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Luke Pinkerton’s Polytorx Exceeds $2 Million in Sales

Luke completes his Hope senior engineering design project to measure stress in trusses

Luke Pinkerton (center) and Polytorx colleagues in New York during the Carrot Capital competition. (photo courtesy of gatech-news)

HOLLAND – You may not have heard of Helix yet, but Hope engineering graduate Luke Pinkerton is on his way to making it a household word. Luke’s company Polytorx has already exceeded $2 Million in sales. In the process, he has garnered major entrepreneurial awards including: The Michigan Technology Tricorridor Award, A National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Grant, The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Association (NCIIA) Award for Excellence in Marketing, and the prestigious Carrot Capital Business Plan Competition.

After graduating from Hope with engineering and physics degrees in 1997, Pinkerton went on to study for his MS degree at the University of Michigan. There, he worked with Antoine Naaman, U-M professor of structural and materials engineering, to test and produce a product that will hopefully revolutionize the construction industry.

Pinkerton’s products are pieces of twisted, corrosion-resistant wire with triangular cross sections which are added to cement while it is mixing. These small wires act as corkscrews in a cork, effectively increasing the durability of cement by 200%. This is a significant improvement over traditional concrete reinforcement techniques. The product, dubbed “Helix” by the creators, will allow structures such as buildings, roads and airport runways to flex rather than simply cracking. Helix is also a very cost-effective and inexpensive product to make, primarily made of scrap metal from steel-belted tire manufacturers.

The potential uses for Helix are so numerous that Pinkerton rushed to get his MBA at Georgia Tech and founded PolyTorx, a company staffed by himself and several other Georgia Tech MBA graduates which is committed to producing and spreading the word about Helix. The company is currently located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. PolyTorx has been granted several awards, including a $7,750 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Association (NCIIA), an offer of $250,000 in funding from the 2003 Carrot Capital Business Plan Competition, and a $45,000 service package from the 2003 Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition. Pinkerton also accepted the NCIIA/DSEF award for excellence in marketing on behalf of the company. With sales of over $2 million in 2004 and product sales happening in 10 different countries, PolyTorx received $500,000 as winner of the Michigan Technology Tricorridor and a $100,000 National Science Foundation SBIR grant. Helix has even received national attention by being featured on a May 2006 episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

When asked about the reason for his success, Pinkerton credits Hope College with providing an effective liberal arts education. “Since starting the business I’m constantly faced with challenges. I can trace many of the tools I use to solve these problems back to classes I took at Hope College,” Pinkerton says. “I strongly believe diverse programs like Hope’s are the key to maintaining the competitiveness of American engineers in the global marketplace…By its very design Hope College’s program encourages development of diverse leadership skills through sports, club activities, class activities and core liberal arts curriculum.”