2015 Cascade Capital Corp. Business Growth Awards

Recognizing 45 outstanding companies that fortify the strength of our regional economy

Introduction by Robert Filipiak, executive director, Cascade Capital Corp.

It is with great pleasure that I congratulate the 45 Cascade Capital Corp. Business Growth Award winners for 2015.

These companies are located within Summit, Medina, Portage, Wayne, Stark, Holmes and Ashland counties in Northeastern Ohio.

Based on both the Business Growth Award’s criteria and the challenges facing small companies in today’s business environment, this is quite an accomplishment. A company can earn a Business Growth Award by either increasing its sales level by 100 percent/$5 million or by increasing its employee base by 50 percent/25 people over the course of the past five years. These impressive growth standards also provide significant economic benefits to the local/regional economy.

Growing sales of companies’ goods and services to other parts of the state, across the nation and even internationally, enrich our local/regional economy. Receipts and profits generated by these companies are positively manifested when these companies purchase local goods and services, invest in new operating facilities/equipment and hire new employees. These wealth-creating mechanisms directly lead to the economic vitality of our local/regional economy.

The goals of Cascade Capital Corp. are to provide meaningful financing assistance to small and midsized companies poised to grow through investment in new operating facilities, equipment and human resources and to invest, on a long-term basis, in the communities it services.

Cascade Capital provides affordable, long-term fixed interest rate financing directly through its U.S. Small Business Administration 504 Loan Program. The SBA 504 assists growing small to midsized companies in purchasing new operating facilities, equipment and even other businesses. In combination with traditional bank financing, Cascade Capital delivers 90 percent financing for major fixed asset purchases. Twenty-year fixed interest rates are available for building purchases with recent rates under 5 percent.

Cascade Capital’s Ohio 166 Loan Program continues to offer perhaps the most competitive fixed interest rate available for business borrowers — as low as 3 percent with loan terms up to 15 years.

A number of 2015 Business Growth Award winners have received funding in the past from Cascade Capital through both its SBA 504 and Ohio 166 loan programs.

Over the course of the past five years, Cascade Capital has committed over $900,000 of its own financial resources toward economic development initiatives in Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties with the hope that these funds will lead to positive sales and/or employee growth for a new wave of up and coming firms.

Congratulations to all of Cascade Capital Corp.’s 2015 Business Growth Award winners on a job well done. Thank you too for your continuing role in supporting and revitalizing our local and regional economy through your sustained growth and investment.

Cascade Capital Corp. is an economic development finance company that has provided dependable financing options to growing small to midsized companies in Greater Akron and Northeastern Ohio since 1983. Reach Robert at (330) 379-3160 or [email protected]


THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT AWARD

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Sam Faletta
Incept
President and CEO
www.inceptresults.com

Sam Falletta wants to help his employees become the best version of themselves that they can be. An intense focus on this purpose has helped Incept, a conversational marketing firm that specializes in developing and strengthening relationships with current and potential customers, to win a number of awards for its culture and strong employee engagement.

Part of being an entrepreneur is building an organization and a team that can get excited about what your company does and feel like it’s a valuable part of making it happen. Falletta, who serves as president and CEO, engages employees by focusing on the most important aspects of becoming an organizationally healthy workplace — direction, execution and connection.

By ensuring employees have emotionally bought into what the company is trying to achieve and continuing to build a culture that is focused on performance, he has fostered an environment where employees believe they are working toward something meaningful. That leads to happy employees and happy employees lead to happy customers.

The commitment to people has led to great success. Incept has added more than 50 jobs to the local economy in the last five years while increasing revenue more than 87 percent. And 91 percent of customers have rated Incept as a satisfactory partner and would recommend the company to someone else who needs similar services.

Falletta’s role as a leader stretches beyond the walls of Incept’s offices. He serves as an instructor of marketing at the University of Akron where he has taught Creating Brand YOU, a one-credit marketing course where students engage in a step-by-step process to develop and grow their personal online brand using social media tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

The course is extremely relatable to the business world and Falletta takes a similar approach with his students. His goal is to help them develop into the best versions of themselves.
In 2013, Falletta partnered with the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing to develop the first-ever student-run social media agency, Kanga Communications. The agency enables university students to gain immeasurable real-world experience, practical skills and numerous networking opportunities before they even enter the workforce.

“Many professionals become engaged with our students on an on-and-off basis, but Sam is different,” says Vanja Djuric, director of analytics at the University of Akron. “No matter how tense the times are that his company is going through, Sam makes sure to consistently show support to our students by always making himself available. Our students are extremely lucky to have a business professional as determined and passionate as Sam.”

Fostering strong leaders is indeed a calling for Falletta. Philanthropy serves as a great vehicle to give employees at Incept who have charitable causes that are close to their hearts an opportunity to both support those organizations and grow as leaders through the effort.

Falletta cites a study by the Harvard Business Review that found that the single greatest advantage in the modern economy is a happy and engaged workforce. Happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome and no business is impacted more by this than those involved in customer engagement.

It makes for a perfect fit for Falletta and his team at Incept.


AKRON COMMUNITY FOUNDATION PHILANTHROPY IN BUSINESS AWARD

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akr_bga_HarveyNelson

Steve Marks
Co-founder and co-CEO
Main Street Gourmet LLC
www.mainstreetgourmet.com

Harvey Nelson
Co-founder and co-CEO
Main Street Gourmet LLC
www.mainstreetgourmet.com

Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson have used innovative concepts to grow Main Street Gourmet LLC from a small, retail coffee and muffin shop that started in downtown Akron in 1987 to an industry leader in the production of custom baked goods.

