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Awards given to business starters

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Utah's top entrepreneurs were honored Monday evening at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards ceremony.

Eleven entrepreneurs representing eight businesses received awards at a banquet in the Salt Palace Convention Center.

The contest was created to honor the men and women who have given rise to new products, new services and new industries.

This year's award categories and winners are:

E-Business: Daniel Taggart, Paul B. Allen and Curt Allen of Myfamily.com, an Internet company that has three Web sites to help families with genealogical research. One of the Web sites provides tools for families to create private Web sites and share family information online. The three men have created a strong management team that has made Myfamily.com one of the most popular sites on the Internet.

E-Software/Services: Lance V. D'Ambrosio and Troy D'Ambrosio of Convergence Communications, a telecommunications company that provides integrated broadband telecommunication solutions and Internet services in Mexico, Central America and the Andean region of South America. Lance and his brother, Troy, will soon build fiber optic networks in seven of the largest cities in Mexico.

Health Care Service/Technology Service: Jonathan C. Coon, co-founder of 1-800-Contacts Inc., a direct-to-wearer contact lens provider. Coon feels strongly about customer service and believes by taking care of his employees, they will, in turn, take care of his customers. It is his attitude that has made his company the world's largest direct-to-wearer contact lens provider.

Industrial/Consumer Products: Daniel S. Temkin, owner and president of Temkin International Inc., a company that manufactures floral and gift packaging. Temkin followed his entrepreneurial dream from his hometown in Israel to the United States. His willingness to create machinery that would produce variations of polypropylene wrap, and market the new wrap has made him a leader in floral and gift packaging business.

Real Estate/Construction: Rick S. Salisbury, owner of Salisbury Homes, the second-largest homebuilding firm in Utah. Salisbury runs a tight schedule but makes time to walk through each home his company builds. Salisbury Homes constructs starter homes in Utah and Wasatch counties. Salisbury also owns four construction-related companies that deal in excavation, waste removal, real estate and home cleaning.

Consumer Products: Craig C. Christensen, owner of Christensen Automotive Group, a company that includes three car dealerships and a used car center. Christensen said it is his employees who deserve credit for the success of his dealerships. He seeks highly motivated and talented people and rewards them for their performance. It is due to his incentive program that he has kept employees, despite the high turnover rate most dealerships have.

Services: Barbara Baker, founder of Challenger Schools, private schools that provide preschool through eighth-grade education. Baker began as a public school teacher in California. After noticing her students weren't prepared for the first grade, she started a pre-school program to teach students in their early years. She now has 18 schools in the San Francisco Bay and Salt Lake areas. Challenger students consistently score higher than most students in the United States on standardized tests.

Master Entrepreneur: Larry W. Miller, owner and president of L.W. Miller Transportation, a trucking business that not only includes a fleet of 165 trucks but also a truck repair and maintenance business, truck shop and convenience stores and truck-washing facilities. Miller started the business in 1982 with two trucks and four employees. He now has 400 employees and 165 trucks. His truck stop and convenience stores are spread through Utah and southern Idaho.

Turnaround: Fran M. Flood, president and CEO of Gentner Communications Corp., which specializes in professional communications products and services. Under Flood's leadership, Gentner streamlined operations, stopped developing all of its products in-house from scratch and began forming partnerships and strategic alliances. A new management team cut unprofitable products and narrowed the firm's focus to three divisions that promised the most growth potential.

For more information on the award recipients, as well as entrepreneurs from the other 18 nominated companies, please see the business section in the Sunday, June 25, online edition of the Deseret News at Judges impressed by Entrepreneur of the Year applicants.

E-mail: jcheney@desnews.com