Biz expo coming to Bishop

In an act of locals helping locals, the Owens Valley Vendors and Contractors Association and the Bishop Chamber of Commerce are hosting a large-scale networking event complete with agencies seeking contractors for work.
The OVCVA’s Second Annual Business Expo will happen from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 22, in the Home Economics Building, at the Tri-County Fairgrounds in Bishop.
One of OVCVA’s founding members, Dan Stone of Stone Equipment Rentals, said he had been approached by many in the community about when another expo was going to be offered.
In a small town, the contractors all know each other, Stone said. “We see each other passing by on the road, but we don’t always get a chance to sit down and talk.”
But this is seen as a good sign, Stone said, as it means everyone’s busy working with little time to sit around.
The OVCVA was started two years ago by Stone, Tom Sigler, owner of Eastern Sierra Propane, and Debbie Kruse, of Sierra Sage Insurance, as a way to try and help local businesses make the most of their resources. Stone said in January 2009, “The heartbeat of the organization is to keep business local.”
Stone added the OVCVA is “really working” with some local contractors reporting a backlog of work.
Both Stone and Bishop Chamber Director Tawni Thomson lauded the county’s new Local Preference codes for non-Public Works contracts as a “huge deal” for locals. The preference gives local contractors and vendors an additional 3 percentage points’ advantage in the bidding process.
Thomson also praised the OVCVA and its accomplishment of opening lines of communication between those seeking and those offering work. But, there is also the simple sharing of information and networking between contractors, like how to navigate a Caltrans contract for example, that is invaluable, Thomson added.
There will be plenty of time for chatting at this year’s expo, as the event is being catered by the Bishop Country Club. There will be a no-host bar, next to a patio set up for relaxing and breaking bread. The dinner is $7. Local entertainers String Theory will supply music and there will be a raffle for a barbecue donated by Manor True Value Hardware.
There will be more than 30 member display booths, with businesses showing off their wares. There will be information tables hosted by the City of Bishop, Inyo County, Caltrans, the Eastern Sierra Energy Foundation, and the chambers of commerce of Bishop, Lone Pine, Big Pine and Independence and other state and county agencies.
When asked if these agencies will have contracts in hand, looking for workers, Stone replied, “That’s why they’re coming.”
There will also be a special presentation on “Small Business Lending” provided by OVCVA member Alta One Federal Credit Union. Stone said Alta One offers many special services to small businesses and has been very helpful since becoming a part of the OVCVA team last winter.
“It’s a way for them to know what the banks want,” Thomson said of the presentation.
What the banks want in this fragile and unstable economy is becoming increasingly difficult to comply with, Stone said.
“It’s a very complicated business climate right now,” Stone said.
Stone said he is seeing people working, and the ones he sees prospering are the ones that were “running lean” during the last few years of financial instability. He added that he foresees the “small guys” doing well in the future as “big boys” will implode under the weight of their own complicated bureaucracy.
The event is free and open to the public.