Idea Wichita Falls Soon to Announce 2012 Finalists

It's almost time to reveal the finalists for this year's Idea Wichita Falls competition.
    Next week, judges will determine up to six finalists to win a boost to launch their businesses.
   This is the third year they've been doing this.
   The program director says the city's already seeing some benefits of past winners ... but he points out that starting and growing businesses is a long- term prospect.
    It's time for fresh new ideas.
   Jeff Stambaugh
Director of MSU's Lalani Center
"Within the three years, this was by far the strongest group of submissions that we've seen. Is there the next Dell or the next Apple in that bunch? Probably not."
   But Jeff Stambaugh, who heads up Idea Wichita Falls, says several ideas show potential to employ 10-15 people within the next three years.
    He says last year's winner, Kenny's Seasoning, is experiencing slow growth.
    2011's third place winner, Big League Dirt, says diesel prices have been making things tricky.
   Carl Watson
Big League Dirt Co. & Proforma
   "We're positioned for growth, & we're waiting for the market to turn a little bit, for budgets to free up a little more, & continue to coach the coaches how to take care of their ballfields."
    Stambaugh says the winner from the first year -- wind eagle -- had great potential:
   "But anytime you've got something with tremendous upside, there's a lot of risk involved in getting that off the ground, too. And part of that is convincing a lot of investors to put in a lot of money to make that go -- & that just hasn't happened yet. And frankly, I don't know that it's going to happen."
   But Stambaugh says startups are always a gamble -- and points out that you never know what will work unless you try.
   "Are we disappointed? Yes. Are we surprised? No."
   One of the rules for Idea Wichita falls is that more than 50 percent of your business' revenue must come from outside Wichita, Archer, and Clay counties.  The idea is to ensure that new money and new jobs enter the local economy.
   "When somebody sees a neighbor of theirs succeed, or somebody has a neighbor who works for one of these companies that launched, then we hope that motivates them to say, 'You know, I've had something I've always wanted to try - & if they can do it, I can too.'"
    This year's first prize is worth 30- thousand dollars ... 15-thousand is in cash, and the rest is donated, in-kind professional services.
   The top three winners will be announced on April 19th.

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