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Professionals lock hands, swap business cards at networking expo

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Lots of hands were shaken Wednesday at the Dulles State Office Building, and lots of business cards were swapped.

Many of the 65 exhibitors at the Business Networking Expo, such as Holly C. Boname, showed up early to do some mingling of their own before camping out at booths at the expo, hosted by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce.

The marketing and communications coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County chatted with professionals who might sign up for the extension’s “Farm to Institution” meet-and-greet from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 6 at Jefferson Community College.

Mrs. Boname, who had conversations with representatives from Renzi Foodservice, Samaritan Medical Center and the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, said the art of networking is about finding how professionals can help each other out.

“To me it’s all about helping them, which helps me do my job better,” she said.

She spoke with a representative from First Step Day Care of Watertown, for example, about how the business could benefit by offering children fresh snacks purchased from farms.

“A producer that sells carrots to a day care benefits, and the business benefits by promoting healthy food for parents,” Mrs. Boname said.

Others at the expo asked questions about the Affordable Care Act at a booth sponsored by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. For most businesses, enrolling in an Excellus plan offered through the recently launched health care exchange won’t make sense, said Kathy M. Converse, account executive for Excellus. Health care plans offered by the exchange have to meet low-income criteria.

“Businesses need to have under 20 employees and pay a 50 percent premium to enroll as an employer, and there is an awful lot of paperwork involved,” she said. “The only reason (for businesses) to go to the exchange is if you have a subsidy from the government, and we encourage employers to keep their current plans unless they qualify.”

Colorful scrubs designed for medical professionals were showcased by the Scrub Hub, a Watertown business started in August on outer Washington Street by Bonnie M. Herman. Also talking with professionals was her 21-year-old daughter, Emily E., who helps manage the business. She said word about the designer scrubs has spread quickly since the business opened. Scrubs are marketed for nurses, dentists, doctors, cafeteria workers and cooks. On Wednesday, most of the scrubs featured were pink to pay homage Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

“People are realizing they don’t need to wear all-white scrubs for nursing,” Miss Boname said. “When a nurse walks into an office with a new outfit, everyone asks about it.”

Another first-time exhibitor was Richard C. Lucas, manager ofthe Sign Shop, a division of McQuade & Bannigan in Watertown. Mr. Lucas, who spoke to about a dozen people during the expo’s first hour, pointed out that signs will always be in demand.

“We just had a soldier’s wife walk by and ask about a ‘welcome home’ sign for her husband, who will return in a couple of weeks” from Afghanistan, he said.

Expo sponsors also included the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, Rose & Kiernan Insurance, Westelcom, Stephens Media Group, Community Bank, Jain Irrigation, STAT Communications, Visual Technologies, North Country CW 14/31, My ABC 50, WRVO Public Media, the North Country’s Premier Housing Option, Coca-Cola and the Watertown Daily Times..

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