Contest seeks new business initiatives in Southeast

Russell Dick, Executive Director of the Haa Aaní Community Development Fund, left, listens to Norman Cohen, Program Director in Southeast Alaska for The Nature Conservancy, during a press conference to announce their partnership on Monday in creating a new sustainable business competition targeting Southeast Alaska entrepreneurs.

In an effort to curb the migration from rural Southeast communities, a new competition for entrepreneurs seeks to bolster community sustainability and growth in rural Southeast Alaska through business initiatives.


The Path to Prosperity Business Development Competition is a partnership between The Haa Aaní Community Development Fund and The Nature Conservancy.

“Entrepreneurs have really been the backbone of our rural communities and they help sustain those,” said Russell Dick, president and CEO of Haa Aaní, LLC.

With the support of local organizations, the competition is designed to highlight the most promising sustainable growth projects that cater to positive social, economic and conservation impact in rural communities.

Business concepts and ideas will go through a two-part selection process. Up to 12 participants will be invited to round two where they’ll receive support in advancing their plans.

“They will receive technical assistance through the Alaska Small Business Development Center,” said Shawn Blumenshine, office administrator at Haa Aaní, the economic development subsidiary of the regional native corporation Sealaska. “They will come to Juneau for a boot camp weekend to help develop their plan and idea. They’ll have a month in order to develop their plan and then compete against each other.”

An independent panel of judges will select two winners from the second round who will receive $40,000 in seed funding over the next year to further develop and bring their ideas to fruition.

“This, we’re hoping, is just the start,” Dick said. “Nothing is going to happen in this region without partnerships.

Norman Cohen, the Southeast Alaska program director for The Nature Conservancy, said he believed the competition was a creative means of inspiring conservation.

“An important aspect of community health is a strong economy,” Cohen said. “Entrepreneurship is an important component of this, and we are hoping this program will enhance entrepreneurship in the small, rural communities of the region as well as provide long-term employment for community and region residents.”

Deadline for applications is Sept. 16 at 5 p.m.

For more information on the application process, go to

• Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at


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