NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

March 20, 2012

Building a more innovative future

It doesn't have the cachet — at least not yet — of events like the recently concluded Interactive Accelerator competition held in conjunction with Austin's South by Southwest Festival. But the annual business plan competition hosted by the Enterprise Center at Salem State University is a great place to get an early look at promising startups in this region.

The focus is on emerging businesses North of Boston, which by several measures, ranks behind only Cambridge in terms of nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship in the Bay State.

The list of semifinalists announced last week range from a Beverly company, Advastim, that produces a wireless neurostimulator system to help people with spinal cord problems, to Doodle Roll, Beverly, a maker of kids arts-and-crafts products, to Shady Oaks Organics, Newburyport, a grower of gourmet mushrooms. Another, Mathesis Tech of Lynnfield, seeks to train people for entry-level IT positions so as to bring back jobs that have been outsourced to India and other Asian countries.

The entrepreneurs behind these companies, Enterprise Center CEO Christine Sullivan points out, "may well hold the future of our local economy and workforce in their hands. This competition shows them that we can recognize their importance, want to support them and, of course, that we want them to stay right here on the North Shore to grow their company."

This year's competition drew almost two dozen sponsors from the region's business community. The three companies chosen as finalists later this month will present their business plans on Monday, April 9, from 3 to 6 p.m. in the recital hall of the Bertolon School of Business on SSU's Central Campus. The event is free and open to the public, which may be rewarded with a glimpse of what the future holds for the region's economy.

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