Growing second-stage businesses statewide have the opportunity to join an elite group of nationally recognized companies as part of Florida Companies to Watch, an awards program that celebrates second-stage companies throughout the state of Florida.  Florida Companies to Watch is presented by GrowFL and the Florida Economic Gardening Institute at the University of Central Florida, in association with the Edward Lowe Foundation.  Sponsors for the event include the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Florida Business Incubation Association and the University of Central Florida.   

Companies to Watch is a unique awards program developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation to honor second-stage companies that demonstrate high performance in the marketplace, exhibit innovative products or processes, or otherwise make those companies “worth watching.”  Companies to Watch operates statewide in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and the northeastern region of California.

“We encourage second-stage companies to apply for this outstanding program,” said 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.  “Being selected for the Florida Companies to Watch awards program provides growing businesses the credibility and recognition that distinguish them among their competitors.”

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.  Companies in all industries are invited to apply.

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.

Companies may apply directly to the program, and professionals who work with qualifying companies such as attorneys, accountants, bankers, public relations representatives and economic development professionals are also encouraged to nominate businesses they believe should be recognized.  The deadline to nominate a second-stage company is September 17, 2010.  All companies vying for the award must submit an application, which will be accepted until October 8, 2010.

The companies selected as 2011 Florida Companies to Watch will be recognized at a special ceremony set for Thursday, February 17, 2011 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla. 

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

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