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

Tuesday, June 14, 2022 @ 12:06 AM

Posted by exploreClarion

big-ideaDUBOIS, Pa. (EYT) – Esperanzo Wilcox of Clarion and Jeffrey Billett of Punxsutawney were named co-winners of the PA Wilds’ Big Idea innovation competition.

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

At a pitch event and networking reception, 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 in cash, the opportunity to win an additional $2,500 in a People’s Choice Award sponsored by CNB Bank, the chance to pitch 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 organic gourmet and medicinal mushrooms for food and pharmaceutical use.
  • Jeffrey Billett with Billett Electric, located in Jefferson County, developed a multiple 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 solar panel foundations; Neodime which offers a patented solution for “green mining”; and Nimbus-T Global that developed an encrypted key ID system that prevents cyber attacks.

Annie Hughes, Director of Outreach for Ben Franklin, commented on the BIG IDEA finalists, “This group of companies did an amazing job of putting together their presentations for today’s event.”

“While our contests are fun and often provide an entrepreneur with the first step forward in developing an actual business, it takes considerable time and effort to prepare for the competition. Congratulations to all three of the cash prize winners and to everyone who shared their BIG IDEA with us.”


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