From being one of the first bakeries to offer all-natural muffins in the 1980s to fat free muffins in the early 1990s and its most significant decision to concentrate efforts on the development of frozen custom bakery products for national and regional food operators, the company has been a leader in its field for years.

But beyond the financial success, Main Street Gourmet believes very strongly in philanthropy. Over the past 28 years, many have benefitted from the company’s generous contributions to foster a better quality of life for local citizens. Under the leadership of Marks and Nelson, who serve as co-founders and co-CEOs, employees regularly and selflessly donate their time and effort to a number of worthy endeavors.

Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank
Main Street Gourmet is a continuous donor of “off-spec” products to the food bank with donations being used to help feed the homeless and others who are less fortunate. As part of the company’s Nothing Goes to Waste campaign, Main Street Gourmet also holds several No Muffin Left Behind sales at the food bank throughout the year.

These promotions offer not-to-customer standard, yet still edible product to the public with monetary proceeds and any unsold product going to the food bank’s cause. In combined dollars raised and food products donated, the Nothing Goes to Waste campaign has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

Akron General Medical Center
In 1992, Main Street Gourmet in conjunction with Akron General’s Women’s Health and Cancer Center started a charitable program called Muffins for Mammograms. The annual weeklong effort raises money for women who can’t afford mammograms. It also includes the distribution of life-saving breast health information to raise community awareness.

Every October during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, muffins, cookies and brownies are baked, packaged and distributed along with breast cancer information by Main Street Gourmet and employees at Akron General.

This volunteer effort has raised more than $250,000 and has allowed hundreds of women who otherwise could not have afforded mammograms to be screened for breast cancer. The program has received national recognition from the National Breast Cancer Board and the Ohio Department of Health.

Entrepreneurs EDGE
The Entrepreneurs EDGE promotes an annual outing at Progressive Field in Cleveland where mentors from Northeast Ohio companies are partnered for the day with local inner-city students who are studying business practices and procedures.
A group of Main Street Gourmet employees regularly volunteer to act as role models for the students during the outings, answer questions, offer advice and display positive examples of good business etiquette.

International Institute of Akron
This is a nonprofit organization with a stated mission of helping to integrate people into society. Including seven employees hired since 2011, more than 20 percent of Main Street Gourmet’s workforce is comprised of people who have legally immigrated, often as refugees, to the U.S. The company is proud of its outreach to help these people at a low point in life, offering them an opportunity to achieve and live the American dream for themselves and their families.


THE FIRSTMERIT LEGACY AWARD

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Christopher J. Karman
President
Daniel’s Amish Collection
www.danielsamish.com

It was 2003 and Christopher J. Karman and his brother had just quit working for a Fortune 500 company to buy a small Amish furniture maker. At the time, the company was known as Country Curios, had 12 employees and manufactured handcrafted curios, or glass display cases.

The product quality was excellent, but the business itself was a small player in a declining industry. People simply weren’t buying glass display cases for their collectibles like previous generations had done.

The challenge for Karman and his brother was they had highly skilled workers who made beautiful furniture working in a market that was dying. They could have simply gone out and searched for more curio outlets, but the potential gain hardly seemed worth the effort that would be required.

Karman, the company’s president, decided to go in a different direction. He wanted to broaden product selection, go after high-quality retailers and take the company national. While Amish furniture is well-known in Ohio, his goal was to introduce it to the rest of the country — markets that had no real experience with it.

The first thing he did was change the company’s name from Country Curio to Amish Mills and ultimately to Daniel’s Amish Collection. Karman wanted the name to immediately show people that the company was all about high-quality, Amish handcrafted furniture. So he sat down with craftsmen and designed new furniture, focusing on bedroom and dining room furniture.

The next step was to put together a nationwide system of sales representatives to sell his product under the brand name of Daniel’s Amish Collection.

The product caught on and the brand can be found in major retailers such as Levin Furniture and Berkshire Hathaway’s Nebraska Furniture Mart, the largest furniture store in the world. The workforce has grown from 12 employees in 2003 to roughly 150 employees today, and sales have grown 213 percent over the last five years.

Daniel’s Amish now operates two factories. One is a large 120,000-square-foot building where bedroom furniture is manufactured. The other is a table and chair manufacturing facility in Mount Eaton. The company has also purchased a 25-acre plot that will one day house a new headquarters and factory to handle future growth.

Unlike so many businesses that struggled when the recession hit in 2008, Daniel’s Amish got some good out of the downturn. Because so many companies have gone out of business the past few years, Karman was able to purchase a lot of good, used equipment for pennies on the dollar. While it’s obviously unfortunate that these businesses were lost, it did provide the means to help Daniel’s Amish be more productive and ultimately grow its workforce, which has been good for the Ohio economy.

Innovation is encouraged at every level at Daniel’s Amish Collection and the company operates with a nimble mindset. If someone has an idea about how to do it better, Karman wants to hear about it and in most cases, incorporates it into the company.

If an employee submits a new design idea and that idea ends up in the catalog, the employee gets 100 percent of the money from the first item sold as a bonus. Programs like this have created a strong sense of family and personal pride for the team at Daniel’s Amish Collection.


