Two entrepreneurs split the $50,000 prize from the Ben Franklin BIG IDEA Contest, held in partnership with the Pennsylvania Wilds on June 9 at the North Central PA Launchbox in DuBois. Jeffrey Billett from Billett Electric LLC (Jefferson County) and Esperanzo Wilcox from PA Mushroom Company (Clarion County) were each awarded $25,000 cash to further their businesses.
John Brooks from Brinc Building Products Inc. (Clarion County) was awarded the People’s Choice prize of $2,500, sponsored by CNB Bank.
The 2022 PA Wilds BIG IDEA Contest is the first of three annual BIG IDEA Contests with collaboration between Pennsylvania Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA, as part of a three-year initiative funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. The 2022 contest accepted applications from the I-80 Frontier landscape of the 13-county PA Wilds region. The 2023 contest will accept applications from counties in the Allegheny National Forest landscape, and the 2024 contest from the Dark Skies and Pine Creek Valley landscapes.
This year’s finalists were chosen among dozens of applicants from Centre, Clarion, Clearfield and Jefferson counties. These finalists are developing products, processes and innovation in the maker economy, outdoors and recreation, forest products, manufacturing and technology.
Ta Enos, CEO and Founding of the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, says that her non-profit experience and the ongoing Build Back Better Regional Grant process reminded her of what the entrepreneurs have been through to get to this point in the BIG IDEA Contest.
“One thing I’ve learned as a founder and CEO is that once you put a new idea to paper and take it through a crucible experience like this, there really is no going back,” Enos said. “Regardless who wins the prize money, to be selected as a finalist is a thing unto itself that you can and should celebrate and leverage. There are incredible service providers in the room today who can help you continue to do that.”
Billett Electric, one winner of $25,000, offers a multiple source grounding facilitation system for the oil and gas drilling industry that provides a fast, easy and reliable means to make proper grounding and bonding connections. Billett Electric was represented in the contest by Jeffrey Billett.
PA Mushroom Company, the other winner of $25,000, forages and sources wild native Pennsylvania mushroom strains. By isolating mushroom genetics and use of mycological breeding practices, PA Mushroom Company develops new strains of organic gourmet and medicinal mushrooms for food and pharmaceuticals. PA Mushroom Company was represented in the contest by Esperanzo Wilcox.
Brinc Building Products, the winner of $2,500, manufactures and sells energy efficient building envelope solutions that manage all four control layers of the exterior wall. These products are used in new construction and remodel markets for single family residences, multifamily residences, and light commercial markets. Brinc Building Products was represented in the contest by John Brooks.
American Precast Industries LLC (Clarion County) produces precast transformer pads and solar panel foundations made to specification to prevent contractors from losing time and materials due to adverse weather and poor quality concrete. American Precast Industries was represented in the contest by Thomas McConnell, Cheyenne McIntyre, Theron Miles and Emily Weiser.
Neodime (Jefferson County) offers proven, patented and environmentally friendly fluorination technology for rare earth metals. Neodime offers its technologies, specialist engineering design and consulting services in the rare earth metal element value chain development. Neodime was represented in the contest by Derek Lengenfelder and Ryno Pretorius.
Nimbus-T Global Inc. (Clearfield County) has developed a patented Nmibus-Key ID system for a more advanced identification and authentication of users, employees and customers, to protect the “front door” entry to enterprises while protecting user information. Nimbus-T Global was represented in the contest by Tom Johnson.
The program was made possible with help from Appalachian Regional Commission, Small Business Development Center, Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group, SEDA-COG, Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program, and North Central PA Regional Planning and Development Commission.
ABOUT THE PA WILDS
The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to create jobs, diversify local economies, inspire stewardship and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of over 300 place-based businesses and organizations, and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit www.PAWildsCenter.org. To learn more about the WCO, visit www.WildsCoPA.org. Explore the PA Wilds at www.pawilds.com.