Event coordinators are touting the benefits of the 22nd annual Johnstown Showcase for Commerce despite a dwindling number of exhibitors and attendees.
One-hundred and eight exhibitors are registered for the event, which runs Tuesday through Thursday. That total is down from 137 last year and 172 in 2010.
"There has been some uncertainty with budget cuts and the lagging economy," said Bob Layo, Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce president. "But we're fortunate the show has stayed on track and continues to produce great things for the area."
The event, billed as Pennsylvania's premier defense contracting exhibition, will take place at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. More than $3 billion in defense contracts has been awarded to area employers and more than 100 new companies have been relocated or started in the region since the Showcase's origin two decades ago.
"The defense industry has been the focus of the show since the early 1990s," Layo said. "But we also have representatives from accounting firms, real estate and banking, to name a few. It's all about making additional contacts and solidifying relationships."
Linda Thomson, president of the Johnstown Area Regional Industries, said a lot of small companies looking for networking opportunities attend the Showcase.
"We have all sorts of companies that exhibit at the show," Thomson said. "And they come back each year telling us this has value. It's a cross section of business and it will continue to be that way."
The event is part of the enduring legacy of the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown. U.S. Rep Mark Critz — who worked as an aide under Murtha — said the event is a staple of the city and region.
"Showcase for Commerce is our opportunity to show off the products and services offered across the region and a chance to build business-to-business relationships that create new contracts and jobs," Critz said in a written statement. "I look forward to this annual event and to the business synergy that occurs throughout the week."
A new Program Executive Officer Briefing, introduced last year, is among the event's highlights.
The briefing features high-ranking military acquisition officials discussing opportunities available for businesses. The key for the Showcase is finding new ways to draw contractors to Johnstown without the influence and aid of Murtha, Layo said.
Frank Kendall III — acting under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics — will be the keynote speaker at the John P. Murtha Breakfast on Thursday.
Major sponsors of the Showcase include BAE Systems, Boeing, Crown American Hotels, Concurrent Technologies Corp., DRS Technologies, General Dynamics, Kongsberg, Latrobe Specialty Steel Co., Lockheed Martin and Wessel & Co., among others.
More information is available online at www.johnstownchamber.com/showcase.
Organizers tout benefits of Johnstown Showcase for Commerce
Cambria County War Memorial (Daily American File Photo / May 18, 2012)