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Buy Local event attracts business
More than 60 exhibitors attended the expo
Karen Reynolds spins the prize wheel at the Milton Martin Toyota booth Wednesday afternoon at the Georgia Mountains Center during the the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce Buy Local Business Expo.

Hall County's local businesses know how to catch eyes.

More than 60 exhibitors handed out brochures and pitched colorful posters Wednesday at the Georgia Mountains Center during the Buy Local Business Expo.

Cherie Bates knitted yellow and blue scarves to coordinate with ServiceMaster Clean's posters and small foam stress relievers shaped like vans.

"Around Gainesville, it's not what you know but who you know," said Bates, who works for the company that offers residential and commercial cleaning and restoration services. "We want to build our reputation and really service people by building a relationship."

Bates, who has lived in Australia and New Zealand, noted that Hall County has a balanced mix of large markets and small community companies.

"In New Zealand, there's a sense of mateship and looking out for others," she said. "I love the feeling of walking into a business here and knowing who works there."

Jo Stone, who sampled food and took a few items as she passed booths, appreciated the close-knit feel.

"I wanted to get out and see old friends and see what's out and about," said Stone, an agent with Gainesville insurance company CMA Agency. "I'm also in business and wanted to see all the exhibits."

Several businesses took a hands-on approach to attracting people to their booths, including Milton Martin Honda and Milton Martin Toyota, which featured a prize wheel for residents to win a free car wash or oil change.

"Next to buying a home, buying a car is the biggest investment you're going to make," said Tim Pledge of Milton Martin Honda. "Why take your money to Gwinnett County if you can spend it here and benefit the economy and jobs here?"

After a successful expo last year, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce members began planning again.

Wednesday's event drew a steady stream of visitors.

"We've made a lot of connections, and last year was a great experience, too," said Katie Boles of J&J Foods as she passed out homemade cookies. "After last year's expo, a lot of people came in and said they saw us there."

Chain companies McDonald's and Sam's Club also had booths at the event, breaking any notion that "buying local" only means small family-operated businesses.

"Business is going up and up, and I see some people come in every day to spend money here in Gainesville," said Bonita Mack, who works at the McDonald's drive thru window. "I recognize a bunch of people, and they know my name, even the little kids. If you mention Bonita on Thompson Bridge Road, they know who you're talking about."

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