Introduction: 2012 Gulf Coast Area Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year®

Each year in June, Ernst & Young celebrates entrepreneurial leaders across the country as part of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. This year marks the 26th year in which Ernst & Young has recognized those leaders. Over the years, we’ve learned that entrepreneurial leaders are a little different from the rest of us. They can take ideas and put them into action where others cannot, and along the way, they lead others into a better future. We call this “turning vision into reality” as that is exactly what entrepreneurs do.

In recent years, we have had a slower economy and we have seen the start of a recovery. However, during challenging economic times, entrepreneurial leaders step up to the challenge, as you will see with this year’s finalists. The companies represented at this year’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year Gulf Coast Area Awards grew the number of people employed in excess of 30 percent and grew revenues in excess of 40 percent during the last two years combined. There can be no doubt that these entrepreneurial leaders, through their vision, will bring our country back to prosperity.

Ernst & Young has been recognizing these risk-taking visionaries for 26 years, and over that time, it has recognized more than 8,000 entrepreneurial men and women. The Entrepreneur Of The Year award has grown to be recognized as the leading business award. While Ernst & Young is proud of this accomplishment, the credit goes to the thousands of entrepreneurial leaders who have been recognized over the years. The fact that the program has endured and grown for more than 26 years is a true testament to the entrepreneurial leaders themselves.

The program now celebrates entrepreneurial leaders in 26 U.S. regions each year. The regional award recipients then participate in the National Entrepreneur Of The Year awards in November in Palm Springs, Calif.

At that ceremony, 10 award recipients are selected and one is selected as the National Entrepreneur Of The Year overall award recipient. The National Entrepreneur Of The Year overall award recipient will then participate in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year in Monte Carlo, along with award recipients from 50 other countries. This truly is the world’s business award.

The National Entrepreneur Of The Year program is the culminating event for a five-day Strategic Growth Forum that had more than 1,500 participants last year. This is the only event of its kind that is focused on the CEOs of companies. The panelists and speakers are unparalleled and have included special guests such as George W. Bush, former president of the United States, and Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Air. This year will feature Frederick Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx Corp., and Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods. The content of the program is focused on strategic growth strategies, from initial public offerings to expansion in high-growth markets.

We are honored to present the 26th Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards and to recognize the entrepreneurial leaders of the past, present and future that make this the greatest country in the world to do business. Turning vision into reality, which benefits all of us.

Todd Zuspan is a partner with Ernst & Young LLP and is the director of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Gulf Coast Area program.

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