Top executives strengthen the region, contribute to its economic success
It’s humbling to learn about this year’s Smart 50 honorees and what they are doing as our region continues to set an example.
The oil and gas industry has rebounded and Shell’s Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex is taking shape. Pittsburgh was ranked as the second most livable city in the U.S. by the Economic Intelligence Unit. And the region remains at the forefront of development for autonomous vehicles, robotics and artificial intelligence.
All of our Smart 50 honorees are having a positive impact in the community. They are coming up with new ideas and making us more sustainable.
During Smart 50 judging day, where we heard directly from more than 30 of the honorees, it was inspirational to hear about innovation, impact and sustainability in so many different ways.
We heard about more than just new products and services, but also inclusive management styles, engaged corporate cultures and innovative approaches to leadership. We learned how they made the tough decisions as industries changed and the economy tightened. And, we were exposed to savvy leaders who were building upon the legacies of the past to write exciting new stories for their organizations’ futures.
This year’s Smart 50 honorees are from a diverse set of businesses and industries, yet they all share a passion for their work.
On behalf of the entire Western Pennsylvania Gallagher team, congratulations to each of you for your accomplishments and receiving well-deserved recognition for leading successful organizations.
Emmai Alaquiva, Ya Momz House Inc. | Lori Albright, Stellar Precision Components | Shannon Baker, Gatesman | William Baker, Irwin Car and Equipment | Leroy M. Ball, Koppers | Ed Balling and Brian Gaudiano, Fairchance Construction Co. | Robert P. Bauer, L.B. Foster Co. | Bud Behling, BBL Fleet | David Bonvenuto, Oberg Industries | Anita Brattina, PowerLink | Anthony Braun, Heartland Restaurant Group LLC | A.J. Brentzel and Alicia Brentzel, Brex Enterprises | Todd Brice, S&T Bank | Jeff Broadhurst, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group | Chris Brodman, Metz Lewis Brodman Must O’Keefe LLC | James L. Campbell and John C. Campbell, PWCampbell | August R. Carlino, Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp. | Gregory D. Cessna, Consumer Fresh Produce | Patrick Cozzens, Modern Transportation Services LLC | Brad Deeter, Deeter Farms Construction Inc. | Kinesh Doshi, Accion Labs | Tanner Dufrene, TJD Energy Services | Randy Eager, Pittsburgh Founder Institute | J.D. Ewing, JMJS Inc., dba COE Distributing | Chris Force, Force Inc. | Avi Geller, Maven Machines | Vivek Gupta, Mastech Digital | Amy Hancock, AdvantageCare Rehabilitation LLC | Tim, Terry, Matt, Jason and Nick Hillebrand, Don’s Appliances | Michele Humphreys, Hockey Sticks Together Foundation | Gabriela Isturiz, Bellefield Systems | Carol R. Jackson, HarbisonWalker International | Chris Keller, IPEG Inc. | Nancy Kukovich, Adelphoi USA | Kurt J. Lesker IV, Kurt J. Lesker Co. | Leah Lizarondo, 412 Food Rescue | Michael Matesic, Idea Foundry | Mike McClaine, Aspirant | Joe Meinert, JML Landscape Management | John Miles, Steelite International | Dr. Eric A. Nofzinger, Ebb Therapeutics | Mark Paup, Zippo Manufacturing Co. and W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co. | Betty Rich, Connected Health LLC | Jim Scalo, Burns Scalo Real Estate | Ken Schultz, Shannon Construction Co. | Jeff Sefchok and Adam Townsend, Camelback Resources | Wendy P. Staso, Huckestein Mechanical Services Inc. | Susan A. Stuart, CORE, Center for Organ Recovery & Education | Deborah Winn-Horvitz, The Jewish Association on Aging | Eric P. Xing, Petuum Inc.
Honorees listed in alphabetical order by last name
Ya Momz House Inc.
CEO Emmai Alaquiva never stops sharing his story of perseverance, including how he overcame homelessness through grit and teamwork. He founded Ya Momz House Inc. as a music recording studio. Through several iterations, the digital multimedia agency now offers video, photography, music and other services to allow its clients to effectively tell their stories.
