By Grace Wyler
By GRACE WYLER
The recent announcement that the recession officially has ended was met largely with disbelief, but a number of Mahoning Valley businesses agree that the worst appears to be over.
More than 100 local businesses set up shop Thursday in the Covelli Centre for the Valley’s largest trade show. The 12th annual Business Showcase, hosted by the Youngstown/ Warren Regional Chamber, is one of the largest in the event’s history, organizers said.
Morale in the business community seems to have improved in the last year, said Ron James, director of sales for the Regional Chamber. The 2010 showcase featured several new businesses and garnered a interest from the service and retail sectors, indicating a positive turn in the economic climate, he said.
“There is a lot of variety in the businesses here this year,” James said. “We have some new members, and a lot of people come in who are interested in membership.”
The atmosphere at the event was cheerful as vendors chatted with one another, passing around baked goods and giveaways in an effort to make new business connections.
Attendees milled among the booths getting information from a range of companies, including local schools, health-care providers, hotels and financial-services firms.
Among the new businesses featured at the showcase was Kona Ice, a mobile frozen-treat franchise that opened June 1.
The festive truck, which specializes in tropical-flavored shaved ice, has been an immediate hit, said owner Tim Oswald. He added that the venture’s success is largely due to its modern take on a time-honored business that has become somewhat stale, Tim Oswald said.
“The image of ice-cream trucks needed a face-lift, so I thought I’d give it a shot,” he said. “The idea has branded very quickly — we have been very successful.”
Small businesses have become increasingly successful, James said, as entrepreneurs such as Oswald use innovative ideas to find niche markets. The business showcase helps introduce these new companies to potential new customers as well as to the Valley business community, he said.
“The event is a good networking opportunity,” James said. “It’s a way for companies to promote their businesses and get more exposure in our marketplace.”