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From the editor: Out in the field, where networking still rules

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By Dan Beyers
Monday, May 10, 2010

One of the first questions I got after we produced our prototype of Capital Business was "Looks great, but can you really sustain this week in and week out?"

"Sure," I responded confidently, though I would be lying if I said I had not wondered the same thing.

But just a few weeks into this new project, I no longer harbor any doubts. Of all the challenges that lie ahead of us in getting this new paper launched, finding news is not one of them.

Everywhere I go it seems stories are falling out of the sky, just waiting to be told.

On Wednesday, I stopped by the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce's big procurement conference and expo at the Universities at Shady Grove complex in Rockville. Some 700 people registered for an event that included 33 workshops with procurement officials from various government agencies.

It didn't take long for me to fill my notebook with story leads.

I even found an interesting tale in the conference itself.

Gigi Godwin, president and chief executive of the chamber, said the group organized the conference because even though the county ranks No. 2 (behind Fairfax) in the number of small companies doing business with the government, "there was nothing like this event on this side of the river."

So the Montgomery chamber has been busy revamping its programs to make up for the omission. The new emphasis has already produced some revelations. Earlier this year, the chamber held a conference in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Hundreds and hundreds of businesspeople showed up. Godwin said she was so impressed with a presentation by NIST Director Patrick Gallagher that the chamber decided he should be given its "Visionary" award this year, the first time a federal official has been selected. NIST, it turns out, is responsible for producing the national protocols for cybersecurity, health IT and smart grid technology.

"We've seen the future and it is NIST," Godwin said.

It's a funny thing about such events. They seem as popular as ever, even in the age of e-mail newsletters, Webinars and social networking sites gone wild. For despite all those virtual connections, face-to-face networking is still the lifeblood of the business world.

"That's the secret sauce," Godwin said. "People like to do business with people they know and trust. And what better way to get to know someone than to meet them in person."

We're doing a lot of networking here at Capital Business, and it is an incredibly energizing experience.

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