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Final innovation challenge in Turlock before regional $2,500 competition
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They say a picture is worth 1,000 words but an invention is worth $2,500, at least for one lucky contestant of the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge.

Spearheaded by the Small Business Development Center, a subset of the Stanislaus Business Alliance, the innovation challenge was inspired by the San Joaquin Entrepreneur’s Challenge that functions along the same premise of supporting those with business ideas. With the aim of determining if local entrepreneurs' ideas have commercial potential, the Innovation Challenge has held three of four preliminary competitions in various communities within Stanislaus County thus far. While the challenges provide local inventors a platform for their ideas, the event also provides the SBDC the opportunity to showcase their services.

“It’s a great way to engage the public and get people to participate in the community,” said SBDC Director Kurtis Clark.

Fred Axton of Modesto, Joel Campos of Oakdale, and Luke Rocha of Patterson will be moving forward to the final round in December alongside the selected Turlocker who will be chosen at next week’s competition. At each preliminary competition there is a panel of three judges and one unofficial judge: the audience. The winners of the four local competitions will then compete in a final round for a chance to take home a $2,500 cash prize furnished by Wells Fargo Bank, as well as $2,500 worth of professional services to help develop their concept and break into the market. Three, possibly four, local companies will work with the winner namely Never Boring Design for marketing and website consultation, Grimbleby Coleman Certified Public Accountants, and Gianelli and Associates for legal services. 

According to Clark the inventions have been as diverse as the contestants themselves. Axton presented a fiberglass, customizable bath tub ideal for people in mobile homes.  Campos created a mobile application that identifies vacant properties in downtowns and lets locals such as government officials, realtors, and developers collaborate to find the ideal business to fill the space. Rocha created custom thermo-plastic holsters and magazines for paintball guns, something needed in the industry where ammunition can often fall out during the competition.

“They’re created a little niche market,” said Clark of the paint ball gun accessories. “These are pretty savvy guys and we’re seeing some great ideas presented overall.”

The Turlock Innovation Challenge will take place at 6p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Turlock Chamber of Commerce. The individuals pitching their ideas were previously chosen after filling out and submitting applications to the Alliance.

The Modesto, Oakdale, Patterson, and Turlock winners will compete for a chance at $2,500 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the Small Business Development Center Office in Modesto, located at 1020 10th Street Suite 102.