The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


May 28, 2014

24th Showcase to commence | Entrepreneur PitchFest added to annual event

JOHNSTOWN — The players have changed, but the game remains the same.

The 24th edition of Showcase for Commerce kicks off today at the Holiday Inn in downtown Johnstown and Sunnehanna Country Club in Westmont before moving to the Cambria County War Memorial Arena and Pasquerilla Conference Center.

The brainchild of the late U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, Showcase originally was designed with the defense industry in mind.

“It’s evolving,” Thomas Grenell, the War Memorial’s general manager, told reporter Dave Sutor for Sunday’s editions.

Indeed it has. And we hope it continues to advance going forward.

“We’ve gone from a defense-based curriculum to region-based business networking,” Grenell said. “Now I think there’s probably more business getting done.”

Organizers are rolling out the red carpet to more than 100 exhibitors, and they hope to attract 2,000 participants to Showcase, which will run from today through Friday.

“What we’re really trying to do is draw a number of organizations from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, all throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, whomever, to come to Johnstown and have a chance to meet some people that you wouldn’t ordinarily have an opportunity to meet,” Ed Sheehan, Showcase chairman and CEO of Concurrent Technologies Corp., told Sutor.

With such an open invitation, we would hope that many business leaders accept the chance to participate, display their wares and put themselves and their companies in the national spotlight.

New to this year’s Showcase is an Entrepreneur PitchFest. Individuals will have a chance to pitch their business ideas at a panel of business leaders in the hopes of securing $3,000 in cash and an additional $3,000 of in-kind services. The PitchFest is loosely based on the TV show “Shark Tank,” where budding entrepreneurs detail their ideas to capital investors in hopes of securing funds.

“We felt the event would be good for both inspiring our students and getting some businesspeople who are looking for some new ideas together,” Raymond Wrabley, chairman of Pitt-Johnstown’s Division of Social Sciences, told Sutor.

That, to us, is an excellent idea. It not only gives today’s college students an inside look at what it takes to bring a business concept to reality, it also allows businessmen and women a chance to network with captains of industry.

Scheduled speakers will include U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island; Sean J. Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition; and other top military officers.

We’re pleased that such high-level speakers realize the importance of Showcase. Perhaps organizers would see the value of also including industry leaders as guest speakers, to reinforce the evolving nature of Showcase.

“The Showcase for Commerce is a great way to show the world that the Johnstown region is a great place for innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes,” said Jim Penna, director of external affairs for AT&T, which is sponsoring Showcase.

We couldn’t have said it better.

Friday is the day that Showcase opens its doors to the public, and we would hope that residents of Greater Johnstown take advantage of the invitation to see what is going on in terms of business and defense industries in their backyard.

And we hope that Showcase for Commerce continues to evolve in the years to come.

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