ALBANY, Ga. -- The 2nd annual Albany Area Black Expo kicked off Tuesday evening with an "after hours" networking session at the Hilton Garden Inn. Early risers gathered Wednesday morning for the AABE Business Recognition Breakfast for more networking and to recognize excellence in area businesses.
According to Christopher Pike, Ward III Albany city commissioner and expo organizer, winning businesses and individuals demonstrated outstanding levels of "commitment to inclusion and diversity" in their business practices.
The Micro (one to nine employees) category Business of the Year award went to Verge, a downtown clothing shop. Central Monitoring took the prize in the Small (10-49 employees) category, while SASCO Chemical Group was the winner in the Medium (50-499 employees) classification. In the Large (500 or more employees) category, Procter & Gamble received the honor. The AABE Nonprofit of the Year Award was Albany ARC.
In addition, the Distinguished Entrepreneur Award was presented to Frank Ross, owner of Cinnabon at the Albany Mall. The Business Person of the Year Award was given to Fonda Strong, executive director of Open Arms.
According to Pike, the Albany Area Black Expo will continue through Saturday and will feature activities including Jazz in the Park at the Veterans Memorial Amphitheater 7 p.m.-9 p.m. today; the Women of Purpose Luncheon, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn, and Fins and Thespians, a night of theater at the Flint RiverQuarium, 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday.
On Saturday at the Hilton Inn will be the Business Expo & Trade Show from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m., as well business workshops at various times during the day. At the Sanford Gym at Albany State University will be the 100 Black Men Robotics Challenge from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. This event is open to the public with no admission charge.
"The Expo is an opportunity to have businesses come together to network and have more money to spend and grow the area economy," Pike said. "And to have a little fun while they're doing it."
Pike said "about 150" people had turned out for the AABE on Wednesday, or about the same number who attended last year's event.