Alaquiva also continues to give back to the community, such as overseeing the arts education organization he co-founded, Hip-Hop on L.O.C.K., which teaches more than 7,000 students academic subjects through hip-hop.
In addition to being recognized by Fox Rothschild and Black Enterprise, Gov. Tom Wolf appointed Alaquiva to the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts. To celebrate his gubernatorial appointment, Alaquiva hosted a fundraising event for the Homeless Children’s Education Fund.
President and owner
Stellar Precision Components
While Stellar Precision Components is synonymous with the aerospace and defense industry today — think Boeing and U.S. Department of Defense — this hasn’t always been the case. Mike Vucish Sr. formed the company in 1978 to satisfy a growing need in the commercial and naval nuclear power industry. But under the leadership of his daughter, Lori Albright, who came to work for Vucish out of high school, Stellar has transformed.
With a focus on customer relations and business development, Albright helped the company grow from 10 people and modest sales to about 65 employees and more than $6 million in annual revenue. The company is dedicated to not only serving customers, but also educating its workforce through apprenticeship programs and partnerships with area high schools and training centers.
First as a college basketball player and now at Gatesman, Shannon Baker is known for her relentless hustle, tenacious curiosity, humility and willingness to work hard.
She joined the agency in 2008 and hasn’t stopped moving since. As director of public relations, she built a nationally recognized PR practice in less than three years. Her impact earned her equity partnership, and Baker contributed to Gatesman’s record-breaking 10 years of consecutive year-over-year growth.
She became president in 2016. In the past year, Baker and partner and CEO John Gatesman acquired Noble Communications, which increased the agency’s size and revenue by nearly 50 percent. Baker also spearheaded the pitch that won Gatesman a leading role in Pittsburgh’s efforts to host Amazon’s second headquarters and helped launch an agency mentorship program.
President and CEO
Irwin Car and Equipment
It’s been a less than robust industrial economy the past two and a half years, but William Baker’s vision set Irwin Car and Equipment up for success. The 126-year-old engineering and manufacturing company is comprised of niche-like business units that are related, yet provide a diversified mix of markets, products and industries to minimize market cyclicality. Irwin’s nine business units, which service more than 30 industries, function without a single competitor they deal with as a whole.
The president and CEO continually refocuses the company’s energy and efforts to maintain its 25-year history of expansion, growth and evolution. From investments in new production machinery and crane capacity to newly upgraded 3D AutoCAD engineering systems, Irwin is driven to develop new products, services and markets.
Leroy M. Ball
President and CEO
Leroy Ball, a self-proclaimed “numbers guy,” credits the recent success of Koppers to its employees.
When Ball became president and CEO in 2015, he recognized the need to shift from a commodity chemical company to a high-value, vertically integrated wood-based solutions provider. Koppers streamlined its cost structure, while investing in wood-preservation markets.
In 2017, Koppers achieved its highest profitability and earnings per share in company history, while continuing to reduce its debt and build a stronger balance sheet. The company also adopted an idea-sharing platform. To date, more than 550 ideas have been submitted with more than 200 ideas accepted for implementation or already implemented.
In 2018, Ball advanced the company’s strategy by acquiring two businesses. Koppers also achieved its best safety performance after only two years under its Zero Harm approach.
Fairchance Construction Co.
Fairchance Construction Co., one of Pennsylvania’s oldest contracting companies, is owned and operated by four generations of the Balling family. Originally founded in 1880 as McCormick Lumber Co., it became Fairchance Lumber Co. in 1916. The company was renamed in 1994 to better reflect the nature of the business.
Only 10 office people successfully run the more than $50 million operation. This speaks volumes for the teamwork and collaboration under President Ed Balling and Vice President Brian Gaudiano.
Fairchance Construction also takes advantage of technology, using drones to view projects in real time, and advanced construction methods. It is the only general contractor in the region using insulating concrete forms construction.
Robert P. Bauer
President and CEO
L.B. Foster Co.
