About Tech-Prize

The history of Racine is marked by innovation and bold ideas.

Tech-Prize renews this spirit of ingenuity by bringing together entrepreneurs and innovators from across the country to showcase new ideas and inventions in Downtown Racine. Hundreds of tech pioneers will line the shops and businesses of the Racine community to showcase their inventions and vie for cash awards. Expert judges and the general public will be casting their ballots for the most innovative products. This first biennial event will be held September 10 through 18, 2021.



About Tech-Prize Competition and Process.

Tech-Prize is a competition and process, hosted in Racine, WI, designed to create innovative ideas, develop a process to launch those ideas in our community, and establish the skills required to enable results. This is done through a combination of competitions and educational workshops.  The outcome of this process will be re-establishing the Racine community as “Invention City.” This will result in even more people happy to live, work and play right here in southeast Wisconsin. 

What is Visioning a Greater Racine?

Visioning a Greater Racine (VGR) is a networked-community initiative using the proven VISIONING process with the goal of transforming Racine into a flourishing place we are all proud to call home.

What is VGR Thriving Economy Wave Team?

The “Thriving Economy” W.A.V.E (Work, Action, Vision, Engagement) team is one of eleven teams that make up the Visioning a Greater Racine initiative. The members of the team are prominent Racinians, local business leaders, educators and corporate executives with diverse backgrounds in technology and business. Working together, the team is tasked with bringing to fruition the community’s vision of becoming a thriving 21st Century economy with a diverse economic base that retains and attracts people to both live and work.


Meet The Team

Tony BIGONIA-Owneruncorkt

Chairman – VGR Thriving Economy WAVE Team.

Tony is the sole proprietor of Uncorkt, a wine and craft beer store in downtown Racine, Wisconsin. Uncorkt has been a staple in downtown Racine for 15 years. He also owns real estate in Racine and is involved in various community organizations He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Downtown Racine Corporation and also Chairman of the VGR Thriving Economy WAVE Team and leads the governance team for Tech-Prize.

Tony is a veteran of the US Navy.  After leaving the service, he joined Digital Equipment Corporation as a computer service technician. While at Digital Tony completed a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.  Since then he has worked in Racine’s Case Corporation as a computer programmer, manager of the Global I.T. Service Desk, etc. Later  Tony became a Project Manager and began independently consulting with multiple companies to improve their computer support organizations both internally and externally on a global scale.

Tony lives in Racine, Wisconsin with his fiancé and business partner Cheryl Braun. 

Jeff Daniel- VP johnson controls

Sponsor Team Lead

Jeff Daniel is a local entrepreneur,  starting multiple businesses in Wisconsin and globally.  Jeff had an extended career at Johnson Controls where his last two roles were Vice President of Global Operational Excellence, and Vice President of Global Procurement. After completing his Bachelor of Science in Plastics Engineering from Pittsburgh State University,  Jeff started his career with Prince Corporation/JCI in Holland, MI. Jeff gained experience through progressive leadership roles with the company including Advanced Manufacturing Engineering,  Product Development, Quality, Operations Leadership, and Procurement.

Jeff acts as one of the Tech-Prize leadership team members and was part  of the founding of the Tech-Prize process.

Jeff lives in Racine, Wisconsin with this wife Jewell.  They have two daughters, Holly Daniel and Kelly Ritzman, a son-in-law Tom Ritzman and a grandson Dawson Ritzman.

Dirk Baldwin – dean college of business uw-parkside


Dirk is dean of the College of Business, Economics, and Computing at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. UW-Parkside is AACSB accredited for its business programs. Dirk is active in AACSB, serving on accreditation visiting teams and as a beta tester for AACSB‘s accreditation software.

Dirk has a Ph.D. in Management Information Systems and has teaching experience in project management, process improvement, and statistics in addition to traditional MIS classes such as programming, database, and systems analysis.

He is chair of the Information Technology Practice Center (ITPC). The ITPC is a consortium of local CIO’s and IT managers who provide feedback on student projects and explore IT issues. Dirk has published several journal articles related to MIS including articles on multiple view decision support systems, IT research methodology, and community-based learning. He has consulting experience in database development, web applications, simulation, project management, and IT planning. He has developed several software applications for large and small businesses, and he has written two books on MS Access. In 2004, Dirk was named a Wisconsin Idea Fellow by the UW System Board of Regents for his contributions to the community and state.

Mark Levine – chairman Racine Downtown BID

Team Member

Mark Levine is Chairman of The Racine Downtown Business Improvement District Board (BID), he is personally invested in the Downtown Racine as an owner of commercial real estate. 

