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$5000 Grand Prize Awarded in the Idea Challenge

Posted by Christina on December 4th, 2013

The Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC) awarded the $5,000 grand prize at an award ceremony for The Idea Challenge today, December 4th.

John Gustafson was presented with a $5,000 check on behalf of the EDC and Northwestern Bank, the 2012 program sponsor. This money is reimbursable towards expenses to advance Gustafson’s product idea – The THOR Mini Quick-TachTM – to the marketplace

“I think the most valuable aspect of this program is that it required me to go through the process of formalizing the presentation of my product,” stated Gustafson. “This will be very beneficial as I move forward in trying to sell the concept to manufacturers.”

The THOR Mini Quick-TachTM  is a universal quick-attach system for sub-compact utility tractors that allows the operator to switch from one attachment to another safely and securely in a matter of seconds.  The THOR Mini Quick-TachTM  product line includes several attachments such as a fork, snow blade, ballast box, tree spade, ripper, scoop, leveler, utility box, boom-lift, and a carry-all. Receiver plates are available allowing individuals to build their own attachments.  In addition, the tractor’s original loader bucket can be retrofitted and used with the THOR system. Gustafson was awarded $500 cash and $1,000 in technical assistance in rounds one and two of The Idea Challenge.

Gustafson’s idea was selected from five finalists who presented their ideas to The Idea Challenge Judges earlier in the day on December 4th. The judges included:

* Gerald Jacobson, Northwestern Bank
* Lisa Johnson, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)
* Rick Lambrecht – AGEM Group Inc.
* Brad Poquett – PESI HealthCare
* Sam Zordich, RAI Stone Analytics

“The Northwestern Bank is proud to again sponsor The Idea Challenge,” said Gerald Jacobson, President of Northwestern Bank. “In the past three years of this program, we have seen multiple high-quality ideas take shape and become new companies. The Idea Challenge actively promotes economic development by helping individuals to overcome common barriers and develop their ideas into business opportunities.  Small businesses are the life blood of our economy and the future of job growth.”

A record number of 131 applications were submitted to The Idea Challenge this year.  Of these, 25 applicants were selected to present their ideas to The Idea Challenge Partners.  The five finalists were selected from this group.   The EDC and its partners are working with applicants, in addition to the finalists, whose ideas are feasible product concepts.

A special thank you to The Idea Challenge Partners for their ongoing commitment of time and knowledge, which makes this program a success.

Thank you to all who submitted applications to The Idea Challenge 2013.  Applications are already being accepted for The Idea Challenge 2014 and can be submitted at