MADISON – From innovative ways to improve business processes to ideas for enhancing everyday life, the first Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest has attracted more than 300 ideas from 234 individuals in more than 100 communities, it was announced Wednesday.

The deadline for entering the contest was 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31. Entries received since mid-November were spread over four contest categories aimed at capturing Wisconsin’s best technology-based ideas: Business services (approximately 31 percent of the total), information technology and e-Commerce  (approx. 27 percent), advanced manufacturing (approx. 29 percent) and life sciences (approx. 13 percent).

The number of entries in the inaugural contest exceeded the estimates of contest organizers at the Wisconsin Technology Council and sent an encouraging message about the state’s untapped entrepreneurial talent.

“My ‘Grow Wisconsin’ plan called for the establishment of a positive entrepreneurial climate so that great ideas could turn into high-growth businesses for Wisconsin,” Gov. Jim Doyle said. “Therefore, I am pleased that we have had a tremendous response to my Governor’s Business Plan Contest.”

Wisconsin’s business plan contest is believed to be the only statewide contest in the United States.  Major prize sponsors so far include the state Department of Commerce; Mason Wells, the private equity firm; American Transmission Co., which serves Wisconsin’s energy transmission needs; and J.P. Cullen & Sons, the construction firm.

Entries came from 101 communities, which contest organizers took as evidence that Wisconsin’s technology innovation and entrepreneurial spirit are not confined to a few high-tech hot spots. A breakdown of entries by community is attached.

“Entrepreneurs live everywhere in Wisconsin, and they are building businesses where they live,” said Mark Bugher, chairman of the Wisconsin Technology Council and director of the University Research Park in Madison.  “Our goal at the Tech Council is to help them bring their ideas to the marketplace.”

The mission of the first-ever statewide contest is to encourage entrepreneurs in the creation, start-up and early-growth stages of high-growth businesses in Wisconsin. Participants have the chance to win seed capital and valuable services that will help them launch their businesses, as well as enhance the state’s economic development.
Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older were eligible, as were teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations.