The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District announced the winners Friday of its economic "Bright Ideas" contest, which challenged area residents to come up with innovative business and economical ideas that can be implemented on the Kenai Peninsula.
The awards, which were sponsored by KeyBank, were presented during a ceremony held at the EDD's Economic Opportunities Forum at Kenai Peninsula College. EDD Director John Parker and KeyBank Assistant Vice President Kristine Holdridge handed out the prizes, which included cash awards for the top four ideas.
The winners included Julia Johnson, who claimed fourth place for her idea to place a call center on the peninsula; Richard Winter, who earned third place for his plastic recycling idea; Rodney Bird, for his mobile home manufacturing plan; and Jim Nelson, who claimed the $500 top prize for his ideas to create a peninsulawide celebration and to create an Internet-based gourmet seafood company.
Parker said either of Nelson's ideas was good enough to win and taken together they were more than worthy of the top prize.
"We decided both together certainly merits the first prize," Parker said.
He also praised all the entrants for their unique ideas and said he was impressed with how well the contest was received.
"Not only was it successful in terms of the number of ideas that came forward, I was overwhelmed with the quality of the ideas," he said.
Following the awards presentation, Nelson said he's an entrepreneur who currently operates three businesses and was searching for a fourth.
He said the proposed August celebration would be a way of hanging onto visitors after the main July fishing season. He said his festival would be modeled somewhat like Girdwood's Forest Fair and would rotate between different peninsula communities.
"It's designed to promote peninsula businesses and highlight the beautiful aspects of the peninsula," he said.
As for his seafood marketing business, Nelson said he sees a need to get innovative, value-added products from the area available to the global market.
"The processed and value-added stuff, I would like to use the Web model to find markets for these products," he said.
Winning the idea contest is a first step toward making his ideas a reality, he said.
"The first step is to build momentum and get the word out."
He said he already has firm plans to see that his ideas become a reality.
"The good (ideas), I like to see them happen."
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