‘Optimism’ on exhibit during local chamber’s 1st post pandemic Business Expo

Hundreds filed through Lakota West High School's giant main hallway Tuesday to see area business exhibits at the West Chester\Liberty Chamber Alliance's first expo since 2019. The 2020 expo was cancelled due to precautions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
Hundreds filed through Lakota West High School's giant main hallway Tuesday to see area business exhibits at the West Chester\Liberty Chamber Alliance's first expo since 2019. The 2020 expo was cancelled due to precautions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

WEST CHESTER TWP. — One the largest business expos in the region attracted a crowd Tuesday and exhibited something not seen much since the spring 2020 onset of coronavirus — optimism.

That was the general mood among the hundreds of public visitors to Lakota West High School who came to walk through and view dozens of area business exhibitions for the first West Chester/Liberty Chamber Alliance Business Expo since 2019.

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“It’s unbelievable and better than we expected,” said Joe Hinson, president and CEO of the chamber, as he took a short break from the expo housed in the giant, main atrium area of the West Chester Twp. high school.

“We weren’t sure,” said Hinson, reflecting on what the chamber expected after restarting the expo since the pandemic. “But now what we hear from both the exhibitors and the people attending that this is great getting back together (in person).”

The Business Expo included retailers, service providers, health related industries, financial institutions, restaurants, hotels, educational institutions, nonprofits and a variety of other businesses and organizations, as well as health screenings and food trucks.

The chamber alliance is the region’s third largest chamber, representing the interests of over 750-member businesses and their more than 25,000 employees in West Chester and Liberty townships.

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The chamber’s partnership with the Lakota Local School District, which enrolls 16,800 students and is the largest suburban district in Southwest Ohio, has seen the annual expo held at Lakota West since 2019.

Kara Whitesell, a local real estate agent, was one of hundreds who filed through during the four-hour, afternoon event. She said it was “very similar” to the expo’s last event in 2019.

Coming as the coronavirus shows some signs of fading in the region, Whitesell said there was an optimistic mood among the crowd.

“It’s catching up with people you haven’t seen in a long time, and there is a little more excitement than usual,” she said.

Aaron Wiegand, community development director with West Chester Twp., helped with the township’s exhibits, and said “there’s a lot of energy in there.”

“After the pandemic, they are excited to see people again and to see the business (exhibits) out and about. It’s been good foot traffic and just a festive mood,” Wiegand said.