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Business booming at Gwinnett-hosted Georgia Manufacturing Expo

About 75 vendors set up shop Friday and Saturday at the Georgia Manufacturing Expo, the only event in the country geared toward highlighting products made in a single state. (Staff Photo: Tyler Estep)

About 75 vendors set up shop Friday and Saturday at the Georgia Manufacturing Expo, the only event in the country geared toward highlighting products made in a single state. (Staff Photo: Tyler Estep)

DULUTH — The Georgia Manufacturing Expo is about a lot of things.

Its slogan says it’s about “highlighting the best of Georgia’s manufacturing people, plants and products.” It’s about asking people to buy American, and specifically products from the 9,500 Georgia facilities that create everything from shoes and sportswear to bath tubs, steel and automobiles.

The Georgia Manufacturing Expo, organizer Jason Moss said, is about changing perceptions about the industry and creating jobs.

“It’s to change that dynamic, change that mentality about manufacturing being the dirty, dangerous, dead-end job,” Moss said. “If we can get people excited about a potential career in manufacturing, it’s game on.”

Saturday marked the end of the second-ever Georgia Manufacturing Expo, the only event in the country highlighting products made in a single state.

About 75 vendors set up shop at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, up from roughly 50 in 2013. The number of sponsors saw a significant spike, as did foot traffic — Moss estimated that the two-day expo would have about 2,000 attendees, double the amount from last year.

Organizers are already expecting those numbers to double again in 2015.

Lawrenceville resident Anita Redd is the brains behind Anita’s Balm, an all-natural skin remedy she created to treat her son’s eczema. Her line of products is now in 1,300 stores across the eastern United States.

Just after completing a sale Saturday, she called the expo a “great idea.”

“It is possible to take a small company and make something new and innovative right here in Georgia,” Redd said. ” … We are 3-D printing the world’s only (3-D printed) cosmetic jar, right here in Lawrenceville.”

The expo, sponsored in part by the Daily Post, included a visit from Walmart executive Joe Quinn, drawings for door prizes and four screenings of the “American Made Movie,” a film supported by local businessman and philanthropist Clyde Strickland.

It also featured an awards breakfast, honoring individuals for their roles in Georgia manufacturing. Unlike other business expos, Moss said, the awards are given to specific employees at all levels — not the overall company. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was the keynote speaker.

This year’s recipients included Pat Tench from Tencata in Buford and Steve Garrett from Ryerson in Norcross.

Moss said that, because of the success of Gwinnett’s event, he’s toying with the idea of having smaller quarterly expos across the state. Places like Columbus, Macon, Savannah, Dalton and Augusta are on the shortlist.

“I’ll put it like this,” Moss said. “We are going to be releasing some really cool stuff over the next six months that will keep us head and shoulders above any other state in terms of attracting manufacturers, individual businesses and business consumers to products made in our state.”