RACINE — Companies don’t often ask the public to help solve internal problems — but one local manufacturer is, for the new Launch Box Open Innovation Competition.

Launch Box, based at 141 Main St., connects entrepreneurs and small companies with various business resources. Its first Innovation Competition involves a problem that Pioneer Products, 1917 S. Memorial Drive, is asking clever people, companies or groups to tackle — with a $600 prize as incentive.

“Part of Launch Box is trying to create a buzz about entrepreneurship, about people doing entrepreneurial things,” Launch Box Manager Kristin Niemiec explained about the contest.

Kohls, working with various Milwaukee business groups, has also put a problem out to the public, she said. Racine County Economic Development Corp., one of the Launch Box partners, suggested trying it here.

“It allows students (or others) to participate with a real company, a real-life problem,” Niemiec said.

But to hold the contest, Launch Box needed a company with a real issue to be solved. “We were looking for a problem,” Niemiec remarked.

It wasn’t the easiest thing to find. “A company has to feel comfortable revealing things about themselves to the public,” Niemiec said.

But Jim Beere, president of Pioneer Products, agreed to participate. The manufacturer had bought a new, $500,000 computer numeric control horizontal machining center and transferred some work to it.

The question, Beere said, is: What existing manufacturing by Pioneer should now be moved to the previous machining center?

“Pioneer is looking for solutions that they have not thought of yet,” Niemiec stated. “But any solution must answer some key questions” including estimating the payback time and identifying both tangible and intangible benefits.

After this contest, Niemiec said she’d like for Launch Box to do more innovation competitions. “I am looking for additional companies. I would like to do it twice a year. It doesn’t have to be an operational problem — it could be marketing, engineering ... it could be anything.”

What does she hope to accomplish? “It’s just promoting innovation, really just to keep a buzz going about entrepreneurism,” Niemiec said.

“It’s giving people an opportunity to work on an actual problem ... and to help a local company.”

About the Launch Box Open Innovation Competition

- 5:30 p.m. Monday — Pioneer Products will talk about the company and explain the problem to be solved, at the SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd.

- 9 a.m. Oct. 23 — Contestants may tour the company headquarters, 1917 S. Memorial Drive, and meet with Pioneer executives.

- 5:30 p.m. Nov. 11 — Contestants present their answers to Pioneer at iMET.

- For more information or to register, contact Kristin Niemiec at (262) 898-7404 or kniemiec@launchboxracine.com.

(5) comments

Unreal Racine

I hope that Pioneer is successful, but I have concerns about the city paying hundreds of thousands for this Launch Box program when this could have been easily accomplished by just contacting the newspaper and local schools and universities.

When our city is turning off streetlights and cutting budgets for fire, police and public services, why is the city paying hundreds of thousands for this Launch Box program that has not created any real jobs or any business growth since it started years ago? This is just another wasteful program to pay friends.

Furthermore, a $600 "prize" in exchange for valuable ideas to generate income from a $500,000 investment, plus all of the exposure, seems like an awfully sweet deal for Pioneer. It's because the taxpayers are footing the bill for this program while their streetlights are getting shut off.


All the reasons you mentioned is why something like this should exist, I just hope their smart with the money they receive. Helping small businesses make contacts and helping them find resouces is a good idea. I'll be going in there.


When I read this article (the Journal Times version) it really was hard to make sense of what people with no back round in machining would be bringing to Pioneer. Sounded real stupid to be honest. But, just read coverage of this in the Journal Sentinel and now can really see the value of this exercise which is to get people in off the street with all experience levels and get some exposure to modern high end manufacturing. Good job Pioneer and to the owner! For a better explanation of what this is all about go, go to this article: http://www.jsonline.com/business/pioneer-products-turns-to-racine-county-program-for-ideas-advice-b99119301z1-227841111.htmlMr.


Can't be that; everyone likes blonds!

Green Racinereal

Why is the city paying so much to this effort? Is it because Dickert likes Blonds?

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