The Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards program, honoring excellence since 2001, is accepting nominations for the region’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs who have launched and are managing successful business enterprises in southern and eastern Kentucky.

 Nominations will be accepted through June 4 in five business award categories, including a new award entry that recognizes the accomplishments of young entrepreneurs. For the first time, EIEA will honor the work of young entrepreneurs (25 and younger) who are operating successful businesses in the region. The new category was announced earlier this year by EIEA program sponsors to recognize the energy and creativity of the region’s youngest business leaders and entrepreneurs.

 “The Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards program’s purpose is to raise the awareness of the contributions of high-achieving entrepreneurs,” said Stephen Taylor, EIEA committee chairman and development director for the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp.

“And now with the addition of the young entrepreneurs category, motivated people under the age of 25 have a category in which to compete.”

 The top three finalists in each of the five EIEA business categories will be honored and the winners announced on Sept. 10 at the 2012 EIEA Awards luncheon at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset.

Nominations will be accepted in the following EIEA categories: Business (in existence five or more years with more than 25 employees); Small Business (in existence five or more years with 25 or fewer employees); Start-Up (in existence less than five years); Not-for-Profit Entity (in existence at least six months); and Young Entrepreneur (for business people 25 and younger).

 “Southeastern Kentucky has about 40,000 microenterprises, businesses with five or fewer employees,” Taylor said. “Like these small businesses, the entrepreneurs leading many of the region’s enterprises started in their garages, a basement or a spare room to become economic engines.”

Nominees are judged on the economic success of the enterprise, contributions to the community, job creation and operational achievement as measured by innovative business practices, superior safety achievement and superior technology.

The EIEA program, sponsored by Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Business and Technology, the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp., the Center for Rural Development and its newest partner, the Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corp., honors business leaders and entrepreneurs who exemplify America’s spirit of entrepreneurship.

For more information or to download a copy of the EIEA nomination form, visit http://crdev.us/2012EIEAnom, call the Center for Rural Development at (606) 677-6000, visit centertech.com, call EKU’s College of Business and Technology at (859) 622-2334 or email cbt.eiea@eku.edu.

Nominations may be submitted by an individual or business in the EIEA’s service area: Adair, Bath, Bell, Boyd, Boyle, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Edmonson, Elliott, Estill, Fleming, Floyd, Garrard, Green, Greenup, Harlan, Hart, Jackson, Jessamine, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lewis, Lincoln, McCreary, Madison, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Metcalf, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Russell, Taylor, Wayne, Whitley and Wolfe counties.

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