The Garage is the new, flexible structure for business strategy-sharing, inspiration and anticipated collaboration created by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce to replace the orderly aisles of exhibitors that for two decades populated its erstwhile annual Business Expo.
The opening session of The Garage on May 14 at the R.I. Convention Center is designed to spotlight the “aha” moments of business development, to share short, fast-paced tales of business success and to create an inviting environment for new partnerships.
“This year we decided to sunset the show and to move in a direction of driving a more purposeful economic-development agenda around some real policy questions,” said Laurie White, Chamber president.
“The key to a state’s economic health is the degree to which it has innovative, productive and globally competitive businesses and workers,” said White.
After extensive research on best practices in economic development, the Chamber developed the new model for its business event.
“What was clear from the research was to focus on businesses that are growing the fastest, embrace these companies because they are in the best position to add jobs and grow revenue, and to shine a spotlight on them to inspire, motivate and develop opportunities,” said White.
“Focusing on growth companies as an economic strategy looked to us to be a very fruitful path to take,” said White.
The decision to focus on fast-growing companies is just one piece of the overhaul of the Chamber’s business event. The other reasons span 20 years of dramatic change in business.
As business operations changed, the way the members of the business community interacted was reflected in the Business Expo.
“Over the last five years or so, the show took on different dimensions, with more of a professional-development slant to it, as opposed to a B2B opportunity,” said White.
The Chamber chose the name “The Garage” as a symbol for growth companies, such as Google, that literally started in a garage in Silicon Valley.
The Chamber’s Business Expo usually drew 5,000-10,000 people, while 600-1,000 are expected for the first of The Garage events, which focus on specific industries, said White.
This first event will focus on consumer products, health care, food, nutrition and wellness.