they're here and up and running."
Lyons said his family owned-and-operated shop already has seen an uptick from shale contractors searching for tools or hardware they need.
"I've been wanting to get hold of their bosses - let them know we're here and we have a lot of things in stock," he said. "If we don't have what they need, if they let us know we'll bring it in. We might even be able to do some short-range deliveries to wellpads."
Looman said that kind of interaction is exactly what they hope to promote at the Business-to-Business event.
"It's an opportunity for local business people to meet some of the companies that are going to be doing businesses in Jefferson County. It's an awareness event, it's not going to be your typical business expo."