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MCEDC plays matchmaker for local businesses

CRYSTAL LAKE – A round of “speed dating” gave local business leaders a chance to make connections with nearby companies.

Business representatives rotated through a series of 15-minute meetings with their local counterparts in a bid to find prospective partners, suppliers and service contractors.

The McHenry County Economic Development Corp. hosted its fifth Manufacturing Matchmaking event in as many years Thursday morning at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn. More than 80 businesses, including Caterpillar and others from outside McHenry County, attended.

“People have told us they drive past each day but don’t know what we do,” said Bert Berry, who works in sales at TC Industries, a 130-year-old steel products maker located along Route 31 near Crystal Lake. “If you don’t come to these events and see what’s in your own backyard, you miss opportunities.”

The event isn’t exactly like speed dating, as the companies get to request meetings with certain businesses before the event. But it does foster serendipitous and productive meetings, MCEDC President Pam Cumpata said.

“We come primarily to meet local customers and new suppliers,” said Don Hardin, vice president of sales at Fabrik Molded Plastics in McHenry. “It allows us to meet a lot of people quickly.”

And it’s much easier than cold calling and arranging meetings.

“It would take me weeks to cold call all these people,” said Michael Splitt, owner of In Sync Systems in Crystal Lake and a sponsor of the event. “Here, I can meet them all in a half hour. It’s a great opportunity.”

About a third of the businesses at the MCEDC manufacturing supply chain event had requested meetings with representatives from Caterpillar’s global purchasing division. MCEDC officials served Caterpillar representatives a steady stream of coffee and other refreshments as they met with more than two dozen local companies over the course of several hours.

“We hope it’s valuable for all of us,” said John Kretchmer, senior vice president of Castle Bank in Lake in the Hills, which sponsored the event. “And we hope it translates into new business for all of us.”

The networking event can help open new doors and lead to new opportunities for local businesses.

“When our customers do well, we do well,” said Tim Struthers, market president for Castle Bank, a division of First National Bank.

McHenry County relies heavily on the manufacturing industry for both wages and employment. Manufacturers were well represented Thursday, as were the service companies many manufacturers depend on. The goal was to help them find additional ways to work together to make the region stronger, Cumpata said.

“There’s nothing better than dealing with home town folks,” said Eldon Johnson, director of sales at TC Industries. “Without events like this, it would be harder to do.”

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