PEMBROKE — For several students from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Thursday’s business mixer at Mariani’s was a great event for them to build relationships with Robeson County business leaders.
“I came here because I am interested in trying to build relationships with business and community members,” said Biruk “B.K.” Kassaw, president of the university’s Student Government Association. “People are more relaxed and often relate better at a mixer like this than at a table. It’s a better situation when they don’t have to act professional all the time.”
Kassa and fellow students Sherry Jacobs and Robert Hamilton were among more than 130 business and community leaders who attended the informal mixer coordinated by the staff of COMtech Business Park, located on N.C. 711 just outside of Pembroke. The event provided a chance for folks to exchange business cards, chat informally among themselves, win prizes, be updated on plans and programs for marketing and developing COMtech, and offer their suggestions for ways to make COMtech and Robeson County in general a good place to do business.
“This event was a real success,” said Ryan Nance, COMtech’s executive director. “People enjoyed the free-flowing, nice atmosphere. It was a great chance for them to find out what is going on in their community.”
Nance said that in preparing for the event, invitations were not just sent to Robeson County business leaders, but also to Chamber of Commerce members in surrounding counties, including Scotland, Columbus and Cumberland.
“Other counties have an investment in COMtech because their residents work in businesses here,” he said. “A study conducted three years ago showed that employees of businesses at COMtech came from 11 counties.”
While the event focused on business leaders being updated on initiatives to recruit businesses and develop COMtech, Nance emphasized that the mixer was held to give business leaders from throughout the region a chance to network.
“What is good for COMtech is good for Robeson County,” he said.
During the mixer, those in attendance had the chance to recommend members to a new marketing board that is being created to assist in the recruitment and development of businesses at COMtech Park. The board will consist of individuals in the banking, insurance and real estate businesses, as well as business leaders in other professions.
An idea box was also provided for attendees to anonymously put their ideas for transforming and moving the local economy forward.
Ronnie Hunt, chairman of COMtech’s board of directors, said he thought the mixer was a good opportunity for members of the business community and others to learn about COMtech.
“This helped those get to know COMtech who may only know about us by what they read,” he said. “This event gave them face-to-face contact with us.
Michael Ramey, the business services coordinator with the Lumber River Council of Governments, agreed.
“This kind of event is a great way to build relationships,” he said. “That’s what I try to do. I try to build relationships rather than just business partnerships.”