Ed Sheehan

Edward Sheehan, Showcase for Commerce chairman and president and CEO of Concurrent Technologies Corp., speaks at Cambria County War Memorial Arena on Thursday, May 28, 2015.

In this, the milestone 25th year of Showcase for Commerce, participants took the time to reflect upon the past, celebrate the present and envision the future.

On Thursday, Joyce Murtha paid tribute to her husband, the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha, who transformed the annual event from a small local business show into a defense industry exposition with national clout.

Showcase Chairman Ed Sheehan, president and CEO of Concurrent Technologies Corp. touted how this year’s gathering included 23 new exhibitors.

And hundreds of business and political leaders gathered for the opening ceremony

– held inside Cambria County War Memorial Arena – with hopes of making business deals to benefit the community in the coming years.

“I think this 25th anniversary of Showcase has just been pretty special,” said Johns­town Area Regional Industries President and CEO Linda Thomson.

Robert Layo, president and CEO of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce, added: “Everything seemed to come together, as it always has each year, to make for a successful event.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey served as the congressional sponsor for the third year in a row.

“It’s not only a great event for Johns­town and Cambria County and southwestern Pennsylvania, but I think it’s an important event for the nation,” Casey said. “A lot of what folks can see here, a lot of what they can learn and much of what they can be inspired by relates to our national security and the innovation and the technology and the real breakthroughs that we see every year because folks do a lot of hard work and research.”

The 107 displays set up inside the War Memorial ranged from high-tech military companies to educational institutions to nonprofits.

“We’ve got great exhibits and got a lot of support,” Sheehan said.

Along with the opening exhibition, the 2015 Showcase includes a group of high-ranking officials who either participated Thursday or are scheduled to appear on Friday: U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey; U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia; U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas; Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Katrina McFarland; Air Force Lt. Gen. Andrew Busch; Navy Rear Adm. Cindy Jaynes; Navy Rear Adm. Mathias Winter; U.S. Army Research Laboratory Director Thomas P. Russell; and Gov. Tom Wolf’s chief of staff, Kathleen McGinty.

Granger, chairwoman of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and vice chairwoman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, spoke during a government acquisition leaders briefing at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center.

“It’s important for people like Kay Granger, who’s one of the lead policy-makers when it comes to spending money on defense and foreign operations and state department issues, to see the capacities of places like Johnstown,” U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, from the 12th district, said.

Showcase for Commerce is scheduled to conclude on Friday with the John P. Murtha Breakfast, press conference to announce this year’s contracts, the PITTch Fest finals and other activities.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.