High-tech, low-brow at Expo Displays include '60s nostalgia

November 06, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce's Crossroads '92 business exposition yesterday attracted exhibitors displaying everything from the latest in computer imagery to landscape designs to artwork with a 1960s-era TV theme.

The fifth annual event drew 115 exhibitors to the cavernous Sieling Tech Center in Columbia, a vacant warehouse building owned by The Rouse Co. The expo attracted more than twice as many exhibitors as last year, when it took place at a hotel.

For the first time, non-profit organizations were included.

"It makes all the sense in the world that we'd also be here," said Judy Clancy, director of community outreach for the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County, whose exhibition space costs were financed by Howard County General Hospital. "Non-profits are part of a community. We provide services to people just like a business."

The event gave Developmental Services Group Inc. exposure to businesses that could benefit from its services, said Executive Director Henry Posko. The Columbia-based non-profit organization trains and places people with disabilities in jobs and performs contract work for businesses.

Julius Westheimer, a managing partner with the Ferris, Baker Watts Inc. investment firm and a media commentator on personal finances and the stock market, opened Crossroads '92 with a discussion about how to invest wisely and forecasts about the economy.

Mr. Westheimer advised the audience not to abandon the stock market, despite its unpredictability.

"The [presidential] election was a non-event as far as Wall Street is concerned," he said. "Wall Street and Main Street pretty much expected Clinton would be elected. I don't think the stock market will take the new presidency much different than the previous one."

He predicted an upturn in "cyclical" stocks that rise and fall with the business cycle, such as oil, steel, railroads and the construction industry.

But Mr. Westheimer said he couldn't predict which direction the stock market would turn, and cautioned that "we won't have a decade like we had in the 1980s."

Mr. Westheimer said he wasn't optimistic that the recession would end any time soon, partly because corporations have learned to operate with reduced white-collar work forces.

"I'm not as optimistic as government projections," he said. "Business cycles run their course and it will be self-correcting, but I don't think a new president can turn it around very rapidly."

Howard County officials conducted a seminar on how businesses and government can work together successfully. Officials discussed a new streamlined system for obtaining building permits, programs to help prevent fire and crime, regulations for running a home-based business, government purchasing procedures and employment and training services available to the private sector.

"I know it's scary when we say we're here from the government, we're here to help you," joked County Executive Charles I. Ecker. "We're really here to help you through the bureaucratic red tape. We know we have some."

Businesses and visitors spent the day making contacts and checking out the wares and services displayed. Business representatives said Crossroads '92 provided them an opportunity to gain exposure and pick up leads.

"Howard County and Columbia are rife with consultants, but not so many sell [computer] hardware," said Clifford D. Feldwick, owner of Riverside Computing in Ellicott City. "We wanted to show off our hardware as much as possible."

Erin Kreitz, an interior designer and art consultant for Renaissance Fine Arts of Columbia, said the company got 17 solid leads from businesses. A 3-D piece of artwork featuring 1960s characters from TV shows such as "Batman," "Star Trek" and "Bewitched" served as an eye-catcher at the booth.

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