President and CEO Robert P. Bauer is helping L.B. Foster Co. think broader with a focus on technology, solutions and customer needs. He encourages innovative thinking, development of new products and services, and stepping into adjacent market spaces. He not only supports research and development initiatives, but complements them with the willingness to invest capital with acquisitions.
Thanks to Bauer’s vision, L.B. Foster is a more diversified company, where a field-based services team manages equipment and maintenance of track lubrication systems for large freight railroad carriers; automation solutions reduce cost and improve passenger experience on transit rail networks; replacement decking is made for bridges that cannot be closed during refurbishment; and the precast concrete products division launched a new building that’s being used to grow produce in Alaska year-round.
Founded in 1967, BBL Fleet has a long track record of sustainability, managing to excel through several economic cycles. The fleet management provider, under the direction of President Bud Behling, has developed a niche in the market, making itself a necessity to top-performing organizations.
BBL’s focus on innovation is second to none. Its new product design, specifically with technology, sets the company apart from its peers. Customers can improve safety, efficiency and profitability by using online applications, which track their fleet and provide extensive reporting applications. BBL’s intense focus on developing new technology has helped make it a true partner to its customers.
Beyond managing fleets at their highest efficiencies, the company also offers vehicle acquisition financing, fuel management, maintenance, online reporting and fleet consultancy services.
President and CEO
After 70 years in business, Oberg Industries has more than 900 employees in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Costa Rica, and annual sales of $150 million. Under the leadership of President and CEO David Bonvenuto, the company attracts, develops and retains people who have a passion for precision manufacturing so it can be a preferred partner to its customers through technology and innovation.
The first Pennsylvania company to register an apprentice program in 1971, Oberg remains committed today — 40 percent of employees are graduates.
Recently, the company expanded to 15 programs, moved to a competency-based model, strengthened internal mentoring, and constructed classroom and training areas. By partnering with Butler Community College, Oberg apprentices earn credits toward associate degrees while still being paid. Oberg is now co-developing curriculum with three area high schools.
Chairwoman of the board
Anita Brattina is a force to be reckoned with in the business community. Over her career, she founded and built three companies, and recently purchased an additional business. Brattina also is chairwoman of the board of PowerLink.
Several women business owners and entrepreneurs started PowerLink after struggling to find mentors and advisers. Under Brattina’s leadership, PowerLink has:
- Provided more than 400 business owners with advisory boards for a term of two to three years.
- Increased the scope of services to more than half the counties in Pennsylvania.
- Assisted companies in exceeding $1 million in sales 33 percent of the time within three years of their PowerLink growth experience.
In addition to advisory boards, PowerLink puts on workshops and think tanks for business owners and entrepreneurs.
COO and CFO
Heartland Restaurant Group LLC
Heartland Restaurant Group LLC started opening franchise locations in the Pittsburgh region for Dunkin’ Brands in 2008. Over the next two years, sales grew by 854 percent.
One leader in the 1,200-employee company is Anthony Braun, COO and CFO, who thinks of his team first, before tabulating sales growth in new restaurants, transactions per day or same store sales. He knows interaction with guests buying coffee and donuts often translates to loyal customers. That’s why Braun requires employees to read David Wagner’s “Life as a Daymaker: How to Change the World by Simply Making Someone’s Day.”
Braun also attributes Heartland’s success to giving back to communities. Heartland has donated more than $100,000 and has been first runner up for Dunkin’s philanthropist of the year twice.
President and co-owner
Vice president and co-owner
A.J. Brentzel, president and co-owner, founded Brex Enterprises (formerly Brentzel Excavation LLC) in 2012 with his wife Alicia, who is vice president and co-owner. The pipeline maintenance and services company is family oriented with a history of four generations of construction experience.
Brex Enterprises operates mainly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York, but has traveled as far west as Chicago to serve companies in the oil and gas industry. About 75 percent of revenue is generated from coal panel jobs using proprietary technology, which the Brentzels are looking to patent. The company’s digging methods are more efficient than its competitors, and it has a low turnover rate because of the family atmosphere A.J. and Alicia have created.