Highest Sales Growth: Manufacturing

akr_bga_KeithKroppAscot Valley Foods LLC
Keith A. Kropp, CEO

When Keith A. Kropp bought Ascot Valley Foods LLC in 2004, he operated in a small building on Maple Street in Akron. Since those humble beginnings, Kropp, CEO, has taken the business to new heights and the sales figures have come along for the ride.

Sales have jumped 650 percent in the past five years and are projected to continue growing at record rates. At the same time, employment has grown from 10 employees in 2010 to 35 in 2015.

Historically, Ascot Valley Foods was known simply as a frozen food appetizer company. But over the last couple years, it expanded its capabilities to offer prepared meals as well. On top of Akron’s famous sauerkraut balls, Ascot Valley Foods now produces pizzas, burritos and trayed meals, and has also entered the shelf-stable food market by launching a falafel for one of its major customers.

In November 2014, Ascot Valley Foods moved into a brand new state-of-the-art production facility that tripled its capacity and greatly expanded its production space, going from a 6,000-square-foot facility to one that measures 25,000 square feet.

Sales are expected to double in 2016 and the plan is to add another shift of production, which in turn will create many additional job opportunities.

With growth comes even greater opportunity to give back to the community. Ascot Valley Foods supports the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank as well as a number of other charities in the Akron-Canton area.


Greatest Employee Growth: Manufacturing

akr_bga_JosephZenoACS Industries Inc.
Joe Zeno, president and CEO

The past few years have presented a number of challenges for Joe Zeno and his team at ACS Industries Inc.

The attachment solutions provider has faced declining markets both in the dealer and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) markets. A growing employment crisis in the company’s local business sector has only added to the difficulties.

Despite the hard times, there is reason for optimism at ACS and Zeno, president and CEO, is a big reason why.
In response to the situation with the dealer and OEM markets, ACS has focused on building a core three-dealer group to support Patriot, the company’s new loader attachment line, and stock products for quick delivery.

Zeno is looking to increase market share in large engineered products and increase ACS’s presence in the steel mills. He is also keeping a close eye on the military in case it presents any strong opportunities.

On the personnel side, Zeno faced a crucial period last June when he lost a number of key employees from his factory workforce. In the changing economy, a growing number of businesses began “pirating” good people to staff their companies.

In response, Zeno evaluated employee classifications and upgraded current staff to compete where the market was headed. As a result, he was able to replace lost staff with highly qualified employees and hire 12 new employees into key positions.

ACS also changed its approach to dealer development and sales coverage by using business development specialists who do not travel and can thus telemarket to the dealer base.


Best Overall Success Story: Manufacturing

akr_bga_DarleneSwiatkowskiakr_bga_JoeSwiatkowskiakr_bga_MikeSwiatkowski

Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc.
Darlene Swiatkowski, CEO; Joseph Swiatkowski, president; Michael Swiatkowski, vice president

Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc. continues to thrive under the leadership of the Swiatkowski family, increasing sales by 67 percent over the past five years.

The snack food company has boosted its staff from 40 employees to more than 70 workers in 2015, expanded its facility, improved production and built on its established brands.

Led by CEO Darlene Swiatkowski, President Joseph Swiatkowski and Vice President Michael Swiatkowski, Hickory Harvest also added several key management positions to provide the experience needed to continue double-digit growth year over year. The plan is to add another 30 employees over the next five years.

In 2013, Hickory Harvest expanded its 30,000-square-foot facility by 17,000 square feet to add the necessary office, production and warehouse space to support the growing business.

The company also invested in capital equipment by adding two new form and seal packaging machines and another nut roaster, all of which increased production capability by 50 percent. In addition, a panning machine was installed for new product lines that are toffee-coated and chocolate- and yogurt-covered to complement the nut and snack products.

Hickory Harvest continues to partner with customers through private label programs leveraging its quality products with strong store brand recognition. Private label sales continue to grow with the overall business, maintaining a healthy 35 percent of overall sales in private label business.

Company leaders will continue looking for better processes and equipment that can improve efficiencies and support future growth.

 


Highest Sales Growth: Technology

akr_bga_MarlingEngleakr_bga_CraigSutphin

Area 51 Data Solutions
Marling Engle, CEO and partner; Craig Sutphin, COO and partner

Marling Engle and Craig Sutphin have a lot to be happy about at Area 51 Data Solutions. The IT managed services and cloud solutions provider has grown sales 267 percent since 2010 and is poised to grow even more in the years ahead.

The company has purchased a new office building to help with its current expansion efforts and provide better reach into the North Canton and south territories. There are also plans to open a satellite office in either Independence or Brecksville in the near future to better serve clients in the Greater Cleveland and Mentor areas.

Engle, CEO and partner, and Sutphin, COO and partner, have lead Area 51 to achieve significant growth. But a strong culture ensures that even when the times turn tough, employees keep a positive attitude and continue working hard to serve their customers.

Engle and Sutphin have instilled a “work hard, play hard” approach, providing a number of extracurricular activities that allow staff to get to know each other on a personal level and when necessary, blow off some steam.

When it’s time to get back to work, Area 51 takes a hands-on approach with clients and aims to be an IT partner that always has the best interests of the clients in mind. These efforts, particularly in disaster recovery and business continuity situations, have helped the company continue to grow, but have also provided a boost to the local economy.


