Local education and business leaders are hoping competition brings out the next Big Idea.
The University of North Alabama, Florence city and schools officials, and the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, are sponsoring a Big Idea competition asking locals to submit ideas about how the Shoals can become the next it spot for digital technology.
Santanu Borah, a management and marketing professor at UNA, said the idea came out of a “strategic doing” work session last fall about ways to improve the Shoals.
“The digital technology space is something that is important, critical really, for communities that want to stay dynamic and vibrant,” Borah said.
The competition is open to middle and high school age students, college students and community members at-large. Winners will be selected from each category and given $500 to propel their idea forward.
“We look at things that are happening in Silicon Valley and, if you peel back the layers, the core is a very simple problem that people have chosen to deal with,” Borah said. Borah used Uber, a cab company that allows riders to virtually hail a taxi though a smartphone application, as an example of innovative problem solving.
“There are problems all over the place that we have to deal with, and people tend to walk away and think it is someone else’s problem or someone else will come up with a solution,” Borah said. “We need to create a mentality that these are problems we can solve.”
Entrants should submit a two-page electronic document on the Big Idea website, shoalsbigidea.com. The first page should include the name, category and contact phone number and the second page should be a summary of 500 words or less explaining the idea.
Finalists from each category will be chosen to make a short presentation March 11. Winners will be announced that day.
The winner in the school category also will be eligible for a $1,000 UNA scholarship.
Greg Carnes, dean of the UNA College of Business, said idea competitions can spawn creative outside-the-box thinking.
“Great ideas are generated by events such as this, and it will be exciting to see how these ideas develop into opportunities for innovation in the Shoals,” Carnes said.