Friday, October 05, 2007

SchmoozeWeek

SchmoozeWeek

This was a big week for me in terms of networking events. Some are more interesting than others, but you just never know what kind of leads you're going to get.

Monday began the week on a sombre note, with the visitation for a colleague's husband who died in a motorcycle accident in East Saint Louis.

Things picked up on Tuesday with the St. Louis Business Expo at the St. Charles Convention Center. Yes, I drove out there; I had a load of stuff for our exhibits and "Contacts for Contracts" seminars to haul. Speakers from a variety of Federal agencies, the State of Missouri, and two major local prime contractors (Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and DRS Sustainment Systems) provided great information on how to do business with the government.

Thursday was pretty full, with the monthly St. Louis Small Business Networking Breakfast at the Heritage House Apartments (2800 Olive St.) early in the morning, bookended by the Matt Lassiter talk just around the corner at Harris-Stowe State University's intimate Emerson Auditorium in the evening.

And today, Friday, I made it over to the Renaissance Grand Hotel Ballroom for the Mayor's Business Celebration Luncheon.

Each event has a different kind of focus and audience; the Biz Expo includes all kinds of small business people and (perhaps even moreso), folks trying to sell products and services to small businesses, but with the Contacts for Contracts angle you get a lot of government contracting specialists whose orientation is toward helping the small businesses try to succeed. At the breakfasts, you get a variety of small businesses plus, again, some service-providers, not to mention the new small business reporter for the Post-Dispatch.

The evening reception for Matt Lassiter, whose book The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South is pretty popular in social science circles these days, attracted a different crowd. There were numerous Harris-Stowe, SLU and UMSL profs, plenty of starving students (undergrad and grad alike) from the sponsoring schools, plus faculty from SIU-E and Webster, also sponsors; and Chris Chadwick of FOCUS St. Louis, yet another sponsor of the talk.

This was the first event of this type for the St. Louis Metropolitan Research Exchange, a loose affiliation of academic researchers interested in St. Louis, which is led by Todd Swanstrom from SLU, Terry Jones from UMSL, and Mark Abbott from Harris-Stowe, with participation from other departments at those schools as well as SIU-E and Webster. (WashU faculty are not currently represented in the group, owing to the passing of the late architecture prof Jackie Tatom.) In any case, the talk was well-attended and suggests good things for the future of this consortium of academics.

Then, there's today's big luncheon at the convention hotel. This annual event has grown and grown, so that almost every major player in the local development community is represented, from small businesses to big developers, along with the politicians and economic development professionals (which I guess is where I fit). St. Louis Business Journal publisher Ellen Sherberg ran a tight ship, keeping things close to on-schedule. While I sometimes question whether these feel-good sort of events are really a good use of time, they do provide an opportunity to make or renew contact with a lot of people in a short time. Also, I did learn about a number of businesses and developers, large and small, who were receiving awards but were not previously familiar to me.

Anyway, it's been quite a full week!

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