published Friday, November 4th, 2011

Company Lab awarded $500,000 in state, local grants

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The Company Lab reaped a financial windfall Thursday when Tennessee awarded it a $250,000 matching grant as a "regional entrepreneurial accelerator."

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam called the grant an asset "to help aspiring entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses with expert mentoring and support," with the ultimate goal of spurring job creation.

The Lab mentors and trains innovators in Chattanooga, as a division of CreateHere.

"We've always had The Company Lab, now we've got The Company Lab on steroids," said Jack Studer, investor and partner at the Lamp Post Group. "That means there will be more investable companies and a higher quality of investable companies here in Chattanooga."

The Lyndhurst Foundation awarded a matching grant that will bring the total endowment to $500,000, said Lyndhurst's Sarah Morgan.

Sheldon Grizzle, who heads what he calls "the CoLab," wants to use the money to reach out to more entrepreneurs throughout the region, offering them the same business boot camps and access to capital that he currently offers to Chattanooga-based startups.

"We'll be doing more competitions, biz plan competitions, 48-hour launch competition-type stuff, trying to help get people excited about entrepreneurship," Grizzle said.

In fact, he was notified of the award on the eve of 48-hour launch, an event that challenges anyone with an idea to put together a team and create a business plan over a two-day period.

He'll only have until June 2012 to spend the money, so the "CoLab" has partnered with other organizations like The Enterprise Center and Chattanooga-area Chamber of Commerce to better reach rural businessmen.

"We'll be bringing people throughout the region into this process, just like we've always done in Chattanooga," said Wayne Cropp, president and CEO of The Enterprise Center. "We're also looking at how to commercialize these ideas, and how you make them scale."

For the Chattanooga-area Chamber of Commerce, the grant adds yet another bullet to the city's marketing gun.

"Businesses come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and we see this as a golden opportunity to provide the resources to make new connections with emerging companies," said J.Ed. Marston, marketing director for the Chamber.

The award is part of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development's "Incite" initiative, begun by Haslam in April. A total of $2.25 million was awarded to nine organizations.

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about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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