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After hours networking
Monthly Chamber gathering draws big crowds
OTC After hours toned web
Kathryn Olliff, left, and Mary Demmond fill out a name tag for an attendee of last week's Business After Hours event at Ogeechee Technical College. - photo by JAMES HEALY/staff

Click on link to watch Studio Statesboro segment on Business After Hours:

       Business After Hours coordinated by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce is a monthly event not to be missed by many local business people and community leaders.
        Founded more than 20 years ago as a means for local business owners and operators to gather and share "war" stories, Business After Hours has become and continues to be a very important networking opportunity for local professionals.
        "Just look at all of the people behind me," said Ron Shiffler, dean of the College of Business Administration at Georgia Southern University and chairman of the board of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce as he stood among the crowd gathered for Business After Hours this past Thursday at Ogeechee Technical College. "Here we are after a busy Thursday at 5 in the afternoon and people are pouring in to enjoy the fellowship created by this event. It just keeps growing in popularity."
        The event is so popular that Chamber personnel report sponsorships of it have been requested and assigned into 2012. According to Peggy Chapman, president of the Chamber, Business After Hours provides a unique venue for networking.
        "I know that a lot of business is done on the golf course for example," Chapman said. "Deals are made and relationships forged. This is a venue in which people can do the same type of thing even if they don't play golf. It gives people a relaxed atmosphere in which they get to know one another and talk business in casual manner."
        Chapman said that Business After Hours is held the third Thursday of each month, and begins at 5:00 ending between 6:30 and 7:00.
        "As you can see, there are refreshments and food and a lot of times really good music," she said. "It's just festive, and I am so glad that so many people take advantage of the opportunity."
        Dawn Cartee, president of Ogeechee Technical College said OTC has hosted Business After Hours for the last two years.
        "Last year, our Business After Hours occurred during the renovation of the Kennedy Building so we had sort of an 'under construction' theme," Cartee said. "This year served as an unveiling of the finished product as we head towards our IGOT fund raising campaign in March. This is an excellent opportunity to visit with a lot of friends and get ready for the big campaign. We want people see what we are doing, and why we are so excited."
        Other regular stops on the Business After Hours "tour" include many local banks, the Georgia Southern Foundation, Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Franklin Automotive Group.
        "It gives our local business community an opportunity to get together, that's why we do it," Franklin said. "It brings the business people in the community into our dealerships. This year, we are going to have it at Franklin Toyota in July to celebrate an award the dealership has received. It's just fun."
        Some may be surprised that the event continues to have such strong sponsorship in difficult economic times.
        "I know that it is tough for companies to sponsor events and to donate to charity right now," Shiffler said. "But, getting folks together is what business is all about. We still have to go to work everyday and continue to do what we do. Providing an opportunity to create relationships and contacts always pays in the long run for those that are willing to take advantage of it. This is a wonderful opportunity to do so, and a way to get involved in the business community."
        Chapman said the monthly event has become so popular that the Chamber is considering coordinating two a month instead of the traditional one.
        "I can't say when that is going to happen, but I know we have two different Business After Hours scheduled for June," she said. "I want everyone to know that you don't have to sponsor one on your own. If you are interested, just let our office know, and we will try and pair your business with another one for a co-sponsorship opportunity."

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