IDEA Competition Announces Three Winners for 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The IDEA Competition announced the names of three 2016 winners on Tuesday, April 26th at the IDEA awards banquet held at the Beaux Arts Ballroom, Bemidji State University.  Each winner receives $10,000 in cash to advance their business idea, plus additional specialized technical assistance. 

The 2016 Winners are:

  • Michael Swanson and Cheri Reese, Hallock, for Far North Spirits – the northernmost distillery in the contiguous United States, Minnesota’s Far North Spirits is one of a handful of authentic field-to-glass estate producers of small-batch, craft-distilled spirits.
  • Dan Matejcek, Eric Trueblood, Erik Hokuf, and Mark Tisler, Bemidji, for Aircorps Aviation – creator of Aircorps Library, an online platform hosting WWII and legacy aircraft resources that is delivered to subscribers through an innovative viewer. It provides access to over 500,000 searchable engineering drawings and blueprints, as well as design, flight, maintenance and restoration manuals, at high resolution.
  • Eric Niskanen, Bemidji, for NISKY, LLC – creator, developer, and manufacturer of a line of goaltenders training aids such as Pro-Angle, The Deflector and two other products yet to be named that will help with screen and tipping platforms and weighted training to promote explosive and controlled movements.

The 2016 runners up are David Bahr, Bemidji, for 3Suns, LLC; Jana Younggren, Hallock, for b.able; Keila McCracken, Bemidji, for Bare Cloth; Curtis Borchert, Ada, for Char Energy Equipment, LLC; and Sachel and Kari Josefson and Jeff Mackenstadt, Bemidji, for Prostrain.

The main goal of the IDEA competition is to assist 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. 

For the first time this year, one IDEA participant will be automatically entered into MN Cup, a statewide business start-up competition. The judges selected Far North Spirits as the participant that will advance to the semifinals of this premier resource for early stage entrepreneurs, supporting and accelerating the development of breakthrough business ideas across Minnesota.

The IDEA Hall of Fame added Keith Johanneson, president and CEO of the Johanneson Group of Companies, who was presented with an award at the banquet.  The IDEA Hall of Fame was established to recognize the accomplishments of the region’s legacy innovators—those within the region who have inspired others with their entrepreneurial vision, leadership and achievement.

Major sponsors of the IDEA Competition include: Northwest Minnesota Foundation, 360 Manufacturing Center of Excellence, University of Minnesota Crookston, Bremer Banks of Crookston and Warren, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc., Security Bank USA, Landsverk and Associates, Inc., Northwest Small Business Development Center, Border State Bank, LaValley Industries and IDEA Works.