POINCIANA – When the Poinciana Area Council hosts its annual Business Expo next month, the business owners who participate have every reason to expect this is going to be a very different event than in previous years, said Wendy Farrell.
“Come out and see what good things are happening in the community,” said Farrell, the chairman of PAC, a group of business owners in Poinciana who meet once a month, organize special events like this one, and form alliances with the local schools.
“Come out and support them and buy locally, and be aware that Poinciana is open for business,” she said of the Expo that will be held on Saturday, March 10 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Poinciana Community center and the Poinciana YMCA.
What’s different this year, Farrell said, isn’t the expo itself – “It’s the sixth annual Poinciana Expo,” and the only real difference is that it’s being held in March rather than in the summer, as in past years.
What is new, she added, is a sense of great encouragement and excitement that a brighter day is dawning for Poinciana, its residents and the local business community, now that Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee has broken ground on the Poinciana Medical Center, the community’s first hospital.
“I’m so excited about the hospital and the trickle-down effect,” Farrell said, adding that the construction work on this project, the 200 full time jobs coming to the hospital itself, and the likely spin-off businesses that it attracts, means a much brighter future for a community hard hit by the collapse of the housing market.
“There is just so much relief now – you can almost hear the businesses go, ‘Whew,’ “ Farrell said of the recent groundbreaking ceremony. “They’ve been waiting so long, saying ‘Isn’t it … isn’t it … isn’t it,’ and now it’s finally moving along. People can see not only that we are breaking ground, but something is finally happening as well.”
Osceola Regional broke ground on the new medical center on Feb. 7. Fernando Valverde, one of the founding members of Friends of the Poinciana Hospital – a group that lobbied to keep this project on track – said the construction crew arrived at the scene on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
“The ground breaking has physically started at the site,” he said. “At noon today, Tuesday, I saw about four to five men working on the terrain — construction fences, three bulldozers, and filling in of the truck road. This is progress. This is good news for Valentine’s Day.”
Farrell agreed, saying local residents who now drive to Orlando, the theme parks, or someplace else outside the community for employment now have hope of finding a job closer to home, even in their own back yard.
“Think about the nurse who lives here, and works somewhere else, and gets a job at the Poinciana Medical Center,” Farrell said. “You give her a job here, you give her three or four hours of her life back, and you give her the gas money she spends every day. She’s working here, and she can spend her money here. That’s what builds communities. It’s giving people the chance to live and work and play here. I’m excited. I think it’s the turning point for Poinciana. We’ll see what happens when a big medical facility comes in.”
With that sense of optimism about the future, Farrell said the Sixth Annual Poinciana Business Expo is likely to be well attended and a success. PAC has already signed up 45 vendors and sold out the booth space at the Community Center, although space is still available at the YMCA, and vendors can sign up right until the day of the event.
New this year, she added, is the actual date of the Expo.
“We’ve brought it forward a little bit into a cooler time of year,” she said. “We basically listened to our members and asked them to do an exit survey, and some of them like the idea of doing it in a cooler time, because if you can’t a booth in the Community Center, we set you up outside.”
The event is held for a good cause, to enable PAC to provide scholarships to local students. In past years, Farrell said, this event has raised between $4,000 and $6,000 for their scholarship fund.
“The expo is about all of the money going into our scholarship fund, which helps fund two scholarships for Poinciana students,” she said.
This year, she added, “Our tag line is ‘Poinciana: Open for Business.’ It’s all about making more of what we have here, making people aware of what we have here, and attracting more businesses here.”
In addition to the businesses that set up booths at the Expo, Farrell said she expects plenty of candidates for public office to take part as well, since 2012 is a busy election year. As part of the entertainment, students from Liberty High School’s student chorus will perform at the Expo.
But what they still need, Farrell said, is local restaurants to participate.
“We need food vendors,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for food vendors to have a captive audience. Those people need to eat, and this event runs from 11 to 3. We’re hoping this will pick up a bit, because right now the food vendors are a bit hesitant because they’ve cut back on their staff, so they don’t know if they have the staff available to run the business on a Saturday, and do this Expo as well.”
The Sixth Annual Poinciana Business Expo is free and open to the public, and is being sponsored this year by Poinciana Insurance.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.