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Applications for ‘Companies to Watch’ awards open until Oct. 13

The future of Florida’s economy will likely be shaped by an elite group of privately owned companies recognized in the annual Florida Companies to Watch awards program scheduled for February 17, 2011, in Orlando.  This statewide event lauds the success of business leaders who have taken their operations to the “second-stage” of growth and hold the potential to continue to create new jobs in their communities and industries, thereby making a difference in regional communities.

Florida Companies to Watch is presented by GrowFL, the Florida Economic Gardening Institute at the University of Central Florida and ACG Florida, in association with the Edward Lowe Foundation.  Additional sponsors for the event include the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Florida Business Incubation Association and the University of Central Florida.  

Since its inception in 2005, Companies to Watch (CTW) has evolved from an event in a single state to a recognition program with national scope.  Created by the Edward Lowe Foundation, CTW celebrates high-performing, second-stage companies (those beyond the start-up phase with the intent and capacity for significant, sustainable growth) that demonstrate high performance in the marketplace, exhibit innovative products or processes, or otherwise make those companies “worth watching.”  Debuting in Michigan, Companies to Watch is being conducted across the country.

“Many second-stage businesses fly under the radar screen of typical awards programs,” notes Dr. Tom O’Neal, executive director of the Florida Economic Gardening Institute and associate vice president for the University of Central Florida’s Office of Research and Commercialization.  “These companies are quietly, yet steadily, creating jobs and improving the quality of life in their communities.”

Companies in all industries are invited to apply by October 13, 2010.  Complete award criteria and detailed information is available at the official website:  www.florida.companiestowatch.org

The economic impact these companies generate is significant.  According to data obtained from 1993-2007, second-stage companies represented about 11 percent of U.S. establishments, but generated 35.7 percent of the nation’s jobs. (source YourEconomy.org).  What’s more, second-stage companies are introducing new products, services and technologies that give the United States a competitive advantage in the global arena.  Because second-stage companies aren’t relegated to a single industry, CTW differs from other award programs and showcases a diverse group of businesses that reflect the economic make-up of the state.

“Companies to Watch takes a whole-business approach, identifying companies across the state that represent Florida’s future, not just major metropolitan areas,” says O’Neal.  “It shows the economic potential of the entire state as demonstrated by the successes of second-stage companies.  Being selected for the Florida Companies to Watch awards program provides growing businesses the credibility and recognition that distinguish them among their competitors.  Our new partnership with ACG Florida provides the opportunity to raise the profile of selected companies among the statewide corporate community.  All second-stage companies are encouraged to apply.”

Like partners of other statewide Companies to Watch programs, ACG recognized the importance of giving innovative entrepreneurs a day in the sun, showcasing the power of growing companies in Florida’s backyard. 

“For ACG, this awards program is a natural fit with our goal of providing capital resources to mid-size companies looking to grow,” believes Russell Slappey, ACG Orlando immediate past president.  “Too often we hear of companies in this revenue band struggling to access the needed capital and advisors to drive their corporate growth.  The Florida Companies To Watch program creates the perfect conduit.”

To be eligible for the award, a company must be a privately held, commercial enterprise that is currently in a stage of growth and past the start-up phase.  Qualifying companies must also be headquartered in the state of Florida, employ between six and 99 employees, and have between $750,000 and $50 million in annual revenue.  Again, companies in all industries are invited to apply by October 13.

A selection panel of judges representing areas of economic development, banking, entrepreneurship and small business look for evidence of fast and/or high growth in employment rates and revenue.  In addition, Florida Companies to Watch award recipients also demonstrate special strengths and traits that stand out from the competition including entrepreneurial leadership, product innovation, social/community responsibility and competitive business practices.

In addition to the recognition of being named a Florida Companies to Watch award winner, companies have the opportunity to participate in a leaders retreat attended by former Companies to Watch award recipients from other states at the Edward Lowe Foundation’s Big Rock Valley retreat facility in southwestern Michigan. 

For additional information, visit www.CompaniestoWatch.org or e-mail FloridaCTW@lowe.org or contact Lynn Aitken at (407) 823-6384.


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