Greater Burlington Partnership
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West Burlington, Iowa

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Greater Burlington Partnership Honored for Iowa's Next Big Thing Youth Entrepreneurship Event

December 8, 2015

The Greater Burlington Partnership was honored Monday as the recipient of the 2015 Business Retention & Expansion (Small Division) Award, presented by the Mid-America Economic Development Council. The Partnership was honored specifically for its coordination and execution of the Inaugural ‘Iowa’s Next Big Thing’ Youth Entrepreneurship Event. The award was accepted by David Toyer, Economic Development Executive Director, at the Mid-America Competitiveness Conference & Site Selector Forum held in Chicago.

“We want to thank the Mid-America Economic Development Council for this award and recognition,” said Entrepreneurship Committee Chairman Bill Partain. “We are absolutely passionate about innovations, entrepreneurship, and their vital role in a growing, healthy economy. It is imperative that we encourage our young people to be innovative with a view towards taking innovation to realization. When these innovative ideas solve problems and/or result in better, more productive ways to do things, we all win.”

Iowa ranked 42nd in rate of entrepreneur startups in 2015, according to the Kauffman Index. “We knew we needed to get our youth geared up as a starting point to turn that number around,” said Brenda Levitt, Event Coordinator. “Rising to the challenge, juniors and seniors form local high schools were invited to participate in a youth entrepreneur challenge, ‘Iowa’s Next Big Thing’.”

The inaugural event had more than 100 students participate from 16 schools across the region. Students started their day with a keynote address by Tana Goertz, a former contestant on NBC’s “The Apprentice” and currently an Iowa co-chair for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Next, the students were split into teams and spent the morning developing business plans. Throughout the day they received instruction on idea creation, marketing, and finances to help them develop a basic business plan. At the end of the day each team made a pitch to a panel of local business professionals who selected the top three winning teams. The top teams pitched their products/services in front of the entire audience which then voted for the competition winners.

Iowa’s Next Big Thing was coordinated and sponsored by the Greater Burlington Partnership, IowaWorks (Southeast Iowa Office), Southeastern Community College, and the University of Iowa’s Jacobson institute for Youth Entrepreneurship. The event will be held again in the fall of 2016.

The Mid-America Economic Development Council sponsors the annual Economic Development Awards competition to recognize and stimulate the creative use of quality marketing by economic development organizations throughout the ten-state Mid-America region in promoting their respective counties.

Grow Greater Burlington is the Economic Development division of the Greater Burlington Partnership. The division’s mission is to add and retain jobs, enhance the tax base, attract private capital investment to the community and continuously improve the business climate throughout Des Moines County.

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