- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A guitar maker and a small sawmill were the winners of the first Path to Prosperity contest.

Raven Guitars and Icy Straits Lumber were selected as the winners. The business-plan competition was sponsored by Haa Aani, the community development arm of Sealaska and the Nature Conservancy.

The contest was open to southeast Alaska entrepreneurs, KTOO reported (https://bit.ly/MFt7Xl).

The winning firms will receive $40,000 in seed money for consulting services to develop their business plans.

Path to Prosperity is an attempt to increase employment and business opportunities in rural southeast Alaska. There were 59 entries and 12 finalists for the 2013 contest.

Hoonah guitar maker Kevin Skeek joined up with Steve Helgeson of Wrangell in forming Raven Guitars. The two plan to use mostly Sitka spruce to manufacture high-quality acoustic guitars.

Helgeson said he hopes within five years to have about 10 full-time employees and manufacture 500 to 1,000 guitars annually in Wrangell.

Wes and Sue Tyler, owners of Icy Straits Lumber and Milling in Hoonah, were the other winners. Wes Tyler said he had been trying to expand into cabin construction and home-building supplies.

He and his wife rebranded a portion of their firm as Alaska Legacy Homes and Products. “Through that, we’re going be able to open up our markets, develop log cabins or stick-frame cabins with log features and things like that,” Tyler said.


Information from: KTOO-FM, https://www.ktoo.org

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