Nov. 1, 2008 — You could do most anything Friday at the first day of the 2008 St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Business Expo: eat a chocolate chip cookie baked by Future Business Leaders of America students, adopt a puppy from the St. Thomas Humane Society, open an online bank account at Banco Popular, buy a hand-painted T-shirt by Sloop Jones of St. John, look for a job with Working World, shop early with Jan Mitchell Christmas ornaments, get a security system, subscribe to digital services from Choice Communications or Innovative Cable, or even get your car covered in a bright pink advertising wrap by Smooth Kereationz.
However, the overwhelming message resonating from the 39 exhibits at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center was "go green," "go solar." Tom Brunt, owner of MSI Building Supplies and MSI Interiors, displayed energy efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), everything from a little green bug light to dimmable spot light.
Acknowledging the current economy, Brunt said, "Times are tough now. We can't control WAPA, but we can control how much energy we use. For instance," he said, "the average home has 45 bulbs — replacing those with CFLs would save $180 a year.'
Doug White, across the way from MSI, led the solar bandwagon with a smart little solar-operated auto just big enough for two in this case Doug and his wife, Leslie, owner of Supply Resources Inc. medical supplies.
White has secured a solar panel to the top of the auto, a GEM, manufactured by Global Electric Motors. "All I have to do is park it in the sun," he laughed. "I get about five miles per hour of sunshine. If there's no sun, I just plug it in."
White, who has been trying to register his electric car for years, said he finally has the blessing of the Department of Motor Vehicles
FirstBank got into the green spirit dispensing environmentally friendly shopping bags along with the its traditional free popcorn, while botanist Gary Ray, a first time exhibitor, dispensed knowledge of local plants grown in his Virgin Forest Nursery.
Environmental activist and candle maker Jason Budsan enthusiastically talked about the impact of recycling and composting. Recycled materials covered the table. A bright green Whole Foods bag, was labeled; "I used to be a plastic bottle." Budsan picked up other items, a zippered bag made from fruit juice containers, pencils made from newspaper and paper made from banana leaves.
"Aren't these great?" he said. "I got all of them here at Office Max," Budsan then described compost bins, made from recycled materials which will soon be available for $80. Call Budsan at 777-7190. Profits to the Environmental Association of St. Thomas and St. John and the Recycling Association of the VI.
One of the nine new exhibitors this year is a unique service: Nurse Mary Preventive Care, a service for businesses which cuts down on insurance costs by ensuring better health for employees. In fact, Nurse Mary Reiger, RN, BSN, was there in person.
"I used to work for the federal government in Florida," she said. "I saw several hundred people a year, and I realized how essential regular health checks are. For instance, one twenty-year old told me he didn't feel well; his blood sugar was soaring. It should be 100 and his was 600. I sent him to the hospital immediately. He told me later that he would have been dead within 214 hours."
Reiger took that as a cue and started her own business which provides twice yearly checks on blood pressure, heart count, blood sugar and cholesterol. "I've been coming here for five years," she said. "Cardow Jewelers is a regular client. The service is confidential. The employer gets a generic report on the employees."
Joe Aubain, Chamber executive director, looked pleased with the turnout for the event's 26th year. "We considered not holding it this year because of the slow economy," he said, "but I'm glad we did. When the economy is bad, it's especially important for local business to support each other." Exposure, of course, is at the heart of the annual shows. Just ask Barry Broome, president of ADT Security Systems of the V.I. "We sold a whole unit within the first hour," he beamed.
The expo continues Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., featuring three free seminars: V.I. landscaping with Botanist Gary Ray from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.; sustainable energy with Onaje Jackson from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m; and energy efficiency with Joseph Daniel, V.I. Energy Office from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
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