 Greatest Employee Growth: Technology

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Expand Interactive
Eric Harsh, CEO; Will Holland, president

It wasn’t exactly the best of times when Expand Interactive opened its doors for business in 2008.

The global recession was just beginning, making the thought of opening a new business seem even more daunting than usual. But that didn’t stop CEO Eric Harsh and President Will Holland from building a business that has transformed how learning is done.

The result is a business that has grown sales 116 percent since 2010. Even more impressively, the company has grown its personnel by 225 percent over the same period. In 2014, Expand doubled its design team, tripled its development team and added a project manager and marketing manager.

When the company was founded, the mission was to rid the world of boring, ineffective training. Expand started as an e-learning content company and over time realized clients needed a platform to host, share and measure the content.

Expand has shifted away from operating as a traditional e-learning company to one focused on impact with e-learning used as a means to improve organizational performance. The company builds “beautiful, fun and effective” e-learning courses, but has also developed its own software platform to support its philosophy of continuous evolution.

ExpandShare is a knowledge-sharing platform that allows content to be shared with individual users or groups and then tracked and measured to determine training and effectiveness. The company aligns its metrics with each client’s unique key performance indicators so it can demonstrate how training impacts business performance.


 Best Overall Success Story: Technology

akr_bga_SuranjanShomeEpiphany Management Group
Suranjan Shome, president and CEO

Suranjan Shome, president and CEO, has built Epiphany Management Group from the ground up. He took a business that eight years ago had no employees, besides himself, and no customers and has grown it to more than 100 employees in four states. Since 2010, sales have increased 153 percent.

Epiphany was launched in 2007 with the objective of transforming K-12 education through partnerships with progressive school leaders and industry innovators. The company has worked in all areas of managing and improving technology in the classroom and has created collaborative solutions that improve efficiencies and reduce costs.

Under Shome’s leadership, Epiphany has not been afraid to adapt its path to success. In 2011, the company made a significant investment in organizational restructuring, processes and systems automation that resulted in steadily increasing revenue and consistent growth. That growth has been financed organically without any contribution from external sources.

One of the keys to Epiphany’s success is the implementation of a copyrighted strategic planning process that is utilized in every facet of the organization. It has resulted in clarity of direction, message and purpose for the organization and consequently, its employees. The process creates alignment between employee goals and organizational direction and has helped inspire employees to realize a near-perfect customer satisfaction and customer retention outcome.

In addition, a multilevel director and management hierarchy has been implemented to allow autonomous decision-making and improved communication.


 Highest Sales Growth – Emerging: Service

akr_bga_TiaRamlowGreat Work! Employment Services
Tia Ramlow, president

Tia Ramlow had not faced many significant challenges through the first 15 years of Great Work! Employment Services. But when the global recession hit in 2008, her business slipped into “a chasm that was so deep, at times, it was paralyzing.”

As an employment agency, Ramlow’s industry was one of the first affected by the recession and the recovery didn’t really begin until 2011. Flexible staffing was the first to go when the economy began its downward spiral and as the recession deepened, companies had internal layoffs that often went three rounds deep.

When inventory was finally depleted and companies had to turn the machines back on, they called back internal employees first. It wasn’t until then that the employment industry began to show signs of life again.

Hard decisions had to be made during these times, but Ramlow, the company’s president, worked strategically to limit the impact on staff and field employees. Retirement accounts were changed from a 401(k) with high administration costs to a simple IRA retirement program. Ramlow increased employer contributions when most companies suspended theirs and maintained health insurance even though premiums were increasing.

Great Work! invested in management training and business practices to be prepared to succeed when the economy began to bounce back. As a result, the company has expanded organically the past four years. It has a strong internal management team, a new office and an 83 percent growth rate in sales over the past five years.


Highest Sales Growth – Established: Service

akr_bga_WilliamLeppoakr_bga_DanielHarshLeppo Group Inc.
William “Glenn” Leppo, CEO

Leppo Group Inc. is a different company today than it was just a few years ago. This evolution is a key reason why the business has been able to grow sales by 142 percent since 2010.
Instead of ownership making all the decisions on strategy and execution, this family business now has a leadership team of two family members and four non-family members that set the strategic direction.

A business operations team of about 10 members, none of whom are family, lead the teams that ultimately implement the strategies and run the stores. Day-to-day operations for the main operating company are handled by non-family members, including the president and two vice presidents. Family members still play a role in setting strategy, but a smooth transition has been made to have non-family members running the business every day.

Trust is a critical piece in sustaining this type of culture, says William “Glenn” Leppo, the equipment provider’s CEO. Leppo trusts co-workers to get their work done in accordance with the foundational values that the company was built upon. He expects decisions to be made with the best interests of the customer, co-workers, vendors and owners in mind.

Sustainability is another philosophy Leppo lives by. This includes stability for employees, people development and an effort to make transitions smooth when they become necessary.
The result is a company that continues to grow and reward employees for their contribution to the organization’s success.


Greatest Employee Growth – Emerging: Service

akr_bga_DanielHarshConcept Services Ltd.
Daniel D. Harsh, owner and president

Concept Services Ltd. has had great success helping companies identify potential customers with a need for their products or services. Led by Daniel D. Harsh, owner and president, Concept Services has averaged 40 percent growth per year for the past four years on the sales side.

