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Whitley program to advance businesses

The Whitley County Economic Development Corp. is launching a program to help high-potential businesses grow quickly.

The business accelerator program is only for companies in the agribusiness, specialty foods, medical technology or computer software/hardware technology industries.

The Whitley County Growth Venture Accelerator will begin working with up to four businesses in its first group in June. Each entrepreneur will receive a $5,000 grant and 12 weeks of mentoring to prepare a business launch or expansion.

Applicants must be Whitley County residents or business owners whose companies have the potential for at least 20 percent growth in the next five years. Alan Tio, Whitley County EDC president, said officials will evaluate growth potential from a market review and the entrepreneur’s vision and preparation.

Additional information will be available at an open house at 3 p.m. March 27 at 114 N. Chauncey St., Columbia City.

WaterFurnace profits up, sales dip

WaterFurnace Renewable Energy Inc.’s cost-cutting efforts allowed the Fort Wayne company to report higher profits for 2013 and for its fourth quarter despite a slight decrease in sales.

The manufacturer of geothermal heat pumps reported annual earnings of $13.8 million, or $1.12 a share, a 37 percent increase from the $10.1 million, or 82 cents a share, reported for 2012. Sales for last year declined 1 percent to $119 million, but the cost of sales declined 4 percent to $73.8 million.

WaterFurnace’s fourth-quarter earnings were $4.93 million, or 40 cents per share, a 20 percent increase from the $4.12 million, or 33 cents a share, posted for last year’s fourth quarter. Sales declined 2 percent, while the cost of sales declined 6 percent during the period ended Dec. 31.

Tom Huntington, president and CEO, said in a statement Tuesday that increases in consumer confidence and residential construction contributed to sales.