President and CEO
President and CEO Todd Brice has been with S&T Bank since 1984, holding positions at every level. While S&T’s mission was born in 1902, it has been brought to life under Brice’s leadership through the lens of community and relationship building.
With his involvement on the boards of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Pennsylvania Mountain Care Network and Pennsylvania Bank Association PAC, and as a YPO member, Brice leads by example.
S&T provides free financial education presentations and workshops, reaching more than 20,000 students the past three years. In 2017, employees contributed 3,100 hours at 23 food banks across the bank’s three-state footprint, while raising more than $144,000 for charities through Jeans Day donations.
The emphasis on relationships also means S&T offers customers personalized access and personalized products.
President and CEO
Eat’n Park Hospitality Group
Very few Western Pennsylvania companies have displayed the sustainability (nearly 70 years) and the innovation to grow and diversify that Eat’n Park Hospitality Group has displayed. But what truly sets the company apart is its impact — and the culture that helps improve lives.
Eat’n Park, which is led by President and CEO Jeff Broadhurst, has donated millions to local charities, including a large involvement with UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. It also donates half a million Smiley Cookies every year to support community events.
The family-owned restaurant chain, which operates in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, has built a brand with strong name recognition in Western Pennsylvania. The company also operates Parkhurst Dining, which provides dining services at many universities and businesses in the region.
Metz Lewis Brodman Must O’Keefe LLC
Since Chris Brodman became president of Metz Lewis Brodman Must O’Keefe LLC in January 2017, he has been a driver of change. Brodman is a true innovator. He doesn’t see things as black and white; he finds a way to solve a problem at all costs. Even at a firm level, he encourages employees to expand their thinking to always solve the problem.
While Brodman has always played a key role as a founding member of the firm, Founding Member John Lewis says he’s been the principal force behind the firm’s key areas of growth the last several years.
Brodman concentrates his practice on mergers, acquisitions and corporate law. His clients value him as a practical and trusted adviser. Additionally, Brodman serves on several boards of directors.
James L. Campbell and John C. Campbell
PWCampbell was founded in 1910 as a general construction company. In response to the changing needs of its clients, however, the company, in its fourth generation, has evolved into a full-range professional consulting and construction services organization, concentrating on the design and construction needs of the financial, commercial and residential industries.
Led by Principals James L. and John C. Campbell, PWCampbell is one of the few design/build firms with an in-house staff capable of seeing the project through from inception to completion. Design and pricing are done simultaneously, and this single-source method is less expensive in many areas.
The company also is known for building lasting relationships. In fact, 67 percent of the projects completed over the last four years have come from repeat clients.
August R. Carlino
President and CEO
Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp.
In 1990, August R. Carlino was hired to make an abandoned steel mill into an attraction. Today, Carlino is president and CEO of Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp., which has more than 50 employees. Its annual budget of nearly $3 million is growing more sustainable through revenue generation. Under his leadership, Rivers of Steel has transformed the Carrie Blast Furnaces and other historic structures, such as the Bost Building.
Recently, Carlino advanced a friendly takeover of RiverQuest, preserving its education program and increasing the use of its vessel, Explorer.
Rivers of Steel has helped secure more than $300 million for riverfront revitalization, brownfield redevelopment, hiking and biking trails and education programs. Of the U.S.’s 49 National Heritage Areas, Rivers of Steel is considered one of the most successful.
Gregory D. Cessna
Consumer Fresh Produce
While produce wholesale companies often operate traditionally, Consumer Fresh Produce and CEO Gregory D. Cessna rely on innovation to reduce cost and improve customer experience.
In 2013 and 2014, the company introduced business analytics and dashboarding, which led to lean process improvements that accelerate inventory turns and reduce product waste. Consumer Fresh Produce also uses electronic logs and GPS in its trucks and technology that monitors, records and alerts refrigeration temperatures.
The company has innovated with customers, too, including a business segment focused on hobby winemakers and split cases of produce.
These innovations and its employees’ hard work have helped Consumer Fresh Produce grow revenues from $53 million to more than $67 million over the past five years, while improving profitability by a factor of six.
