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Third year of IDEA Competition under way

To some, the current state of the economy might be a deterrent to starting a business, but IDEA Competition organizers are finding the opposite is happening in northwestern Minnesota.

Project coordinator Michelle Landsverk reports an increase in the number of registrations the competition is receiving since registrations opened Sept. 1.

"The fragile economy has not in any way hampered the IDEA Competition," Landsverk said. "In fact, based on the number of registrations we've already received, the economic climate seems to be spurring greater numbers of people to take a risk on starting their own business."

The purpose of the competition is to assist the most promising local entrepreneurs in the commercialization of innovative products, processes and deliveries by connecting them to the best resources available, along with access to the capital it takes to launch a successful venture. The competition awards as many as five $10,000 prizes each year to winning ideas. Since its launch two years ago, the competition has awarded $90,000 to nine Northwest Minnesota entrepreneurs.

The cash awards are just one of the benefits. 2010 winners Corey and Sue Westrum of Leonard, 2010 winners for their creation, Insect Inferno, found the competition helpful in the media attention their company has received.

"The exposure we received as a winner of the IDEA Competition, on television and in print, has increased awareness of our product and services," Sue Westrum said.

In fact, the company was featured on several major broadcast television shows last month, including "Good Morning America," "Today Show" and "NBC Nightly News."

Scott Gustafson of McIntosh, 2010 winner with Mac-Attach Inc., also found the competition beneficial.

"The IDEA Competition gave me access to tools and resources which further advanced my idea and my business," Gustafson said.

Landsverk says the competition is unique.

"There are a lot of business plan competitions and a lot of invention competitions out there. IDEA is a hybrid of the two," she said. "We're looking for people with good ideas and a solid plan for turning those ideas into profitable businesses here in northwest Minnesota."

Registration opened Sept. 1 on the IDEA website,, and will close Nov. 30.

IDEA has been made possible by the financial contributions 360° Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence, Blandin Foundation, Bremer Banks of Crookston and Warren, Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation, Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Northwest Regional Small Business Development Center and University of Minnesota-Crookston.