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SACRAMENTO, CA - Cautious optimism was enough to draw dozens of businesses to the McClellan Conference Center Thursday.

If the success of the expo is an economic indicator, then things are looking up as more firms invest in reaching out to grow their business. Mike Guerrero's paint business, Powdercoat, has six employees. He's attending his first small business expo with hopes of expansion.

"I am hopeful in the shift that I'm seeing and the progression that we're making towards a better economy," Guerrero said.

Many local small businesses, and Sacramento's Chamber of Commerce, believe in order to grow, companies must meet three critical needs.

"They really need help on getting visibility. They really need help in networking, building relationships, opening up doors; and number one is education," Metro Chamber's Philip MacDougall said. "There's so many things changing from social media to health care reform, they want to understand how it can help them and how they can grow."

But the shadow of the Great Recession still hangs over small businesses.

"The biggest issue small businesses have, one of the biggest issues, is cash flow, so I can't spend too much money up front on marketing because I don't know if it's going to work, and I got to pay the bills," DealSnapt founder Randy Custeau said.

"Uncertainty is the number one stressor in life. You don't know whether that ball hanging over you is going to fall or not, so you're unwilling to take risks when ordinarily in a stable certain economy, you would ultimately take those risks," United Law Center owner Stephen Foondos added.

"There's a lot of cash sitting in bank accounts in some small businesses and lots of medium and large size businesses, and they're hesitant to spend, to invest because of the level of uncertainty, and so that's the one thing that I think is kind of holding us back," Metro Chamber's Roger Niello said.

Holding back from rapid growth, but signs of a slow, continual expansion can be seen across the region

"It's a very gradual incline, but it is coming," Guerrero said.

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