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Attendance, opinion and business potential point to … Best Showcase yet

Showcase Harrison County was immune from current economic trends Thursday. In fact, the fourth annual Showcase was the biggest and the best, exhibitors said.
‘Why? Who knows why?’ said Culligan’s Wayne Whalen, adding, ‘It could be a sign that the economy is coming back around.’
Whalen drummed up four tentative orders, twice as many as last year.
The Showcase has grown substantially each year, said event coordinator Sarah Turpin, the vice president of membership and public relations for the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County.
Visitors increased from 600 two years ago to 725 in 2002 and 1,000 this year. Last year, 66 exhibitors occupied 80 booth spaces. This year, 75 exhibitors were in 83 booths.
Among the newcomers was the Big-O Tires’ father-son team of Bill and Tom Walker. They’re partners in the Corydon location and bought the New Albany franchise in October.
‘I’ve been extremely pleased. I didn’t really know just what to expect. It’s just been a whole new group of people,’ Bill Walker said. ‘And I got a chance to see a lot of businessmen who I hadn’t met yet. I’m pretty sure we’ll continue to do this every year after this.’
Turpin was also pleased.
She began researching the concept for Showcase Harrison County years before the inaugural event in 2000. The biggest obstacle was finding a meeting place large enough. That place became the Colosseum at Caesars’ Bridgeport complex.
The event promotes Harrison County by providing exposure for local businesses and services. The venue, Caesars, provides the Colosseum plus a pool of tourists who might wander into Showcase while visiting the casino.
That was certainly the case this year. In fact, James Simpson of Auburndale, Fla., won the grand prize: a trip to Las Vegas. Simpson and other visitors were given entry forms after completing an electronic exit survey.
‘The survey will give us a lot of feedback. It gives us a great tool to work with and plan for the next year,’ Turpin said.
In search of continuous improvement, Showcase organizers rely on little changes, a lot of planning, and word of mouth.
‘Last year we decided to route the traffic so that all the booths got exposure,’ Turpin said. ‘We decided to drop the pipe and drapes so that people could see all the way across the Colosseum, and that generated more excitement. This year, we had no lulls during the day. It was steady traffic all day.’
Showcase also hosts seminars presented by the Small Business Development Center. ‘Accountability: Who, What and How,’ ‘Marketing Made Easy,’ and ‘Coaching Employees to Peak Performance’ drew a combined 65 ‘students.’
Of course, the primary attraction is the booths. And if Showcase Harrison County defies the economic climate, the same could be said of Corydon-based Eckart Supply Co.
Eckart Supply has attended every Showcase. Last year, the company, which supplied all the lighting, plumbing and electrical needs for Caesars, was in Chapter 11. This year the company is back and out of Chapter 11.
‘We’ve got some great employees and some loyal customers and some loyal vendors,’ said CEO Michael Bennett.
Showcase wasn’t just for local businesses. Louisville’s Advanced Document Solutions was also represented. The authorized Xerox dealer operates in seven Southern Indiana counties, including Harrison, and was hoping to make contacts and branch out, said Account Manager Marti Polk.
Whether coming from representatives of Natural Touch Spa, FGB Images or Bennett & Bennett Insurance, reviews were positive for Showcase Harrison County, and convention browsers seemed eager to do business.
The Showcase Committee has been chaired the last two years by Bill Taylor of Union Planters Bank.
Sponsors included: Quicksilver Resources, Caesars Indiana, Melhiser Endres Tucker CPAs, Lucas Oil Products Inc., Tyson Foods Inc. and First Harrison Bank.