Networking in North County

According to a recent online survey by global business and professional networking organization Business Network International, about 82 percent of business persons in the country belong to some type of networking group. About three-quarters of those surveyed reported that they garner most of their business through networking.

Until now, there has been little opportunity for business people located in North Clark County to join such networking groups, said organizers of the new North County Professional Social Network.

“There are a lot of networking groups in the Vancouver area, but none in the North County area,” said Amy Cheng, who founded the network with Alan Ford and Deanna Taylor.

Cheng is a mortgage consultant with Countrywide Home Loans and a resident of La Center and Ford and Taylor work for Keller Williams Realty, which has offices in Vancouver and Battle Ground.

The goal of the NCPSN, Ford said, is to encourage people from each of the major North County towns to get to know each other. To facilitate this goal, the group meets in a different city each month.

“If they want to grow their business and their business relationships, people need to see beyond their city boundaries,” Ford said.

The group was in the planning stages in late March and its first meeting, which took place in May in Battle Ground, was attended by 13 people including Battle Ground Mayor Mike Ciraulo. Since then, the group has met in Ridgefield, La Center and Woodland, with the largest turnout – more than 30 people – at the July meeting in La Center.

North Clark County is projected to continue to experience an influx of business and population growth, and the area is paying attention.

The North Clark County Leadership Group – which includes the cities of Ridgefield, Battle Ground and La Center and the Port of Ridgefield – organized its first event, the Business Opportunity Expo, in May.

Its goal was to help the area prepare for the projected growth, and there, the social network was presented as an offshoot of the expo, said an event coordinator Dena Horton.

“Even though the folks organizing the expo had nothing to do with the social network, it essentially was a springboard off of the excitement of the expo,” she said. “It was a way to get all of North County to coalesce around the network.”

The network is part of the serious effort on marketing and business development in that area, Horton added.

The group aims to appeal to all levels of business, with members ranging from small home-based business owners to employees of large corporations, Cheng said.

At the heart of the meetings is the idea that “you are more comfortable doing business with people you have a relationship with,” Ford said.

Members typically meet at restaurants and although the group focuses on North County, membership is open to anyone. There is no membership cost, and the group has no formal officers.

Instead, various members are responsible for publicizing the new group in their respective areas. Ford represents Battle Ground, while Cheng manages the La Center area. Taylor represents Ridgefield, and Heliene Kofstad, another Keller Williams Realtor, handles Woodland.

And unlike some networking groups that limit membership to a certain number of occupations, the NCPSN has no such limitations.

“You can’t have too many friends,” she said.

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