Grow America launches with $250,000 business competition

Published: Tuesday, March 13 2012 3:16 p.m. MDT

Courtesy of Snapp Connor

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Grow America, a new organization that supports entrepreneurship both locally and across the nation, is giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to win part of the $1 million in cash and services the company is contributing through business contests throughout the year.

The competitions, known as Grow America Springboard, are the first move from Grow America toward supporting job growth in the state. Alan Hall, former chief executive officer and chairman of MarketStar Corporation, founded the company, which was unveiled Tuesday during a press event.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about job creation here and across the country,” Hall said in an interview with the Deseret News. “There is a formula to accomplishing that. Competition is the beginning of how you get entrepreneurs up and running.”

Before Grow America, Hall started Grow Utah Ventures, which was focused on cultivating entrepreneurship on the state level. Through Grow Utah, about 40 businesses have been started that have generated more than $700 million in total revenues and 2,000 jobs.

Hall’s newest organization is now trying to spread its influence on a national level.

Entrepreneurs have an opportunity to participate in three competitions in 2012. Grow America, along with help from its partners, will be giving away $1 million in cash and services to the best ideas, companies and startups over the course of the competitions.

The first competition is now live, and those interested can enter the competition in one of three categories. One category is for those who have an idea, but need help starting it, while the others are for companies who are either in the startup phase or fully developed.

A $250,000 grant in cash and services will be divided among the winners of each of the categories. After two elimination rounds, companies will compete for the grand prize in a live pitch at the Salt Palace Convention Center on May 21.

Two other competitions will occur in the summer and the fall. After all three contests, there will be a state competition in 2013. Each of the competitions will provide $250,000 in prizes, totaling $1 million.

Grow America is backed by a number of community partners, including Zions Bank, Comcast Spotlight and the Utah Jazz.

“I think this will have a significant impact in Utah in helping the governor reach his goal of 100,000 jobs in 1,000 days,” Scott Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Zions Bank, said in an interview with the Deseret News. “On a national level, I think in a fairly short period of time, you’ll see a million new jobs.”

Comcast Spotlight, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, saw Grow America as a good fit with its mission as it made the decision to partner with the organization.

“We have a $2 billion business that is solely focused on business to help them grow,” Steve Lindsley, regional vice president and general manager of Comcast Spotlight, said in an interview with the Deseret News. “So it’s a perfect fit for us.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch was also in attendance at the press event.

“This is a wonderful thing that entrepreneurs can be developed and move ahead in our state,” Hatch, who was endorsed by Hall during the meeting, said in an interview with the Deseret News. “I think it’s very farsighted for Alan Hall and all those who are doing this.”

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson

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