Modern Transportation Services LLC
Modern Transportation Services LLC President Patrick Cozzens doesn’t have all the answers, but with a strong, diverse executive staff, he doesn’t have to. He has fostered an atmosphere of collaboration where controversial opinions, including his own, are backed by supporting information.
The transportation and logistics company specializes in the bulk transportation of dry materials and liquid chemicals. With the severe shortage of truck drivers, Modern decided to hire an experienced, aggressive outbound recruiter. This recruiter heads to truck stops or other hot spots looking for drivers who are professional, careful with equipment and personable.
Modern gives each new driver new safety equipment. After the first few days, and again after the second week, the manager of recruiting checks in to see how the driver is acclimating, which helps with retention.
Co-owner and operations superintendent
Deeter Farms Construction Inc.
Deeter Farms Construction Inc. started with one person, a truck and an excavator in the early 1980s. The family-owned and -operated company constructed wellpads, did shallow drilling and maintained shallow wells.
In 2008, Brad Deeter saw an opportunity to get into trucking for the oil and gas industry. Deeter’s father and uncle, who had been running the company for almost 30 years, agreed to allow him to start a transportation division. Deeter started with three trucks and four employees while finishing his degree. The co-owner and operations superintendent focused on production water hauling, rather than frac water hauling, which insulated the company from the downturn.
Today, Deeter Farms has 70 employees, 40 trucks, $12 million in annual revenue and plans to be around for another 40 years.
CEO and founder
CEO and Founder Kinesh Doshi has been the backbone and visionary of Accion Labs since its inception in 2011. It has grown from three Pittsburgh founders to more than 1,700 global team members spread among 12 offices, including a new 9,000-square-foot headquarters in Bridgeville.
The IT company offers complete services from re-engineering to designing an entire application. It also developed an IP framework, Accion Breeze, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning. To simplify the coding process, engineers developed a framework that uses “natural language queries.” Accion Breeze was successfully implemented for a large utility firm, using an AI-powered app that shared bills, consumption patterns and how to save on utility bills with customers. The framework even incorporated a chatbot to interact with customers and learn from the interactions.
CEO and owner
TJD Energy Services
Tanner Dufrene, CEO and owner of TJD Energy Services, started as a pipefitter and welder in the refineries of Louisiana. At a young age, he became a fabrication shop manager and managed multiple welders.
He learned early that his first priority is a safe workplace. That continues today, as he promotes teamwork, integrity and pride in producing high-quality work that speaks for itself.
At TJD Energy Services, he’s built a well-vetted, experienced team — the executive staff has more than 100 years of industry experience — that works for the oil and gas industry in the tri-state area.
As a roustabout company that specializes in welding, TJD Energy Services provides general labor and consults for operators, including large companies like Range Resources, EQT Corp. and Antero Resources.
Pittsburgh Founder Institute
Managing Director Randy Eager founded the Pittsburgh chapter of the Founder Institute. The organization educates people on how to start a new business venture by providing content and weekly sessions where mentors provide expert guidance and feedback.
Eager spent months pulling together partners, sponsors and mentors, and the Pittsburgh chapter’s first cohort graduated seven founders. (It received 50 applications). Not only did he make sure the course ran smoothly, Eager personally coached each founder and gave tough love feedback during the class. He continues to support these founders, helping them with fundraising and completing applications for AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear.
Moving forward, Eager, who is also a director, coach and mentor for several early-stage companies in Pittsburgh, hopes to graduate 40 founders, 20 in each cohort, per year.
President and CEO
JMJS Inc., dba COE Distributing
J.D. Ewing, president and CEO, has been an inspirational leader at JMJS Inc., dba COE Distributing, for more than 20 years. For example, each quarter, employees are asked to submit one thing that COE should stop doing, start doing and continue doing in order to be eligible for a profit-sharing bonus. Ewing reviews each response and implements as many changes as possible.
Under Ewing’s leadership, COE continues to grow, too — increasing revenue by 21 percent and the number of employees by 44 percent so far this year. The company added sales reps with e-commerce experience and is finishing its distribution center and corporate headquarters expansion. With a total of 240,000 square feet, COE will be able to close down three overflow warehouses.
