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Annual fete hails 9 entrepreneurs

Winners praised for creativity and opening doors

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Nine business leaders who do everything from making windows and nutritional supplements to running restaurants and theater festivals were honored Wednesday as recipients of the 2003 Utah Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

"This is a marvelous group of individuals," Scott Peterson, Salt Lake City managing partner for Ernst & Young, told the more than 1,200 people gathered at the Salt Palace convention center for the 10th annual evening awards banquet.

"They have clearly opened the door . . . to create their unique and exciting companies."

The nine winning entrepreneurs were chosen from a finalists list of 32 people who operate 26 businesses.

Among the award recipients were Bill White, the founder of Bill White Enterprises, who has parlayed a lifetime of food preparation into ownership of restaurants like Grappa in Park City. And Jean Brown, a mother of 13 who had to lock herself in a closet for privacy while trying to get her company, JBA Research, up and running. And Fred C. Adams, who started a little theater festival in southern Utah and grew it into the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespearean Festival.

Peterson said such award recipients are the reason why the Entrepreneur of the Year program is more successful in Salt Lake City than it is anywhere else in the world. And it is why Utah has created four national EOY winners and seven national finalists.

"Our people here in Utah compete against the best and brightest (across the country) and do it very successfully," Peterson said.

Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt told those attending the awards ceremony that he is optimistic about the future of the state because of what entrepreneurs like the EOY finalists do. He thanked them for taking risks and utilizing their tremendous energy to found successful operations.

In a prepared statement placed in each program, Leavitt said: "Utah has always been home to individuals who envision a bold, prosperous future and pool their creative energies to achieve it. The state continues to be a center for innovation, with an impressive supply of entrepreneurs who sustain our heritage of vision, creativity and resourcefulness."

Utah award recipients will be eligible for the National Entrepreneur of the Year award, which will be presented in November in Palm Springs, Calif.

Local sponsors for the EOY awards are Comcast; Curran & Connors; Deseret Morning News; Digital Bytes; Diversified Insurance; The Layton Cos.; Merrill Lynch; Parsons, Behle & Latimer; Scherzer International; Signature Press; The Summit Group Communications; and Utah Business Magazine.

E-mail: gkratz@desnews.com