Clarion Man Named Co-Winner of $50,000 ‘Big Idea’ Innovation Contest ::

DUBOIS, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion’s Esperanza Wilcox and Punxsutawney’s Jeffrey Billett were named co-winners of the PA Wilds Big Idea Innovation Contest.

In partnership with the PA WILDS Center for Entrepreneurship, and with financial support provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ recent innovation competition focused on PA WILDS-located Center, Clarion, Clearfield and Jefferson counties. Ben Franklin has been offering Pennsylvania entrepreneurs and small manufacturers the opportunity to compete in these risk-free BIG IDEA contests for almost 20 years.

At a networking kickoff and reception event, sponsored by Just Realty, at the North Central PA LaunchBox powered by Penn State DuBois, six finalists presented their business concepts to a panel of independent judges.

The prize package for this contest included up to $50,000 cash, the chance to win an additional $2,500 in a People’s Choice Award sponsored by CNB Bank, the opportunity to submit the business concept for a $10,000 seed grant from Ben Franklin, and a guaranteed seat in an upcoming business accelerator program.

Two winners shared the $50,000 cash prize:

  • Esperanzo Wilcox and the team at PA Mushroom Company, located in Clarion County, identify and develop new strains of medicinal and gourmet organic mushrooms for food and pharmaceutical use.
  • Jeffrey Billett of Billett Electric, located in Jefferson County, developed a multi-source grounding facilitation system (Grounding Spider) that provides safe and reliable grounding and bonding connections.

The People’s Choice Award of $2,500 went to John Brooks and the team at Brinc Building Products, also located in Clarion County. The company manufactures ThermalTight, an energy-efficient building envelope solution that manages all four layers of exterior walls.

Other finalists included: American Precast Industries, a company that produces precast pads and foundations for solar panels; Neodime, which offers a patented solution for “green mining”; and Nimbus-T Global, which developed an encrypted key identification system that prevents cyber attacks.

Commenting on the BIG IDEA finalists, Annie Hughes, director of outreach at Ben Franklin, said, “This group of companies did an amazing job putting together their submissions for today’s event.”

“While our contests are fun and often give an entrepreneur the first step toward building a real business, it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare for the competition. Congratulations to the three cash prize winners and everyone who shared their BIG IDEA with us.”

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