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a 'roaring' opportunity
Story by Susan O'Connor, Photo by Courtney Fitzwater

Steve Meridith believes in the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce as a tool for business. A chamber board member, Meridith is chair of this year’s Business Expo, one of the best opportunities anywhere in the state to market a business.

“Where else can a business be face to face with over 6,000 visitors for $275,” he said enthusiastically. “It is a unique opportunity.”

Set for April 22 at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center, this is the largest expo of its kind in Arkansas and the 21st year for the event. Historically, between 250 and 275 businesses set up booths to highlight products and services, as well as to mingle with potential customers. Booths are highly decorated based on a theme, Meridith said, which generates excitement. This year’s theme is The Roaring Twenties.

“It is really such a social event,” Meridith said. “Business owners, CEOs and top management are all there.”

The morning will begin with a Power Breakfast, followed by a performance by the Nettleton Jazz Band. At noon, a luncheon will be held, with Ernie Passailaigue, director of the Arkansas lottery as keynote speaker. At 1 p.m., the doors open to the public and there is no charge for entry.

Meridith emphasized that booth space is still available.

“Some people will pay to reserve the same booth space at the end of the expo,” he said. “The public awareness is that awesome.”

Though a member for many years, Meridith became truly active in the chamber in 2007. “When I got involved, I got involved,” he said.

An award-winning agent/owner for Allstate and a Jonesboro native, Meridith has served on the chamber’s ASU Committee and now is chairman of the chamber’s Business Network Committee.

“The reason I’m in the chamber is to give back,” Meridith said. “The chamber is a partner in my business.”

And giving back is important to Meridith. Each year, he co-hosts a golf tournament to benefit the local ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) foundation in honor of his grandfather, who died of ALS, and he is co-chair of the United Way of Northeast Arkansas insurance committee. He is also active at Nettleton Baptist Church.

What was the catalyst for you to get really active in the chamber? You get what you put into it. As a chamber partner, I truly feel that you must be active to receive all the benefits of membership.

If you were trying to convince someone to get involved, what would be your top three talking points? Networking, business exposure and opportunity.

Why do you think Jonesboro’s business expo has been so successful? The cost of spreading the word about a business through advertising and marketing is typically very expensive. Presenting products and services to thousands of consumers at the same time rarely happens. Business Expo offers that opportunity at a very low cost.

If you could spend an hour with any businessman in the world, who would it be? Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google.

In your years in the business world, what is the toughest lesson you’ve had to learn? Making decisions based on sound judgment, rather than enthusiasm. In some instances, you have to remove emotion from decisions for the betterment of overall company goals. Tough to do, but required.

What is the last book you read? My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers