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May 13, 2014

Fresh look: Showcase for Commerce will feature new attractions this year

JOHNSTOWN — There will be a newness to the Showcase for Commerce in this its 24th year of existence.

The inaugural Entrepreneur PitchFest is scheduled to take place on May 30 in the Cambria County War Memorial Arena’s Stars & Stripes Room. The event, hosted by Entrepreneurial Alchemy, will give individuals the opportunity to pitch ideas to a panel of business leaders with hopes of winning $3,000 in cash plus $3,000 of in-kind services.

Hero2Hired, an organization that works to help Reserve Component service members find jobs with military-friendly companies, will also make its first appearance at Showcase. Friday’s public exhibition will – for the first time – include presentations on the main floor from several groups, including the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and Google XPRIZE competitors.

“I think it’s important because it keeps the show fresh and energized and vibrant,” said Johnstown Area Regional Industries President and CEO Linda Thomson. “We want to keep up with the times. We want to have new things going on.”

Showcase has been trying to include new ideas ever since losing the political muscle of its longtime patriarch, U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, who died in 2010.

“I think we want to continue to make it a vibrant show that adds great value and will bring people to the show,” said Showcase for Commerce Chairman Ed Sheehan, president and CEO of Concurrent Technologies Corp.

“In the past, when Mr. Murtha was here, he was the draw, and he was able to introduce a lot of companies to this region. Now, we’ve really got to expand the offerings that the Showcase provides to bring people here from a variety of interests. We’re very pleased to continue to make this a very dynamic show.”

As usual, there will be companies and businessmen, especially those from the defense industry, looking to make deals.

“I think it comes down to a very short statement that contacts develop into contracts that mean economic vitality for the area,” said Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Robert Layo. “It’s job retention. It’s job creation.”

Speakers are scheduled to include U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and Sean J. Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

“I’m pleased that Sen. Reed and Assistant Secretary Stackley have accepted my invitation to come to the Showcase for Commerce,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, the event’s congressional sponsor.

“This year’s event will put on display the Pennsylvania’s skilled workforce and successful companies. I’m looking forward to this year’s Showcase and am confident that Sen. Reed and Assistant Secretary Stackley’s participation will contribute to its success.”

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, Lt. Gen. Raymond P. Palumbo, Brig. Gen. William E. Cole and Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Merchant are scheduled to participate.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

If you go

What: 24th annual Showcase for Commerce.

Host: Cambria County War Memorial Arena and other locations in downtown Johnstown.

When: May 28-30.

Congressional sponsor: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

New attractions: Entrepreneur PitchFest, Hero2Hired, presentations on the main floor during the public exhibition.

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