Open for business: Despite cuts, Showcase is back for more

By:  Dave Sutor

Sequestration has made hosting a defense-based business exposition, such as the Showcase for Commerce, challenging.

The Association of the United States Army plans to relocate its annual winter symposium from sunny Florida to Alabama next year in order to save money by holding the event close to the Army Materiel Command headquarters. Additionally, the National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored Environment, Energy Security & Sustainability Symposium & Exhibition in New Orleans was canceled after originally being scheduled for June.

Both changes were due, in large part, to a reduction in the federal funds available to cover the travel costs of U.S. Department of Defense personnel.

But Johnstown’s Showcase has survived. The exposition – now in its 23rd year – is scheduled to run from today through Friday.

More than 2,000 attendees and 125 exhibitors are expected to participate in activities held at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena and Pasquerilla Conference Center.

Showcase for Commerce Chairman Ed Sheehan, president and CEO of Concurrent Technologies Corp., credited the exposition’s congressional delegation – Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey and Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley – with making sure the event continued.

“I’m very pleased with the effort that has been put forth to put on the Showcase this year,” said Sheehan. “The delegation, led by Sen. Casey with help from Keith Rothfus and others, has really been important.”

Casey has served as the Showcase’s chief congressional sponsor since January. “I’m proud to actively organize and participate in this year’s Showcase, which will bring more attention to the special talents in Pennsylvania,” said Casey, a Democrat.

Several high-level officials are expected to participate, including Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Brett Lambert and Heidi Shyu will represent the Department of Defense. Lambert serves as a deputy assistant secretary of defense. Shyu is the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

“Those are two very key people in DOD,” said Linda Thom­son, president of Johnstown Area Re­gional Industries, which is co-hosting the Showcase, along with the Greater Johns-town/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce.

“First of all, it’s important to have access to key people in DOD. ... But, at the same time, it’s really important to have people, like them, gain an understanding of the capabilities of this region.”

Along with representatives from the defense industry, organizations as diverse as the American Red Cross, AmeriServ Financial, Carnegie Mellon University, Damin Printing Co., JWF Industries, Mountain Playhouse and Windber Medical Center are expected to participate.