Southwest Florida businesses showcased at TechXPO

From solar panels to so-called cloud computing, Thursday’s TechXPO was a runway for Southwest Florida’s tech-savvy businesses to strut their gadgets and software applications.

The third annual event sponsored by the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce showcased 30 local companies at the Embassy Suites Fort Myers-Estero and anticipated 300 guests.

“This kind of thing helps showcase the industries we have in growing and diversifying the economy,” said Brian Simon, owner of Alliance Financial Group, and chamber member involved in promoting the event.

His company was showcasing a new software product to streamline financial planning -- an online filing cabinet that organizes a client’s entire portfolio, including insurance policies, investments and employee benefits packages.

This year’s expo, which is seen by exhibitors as a prime networking opportunity, is particularly important in light of the recession. The TechXPO had drawn mainly chamber members in the past, but this year members were encouraging their clients and others to come, Simon said.

“You cannot control the economy but you can always control your activity,” Simon said. “If you have to work a little bit harder, so be it.”

Businesses like The Client Server, a Bonita Springs-based information technology firm, have been presenting at the TechXPO for three years.

“We want to pick up new customers,” said Jack Voth, co-owner. “We look for exposure, to try to make contacts with other vendors, we can augment each others’ businesses.”

The Client Server is pushing a new concept in IT that big businesses have been using for a long time, Voth said, but that has only recently begun picking up steam in the small business community.

Cloud computing allows companies anywhere in the world to access their servers, which are at The Client Server’s offices, via the Internet. It presents energy cost savings of a couple thousand dollars a year for a small business, Voth said.

This is the first TechXPO for Gulf City Solar, a seven-month old Bonita Springs-based company. It’s trying to capitalize on two Florida icons – the sun and golf carts.

“This just introduces us to people because people don’t know about solar,” said William Heckenstaller, president. “If we can get solar on the golf cart, one of the most usual items, they will come with questions.”

The company, which has expanded from golf carts to homes and other installations, said solar panel projects don’t have to be massive in scope and expensive, a misconception many people have, he said.

Gulf City Solar promotes adding solar energy in stages. Rather than spending $50,000 for an entire home, for instance, customers can invest less than $2,000 on smaller projects such as replacing a generator with a flexible panel that can power emergency supplies after a hurricane.

Tech or not, however, several expo-goers were there to network.

Kristin Baker, co-owner of K&M Accounting in Naples, said she was less concerned about the theme and more concerned about supporting the chamber.

“It’s just business networking,” Baker said. “With the economy, it’s better to get in face to face. It’s more about helping everyone out because helping everyone is going to help the economy.”

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