On the employment side, the company has grown from 17 employees in 2010 to 73 employees in 2014, which represents a 329 percent boost in personnel. Concept Services is built on a core philosophy of concept, process and discipline, which is the driving factor behind the company’s growth.

The “concept” is that companies need to separate prospecting and new business development from any other part of the sales operation. Prospecting for new business is a full-time function and is as important as any part of a company’s sales efforts.

The next step is “process,” which focuses on strategy. Years of research on effective cold calling and prospecting across multiple industries has shed light on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to finding qualified prospects and customers.

The “discipline” part is believed to be the most important piece at Concept Services, a promise to hold each other accountable to deliver the results that customers expect.

The result is tremendous growth with strong employment opportunities for both new and existing employees. The company expects to exceed 100 employees this year and will fill managerial and supervisory positions from within, providing a means for advancement. Along with an extensive training program for new employees, there is a clear path to success.


Greatest Employee Growth – Established – Service

akr_bga_VirginiaAlbaneseFedEx Custom Critical
Virginia Albanese, president and CEO

Virginia Albanese, president and CEO, is very proud of the team she has assembled at FedEx Custom Critical, a team that has grown at a steady clip in recent years. Overall, the workforce has expanded from 583 employees in 2010 to 748 employees in 2014.

The company’s FedEx Truckload Brokerage subsidiary has grown its workforce by more than 270 percent in the last five years.

The company is based in Green and is one of North America’s largest providers of expedited shipments. It offers customized solutions for its customers and specializes in expedited freight shipping and solutions for transporting sensitive shipments, from temperature control to increased security.

The hard work that employees give to their jobs comes in tandem with a strong commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy. Team members take this responsibility to heart and believe the ability to support the community in which they live and work plays a vital role in operating the business.

The company has had a significant impact in the Akron area, volunteering at more than 10 organizations in the community and donating an average of more than $140,000 per year.

Albanese serves on a number of boards in Northeast Ohio, including Akron Children’s Hospital, the Akron Community Foundation and Kent State University.

Team members happily volunteer their time at events for these organizations and many others, and this drive to support communities is contagious. FedEx Custom Critical employees average nearly 1,000 volunteer hours every year and serve as a testament to Albanese’s “walking the walk” philosophy.


 Best Overall Success Story: Service

akr_bga_EricGrafRitzman Pharmacies Inc.
Eric Graf, CEO

When Ritzman Pharmacies Inc. doubled its store count from 10 to 20 and purchased the in-store pharmacies at Buehler’s Fresh Foods, it did more than just increase its annual revenue.

The moves enhanced Ritzman’s buying power, enabling the company to negotiate better pricing and rebates from their pharmaceutical wholesalers.
In addition, the company was better able to spread its corporate overhead over twice the amount of stores while maintaining a greater range of pharmacy services to its local customer base.

The company grew again in 2013 with the purchase of five Mast Pharmacy stores and today has 25 stores located across nine counties. Ritzman has proven that growth through strategic acquisition can result in a stronger, more dynamic retail pharmacy operation with enhanced revenue and improved profitability.

Overall, in the past five years, Ritzman has grown sales by 135 percent and employees by 93 percent, going from 60 employees in 2010 to 116 employees in 2014.

Led by CEO Eric Graf, Ritzman continued to invest in both infrastructure and management in 2014 by hiring an experienced COO and 10 upper-level managers. The company also invested in KloudScript Special Pharmacy, which provides operational systems and training to independent retail pharmacies for delivering specialty high-cost pharmaceuticals.

In 2015, Ritzman is undertaking new initiatives to elevate the customer’s store experience by installing a new pharmacy system and new pharmacy delivery products. The company is also pursuing strategic joint ventures with local health providers.


 

Honor Roll

 

MANUFACTURING

ACS Industries Inc.
Joe Zeno
www.acs-coupler.com

ACS Industries Inc. bounced back strong in 2014 as the construction equipment manufacturer continued to recover from a period of economic uncertainty. ACS developed a yard loader bucket that revolutionized the material handling of aggregate at quarry sites in the U.S. The company also developed a plan to have a single source of contact at ACS call on all its steel mill customers across the nation.

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AlphaMicron Inc.
Bahman Taheri
www.alphamicron.com

Cutting-edge eyewear developed in Northeast Ohio by AlphaMicron Inc. could someday be standard equipment for every U.S. solider. The Kent-based company, which has grown from 21 employees in 2010 to 50 in 2014, has developed the world’s only liquid crystal film that provides electronic tint on demand. The technology is expected to fundamentally alter the function of eyewear in the tactical, sport and even luxury markets.

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Ascot Valley Foods LLC
Keith A. Kropp
www.ascotvalleyfoods.com

Ascot Valley Foods LLC prides itself on being active in the community and is a proud donor of food to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Its transition from frozen appetizer company to a business that also offers prepared meals has led to a stronger business, with sales growing 2.5 times from 2012 to 2014. In 2014, the company built a state-of-the-art production facility.

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Daniel’s Amish Collection
Christopher J. Karman
www.danielsamish.com

The craftsmen at Daniel’s Amish Collection are gifted and always willing to try new things to make a high-quality product in as efficient a manner as possible. Sales are up 213 percent since 2010 as the company has found ways to continue growing while many other businesses struggle to recover from the recession. The company’s leadership does not micromanage, empowering employees to be part of the success.