Mark retired from Snap-On Tools as Director of Manufacturing- Hand Tools, Senior Director of Distribution and Supply Chain

Mark has BS Chem. Engineering from Clarkson College, and MBA University of Chicago



Arlene Martin- SBA lender Huntington Bank

Team Member

Arlene has been in the financial industry since 1988, ranging from Business Banking/Commercial Lending to Commercial Real Estate. As an SBA Lender with Huntington Bank, she knows that there is a great need for business owners to gain access to capital. It is most often a critical component to the success of businesses during start-up and growth periods.

Arlene enjoys working with a range of businesses with gross revenues and is very well versed in federal loan programs (SBA Lending) and the state lending programs that are very advantageous for business owners. In addition, she has a strong background in commercial real estate. I believe in supporting the entrepreneurial business owners that have emerged and now become the backbone of our country.

Her specialties include small to mid-size businesses, and she focuses on a variety of industries including manufacturers, service industries, franchise operations, as well as contractors.

kiran vedak – cto designstouch

Vice-chair – VGR Thriving Economy WAVE Team.

Kiran Vedak is a management consultant with Expense Reduction Analyst, a global consulting firm specialized in cost reduction. He is also a Principle and the Chief Technology Officer for DesignsTouch a Racine, Wisconsin based award-winning digital agency that helps the local and international organizations develop and deliver the digital strategy.  His primary focus is assisting businesses in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Upper Michigan to improve Cash Flow through efficient procurement, and improved supplier and Customer management using innovative methods and technologies.

As an Innovation Coach, Kiran regularly provides coaching and guidance to entrepreneurs in SE Wisconsin.  He is one of the mentors in Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation’s (WWBIC) WWBIC Growth Accelerator providing entrepreneurship training for small startups from Racine and Kenosha County. 

Ray Koukari, Jr -Dean of Academic Affairs for the SC Johnson iMET Center

Team Member

Ray Koukari, Jr is the Dean of Academic Affairs for the SC Johnson iMET Center and the Dean School of Manufacturing, Engineering, and Information Technology. Ray started his career at Gateway as an adjunct faculty member teaching IT courses. He became a full-time faculty member in August 2004,
teaching IT on the Racine campus. In January 2008 his accepted a position as Associate Dean of Business and IT. In July 2009, he was promoted to the Dean of Business and IT. In January 2018, Ray became the Dean School of Manufacturing, Engineering, and Information Technology. This new position was created to address the changes in the Manufacturing and arrival of Foxconn.
Prior to joining Gateway, Ray was the chair of the IT programs for the University of Phoenix, Waukesha Campus in Wisconsin as well as a faculty member teaching strategic planning at the graduate level for six years. He spent 25 years in the IT field working his way up from a computer keypunch, computer operator, network administrator, programmer, manager, director, and CIO.
Ray is a veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps for 6 years obtaining the rank of staff sergeant. Ray holds an MBA degree in Financial Controls from Regent University, which he earned in 1999.

Justin Wheeler, Director of Media, Orchestrating Good

Creative Content and Marketing

Justin Wheeler is an Edward R. Murrow Award-Winning journalist and film maker. Justin received his education at UW-Milwaukee, winning multiple regional & national awards for his investigative work on college campus safety.  He graduated in 2014 and founded Echo Eternal Media Group, a digital commercial and documentary production company.

In 2019, Justin helped create the nonprofit organization Orchestrating Good, which focuses on working with NPO’s to improve their operational efficiency, along with a wide variety of other efforts to support and recognize the kindness in our community. In 2020, he became the director of media and creative projects within the organization.

Justin is a proud Racine native, graduating from Walden III High School. He sees Tech-Prize as a unique economic oppurtunity for his home town. “Tech-Prize has the potential to change Racine forever. We have a tremendous local history of invention. We can have a tremendous future in it as well if we invest in Industry 4.0 and our next genreation’s mastery of it.”

Justin enjoys spending Summer days at North Beach,  eating at any of the amazing restaraunts in Downtown Racine (try Amos Los Tacos, thank me later)  and watching movies with his wife, Allison.



Get started

Join us!

Tech-Prize Team meets each Monday at 6:30 at
Uncorkt in downtown Racine at 240 Main St,
Racine, WI 53403 (or Virtually). We would love
to have you involved in the creation, judging,
mentoring and running Tech-Prize. Please reach
out and plan to join our team!  You can contact us to get details of the session by sending an email to [email protected]

Send me info!


Volunteer during the event

Are you interested in helping us make Racine a city with a thriving economy and reestablish her glory to the title as The Invention City? We are looking for volunteers to help during Tech-Prize in September 2021.