Amarillo’s EnterPrize Challenge offers more than chickens

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You may not have heard of this one–unless you hail from west Texas– but the Amarillo EnterPrize Challenge is a business plan competition that has us pretty jazzed.

Why?

  • It’s rich: the prize pool totals $500,000 consisting entirely of cash grants. And there are several winners with each receiving as much as $100,000!
  • The odds are good. Out of a few dozen applications submitted each year, 20 or so are accepted into the Challenge.
  • Independent judges provide feedback and select winners. Entrants also receive business plan training and additional services from the West Texas A&M University Enterprise Center, which runs the competition.
  • The competition is not focused only on high-tech. In fact, most of the entrants are basic manufacturing and service-sector companies. Past winners include a manufacturer of natural soaps, a basketball instructional program, and a maker of inflatable paintball structures.

The Amarillo EnterPrize Challenge is designed to assist businesses that will add jobs and bring new money into the Amarillo area. In fact, one of its few eligibility requirements is that entrants must document within their three year business plans that at least 75% of their company’s sales would come from outside the Amarillo area and that jobs created within their plans would be jobs in Potter or Randall Counties.

Funding for the Challenge comes from the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. Residents approved a one-half cent sales tax back in 1989 to form the Amarillo EDC, and the EnterPrize Challenge has been an important piece of the agency’s efforts since 1995.

A total of $2.5 million has been awarded through this competition over the years and the investment appears to have been a good one for Amarillo. Grant recipients have created over 300 new jobs and they add $24 million each year to the Amarillo economy.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2010-11 Challenge on a website with the intriguing URL www.notforchickens.com. We’re wondering if that’s the Texas equivalent of www.notforpeanuts.com (still available when we checked).

Photo credit: hddod

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Joe Hurley is a CPA, author of "The Best Way to Save for College - A Complete Guide to 529 Plans", founder of Savingforcollege.com, and co-founder of Bizplancompetitions.com. He has also recently started making maple syrup.
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