A record number of individuals from communitites across Wisconsin are competing in the 10th annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, organizers announced Wednesday.


A total of 326 entries were received from 296 individuals representing 106 communities across the state, including entries from 22 communities that had not previously participated in the contest.


The number of 250-word Phase 1 entries received by Jan. 31 ties the all-time record set in 2009 for most submissions. The number of people submitting at least one entry breaks the 2009 mark of 287 entrants. This year’s breakdown includes 99 entries in the contest’s information technology category, 122 in business services, 67 in advanced manufacturing and 38 in life sciences.


Judging in the first round of the contest begins this week. More than 70 judges who have collective experience in launching companies, vetting technologies, investing in startups or providing services to emerging companies will take part. About 50 plans will move to the contest’s second round in late February.


“Wisconsin entrepreneurs have once again demonstrated they have strong ideas and a willingness to undertake the hard work of transforming those ideas into businesses,” said Mark Bugher, chairman of the Wisconsin Technology Council. The Tech Council produces the annual contest.


Since its inception in 2004, more than 2,600 entries have been received from 2,214 individuals in 280 different Wisconsin communities. About $1.5 million in cash and in-kind prizes have been awarded over time.


As with past years, the contest will be conducted in phases culminating with live presentations at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Middleton, June 4-5. A “boot camp” for contest semi-finalists will be held in early March.


“The response to this year’s contest demonstrates that entrepreneurs with good ideas can be found in all corners of Wisconsin,” said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council.


Sponsors are contributing cash, office space, legal assistance, accounting, information technology consulting, marketing and more. A major sponsor is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network will assist with mentoring.


Other sponsors of the 2013 contest so far include: 5Nines; Aberdean Consulting; American Family Insurance; AT&T; BDO; Cleantech Open; City of Waterloo; EarthIT; Flanagan Financial/Functional Biosciences; Grant Thornton; Kohner Mann & Kailas; Kollath & Associates; Logistics Health; Madison Gas & Electric; Michael Best & Friedrich; Midwest Prototyping; Mortenson Construction; Murphy Desmond; Nelson Schmidt, Inc.; Pieper Properties; Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren; Revelation PR, Advertising & Social Media; Smith & Gesteland; University Research Park; UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations; Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority; and Wisconsin Technical College System.


To become a sponsor, visit http://www.govsbizplancontest.com/ or contact Joy Sawatzki at 608-442-7557.