About Tech-Prize 2020

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

Tech-Prize 2020 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, with expert judges and the general public casting their ballots for the most innovative products. This first biennial event will be held July 30-August 10, 2020.

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 Daniels- VP johnson controls

Sponsor Team Lead

eff Daniel is  Vice President of Global Operational Excellence, Johnson Controls, PLC where he is responsible to enable the Johnson Controls manufacturing organization to be the “Most Operationally Capable Company in the World”. Jeff is responsible for the performance of 86 global manufacturing facilities and the functional leadership for the support organizations.

After completing the Bachelor of Science in Plastics Engineering, from Pittsburg State University, Jeff started his career with Prince Corporation/JCI in Holland, Michigan.  Jeff gained experience through progressive leadership roles with the company including Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering,
Product Development, Quality, Operations Leadership, and Procurement. 

Jeff lives in Racine, Wisconsin with his wife Jewell. They have two daughters, Holly and Kelly.

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 Hutington 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.

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