PLATTSBURGH An event that has been heralded as the business networking opportunity of the year will return to the city next week in celebration of its 20th year. The Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce will host Business Expo 2008 Thursday, June 5, at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House on Rugar Street, with more than 185 businesses expected to participate. The expo has grown greatly in popularity and size since its inception, said chamber executive vice president Jody Parks. The event was originally held at the Crete Memorial Civic Center, with approximately 30 booths. As years went on, the magnitude of the event simply exploded, said Parks, leading to the change of venue to the field house. What hasnt changed, she said, is the expos ability to offer a great representation of what the North Country business community is all about. The business expo is really a business-to-business show thats a networking opportunity and an event that focuses on the products and services that businesses have to offer, explained Parks, who has been involved with the event for the past 14 years. Its also a chance for people to do some one-stop shopping. If youre looking for a new fax machine or copier, you can go to three different booths and try out three different models and compare them right there. If you had to have a sales rep come into your office, it would just take a lot more time. This event lets people know whats happening and whats out there. The expo constantly features new businesses which utilize the event to make a name for themselves, but also includes many longtime businesses, said Parks. Those businesses participate for a number of reasons, whether it is sheer support of local commerce or to reintroduce themselves to the marketplace. They might be a business thats been around for a long time, but you never really knew they provide certain services, said Parks. Its also a chance to thank current customers. A lot of times, we do so much business over the phone, we dont have a chance to meet people face to face, shake their hand and thank them for their business, so this is an opportunity to do that. Rosemary Souza-Botten, vice president of Northern Insuring Agency, Plattsburgh, agreed, saying that the Business Expo is an ideal venue to demonstrate what a business has to offer. Northern Insuring has participated in the expo since it was established in 1988, with each year offering a chance to meet new people and create new opportunities, she said. Its really the place to be that day in Plattsburgh, said Souza-Botten. Where else can you go and have this size of a networking opportunity? Its the largest opportunity of its kind of the year and the chamber does a great job pulling it all together. Northern Insuring gets fully involved with the expo, decorating the agencys booth with a special theme each year. Themes have ranged from a jungle setting for their past slogan Im wild about Northern Insuring to a casino-style booth with the slogan Dont gamble with your insurance. The themes are a fun way of getting their message out, said Souza-Botten. This year, in celebration of the expos 20th year, fun and creativity could mean winning a major prize, said Parks. A Best of Show award will be presented to the exhibitor that receives the most votes from its fellow participating businesses. If that wasnt enough, everyone who attends the expo will be entered into a drawing for two free round-trip tickets to Florida, courtesy of Allegiant Air. There really will be something for everyone, said Parks. The 2008 Business Expo will be held from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission will be $3. For more information, contact Parks at 563-1000 or visit the chamber Web site at www.northcountrychamber.com.