April 15, 2004

Underground mapping proposal wins business contest

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- There is far more to a golf course than meets the eye, which is why judges for this year's Southern Angels Business Plan Contest believe the winning entry has a legitimate shot at success.

Carbondale businessman Peter Gregory and SIUC officials today (April 15) presented checks totaling $20,000 to the winners of the second annual competition during a news conference at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.

Gregory and the SIUC Office of Economic and Regional Development's SouthernTECH program sponsored the contest, limited to firms and proposed firms with a major technology component to their proposals. For the first time, sponsors this year introduced a high school category, working with Carbondale Community High School to encourage entrepreneurship.

Gregory is a 1984 SIUC graduate and owner of the Carbondale investment firm Humid Town Ventures LLC. His objective in co-sponsoring the contest is to help the region's economy by creating high-quality jobs.

The professional competition drew 17 entries. Judges picked six to advance to the final stage; each finalist receives $500.

The grand prize winner receives an additional $7,000; second place, $6,000; and third place, an additional $3,000.

Grand prize winner is Subsurface Object Identification Laboratory Ð SOIL Ð which also won the start-up business category.

The company, using existing technology, plans to offer a value-added service to golf courses by identifying turf sub-surface features to promote a healthy and aesthetically pleasing turf. SOIL will use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to create maps of underground features specific to golf courses.

Company officials anticipate clients will use the maps to plan landscape improvements, perform necessary maintenance and to assist in making decisions for planning new building developments.

Principals in the Carbondale company are Jolanta and Richard Boniak, Thomas Boniak, She-Kong Chong and Sam Indorante. Chong is a soil physicist and professor in SIUC's Department of Plant, Soil and General Agriculture, and teaches courses in soils, soil physics, golf course installation, irrigation and soil water conservation. Indorante works in the U.S. Department of Agriculture office housed in the Dunn-Richmond center. Brothers Richard and Thomas Boniak have bachelor's degrees from SIUC; Richard also earned his master's degree in plant and soil science from SIUC and is pursuing his doctorate in environmental resources and policy. Jolanta Boniak works for General Electric.

"The winner combines University research with business commercialization, and it is another fine example of what we're producing at the Southern Illinois Research Park," noted Raymond C. Lenzi, associate vice chancellor for economic and regional development.

The second-place winner and winner of the existing business category is Lakehawk Industries of Makanda, owned by David and Carol Williams. In fall 1998, the couple looked for a way to cover and protect their cool-weather crops, such as lettuces and chard, from hard freezes, frost and snow. However, they found available structures and devices too small, too bulky or too expensive.

They produced an inexpensive alternative that resembles a long, gabled transparent house approximately 3 feet high. An intensive research and development phase produced "Greenhouse-in-a-bag," and they launched Lakehawk Industries in 1999 to manufacture their creation. The company received a U.S. patent last July for the design and manufacturing rights for their plant protection structures.

Judges awarded third place overall and second place in the start-up business category to Linton Machine & Tools Manufacturing of Johnston City. Owners Jo Lynn and Joey Linton are planning a diversified machine shop that combines design, tool and die manufacturing, general machining, welding fabrication, making and repairing dies, building special application manufacturing machines and machine repair.

In addition, Linton plans to develop a patent-pending rail deflection monitor for the railroad industry. The monitor attaches to the sides of rail cars and transmits an analog signal to an onboard receiver. The device can alert the engineer to unfavorable rail conditions while keeping a constant record of location and rail conditions for maintenance logs.

The company also is developing an emergency water shut-off device that can be set with a variable time limit to shut off washing machines, icemakers and dishwashers to eliminate water damage caused by hose and water supply failures.

The winner of the Carbondale high school competition is senior Cedar Thibeault, daughter of Thomas and Brooke Thibeault of Carbondale. Her proposed start-up firm is UPL 100 FM Uplift Radio, which will provide listeners with uplifting family and pop culture music.

In her proposal, Thibeault noted: "The future outlook for the industry of radio and communications is focused toward localism. New sources of technology are providing alternate music options. These include MP3 players, the Internet and satellite radio. The element that sets UPL 100 FM Uplift Radio apart from these sources is its power to report on local news, events and weather."

She wins a $1,000 scholarship to the university of her choice.

Here are capsule descriptions of the three other finalists:

• Core Devices, existing business category. Owned by John Izuchukwu of Fairview Heights, the company's focus is to develop technologies for surgical pain management in non-traditional settings, such as frontline military applications, outpatient surgery, disaster patient care and Third World markets. The firm will develop low-cost, portable and reliable anesthesia machines that are simple to operate and that require minimum overhead to maintain.

• HMG, existing business category, owned by Melissa Harris of Mount Vernon. Physician's Filing Service Inc., which works in the health care reimbursement field, partnered with Medline Industries Inc., a medical supply company, to form an independent firm, Healthcare Management Group (HMG). HMG is a reimbursement Web site providing home medical suppliers with several services related to Medicare, Medicaid and medical necessity management. The company plans to expand its client base.

• Edgren E-Global Learning, start-up business category, owned by Susan Edgren of Carbondale. This is a distance education consulting company that will provide consulting for clients to assess their specific distance learning needs, development of distance education plans and/or curriculums, access to Web conferencing and interactive video or teleconferencing, and subscription service to a portal for accessing virtual learning information.

Shaping cooperative ventures and providing leadership in regional development are among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.