Northwest Minnesota is a place where ingenuity thrives. The region, which has come to be known as the "Ingenuity Frontier," is an area like no other in the Midwest, dotted with manufacturers and technology companies thriving within a local culture of engineering knowledge and creativity.
The IDEA Competition was designed for one purpose — to grow the economy of Northwest Minnesota by outfitting the next generation of homegrown innovators for success in the global marketplace. To accomplish its purpose, the program identifies the most promising ideas and entrepreneurs through a competitive process, awards cash to winners, and provides intensive follow-up assistance. Since inception, twenty-one winners have been selected, and nearly $300,000 has been awarded to help these entrepreneurs in commercializing their ideas.
IDEA has proven itself to be successful in growing the regional economy:
• High potential innovations identified, funded, and assisted: twenty-one
• Jobs created or retained as a result: forty-nine
• Job creation projections: fifty or more
• Total combined sales revenues: $4.3 million
• Number of loans approved: thirteen
IDEA believes in the ingenuity of the people who call Northwest Minnesota home. In fact, the region is home to several world-class manufacturers, including Arctic Cat, Central Boiler, Digi-Key, Marvin Windows and Doors, Polaris and TEAM Industries. Without exception, each of these companies was launched by an innovator who had a dream and was able to access the resources to make that dream a reality.
Some might call IDEA a competition, but it is so much more. Now in its fifth year, IDEA is here 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.
IDEA was launched through the efforts of several partners who pooled their experience, services, and knowledge to frame a program that would be effective for helping these new stars of our future. Funding for the program has been provided by the Blandin Foundation and the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, together with contributions from several other partners: 360º Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence, Arvig, Bemidji State University, Bremer Banks of Crookston and Warren, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation, Northwest Regional Development Commission, University of Minnesota, Crookston, and the Northwest Regional Small Business Development Center.