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Main Street Gourmet LLC
Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson
www.mainstreetgourmet.com

Customers that are finicky about their ingredients, demand differentiation and often want a product that is difficult to produce have a dedicated servant in Main Street Gourmet LLC. Sales have grown 40 percent in the past five years and the company’s co-founders have instilled a culture that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit to help achieve this ambitious goal. The result is an environment where employees enjoy their work.

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Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc.
Darlene, Joseph and Michael Swiatkowski
www.hickoryharvest.com

Growth has been strong in recent years at Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc. The company went from 40 employees in 2010 to more than 70 employees in 2015, and recently added several key management positions. Sales have increased 67 percent in the last five years and Ohio Hickory Harvest hopes to continue the trend by adding more equipment to continue to improve efficiencies.

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TECHNOLOGY

Area 51 Data Solutions
Marling Engle and Craig Sutphin
www.ar51.com

Area 51 Data Solutions is an IT managed services and cloud solutions provider specializing in proactive and preventative IT support for small to midsized businesses. Sales have increased 267 percent over the past five years, generating more jobs and tax revenue for the local economy. Area 51 has also helped keep area businesses open and functioning through its disaster recovery and business continuity efforts.

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AtNetPlus Inc.
Jay Mellon and Jim Laber
www.atnetplus.com

AtNetPlus Inc. is locally owned and operated and continues to grow both its revenue, which has increased by 72 percent over the past five years, and its office space. By adding high-paying technology jobs, the IT company attracts and retains young professionals to Northeast Ohio. AtNetPlus continues to educate and inform area business leaders through community partnerships and in-house seminars.

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Epiphany Management Group
Suranjan Shome
www.epiphanymgmt.com

As an exclusive provider of technology managed services for K-12 organizations, Epiphany Management Group has grown from six to nearly 100 full-time employees and has seen its revenue rise by 153 percent since 2010. The company can trace much of its success to a copyrighted strategic planning process that is utilized in every facet of the organization.

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Etactics Inc.
Michael Teutsch
www.etacticsinc.com

Etactics Inc. was established in June 1999 to provide a cost-effective service that enhances the accuracy and delivery of time-sensitive documents, especially invoices. These services are geared to improve cash flow for clients. The company has grown from 31 employees in 2010 to 49 in 2014 and continues to add new products and services where an opportunity is found to add value to clients.

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Expand Interactive
Eric Harsh and Will Holland
www.expandinteractive.com

When Expand Interactive was founded, its mission was to rid the world of boring, ineffective training. The company has established itself as a market leader by shifting away from operating as a traditional e-learning company to one focused on impact, using e-learning as a means to improve organizational performance. The result is revenue growth of 116 percent over the past five years.

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Metisentry
Marling Engle
www.metisentry.com

Since 2006, Metisentry has been empowering businesses to create efficiency through technology to achieve success. The company builds, manages and integrates business software and data center systems through Web, mobile and cloud platforms to manage workflow and change the way people do business. Since 2010, revenue has grown by 120 percent.

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SERVICE

Americas International Inc.
Wayne Stair
www.americasinternational.com

Americas International Inc.’s mission is to increase favorable brand awareness and expand sales by delivering quality products to customers on time and in a cost-effective manner. By working as an extension of its supplier’s sales and marketing team, the company achieves results consistent with its corporate strategic objectives. Growth has been steady since 2010, rising 34 percent during that time.

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Band of Brothers Restoration LLC
Geno Conley and Don Meyer
www.band-of-bros.com

Band of Brothers Restoration LLC is a combat veteran owned and operated company that provides commercial and residential construction and restoration services both locally and nationally. Its team is also skilled at new installation for interior and exterior needs. The company is young, growing from two employees in 2013 to 15 employees in 2014, but leadership is confident it has a plan to both be successful and change lives in the process.

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BDO
Robert Littman, CPA, MT
www.bdo.com

SS&G is now BDO, but the company has not changed its belief in the passion and capability of local businesses. BDO specializes in financial services for restaurants and focuses on their very specific and unique accounting needs. The firm also has a nationally recognized practice focusing on independent pharmacies. The Northeast Ohio office of BDO is the 10th largest BDO office in the U.S.

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Catastrophe Management Solutions LLC
Curtis F. Pilot
www.catastrophemanagementsolutions.com

Catastrophe Management Solutions LLC provides additional call center staffing for large insurance carriers during major catastrophes. The company differentiates itself from its competitors through the strength of its values and extensive industry experience and exceptional employee relations and training, among other attributes. CMS has experienced 456 percent sales growth over the past five years along with a 412 percent staffing increase.

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Cohen & Co. Ltd.
J. Michael Kolk
www.cohencpa.com

Finding and retaining quality staff is not always easy, yet it is critical to the growth and success at Cohen & Co. Ltd. The accounting firm has a unique and robust internship program that cultivates top talent to help ensure its continued growth as a leader in the local economy. The program’s real-world approach centers around treating interns as staff members and the internship program yielded 20 new staff hires in 2014.

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Concept Services Ltd.
Daniel D. Harsh
www.conceptservicesltd.com

Concept Services Ltd. has averaged 40 percent growth per year for the last four years and is on track to do it again in 2015. One of the company’s most significant achievements is its ability to hire employees with no experience, and sometimes no college education, and turn them into professional business development managers. Concept Services has excelled in this area and become an integral staff extension for its clients.

