Oil & Gas Expo to feature B-to-B emphasis on May 21

Posted May 2, 2011

By Michael Bradwell

Observer-Reporter

For the past three years, the Tri-County Oil & Gas Expo has used several themes, ranging from landowners' issues to work force and local business tie-ins to bring the region and Marcellus Shale gas industry together in daylong networking events.

The expo, which began in Greene County in November 2008 and moved to the Washington County Fairgrounds a year later, will reprise its business-to-business format on May 21 to demonstrate opportunities available for small businesses and entrepreneurs, particularly those in Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.

"It's pretty much taken on a life of its own," said Andrew Corfont, assistant vice president of Community Bank and one of the original organizers of the expo events.

Corfont and Community Bank Chief Executive Officer Pat McCune said last week that the May 21 event, which is free and open to the public, has already been sold out to vendors.

According to Corfont, this year's expo has expanded to a total of five buildings at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Arden. With 265 vendors at the inside sites, and another 25 staging outside exhibits, Corfont said vendor attendance has grown by about 75 companies from last year's event.

While the expos have always drawn well from the immediate area, and have featured the majority of the oil and gas drillers and supporting companies doing business in the area, Corfont said the expo is expanding its regional reach this year.

"We're seeing more people in bigger numbers from West Virginia, north of Pittsburgh and from Central Pennsylvania," he said.

He noted that the growing presence of the oil and gas industry here has created an evolution among many local businesses approach to it.

"I think people are realizing the way they were doing business over the years had to totally change" with regard to the gas industry, he said.

Corfont noted that in Waynesburg, Mickey's Men's Store, which had always featured men's dress and casual clothes as well as work clothes, has altered its emphasis.

"Where Mickey's maybe sold one suit a week, now they might be selling eight pairs of Metatarsal boots a day," he said in explaining the new demand from customers working in the gas fields.

The entrepreneurial aspect of business and the way it responds to the needs of the gas industry will receive special treatment at this year's expo.

Doug Benns, interim president of the National Association of Entrepreneurship, a 6,000-member organization based in Cleveland and Washington, D.C., said NAE will produce a film about the business opportunities available from the Marcellus Shale gas industry. A crew will film segments at the expo to include in the production.

"It will be a fact-based look at what the Marcellus is providing from the energy, national security and free-enterprise aspects," Benns said Thursday. "It's an educational piece, and we feel it's been underreported."

Benns said NAE is working with a production company from Cleveland and said the organization will market the film to cable television stations, as well as screen it for its membership events.

The Tri-County Oil & Gas Expo, which is free and open to the public, will be held May 21 at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

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