Clarification: No tax dollars are being used for this expo. However, the business manager and owner in our story say even if tax dollars aren't being used for this expo, they want the chamber to be more transparent with how any type of money is being used, particularly when it comes to cheaper options available.
Some Joplin residents say a decision to move the Joplin Business Expo elsewhere may reflect a stagnant economy. In years past, this expo had been inside a Joplin building that's near several restaurants and Interstate 44. Chamber officials say there's nothing wrong with that building. It's just time for something different.
Changes happen with age.
"It's our 25th business expo," says Kirstie Smith with the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber is also celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
"So this year, our long-time partner for the expo, Downstream Casino, stepped-in and offered us some additional space, some additional options there," says Smith.
...Additional space and options compared to what's at the Joplin Convention Center, chamber officials say. Some usual businesses will be showcasing their products and services at Downstream Casino's indoor auditorium. There will be about 200 vendors, about the same number as last year. But there will be a new showcase of technology and gadgets inside Downstream's grand ballroom.
Nonetheless, the two rooms at Downstream will be 7,000 square feet less for the expo than what the Joplin Convention Center offered.
"Seems kind of odd, being that Downstream is in Oklahoma," says Joplin store manager Tim Cook.
Some small business owners and workers say the City of Joplin should be the center of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I feel like if we're promoting Joplin, or especially small businesses, that it should be in Joplin," says small business owner Tabatha Carter.
"The Downstream resort is in our region. Absolutely, 100 percent in our region. And we're a regional chamber of commerce," says Smith.
Chamber officials say they aren't allowed to say if renting space at Downstream will save money.
"We don't talk about our partnership agreements," says Smith.
The chamber is partially funded by the City of Joplin. This year, the City is giving $250,000 of taxpayer money to the chamber.
"I'd like to know where my money is going to," says Cook.
"If there is any sort of taxpayer funding, I feel it's important to know, if they are going to do an event, if there's a cheaper option," says Carter.
Some Joplin residents say bottom line: The decision to move this expo out of Joplin may mean it's time to make Joplin more appealing.
"There are a lot of things in Joplin that need done. There are a lot of things we could do differently with taxpayer dollars, in general," says Carter.
Downstream officials say there will be a special parking lot for people going to next week's business expo. There will also be special shuttles. Click here for more information.
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