09/25/2012 at 02:35 PM EDT
It's official: Sean Lowe
is starring in the upcoming season of The Bachelor
, ABC tells PEOPLE exclusively.
The Dallas businessman and entrepreneur won the hearts of fans across the country as he wooed North Carolina single mom Emily Maynard
on The Bachelorette
last season, landing in the final three. Maynard sent Lowe, the second runner-up, home as she'd fallen head over heels for Utah entrepreneur Jef Holm
, accepting his marriage proposal.
"I was standing at that rose ceremony thinking I was going to marry her," Lowe told PEOPLE last July of the heartbreaking moment when Maynard sent him home.
Tuesday's announcement comes after months of speculation
, with casting rumors ranging from former Bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky's ex-fiancé Roberto Martinez
to Olympian Ryan Lochte.
On the possibility of being the next Bachelor, Lowe told PEOPLE at the time, "I'm an open-minded optimist, and I believe the process can work. If I found my wife, it would be worth it."
Production is already underway for the 17th season
of the reality dating show, which will begin airing in January 2013. For more information on the contestants this season, visit ABC.com.