The Enterprise Center at Salem State University has launched its 2012 North of Boston Business Plan Competition with the announcement that broadened eligibility rules will open the competition to more companies.
The competition, which seeks to identify and support promising regional businesses, offers cash awards of $5,000 first prize, $3,000 second prize and $2,000 third prize.
The competition is open to businesses anywhere that are willing to locate in Essex County and the Merrimack Valley. In fact, a Gloucester company captured third-place honors in the 2011 contest.
That award went to Groupize LLC, of Gloucester, which provides state-of-the art group travel planning, booking and socializing.
First prize for 2011 went to Notch Session Ale of Salem and Ipswich, which introduced a lower-alcohol beer, while Tides Medical LLC of Marblehead won second place. It sells complex orthopedic implants for joint and spinal surgery directly to hospitals.
Traditionally, the business plan competition has targeted companies less than three years old. New rules, however, now invite older, established companies to compete if they have a new product, service, initiative or growth strategy.
The requirement that companies plan to add at least five full-time employees within two years remains. Applications for the 2012 awards must be received by 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27.
For regional business leaders, the competition identifies new growth businesses that can contribute to the local economy.
"Entrepreneurs put fire in the belly of our regional economy," said Enterprise Center CEO Christine Sullivan. "We want them to start here, stay here, and grow here."
The Enterprise Center is also seeking sponsors for the 2012 competition. Interested parties should contact Sullivan (978-542-7039, email@example.com.)
Complete rules, application and other information about the 2012 North of Boston Business Plan Competition, are available at www.enterprisectr.org/bpc or call 978-542-7528.