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Cooper Brothers Trucking
Tim Cooper
www.cooperbrostrucking.com

Cooper Brothers Trucking handles freight that travels back and forth between the U.S. and Canada, as well as inter-Canada shipments. It’s an area many companies don’t want to work in, but Cooper has established itself around servicing the border. The company, which has grown revenue by 277 percent over the past five years, uses its expertise to reduce wait time and reduce the cost of cross-border shipping to customers.

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County Fire Protection Inc.
John Lubinski
www.county-fire.com

County Fire Protection Inc. celebrated its 15th year in 2014 and continues to emphasize its core values, setting it apart from the competition. The core values are integrity and honesty, hard work, service-oriented, dedication and teamwork. Sales are up 102 percent over the past five years and staffing is up 60 percent. In 2015, County Fire Protection enhanced its recruiting efforts by securing a new accounts sales manager to help define its B2B services.

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EnviroScience Inc.
Martin Hilovsky
www.enviroscience.com

EnviroScience Inc. has grown considerably over the past five years, more than doubling both its staff and revenues. The ecological and natural resource consulting firm has placed an emphasis on hiring highly motivated people and encouraging them to pursue their interests and talents, as well as innovative business opportunities that fall outside of the company’s core services.

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Evolve Creative Group
Todd Bertsch
www.evolvecreativegroup.com

Evolve Creative Group has quickly become one of the top companies in the Web design industry throughout Northeast Ohio. With a strictly defined Web design process and a passion statement in place of a mission statement, Evolve has set itself apart from its competitors. Evolve continues to increase sales by more than 100 percent every year.

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FedEx Custom Critical
Virginia Albanese
customcritical.fedex.com

FedEx Custom Critical continues to grow as a company. The expedited shipment provider had 748 employees in 2014, up from 583 in 2010. The strength of the team has allowed strong philanthropic support with employees averaging nearly 1,000 volunteer hours every year. Team members help organizations from across the region do their part to make it a better place to live.

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Great Lakes Fasteners Inc.
Kevin R. Weidinger
www.glfasteners.com

Since 1958, Great Lakes Fasteners Inc. has been servicing Midwestern manufacturers by using its innovative problem-solving skills to support a comprehensive portfolio of high-quality fastener products. Sales are up 107 percent since 2010 and staffing is up 150 percent. In particular, the company’s packaging division is driving value and opportunity by helping customers streamline their supply chain and improve production-line efficiency.

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Great Work! Employment Services
Tia Ramlow
www.greatwork.cc

Tia Ramlow has made a conscious effort to buy from local suppliers whenever possible at Great Work! Employment Services. As the company’s president, she also supports the local economy by providing health care for all her staff through locally based SummaCare. Great Work!, which has seen sales rise by 83 percent since 2010, makes contributions of both money and volunteer time to many local nonprofits and also supports local business groups and chambers.

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Huntington Bank
William C. Shivers
www.huntington.com

Huntington Bank is a regional bank holding company headquartered in Columbus with a network of more than 700 branches and almost 1,500 ATMs across six Midwestern states. Founded in 1866, the bank and its affiliates provide consumer, small business, commercial, treasury management, wealth management, brokerage, trust and insurance services.

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Incept
Sam Falletta
www.inceptresults.com

Sales are up 87 percent over the past five years at Incept. One of the keys to the conversational marketing firm’s success is its ability to engage employees to focus on the most important aspects of becoming an organizationally healthy workplace. Employees buy into the company’s goals and gain satisfaction in helping Incept to meet those goals.

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J. Rayl Transport
Jeremy Rayl
www.jrayl.com

In the past five years, J. Rayl Transport has built its own compressed natural gas station at its Akron headquarters. It has also strengthened its fleet of natural gas units to include 100 tractors, giving J. Rayl one of the largest natural gas fleets in the U.S. The logistics company has expanded its offices and terminals to Euclid, Dallas and Houston and bolstered its presence in Columbus, Indiana and Virginia with new offices and terminals. The company is up to 350 employees and will be at 300 tractors by the end of 2015.

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Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc.
W. Michael Jarrett
www.jarrettlogistics.com

Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc. has grown at an average rate of 14 percent over the past 10 years and will continue at this pace through 2015. The company has launched new marketing initiatives to assist with the company’s continual sales growth. The goal is to use a direct mail campaign to get the Jarrett brand in front of more decision-makers in the supply chain industry throughout the U.S.

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Laudan Properties
Kevin R. Weidinger
www.laudanproperties.com

The business model for Laudan Properties was developed in a strategy session at a local Bob Evans restaurant and the growth has been torrid ever since. From 2010 to 2014, the inspection, property preservation and remodeling company has grown by 2,550 percent. The Laudan team works closely with investors, banks, servicers and real estate professionals to manage and maintain their portfolio of residential assets.

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Lead to Conversion LLC
Sean Bolton
results.leadtoconversion.com

Every employee at Lead to Conversion LLC is afforded the opportunity to grow beyond their current role at the digital marketing agency. LTC has built working partnerships with local businesses such as Matco Tools, Copperloy and Lincoln Electric. Some clients have seen website traffic increase by more than 1,000 percent and the firm itself has grown sales by 426 percent since 2010.

