Aleutian Marketplace Competition Aims to Spur Innovation

Two groups in the Aleutian Islands are looking for the region’s next great start-up business.

The inaugural Aleutian Marketplace Competition opened last week, in search of innovative ideas from residents of the region’s 12 main communities.

The contest comes from the Aleut Corporation and the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association, or “APICDA.” Larry Cotter is executive director there. He says they want sustainable businesses that will create jobs and make some kind of social impact.

“It can be anything,” he says. “We’re encouraging people to think outside the box, take a look at the resources that exist around them and to put those resources to work.”

Cotter says they’re basing the program on Alaska Federation of Natives’ marketplace. But in the Aleutians, the landscape isn’t the easiest for entrepreneurship. Cotter recognizes that towns here are spread out across the Bering Sea, with small populations and limited connectivity.

“It’s certainly challenging,” he says. “But I don’t think we’ve thought of all the good ideas that are out there, in terms of business opportunities. And we’re hoping to stimulate people.”

The contest will run over the next five years. This year and next, it’s geared toward business ideas, trying to give people an incentive to start new ventures. The top three proposals win cash prizes — a thousand dollars or less apiece. Winners will also present their concepts to APICDA’s board.

In year three, Cotter says, the Marketplace switches gears to business development. They’ll offer a $20,000 prize and other assistance to try and make the winning ideas into reality.

“I imagine that both TAC and APICDA would be willing to participate, provide guidance and mentoring and that type of thing,” he says — but that’s only if they like what they see in the first couple of rounds.

This year, submissions are due by Aug. 31. All the details are available on APICDA’s website.

Annie Ropeik is a reporter for KUCB in Unalaska.

Previous articleSweet and Sustainable: Alaska Prawns and Shrimp
Next articleOfficials Hope Expanded Juneau Baggage Screening System Reduces Airline Delays