Force Inc. provides turnkey oil and gas services in every area from fluid management to rentals, and from dust control solutions to construction. Because of this diversity, the company didn’t have to lay off any employees in the last downturn.
Bryan Force started the company in 2000 with a single water truck, and was joined by his brother, Vice President Chris Force, a year later. Today, Force Inc. uses modern technology and the software it developed, ForVue, to dispatch its more than 250 employees across Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
Force Inc. promotes managers from within and has developed a superior safety and training program, which ensures the employees are ready for tasks in the field and can provide the excellent service customers expect from Force Inc.
CEO Avi Geller is a refreshing example of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who relocated to Pittsburgh to create a great technology company, Maven Machines. Geller sought to capitalize on the city’s commitment to startups, its talent pool and the low cost of living.
Maven’s modern mobile-cloud platform accepts inputs from a variety of sensors to monitor, inform and manage systems. It can function as a leading solution for Industry 4.0 manufacturing as well as transportation where thousands of commercial fleets manage their operations and drivers using Maven’s telematics platform.
And Maven continues to innovate and deliver value. In August, the company announced a new product for transportation fleets called Maven Dispatch, which is designed to increase operational efficiency across all segments of the fleet: drivers, dispatchers, planners and executives.
President and CEO
After working for Zensar Technologies for 25 years, Vivek Gupta was approached to help reinvent Mastech Digital. He became president and CEO in March 2016.
Mastech was doing well as an IT staffing company, but needed to do more. Gupta identified critical areas for transformation — introducing staffing of specific digital technology skill sets and adding specialized project services. The company also was renamed Mastech Digital.
Next, Gupta acquired Canada-based InfoTrellis, which focuses on data and analytics, and regrouped the company into two distinct business units.
Since 2016, annual revenue increased by 38 percent to $180 million and the global headcount increased by 50 percent. Also, in the last year, Mastech Digital’s stock ranked first among 12 middle-group technology services and IT staffing companies listed on U.S. exchanges.
President, CEO and co-owner
AdvantageCare Rehabilitation LLC
Amy Hancock’s passion for health care led her to start three businesses — AdvantageCare Rehabilitation LLC, Advantage Home Health Services and AdvantageCare Consulting — that make up the Advantage group of companies.
Since 2003, the group has grown from two employees to more than 800, with over 300 of those added in the past year.
The president, CEO and co-owner knows a company is only as good as its employees, so she works to make them feel valued, while providing technology and software to streamline workplace flow and make offline documentation efficient.
With so much experience in contract rehabilitation and the nursing home industry, Hancock also excels at staying ahead of change. Her company recently launched an app, which connects therapists in rehabilitation facilities to patient families, offering care updates and conversations.
Tim, Terry, Matt, Jason and Nick Hillebrand
Tim, Terry, Matt, Jason and Nick Hillebrand credit their parents for fostering and maintaining a solid work ethic and strong values at Don’s Appliances. Their father, Don, founded the company in 1971. That culture also has made a lasting impact on the employees, who see Don is still the first one in.
The family-owned and -operated appliances business employs 153 people. Each of Don’s five sons are involved in some leadership capacity.
Don required his sons to work deliveries and for other companies before joining the company full time. He also spent two years moving management of the company over, but it was a fairly easy transition because they work well together.
Hockey Sticks Together Foundation
It doesn’t take long after meeting Michele Humphreys to see her contagious passion, her obvious mission and her ridiculous energy.
Humphreys and her husband have four boys, and hockey is a way of life for the family. However, one of their triplets, James, was born with spina bifida.
Her children’s passion for hockey led Humphreys to become a director of the Pittsburgh Predators youth hockey organization. She focused on growing the program and implementing USA Hockey initiatives. After James fell in love with playing sled hockey, she became executive director of the Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey program.
Today, she’s also executive director of Hockey Sticks Together Foundation, which provides leadership, strategic direction, fund development and support to nonprofit special needs and inner-city hockey programs in Western Pennsylvania.
