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ARC Announces First Winner of the Jerry W. Davis Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence

November 2007


WASHINGTON, November 2, 2007—The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has announced the first winner of the Jerry W. Davis Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence. Bryan Toney, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, was recognized for his "innovative, creative, and visionary approaches to entrepreneurial development" in the Appalachian Region. The Center for Entrepreneurship will receive a $10,000 award.

The Center for Entrepreneurship was established in 2006 within the John A. Walker College of Business and is supported by an advisory board that includes successful entrepreneurs from Asheville, Hickory, Charlotte, Raleigh, Atlanta, and the Boone area. The center's mission is to provide opportunities for Appalachian State students and for people throughout Appalachia to learn about entrepreneurship through expanded educational offerings, non-credit programs, and integrative experiences with entrepreneurial organizations in the Region and around the world.

North Carolina Governor Michael F. Easley congratulated Toney: "Your visionary approach to entrepreneurial development has provided opportunities for students at Appalachian State University and people throughout the Region," he said. "I commend your hard work and dedication to helping students and citizens become successful entrepreneurs and spur economic development, particularly in the Appalachian Region."

ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope praised Davis's legacy and the selection of Toney for the award. "Jerry Davis was an inspiration and role model for budding entrepreneurs in Alabama, Appalachia, and throughout the nation," she said. "This award recognizes Jerry's leadership and unique contributions to the economic development of the Appalachian Region and encourages others to follow his example. Its first recipient, Bryan Toney, has a track record of promoting the entrepreneurial values that Jerry championed. He was an excellent choice for this award, and we are pleased to support his continuing work in promoting emergent businesses and the jobs that go with them."

Toney has more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and entrepreneurship educator. Since 1997, he has been a lecturer in the Department of Management at Appalachian State. In addition to teaching, he helps lead a number of entrepreneurship activities; his roles include serving as faculty advisor for the Association of Student Entrepreneurs.

Prior to joining Appalachian State, Toney was the entrepreneur-in-residence for the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Management. There he taught courses in entrepreneurship, management consulting, international business, and business policy. He also developed two education and networking programs for high-growth businesses and led a venture capital roundtable group focused on emerging technologies.

Toney is also the former founder and CEO of Information Management, Inc., a software development and systems integration company based in Atlanta. He began the company in 1985 and expanded it to 25 employees before selling it to private investors in 1994.

The University of North Alabama and the Jerry W. Davis Award Committee, in partnership with ARC, developed the award to recognize outstanding accomplishment in entrepreneurial development. Davis led the growth of the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center (SEC), a mixed-used business incubator in Florence, Alabama, from one facility to five facilities on four campuses. The SEC has fostered the creation of over 100 businesses and 1,200 jobs. Approximately 91 percent of the companies started at the SEC since it opened in 1992 are still in business.

Davis also developed and promoted youth entrepreneurial education programs, started a successful culinary incubation center, and actively participated in many other entrepreneurial development activities in the Shoals area. He served as mentor to other incubator managers, was a founding member of the Alabama Business Incubation Network, participated in the Tennessee Valley Authority Incubator Managers Association, and was active in ARC entrepreneurial development initiatives.

At the award announcement at ARC's fall meeting in Charleston, West Virginia, Davis's widow, Kay Davis, expressed her appreciation to the Commission for honoring the work of her husband and creating the award in his name to recognize others doing similar work to promote excellence in entrepreneurial development.

Information about applying for the 2008 Jerry W. Davis Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence is available on the University of North Alabama Web site at