SLBDC announces Lambton Innovation Challenge

The Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation is offering a three-year interest-free loan of as much as $150,000, to try to entice more business growth in Lambton County.

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The Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation is offering a three-year interest-free loan of as much as $150,000, to try to entice more business growth in Lambton County.

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The top prize in the corporation’s new Lambton Innovation Challenge – based on similar contests in other communities – is aimed at creating more local jobs, general manager Don Anderson said.

“To attract and retain some new businesses and business people in the community,” he said.

Unlike the corporation’s Business Boost Bundle contest that offers storefront space to businesses in sectors such as retail and hospitality, this contest is aimed more at sectors like manufacturing and environmental services, Anderson said.

“Kind of the key thing is we’re trying to attract some of our skilled folks back and … steal some of them from some of those other communities,” he said.

The loan gives businesses an opportunity for growth without the interest costs, estimated at about $45,000 over three years, using current rates, Anderson said.

The non-profit, federally funded business development agency is absorbing that cost, he said, and hopes are to make the contest an annual event.

The term and amortization details of loan repayment are to be negotiated, and additional funding can be obtained through partner organizations 519 Growth Fund, RH Accelerator, Tech Alliance, Libro Credit Union and Southern Ontario Fund for Investment in Innovation, Anderson said.

“If the size of the project is such that it needs larger dollars, there are others who can come to the table.”

Applications to the contest are due by 5 pm on Aug. 22. Forms are available by emailing [email protected], Anderson said.

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The content includes business training for its seven semifinalists before final pitches are made on Oct. 17 to a panel of judges to qualify for the finals

The final three will then present to the corporation’s board on Oct. 21 before the winner is named Oct. 25, a corporation press release stated.

As much as $100,000 in loans could also go to the runners-up depending on their business plans, Anderson said.

To qualify for the semifinals, management teams have to have at least two years of entrepreneurial experience and the projects must be located in – or be willing to relocate to – Lambton County. Weight will also be given to potential impact for growth on other local businesses and sustainability, corporation officials said in the news release.

“We’re looking for something that’s late-stage commercialization, ready to start taking orders soon, not at research and development,” Anderson said. “We want to see something that’s beyond proof of concept.”

Winners have to operate in Lambton for a minimum of 60 months after they receive their prize, and create a minimum of five full time-equivalent positions, the news release said.

[email protected]

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