Organizers of a new contest want to reward the dreamers, innovators, inventors and big thinkers in the Quad-Cities who have an idea for a new business but have yet to see it become a reality.

Quad-Cities Fast Pitch is a competition open to anyone in Scott or Rock Island counties who has an idea for a new business or a dream. The contest is seeking entrepreneurial ideas in the categories of manufacturing/industrial; web/technology; retail/service and restaurant/entertainment.

Contestants will pitch their business ideas and compete for a grand prize of $5,000 and thousands of dollars worth of in-kind business services. Three semi-finalists will receive $1,000 cash and in-kind services.

With more than 80 percent of the Quad-City's economic growth driven by homegrown, small businesses, "we've shifted our thinking to that we need to be doing a better job of supporting entrepreneurs,'' said Tory Brecht, the city of Davenport's business development manager.

He said most economic development efforts have focused on business expansions and assisting new businesses, "but this is a way to get the person who has a great business idea who is sitting at home and hasn't taken the next step."

Fast Pitch is a joint effort between the economic development departments of Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island and Moline, and partners that include the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce's Ignite Quad-Cities, the Iowa and Illinois Small Business Development Centers, University of Illinois and Iowa State University Extension Services, Augustana College and WQAD-TV.  The Riverboat Development Authority is sponsoring the cash prize with some of the partners providing in-kind business services.

Marsha Rinetti, regional director for the Eastern Iowa Small Business Development Center, said the joint effort is exciting. "This is collaboration like we don't often see," she said.

One of the contest's goals is to raise awareness of the resources that exist for entrepreneurs, including the Small Business Development Centers, which offer free counseling. "We also want to raise general awareness about small business and the importance of small business in our communities," she added.

Brecht said each of the city's economic development staffs will be looking at the applications to see if there viable business ideas, in which, they can assist.

Fast Pitch is a three-stage competition with 20 finalists — four from each category — getting a chance to pitch their idea to a panel of judges. Applications are being accepted through March 15 and can be found at quadcitiesfastpitch.com.

For more information, contact Brecht at 563-888-2263 or tbrecht@ci.davenport.ia.us

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