SANTA MARIA, Calif. — The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce held its Business Expo Thursday at the Radisson Hotel.

The annual event allowed local businesses the opportunity to showcase their products and services to not only other businesses, but also the public as well.

“One of the real core tenants of a Chamber of Commerce is we’re a connector and a convener,” said Chamber President/CEO Glenn Morris. “We’re about bringing people together. It’s been a little difficult to do, you know, in the same ways over the last couple years. Today is one of those opportunities that were able to bring people back together and help reconnect and rebuild those relationships.”

For three hours, businesses were able to gain exposure, enforce branding, build their customer base, and network with other area business owners.

“It’s everything to a business owner,” said Donna Randolph, owner of Donna Randolph State Farm Insurance Agency. “To be able to see people in person and to be able to have that direct contact it impacts our business.”

Throughout the day, hundreds of people filled the Radisson’s ballroom and atrium area, signaling a dramatic return for the popular event. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Business Expo was last held about two-and-a-half yearss ago in Sept. 2019.

“It makes you feel so good,” said Randolph. I’ve given probably a hundred-plus hugs. We’re all in this together and it’s nice to be able to feel like you’re not on an island and be able to reach out.”

According to the Chamber, about 70 businesses took part in this year’s Expo.

In addition to businesses, there was also local non-profit organizations, schools and other entities. Each one had a booth set up at the site, providing them a chance to speak face-to-face with attendees.

“The whole purpose of the business expo is for these folks to get exposure,” said Morris. “Businesses that participate, for some of them, they are looking to meet the people in the public, as they’re looking for customers, while others are looking for other businesses that they can partner with, or maybe they need a new vendor, or they’re looking for some strategic relationship, and so we’re looking for those kind of connections to be made.”

Visitors who attended certainly did not walk about empty-handed. They were able to receive free giveaways and product samples from participating businesses.

“And I love it,” said visitor Juan Ramirez, a mortgage lender from Paso Robles. “I think it’s such a great idea. I’ve asked a couple of business owners to shake their hands and be able to interact with them and it’s been amazing and it’s been such a great experience.”

For more information on the Santa Maria Valley Chamber, click here.