President and co-founder
Gabriela Isturiz has overcome many obstacles to achieve success. After arriving in the U.S. from Venezuela to attend the University of Pittsburgh in pursuit of a master’s degree, Isturiz took advantage of every opportunity that came her way. She’s built two successful startups in legal technology, and she and her co-founders bootstrapped those startups with no external funding.
As president and co-founder of Bellefield Systems, Isturiz takes controlled risks and believes making mistakes is OK if there is a lesson that contributes to a better outcome in the future. She also encourages independent thinking throughout Bellefield, which has led to transformative innovations. The company has become the standard in timekeeping for attorneys with almost 1,000 clients worldwide and more than 900 percent growth over the past six years.
Carol R. Jackson
Chairwoman and CEO
For Carol R. Jackson, chairwoman and CEO at HarbisonWalker International, “intensity at work” is more than the company’s marketing slogan. It also represents the intensity that Jackson and her team bring to work each day in support of the company’s 1,800 employees and customers across the globe.
Jackson was unanimously elected to her current role in 2017 after serving for three years as HWI’s senior vice president and general manager. Since then, she and her engaged and aligned team are working to completely transform the entire company inside and out. She’s led HWI through significant organizational restructuring and numerous investments, including the construction of a new $30 million plant, which is the most technologically advanced refractories manufacturing facility in North America.
IPEG Inc. is a family of businesses serving the global plastics-processing, pneumatic conveying, waste recycling and industrial heat-transfer markets. In business for over 60 years, CEO Chris Keller and his team carefully focus on continually fine-tuning their group — adding and adjusting organizations.
IPEG fosters growth through continuous investment in people and businesses alike. The company, which has the benefit of being privately held, considers the viability of both existing and potential businesses from a growth and return perspective.
IPEG focuses on specific businesses supplying capital equipment to the plastics and other process-related industries, so each can serve a particular, but not always overlapping, market need. It also gives equal attention to managing growth and costs to assure the long-term viability of the overall organization.
Adelphoi USA is one of the state’s largest providers of services to troubled youth and their families. Founded in 1971, Adelphoi has been continually recognized within its industry for its quality programming and contributions to the welfare of children. It has a history of innovation, serving as a thought leader and problem solver within its sector.
Nancy Kukovich has served as CEO of Adelphoi since 2011, where she is responsible for the oversight of five entities with a combined operating budget of $50 million.
With contracts in 62 out of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, as well as additional contracts in Ohio, New York and Delaware, Adelphoi serves nearly 1,000 at-risk youth and families each day and provides educational services to children from over 100 school districts.
Kurt J. Lesker IV
President and CEO
Kurt J. Lesker Co.
The Kurt J. Lesker Co. — a global manufacturer and distributor of scientific vacuum products — prides itself on being a vacuum expert. This allows it to work side by side with its customers, who are creating ground-breaking technologies, like high-quality thin films and interfaces, which will work with next generation 3D nanotechnology, or a new method of water cooling.
KJLC, led by President and CEO Kurt J. Lesker IV, follows a stage-gate product development process where ideas come from customers, employees and suppliers. The family-owned business also has a culture of caring that starts with an accessible executive management team.
After record growth in 2017, the company is on pace to eclipse that in 2018. With more than 400 employees, KJLC hired 50 people this year alone to support its growth.
CEO and co-founder
412 Food Rescue
412 Food Rescue, founded in 2015, is the fastest-growing food recovery organization in the U.S.
Through the use of technology and unprecedented social engagement, 412 Food Rescue has redirected almost 4 million meals from going to landfills to feed hungry people. CEO and co-founder Leah Lizarondo created an app that has mobilized over 4,000 volunteers to transport food. 412 Food Rescue partners with more than 400 food retailers and 450 nonprofits, including Giant Eagle. By working with Giant Eagle, in one year, 412 Food Rescue has tripled the chain’s donations.
Moving forward, 412 Food Rescue will launch 724 Food Rescue and 814 Food Rescue to reach the counties surrounding Allegheny. It also plans to expand to San Francisco, Philadelphia and Cleveland with the goal of being in 20 cities by 2020.
President and CEO
President and CEO Michael Matesic is one of the founding members of Idea Foundry, a nonprofit, economic development organization that seeks to create jobs in the region.
