At a recent news conference to announce the initiative underwritten by the Gilmore Foundation, it was all smiles as the program, Amory Venture, was explained.
The City of Amory, the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce and Amory Main Street are partnering with the Gilmore Foundation for the contest.
Mayor Howard Boozer called the program a “unique opportunity” that would make significant positive change in Amory.
The contest is open to anyone 18 or older who wants to start a new business within the city limits of Amory. People do not have to live in Amory to enter.
To qualify as a new business, a business must not already have an employee ID number with the IRS.
Contestants will be required to attend one orientation session in April to learn about the program’s rules and regulations. They then must submit an application by May 1.
According to Gilmore Foundation Executive Director Danny Spreitler, the two $15,000 prizes will be awarded in October to the two businesses judged to have the best plans and are most likely to succeed in the community.
Spreitler said the new business does not have to be retail, but could be anything, including a service company or a franchise. And there is no stipulation about how many jobs the business will create.
“It isn’t limited to people who are Amory residents, either,” Boozer said. “Anyone can enter the contest, but the business has to be located in Amory.”
Spreitler said training opportunities will be offered to the new businesses, as well as to existing business owners who want to sharpen their skills.
“This program is another way for Amory to demonstrate leadership and to set our town apart in a very positive manner,” Boozer said. “We will create an atmosphere to welcome new business in Amory.”
He said Amory will be a trade center for the region, and in the process, new jobs will be created and the tax base will increase.
“The Gilmore Foundation board of directors is to be congratulated for carrying forward the vision and legacy of Mr. Ellie Gilmore,” Boozer said.
The Gilmore Foundation plans to triple the amount of prize money offered to start-up businesses within three years.
A competitive edge
Amory Venture is expected to be a unique partnership that helps entrepreneurs financially start businesses, while also providing training and support that will help them succeed.
Itawamba Community College will tap into the Amory Venture program, as it has committed to offer small business classes in Amory through a grant it received. Boozer said training opportunities will be open to any business, new or existing.
A panel of impartial judges will review the entrants’ business plans, which must be submitted by Sept. 1, to determine the winners of the prizes.
Boozer said the vision of the program is to turn Amory into the largest business incubator in the state.
“I’m a strong believer in regional development,” Boozer said. “I can easily envision a new core business originating in Amory and becoming a model.”
Boozer said Amory is pulling together several entities to help launch new businesses.
“Amory Venture is another significant tool in our toolbox to enable our team to create the competitive edge,” he said.
Spreitler added that direct lines of communication will be established between other funding agencies that new businesses might want to tap into such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Appalachian Regional Commission and Three Rivers Planning and Development.
In addition, more organizations are stepping forward to join with the Amory Venture effort, he said. Banking and legal services also are being offered to start-up businesses in Amory.
Some of the other prizes are free one-year memberships to the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Amory Regional Museum and Amory Main Street; free legal incorporation assistance from Creekmore Law Office; free business checking accounts from Renasant Bank; free start-up package of business stationary from Mid-South Fine Printers; and free business classes from ICC’s Entrepreneurship University.