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Main Street Iowa Hosts Open 4 Business State Contest

For more information, contact:
Tina Hoffman, 515.725.3150
Main Street Iowa Hosts Open 4 Business State Contest
Five Businesses Compete for State Honor
August 3, 2016 (Mason City, Iowa) – The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) hosted the Main Street Iowa Open 4 Business State Contest on Tuesday, August 2, 2016 in Mason City. The event, held in conjunction with the Iowa Downtown Conference, showcased five businesses from across the state of Iowa.  Over 70 businesses entered the competition in June and competed at sub-state locations in Sac City, Ottumwa, Osceola, Cedar Falls and Charles City for a chance to advance to the state competition. 
Debi Durham, IEDA director, served as the emcee for the event as businesses made their pitch in front of a panel of judges for a chance to win $20,000 to execute their business plans. The five contestants included Wendy Klein, Bella Ragazza in Burlington; Whitney Henze with Wize Bize Wholesale in Hampton; Ellen Paulin with the Hotel Greenfield, Greenfield; Susan Watts of Olson Larsen Galleries in West Des Moines; and Amanda and John Rhomberg with One Mission Fundraising in Mount Vernon.  Each district winner was awarded $8,000 and a year of business coaching services from Action Coach, Andy O’Brien.
Each business submitted an application outlining their business plan and had 15 minutes to pitch their business idea to the panel of judges before a live audience. Judges for the event included Nancy Dunkel, State Representative and Main Street Advisory Board member; Doug Moss, Area Director for Rural Development with UDSA; Vada Grantham, Director of Entrepreneurship at DMACC; Amelia Lobo, Director of Credit and Lending at the Iowa Center for Economic Success; and Lisa Shimkat, State Director of the Iowa Small Business Development Center. 
In a last minute twist of events, co-winners were announced as Bella Ragazza and One Mission Fundraising. Instead of a first prize of $20,000 and a runner-up award of $2,000, the co-winners will each receive $11,000 to advance their business plans.
This is the second year of the Open 4 Business contest which is open to businesses located in the 52 Main Street Iowa districts across the state. The grants are administered through IEDA’s Iowa Downtown Resource Center and Main Street Iowa programs. The funding will assist with business expansion projects for each of the businesses.
“This program enables entrepreneurs in downtown districts to think big about their business expansion opportunities,” explained Michael Wagler, the state coordinator for the Main Street Iowa program.  “The innovation and leadership these businesses demonstrate reinforce each local Main Street’s efforts to promote a game-changing mentality.”
The Challenge Grant program is funded through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature.  Since the first appropriation in 2002, approximately $6 million in state and federal funds has leveraged over $37 million in private reinvestment in 115 projects in 43 Main Street Iowa commercial districts across the state.
For more information about the Main Street Iowa Open 4 Business Grant program, contact Robin Bostrom, Business Specialist, Main Street Iowa, at 515.725.3053 or
For photos of the local businesses who competed, please contact the local Main Street office.

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