ROCKLAND, Maine — The Island Institute is offering a total of $10,000 to winners of a business-plan competition for businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs based in Maine’s 15 year-round island communities.

The institute’s inaugural Island Bizplan Contest will run from Feb. 1 to April 12, and is open to entrepreneurs with business startup ideas, as well as existing commercial and nonprofit businesses, that have physical addresses on Chebeague, Cliff, Frenchboro, Great Cranberry, Great Diamond, Islesboro, Islesford, Isle au Haut, Long, Monhegan, Matinicus, North Haven, Peaks, Swan’s and Vinalhaven islands, according to a media release.

A panel of three judges will select the business or entrepreneur that submits the most commercially viable plan or the nonprofit whose plan is considered the most likely to achieve long-term sustainability for the organization. The winner will receive $7,500, while the second- and third-place finishers will receive $2,000 and $500, respectively, according to the release. All three awards will also come with 10 hours of technical assistance.

The institute, founded in 1983, is a nonprofit dedicated to community and economic development in Maine’s year-round island communities. This debut competition is geared toward increasing economic development efforts in those communities, according to Nancy McLeod Carter, a spokeswoman for the institute.

“For many of [the island residents] who are entrepreneurs or have small businesses, this comes down to a little assistance getting started or expanding a business they’ve started recently,” Carter said Wednesday. “It’s about helping them develop an idea all the way through to being implemented.”

Eligible businesses and nonprofits can apply online here. There is no fee to enter.

Regardless of the competition’s outcome, just the act of applying will be helpful to entrepreneurs or existing business owners, Carter said.

“Business plans are a great way to help people think through all the issues that go into starting a business because they require a lot of data and really force you to sit down and put pen to paper and think through a lot of the different aspects of launching a business,” she said. “This is helpful for them even if it turns out their plan is not selected as one of three winners.”

Winners will be announced May 1.

The contest is made possible through the institute’s Island and Coastal Innovation Fund, which is funded through donations and grants, Carter said.

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Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.