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Increasing unemployment figures mean that layoffs are abundant and jobs are hard to come by, but they also mean innovation and new ideas. For many, the ideas are flowing. And, fortunately, there are avenues to channel that energy.

If you've got a great idea for a gadget, gift or accessory, you might want to test if it's a winning one by registering for The Next Big Thing, a national product search contest held by the Dallas Market Center, a wholesale merchandise resource. Three finalists will be chosen to showcase their products at the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market that will take place from June 24-30. The exposure will be significant, with more than 50,000 people expected to attend. According to a press release, the winner will be selected on the product, trade space presentation and production plan. The winner will be announced on June 27, 2009, and will be awarded a package worth more than $10,000.

Last year's winner was Renee Williams, founder of SIPATINIZ, who wooed judges with her spill-resistant martini glass.

Applications are available at www.dallasmarketcenter.com and should be submitted via e-mail to thenextbigthing@dmcmail.com or mailed to The Next Big Thing; c/o Dallas Market Center; 2100 Stemmons Freeway, MS 120; Dallas, Texas; 75207.

Interested? Get going. Applications are due by April 8, 2009.