Economy – A Renaissance For Downtown


Start-ups get a boost with downtown competition. When your downtown needs a boost and you get a group of economic development-minded people together, great ideas emerge. The “Jump-Start Downtown Elizabeth City” Business Plan Competition is one of those great ideas.

The competition awards a $5,000 cash prize to the winning entry of the contest. Along with the startup cash, they also receive
a valuable package of services worth $3,500, which includes free advertising, free Internet, business cards, and a one-year membership in both the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce and The Downtown Business Professionals (DBPA). The second place entry  receives a $2,500 package of services. The two main sponsors 
of the competition are the Committee of 100 and ECDI who each contribute $2,500 toward the grand prize.

Symbolically, the Jump-Start com-petition kick-off took place inside an unrented Main Street storefront. The September 2014 event was crowded with city officials, business owners, citizens, and many members of the community and professional groups. Contest winners will be announced spring 2015.

“We needed to do something to aggressively recruit businesses into this great downtown,”

“We needed to do something to aggressively recruit businesses into this great downtown,” said Wayne Harris, Director of the
Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission. 

It is not easy money for the winner, however. The Jump-Start competition requires entrants to consider the foundation of their plan and their business seriously. A business is more than just a great idea, and Jump-Start organizers recognize this.

According to Harris, the competition was started and designed “to motivate businesses to do what they needed to do to be

The submissions are scored on several criteria including the substance of the business plans, marketing plans and financial plans, along with the owners’ resumes. Nearly 25% of the scoring is based on how well the business concept fits with the existing downtown theme of businesses, the expected benefit of the business to downtown, and the owner’s expected involvement in downtown. Being a good fit with the current downtown business model is considered a key component of the application package. Applicants can receive up to fifteen additional points in their evaluation by taking advantage of a free online entrepreneur training program offered by College of the Albemarle (COA).

The Jump-Start competition was modeled after a similar one in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which has been   strong for ten years. Fourteen of their winning businesses are still in operation. Jump-Start Downtown Elizabeth City is hoping for the same type of success. 

When asked if the competition would be ongoing, Wayne Harris replied, “We certainly hope so.”

Rebecca Cross, Executive Director of ECDI, thinks the contest is an exciting way to draw attention to the benefits of being a business in downtown. “Once you’ve experienced Elizabeth City’s downtown, you know the location is hard to beat.”

Article By: Deborah J. Malenfant
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