Those who attend the Joplin Business Expo are transported “Back to the Future” with the theme “Most Excellent ’80s.”
The 29th annual business showcase held by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce opened Tuesday to the business community. Wednesday, the public is invited to explore the exhibits, register for drawings and wig out on all things ’80s from entertainment to clothing.
Staff at Missouri Southern State University have taken it to the max with a gnarly booth based on the logo of MTV, the 1980s rock video cable TV channel.
Big hair was everywhere, including on chamber president Toby Teeter. That dude wore the dark, curly locks and top hat of ’80s rocker Slash, lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses.
“This year is doubly important,” Teeter said of the expo. “This is a really a grand reintroduction into business networking” after a year when chamber activities were interrupted by COVID-19.
“For new people in Joplin, this is their first chance to walk around under one roof and get introduced to Joplin and all that’s new in Joplin. An example is the new dental school faculty and staff who are manning a booth here and getting their first taste of Joplin. It’s really exciting,” Teeter said.
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Saturday for the Kansas City University College of Dental Medicine, an $80 million addition to the Farber-McIntire campus of the KCU medical school.
The building is to be completed in spring 2023 with the first class to begin that fall, said Erinne Kennedy, director of pre-doctoral education for the dental school.
“We are already having our faculty participate in community leadership programs and community events like this one today,” she said.
Joplin’s EaglePicher Technologies, which earlier this year celebrated the success of Perseverance, a Mars rover equipped with EaglePicher batteries, also landed a spot at the event.
Susan Pugsley, small-business liaison officer for EaglePicher, said that while the company has been represented at the show for several years, this year she is focused on supplier diversity. She is looking for small-business suppliers such as those that are owned by veterans. “We have several current suppliers here,” she said of the expo.
Nate Rynas, vice president of supply chain for EaglePicher, said, “I think it’s very important for companies in the area to support the local economy. Obviously it’s a good marketing opportunity for us to get our name out there in the community, what kind of technologies we make and what we do. We are always looking for great talent,” he said of the expo.
A local IT service for business, SNC Squared, is an annual participant.
CEO John Motazedi, said that when he started the business in 2006, “I was told basically that to be successful, you need good relationships, and to have relationships, you need to get involved with the chamber.”
Since then, “we have been doing this (the expo) seven to 10 years, probably. We always like to have a booth. We always like to participate. We always like to go crazy,” he said, striking a pose in his ’80s rocker garb. “It is just about having a good time, meeting people and enjoying the community, building relationships and networking. That makes it all worth it.”
Businesses from outside Joplin also find a place at the expo, including the Note-Able Outdoor Living Store in Grove, Oklahoma. It is operated by Ken and Myra Noteboom.
“Somebody said we needed to be here. It’s a good place to show off the furniture,” Ken Noteboom said of the store’s outdoor furniture made by the Amish in Ohio.
The Notebooms operate their business as a mission.
“We wanted to hire people who are felons, people who want to get out of poverty, giving people a second chance. We have done that, and we do it all the time now,” he said. The Notebooms may have only two or three employees at a time, “but for the most part they go on to much better jobs, and that’s what we want.”
As part of the fun, contests are being held for best mullet, an ’80s haircut styled long in the back and short on the top; and best ’80s outfit. There is a glamour shot photo booth available with photos taken by the Athena Companies.
The expo will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Pavilion at Downstream Casino Resort. Admission is $5 for adults, and children are admitted free.