News & Events

The Winners of Ben Franklin’s BIG IDEA Contest Have Been Announced!

JOHNSTOWN, PA – To help kick off the Startup Alleghenies initiative, this year Ben Franklin’s BIG IDEA contest targeted the counties located in the Southern Alleghenies and Central PA. The response was amazing! In less than two months, nearly 2,000 people visited the landing page and more than 100 uploaded the application. It was a difficult job, but out of all those who expressed interest, we narrowed down the pool of contestants to ten finalists.

At an exciting event held at the Bottle Works, a panel of distinguished judges heard pitch presentations from a pool of very strong competitors. At the end of the evening, they awarded four cash prizes: First Place: $25,000: Second Place; $15,000; Third Place: $7,500 and a People’s Choice Award: $2,500.

In Addition To The $25,000, The First Place Winner Received: 

This year’s judging panel included a past winner of the BIG IDEA contest. In 2004, with the help of the St. Francis Small Business Development Center, Mr. Mike Stohon submitted a winning application and took home first prize for his company, In-Shore Technologies. Today that company, which is a full service technology consulting firm, employs dozens of people in the Johnstown region. 

Congratulations To This Year’s Winners!

  • First Place was awarded to Hunter Swisher and his company, Phospholutions, for their development of products that control the release of fertilizer in turf. For more information, visit
  • Second Place was awarded to Heather Moyer and her company, Crossroads Consulting, for their development of testing devices that better predict and prevent slip and fall accidents in the workplace. For more information, visit
  • Third Place and also the “People’s Choice Award” went to Mark Kasterko with MT Arms. His company developed a device that secures an officer’s firearm while he/she is restraining a person involved in criminal activity. Visit