CHARLESTON -- I have had the opportunity to meet the owners of many successful small businesses across West Virginia since becoming your governor.
Often their companies started as a life's passion. Having recently wrapped up our celebration of National Small Business Week, it is important we recognize the small businesses in West Virginia that grew from inspiration and passion -- companies such as RockyBrook Sinkers, MightyTykes LLC, Polyhedron and MarTek Ltd.
During my State of the State Address in January, I had the opportunity to recognize and honor a father and son fishing team, Dwight and Brook Pauley, who turned frustration into function with Rocky Brook Sinkers. These avid fishermen created limestone sinkers that were easy to cast and less likely to snag. Now RockyBrook Sinkers are available in local fishing stores, as well as retail giants such as Cabela's, Dick's Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart. The are also sold in Canada, Japan and Russia.
For Isabella Yosuico of Morgan County, her passion sprang from her determination to help her son Isaac. To improve Isaac's poor muscle tone caused by Down Syndrome, Yosuico crafted ankle and wrist weights, sized to fit infants and toddlers.
After seeing positive results with her son, Yosuico looked into creating Mighty Tykes LLC - early intervention weights for other children with similar muscular impairments.
Yosuico developed the concept and later sought guidance through the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and business coach Bob Marggraf.
Following a 20-year teaching career, Jeanne Finstein is now making the grade with a new business venture: Polyhedron Learning Media, Inc. She -- and her team who produced educational materials for NASA -- founded a new education technology company.
Since 2004, Polyhedron has won two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts from the U.S. Department of Education to develop high school and college-level online, virtual physics labs. As part of TechConnectWV, Polyhedron worked in partnership with West Liberty University and used a seed grant from the Innovation Transfer Consortium to refine online physics lab simulations.
The company also offers iPad apps including physics and experimental psychology simulations, and another is on the way for kids to build 3D train sets.
To date, their apps have been sold in 57 countries.
The idea for MarTek Ltd. was sparked -- literally -- by the risk of an arc blast in an electrical substation.
Charlie McClung, who started his career as an electrician at a major chemical company, thought a remote switch to operate the circuit breaker from a safe distance already existed.
It didn't, so McClung went to work in his garage.
His good friend and business partner, Russ Safreed, was McClung's sounding board and performed the first field test of the prototype model. In a few short years, they've refined and marketed the product, thanks in part to technical assistance from the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI).
In West Virginia, 96 percent of all businesses are small. Yet by other measures -- vision, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation -- our small businesses are big. I'm proud to help celebrate their accomplishments.
For more information about small business opportunities in the Mountain State, contact the West Virginia Small Business Development Center.
Tomblin is West Virginia's governor.