PHOENIX, AZ -- As part of its ongoing commitment to cultivating start-ups entrepreneurship and providing start-ups the tools needed to stay and grow in Arizona, the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), joined by Gov. Jan Brewer and ACA Co-Chair Jerry Colangelo, officially opened "Innovation Forward," a cutting-edge entrepreneurial center in downtown Phoenix.

"Start-ups make up the fabric of our great state," said Gov. Brewer. "Technology-driven entrepreneurs now have a central location to receive valuable information and guidance on how to start their companies, grow their existing businesses and ultimately, create higher-paying jobs."

"By creating this space, the ACA is helping to advance the next great idea into reality," said Don Cardon, president and CEO of the ACA. "Arizona's entrepreneurs can tap into the ACA's vast resources to help start a business or better understand the state's business environment, and learn from proven leaders in their industry."

In addition, the ACA announced it will double its commitment to the hugely successful Arizona Innovation Challenge. Initially funded at $1.5 million, the ACA has now committed $3 million to the program, creating two rounds of competition ($1.5 million in award money for each challenge). The challenge advances innovation and technology commercialization opportunities in Arizona by supporting early stage ventures in Arizona's targeted industries of renewable energy and sustainability, bio and life sciences, electronics, information technologies, aerospace and defense and advanced manufacturing.

"This is an investment in our future. Arizona technology businesses are the prime engine for economic growth through wealth and job creation. Across the state, our future is being created in garages, campuses, labs, incubators and in the minds of entrepreneurs," Cardon said.

"Encouraging small business - especially those with a focus on technology - will help solidify Arizona's economic strength," said Colangelo, co-chair of the ACA. "This challenge gives innovative entrepreneurs the funding needed to hit the marketplace more quickly, and will provide them with the mentoring and partnerships that will enable them to succeed."

The 2011 ACA Challenge received more than 100 proposals, awarding eight companies grants ranging from $100,000 to $250,000. Applications for the first round of 2012 will be accepted Jan. 6 - Feb. 6. In early 2012, the first $1.5 million in grants will be awarded to the most promising technology ventures. Companies receiving awards will be required to commercialize their technology solution and generate revenue within one year of the award. All applicants will receive significant feedback generated from the evaluation process and a seasoned panel of evaluators, be invited to partner with commercialization resources across Arizona, and will be evaluated for eligibility in other ACA incentive programs like the Angel Investment Program.

Earlier this year, the ACA announced it secured $18.2 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury's State Small Business Credit Initiative for the Arizona Innovation Accelerator Fund. This money will help spur lending to Arizona's small businesses and foster business expansion, capital investment and job creation in Arizona. This five-year program will provide small businesses (less than 500 employees) anywhere from $50,000 to $2 million for working capital, inventory, equipment purchases, workforce expansion and property improvements. Additional information and application materials are now available online. Contact: Kristen Hellmer 602-845-1200 kristenh@azcommerce.com.

About the Arizona Commerce Authority:

The ACA is dedicated to welcoming domestic and international businesses to Arizona and encouraging the expansion of existing businesses in the State. The agency maintains foreign trade offices in Canada, Asia, Europe and Mexico. The ACA will focus exclusively on business attraction, retention and expansion of Arizona’s strongest economic sectors including science/technology, aerospace/defense, renewable energies and small business/entrepreneurial expansion efforts. For more information contact: Arizona Commerce Authority at 602-845-1200 or AZCommerce.com. Arizona Commerce Authority, 333 North Central Avenue, Suite 1900, Phoenix, AZ 85004 United States.

Source: Arizona Commerce Authority

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