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Leppo Group Inc.
William “Glenn” Leppo
www.leppos.com

CEO William “Glenn” Leppo uses trust to lead and inspire his team at Leppo Group Inc. He trusts his co-workers to get the job done in accordance with the equipment provider’s values just as customers trust Leppo Group to take care of their equipment needs. Leppo has grown sales by 142 percent since 2010 and the continuation of that growth is supported by regular dialogue with employees about performance.

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National Interstate Insurance Co.
Dave Michelson
www.nationalinterstate.com

National Interstate Insurance Co. has enjoyed significant growth over the past five years in both sales and employees. Sales are up 57 percent during that time and the staff has grown from 494 employees in 2010 to 634 in 2014. From a product perspective, National Interstate continues to expand its portfolio by branching into new markets where its expertise can be leveraged.

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Oswald Cos.
Paul N. Catania
www.oswaldcompanies.com

As an employee-owned company, Oswald Cos. takes its core values of professionalism, integrity, resourcefulness and commitment to community very seriously. Senior Vice President Paul N. Catania has led the way on making community philanthropy a top priority at the insurance brokerage firm, which has grown sales by 194 percent since 2010. Oswald also has a dedicated nonprofit practice that serves more than 250 Ohio-based not-for-profit clients.

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PackShip USA
W. Michael Jarrett
www.packshipusa.com

PackShip USA, an affiliated company of Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc., is a high-tech logistics company providing custom solutions in packaging, shipping and business-related services to the retail and commercial markets. The company has been rebranded to include five divisions: PackShip Store, PackShip Logistics, PackShip Furniture Direct, PackShip Warehouse & Fulfillment and PackShip Custom Solutions. Sales growth for the whole company is up 77 percent since 2010.

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Peoples Services Inc.
Douglas Sibila
www.peoplesservices.com

Since 2010, Peoples Services Inc. has increased sales by more than 125 percent while improving the profit margin. This was done through acquisitions of other logistics companies and expanding business with both new and existing customers. PSI more than doubled the number of facilities and expanded into another state creating a multiple market distribution company located in six states.

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Performance Administration Corp.
Rick Knight
www.performanceadmin.com

The 2008 recession hit most businesses quite hard and Performance Administration Corp. was no exception as it lost half of its clients. The company offers personalized maintenance program administration for franchise dealerships, dealer groups and service contract companies nationwide. But Rick Knight, the company’s founder and president, went to competitors and offered to add his method to their businesses. By working together, the company has grown sales by 171 percent since 2010.

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Premier Bank & Trust
Rick L. Hull
www.mypremierbankandtrust.com

Premier Bank & Trust has made philanthropy part of its culture. Each quarter, every employee is granted eight hours of paid time off to volunteer with organizations of their choice. It adds up to 568 hours per quarter and 2,272 hours per year of community support. It’s certainly a key factor in the company’s success, but beyond that, in the words of company leadership, “it is simply the right thing to do.”

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QualCare LLC, dba Home Instead Senior Care
Therese Glorioso, RN, BSN
www.homeinstead.com

One of the biggest challenges faced at QualCare LLC, dba Home Instead Senior Care, which has added 29 employees since 2010, is the recruitment and ability to retain the best employees at the company. The senior industry is known for facing daily staffing shortages of nursing assistants and caregivers. The solution at QualCare has been to recruit senior citizens as employees.

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Ritzman Pharmacies Inc.
Eric Graf
www.ritzmanrx.com

Ritzman Pharmacies Inc. has recently undertaken new initiatives to elevate its customers’ store experience by installing a new pharmacy system and new pharmacy delivery products. Ritzman, which has seen sales grow by 135 percent since 2010, is also pursuing strategic joint ventures with local health providers to enhance pharmaceutical delivery throughout the area.

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Romeo’s Pizza Franchise Corp.
Ryan Rose
www.romeospizza.com

In January 2015, Ryan Rose, a franchisee and private sector C-level executive, assumed the role of president and CEO for Romeo’s Pizza Franchise Corp. Rose brings a passion for the brand and spent his first 90 days analyzing the company’s footprint and understanding key performance indicators for Romeo’s, which has grown sales by 165 percent and staffing by 200 percent since 2010.

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Sequoia Financial Group
Tom Haught
www.sequoia-financial.com

A three-tiered strategic plan has been employed at Sequoia Financial Group to work toward increasing revenue by 100 percent over the next five years. The company believes the infrastructure that has been built and invested in, along with its business development strategy and service model will allow new advisers to plug into its model and increase overall growth and firm profitability.

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TRIAD/Next Level
Rick Krochka
www.triadadv.com

TRIAD/Next Level has always believed in providing pro bono services to organizations that serve its community and contributing free creative services and helping to stretch the marketing budgets of these nonprofit groups that make a difference. The company’s granting efforts were rebranded in 2010 and the result is a program that has been able to do even more great work for those who need it.

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WhiteSpace Creative
Keeven White
www.whitespace-creative.com

Founded in 1994, WhiteSpace Creative is a marketing communications agency that helps businesses and organizations motivate others into action. Adapting to new opportunities and challenges has helped the company evolve into a team structure. These reconstructed teams allow for the sharing of resources and knowledge that fits the needs of its clients.

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Willory
John Bernatovicz
www.willory.com

Willory has assembled a group of energetic, devoted individuals to become one of the leading HR and payroll staffing firms in the nation, driving top talents to its clients every day. John Bernatovicz, the firm’s founder and president, launched Willory in 2010. He has led its growth from a single employee to 68 in 2014.

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