LINCOLN, Maine — Frank Greenleaf offers everything from bounce houses to wood chippers at his General Rental Center, and that’s only about 45 minutes from Lincoln, he says.
That’s why Greenleaf and his wife, Deanie, both of Milford, hauled a display from their Old Town business to the 2012 Lincoln Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo on Saturday — to garner some new customers and show other businesses that they mean business.
“A lot of people don’t realize how close we are to here,” Frank Greenleaf said Saturday. “The biggest thing with us is awareness — of what we do, what we offer — and we’re practically in people’s backyards.”
General Rental was among 67 Penobscot and Aroostook county businesses, social service agencies, volunteer organizations and medical facilities to staff booths on Saturday. As many as 1,800 people attended, Chamber Executive Director Traci Gauthier said.
“It was a good turnout,” Gauthier said. “I was selling booth space right up until Friday night.”
Usually the expo gets 40 to 50 vendors, Gauthier said. As the Chamber’s largest single annual fundraiser, the expo highlighted the revitalized 120-member Chamber of Commerce and its efforts to promote Lincoln Lakes region businesses, networking and business-to-business support.
Several vendors said the event gave them the most exposure they have had from a single event all year. Bob Pushard, owner of Hometown Newspapers LLC, used the event to promote his North Country magazine and his new Penobscot Valley Explorer weekly newspaper and its accompanying website, pvexplorer.com.
“We are trying to make our news as accessible as we can,” Pushard said. “We are working toward making it a more social media-oriented.”
“This has been great for us because we haven’t had a chance to get into all of Lincoln’s businesses,” said Steve Brown, Hometown’s chief exploring officer.
Students and teachers from Northern Penobscot Tech of Lincoln attended the expo to promote the school. Whenever possible they were given booths near businesses offering their specialties to give the students experience with entrepreneurs while showing businesses where they can get part-time workers, said Cheryl Russell, the Chamber’s executive director.
The event also featured a dozen trucks and emergency response vehicles to highlight the area’s commitment to the transportation industry, which faces a shortage of drivers, Gauthier said.
Rep. Beth Turner, R-Burlington, and Rep. Jeffery Gifford, R-Lincoln, got exposure of a different sort: They used the event to listen to residents.
“I can’t say I heard one negative comment, which was very nice,” Turner said.
Organizers held a gathering of vendors at the academy on Friday night to help businesses network, Russell said.
In response to feedback from attendees, next year’s expo likelywill feature more children-centered events held in the cafeteria, Russell said. Organizers cut down somewhat on children’s events because they wanted the expo to be more businesscentric.