VISTA — Vista’s annual Business and Technology Expo, held at 1335 Park Center Drive on Oct. 22, was the biggest and busiest ever with 200 businesses attending, up from last year’s 142. The exhibitors ranged from the 13 participating local restaurants in the Taste of Vista presentation to worldwide shipping companies. Some big guns were there including SANDAG, the State Department of Commerce and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
Financial advisor John J. Aguilera, attending to promote his nonprofit consulting business, said the booming expo was a natural side effect of the sluggish economy. Before the slump, he said, companies could get along without much advertising, relying on what came through the door.
“That’s all changed,” Aguilera said. “There’s a lot more businesses right now trying to attract business. (The Expo) is an inexpensive way to get your name out and potentially grab some clients.”
Besides just the sheer growth, the expo had a decidedly new international feel to it. Thirty-two exhibitors attended under the banner of the World Trade Center, or WTC. Their debut at the expo marked the culmination of a four-year relationship between the WTC and North County, particularly Vista. Several WTC attendees conducted seminars for local businesses teaching them how to capitalize on foreign opportunities.
The international exhibitors ranged from sole proprietorships to large corporations. At the small end of the scale was Jan Storck, who founded Business Center Scandinavia to help open the door to high-quality manufactured goods from his native Sweden. He came to the expo hoping to link up with distributors.
“It’s so difficult because it’s far away, and it’s a complicated market with legal issues and all that,” Stock said. “I’m just looking for someone who can sell … because I don’t know anything about the market, really.”
At the other end of the size range was Air China, the 17th largest airline in the world, with hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“San Diego is a neighbor county to L.A., so of course we’d like to explore our business here,” spokesman Rui Yang said. “Also, there are a lot of companies that have focuses or commercial relations with Chinese companies. … By attending this kind of show we can give brand awareness to local people here and let them know they have a very efficient airline to choose from.”
“Many Vista companies are already doing international business,” Bella Heule, president and CEO of the San Diego WTC, said. “Many are poised, and the WTC offers tools such as advocacy, connections, communications, educational programs and matchmaking to make them more effective.”
Heule said the timing was excellent for the WTC to join with Vista in a big way. The cheap dollar makes exports of American goods easier, and the drop in domestic sales makes companies want to expand to international markets.
The WTC’s attendance at the expo in force was largely thanks to their relationship with Vista Chamber of Commerce’s new CEO, Paul O’Neal.
“When I came here, my goal was and remains to (be to) give the chamber members the opportunity to expand their ability to market whether it’s regionally or internationally,” he said. “I have a good relationship with the WTC and they were all eager to further that relationship with a partnership.”
While there were plenty of Vista businesses at the Expo, O’Neal took pride in the number of regional exhibitors he had brought to the show, asserting that it extended the marketing reach of local companies.
“You’ve got an economy that sucks,” O’Neal said. “People are just losing their shirts and some of them are just hanging on by their fingernails, but by working together, working with other companies and marketing to each other, we can survive. In fact, I think we can grow.”