Southern Area Innovate Illinois Competition winners

Advancing to state -- The announcement of the winners of the Southern Area Innovate Illinois Competition came this week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale with the top two finishers in each of two categories advancing to the state competition. Pictured, left to right, are: Chuck Templeton, keynote speaker for the awards presentation; Emily Carter, director of entrepreneurship and business development at SIUC; Jeff Fornero of early stage winner Six Convert, LLC; Brett Ray of early stage winner R and R Racing; Jude Koester of late stage winner Potential Pallet; Gregg Winn of late stage winner WBT; Robyn Laur Russell, director of business development and international trade; and Kyle Welborn, program manager for the Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Center. (Photo provided) Download Photo Here

October 13, 2010

Four firms advance in Innovate Illinois contest

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Four Southern Illinois businesses are still in the running for thousands of dollars in state grant awards after the Southern Area Innovate Illinois Competition awards announcement and presentation this week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

A dozen entrepreneurs participated Tuesday (Oct. 12) at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center in the competition covering the southern third of the state. There were two divisions in the contest: early stage and late stage. The early stage is for those who have an idea for an innovative product, service or process with lasting economic impact, while the late stage is for entrepreneurs with new companies that have recently created or implemented an innovative produce, service or process already showing an economic impact in Illinois.

Winners of the early stage competition at SIUC were Brett Ray’s R and R Racing in West Frankfort and Jeff Fornero’s Six Convert, LLC, of Collinsville. R and R Racing manufactures motorcycle parts while Six Convert offers a bioelectrical system that converts carbon dioxide in biogas from anaerobic digesters into methane.

The two top finishers in the late stage competition were Jude Koester’s Potential Pallet of Effingham and Gregg Winn’s WBT in Salem. Potential Pallet remanufactures and recycles pallets, cardboard, metal and plastic. WBT manufactures wire cable tray products for datacom, electrical, and industrial use purposes.

The four winners from this week’s southern competition will advance to the state Innovate Illinois contest Dec. 16 in Chicago. They’ll compete against the early and late stage competition winners from the central and northern Illinois semi-finals, slated for later this month. From the top six finalists in each category, the winner will earn a $30,000 cash prize. First runners-up in each division will get $10,000.

The other early stage companies chosen to participate in this week’s southern region competition, listed by city with the company owner’s name, were:


• Kamelflage, Karen Wynne.

• On Your Own Emergency Survival Kits, Connie Shanahan.

• Rover Enterprises, LLC, Michael Phillip.


• PrintEco, Inc., Arpan Shah.


• Church Music Solutions, Roland Kreke and Chris Loemker.

Maple Park

• L.B. Richwood, Catherine Phillips.

Also competing in the late stage Southern Area Innovate Illinois Competition, listed by hometown with the name of the business owner, were:


• Southern Illinois Garden Supply, Brian Phillips.


• NaturalMed Apothecary, Inc., Erik Cornett.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, an affiliate of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, are administrators for the Innovate Illinois Program. This is the sixth year for the competition and in the five previous years, the contest has provided $530,000 in cash and prizes to 33 statewide winners while creating 500 new jobs and securing $20 million in business financing.

The SIUC Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit hosted the southern region semi-final competition. For more information about the unit or the services and assistance it offers to entrepreneurs around the region, contact Robyn Laur Russell at 618/453-3805.