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October 20, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Statewide business startup contest finalists named

Of the 12, seven are from Reno area, five from Las Vegas

Judges have selected 12 business startup finalists to vie for a $100,000 prize offered by the state’s economic development division and private donors.

Project Vesto announced the finalists Thursday.

About half of the prize money comes from taxpayers statewide, through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. The other half comes from private donors.

To become eligible, applicants wrote one-page summaries of their business plan; those chosen then pitched their idea in February.

One winner will receive $100,000.

What has surprised onlookers in Las Vegas, some of whom spoke to the Sun but did not want to be named, was that of the 12, seven are from Reno, a city of 227,000 people. Five of the 12 are from the Las Vegas area, which boasts about 2 million people.

Finalists were chosen from 232 entries. Of those, a contest spokeswoman said, 101 businesses from the Las Vegas area pitched their ideas.

The final list, sources said, is bound to stoke the “north vs. south” debate, which goes something like this: Las Vegas is the most populous area in the state but northern Nevada, where the state capitol lies, gets a disproportionate share of tax revenues and other taxpayer-funded benefits.

One Las Vegas resident associated with the contest said some contestants have expressed their disappointment.

“We hoped it would at least be the same number from the north and south,” he said.

An event organizer could not immediately be reached for comment on the split.

Vesto Project’s next step will be to set up a website for members of the public to vote on which idea they like best. The site is not yet available.

Here is a list of the Las Vegas finalists:

Arsilica Inc., which makes specialty glassware; Jadon Foods, a gluten-free bakery; ListSanity, a social media tool to create lists to share with friends; Sport-Social, a program to help those with autism learn sports and social skills; and Fitronix Inc., which provides real-time performance monitoring (in weight training).

The Reno finalists are: High-powered Mobile Welding and Repair; Hotlap.co., an app to monitor training and racing performance; Loogla, a way to learn a language online; Marie Gibson Management and Consulting LLC; NTI Products, which makes hanging pictures easier; Reno Public Market, local artisan food producers; and Trust Your Journey LLC, which sells various products online.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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