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Highland offering big bucks for innovative startups

HIGHLAND – City of Highland officials today announced plans for an innovative competition designed to identify and reward startup companies that utilize technology to develop and market products or services.

The 2014 Highland Gigabit Challenge is a business plan competition that offers participants the opportunity to receive benefits in excess of $40,000. The Highland Gigabit Challenge was created by the City of Highland in partnership with the Metro East Small Business Development Center.

Lisa Peck, economic development and marketing coordinator for Highland, said the competition is designed to encourage technology entrepreneurs, to highlight the city’s state-of-the-art gigabit Internet service and attract high-growth potential startup companies to the community of approximately 9,910 residents located approximately 25 miles east of St. Louis.

“The City of Highland is one of a limited number of communities in the country which invested in the construction of the infrastructure necessary to support gigabit level internet service, which is offered through Highland Communication Services,” Peck said. “Mayor Joe Michaelis, members of the city council and City Manager Mark Latham recognized the long-term value of the gigabit service, not only for our residents, but as a tool to spur growth and innovation.”

To receive the more than $40,000 in benefits, including the $15,000 first-place prize, the winning company must commit to locating the startup in Highland. The benefits include startup funds, office space, Internet service and mentoring and support provided through the Highland Entrepreneurship Program.

Patrick McKeehan, director of the Metro East Small Business Development Center, said the greater St. Louis area is rapidly gaining the reputation as a growing area for technology development. “The business environment in the greater St. Louis area, and in Highland, is particularly favorable for startups. Technology start-up companies are able to take advantage of the support is that readily available, including outstanding levels of support from the corporate community,” McKeehan said.

The support of the area’s corporate community is evident by the list of sponsors of the Highland Gigabit Challenge. “We were able to attract a diverse group of sponsors that recognize the potential of the Highland Gigabit Challenge, share our belief on what the Challenge will mean to Highland and are pleased to be a part of the St. Louis region’s tech ecosystem,” Peck said.

The Highland Gigabit Challenge is being sponsored by the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Highland Chamber of Commerce, Corning, Bluebird Network, TheBANK of Edwardsville, RETKO Group, the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, Oates Associates, National Telco Television Consortium, First Clover Leaf Bank, Rotary Club of Highland, Terra Properties and Moran Economic Development.

Applications for the Highland Gigabit Challenge will be accepted beginning on Monday, Sept. 22. The deadline for the applications is Oct. 20. The winners of the competition will be announced on Dec. 12.

Applications and additional information on the Highland Gigabit Challenge can be obtained by visiting the competition’s website:, or by contacting Lisa Peck at (618) 654-3592 or via e-mail at:; or Patrick McKeehan at (618) 650-2929 or via e-mail at:

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