For more than 15 years, Matesic has helped the organization adapt to the city’s changing needs. Idea Foundry began the region’s first accelerator, and then went on to launch the first and only accelerator focused on social enterprises. This year, it launched a program specifically for immigrant and minority entrepreneurs and small business owners. In that time, Idea Foundry has assisted more than 200 startups, created more than 1,000 jobs and generated over $1 billion in direct economic impact.
Matesic, who has founded two startups himself, also is a champion for entrepreneurship, innovation, impact investment and Pittsburgh’s growth.
Under President Mike McClaine’s leadership, Aspirant has grown its vision to fundamentally change the management consulting industry. Not only is the company intensely client-focused and passionately values-driven, it innovatively leverages artificial intelligence tools (developed in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University) to accelerate client value. While AI is a hot topic and buzzword in many industries, it has been rarely applied within the management consulting industry, primarily because there is little financial incentive to accelerate projects, reduce team size and lower costs.
At Aspirant, all associates work together to meet client needs, regardless of where they sit on the organizational chart. When working through engagements, Aspirant sends in small teams of highly skilled experts, utilizing AI-led technology to accelerate data collection and analysis, and team insights and recommendations.
JML Landscape Management
JML Landscape Management’s founder and owner, Jim Meinert, who died last year, began his career mowing his neighbors’ lawns when he was 15 years old. He started his company with three accounts and two employees. Today, JML is the largest landscaper in the tri-state area with more than 200 employees and $12 million in revenue.
JML, which remains locally owned by Jim’s son, Joe, is a full-service landscape management corporation that has operated in the greater Pittsburgh area for nearly 40 years. The company provides landscape services to multi-family communities, retirement communities, hospitals, office and industrial parks, corporate campuses, public spaces and more. Its high standards, sense of urgency, cutting-edge technology and ethical culture have allowed it to grow and become recognized as the area’s leading landscape firm.
Steelite International, founded in 1983, is a leading manufacturer and supplier of tabletop ranges for the international hospitality industry. With locations and showrooms in several states, Steelite has a highly motivated team willing to go the extra mile.
John Miles joined the company in 1996, working his way up through various roles to become CEO in 2016. Miles’ recipe for success is fairly simple: provide solutions in cutting-edge tabletop products, support the local chef community, develop personal relationships, and create partnerships with like-minded organizations that share his passion for making a difference.
Within the business, Miles believes in creating a foundation of strong company values on which a culture can be created where all employees have a voice and can realize their aspirations.
Dr. Eric A. Nofzinger
Founder and chief medical officer
Dr. Eric A. Nofzinger founded Ebb Therapeutics in 2008. The idea for Ebb Insomnia Therapy was sparked when Nofzinger, who was driven by his passion for sleep and dedication to finding a solution for his patients, uncovered a new approach to treating insomnia.
Armed with a clearer understanding of what’s happening in the brains of those suffering from insomnia, Nofzinger began his development of a drug-free solution that reduces brain activity and helps calm the mind by precisely cooling the forehead.
After five years of product development, refinements, clinical testing and Food and Drug Administration clearance, Ebb Insomnia Therapy is now ready to help those with insomnia. The prescriptive device is currently available in 12 states, including Pennsylvania, with plans to launch treatment nationally by the end of 2018.
After 22 years at the Zippo Manufacturing Co, Mark Paup became president and CEO of Zippo and its subsidiary, W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co., in 2016. He continues to enhance the company’s international expansion and to further establish Zippo as a lifestyle brand.
The company, which got its start in the 1930s, is still owned by the grandson of the founder.
The Zippo lighter is not only ingrained in popular culture, but is also a global icon of durability and reliability. Case has a similar reputation — its hand-crafted knives are passed down for generations and its collectors club is the world’s largest known knife collecting association.
Case’s roots extend back to 1889, but it became a subsidiary of Zippo and another family-owned business in Bradford in 1993.
Connected Health LLC
CEO Betty Rich co-founded Connected Health LLC in 2013 to be a concierge primary care health center, which connects medical, pharmacy, fitness and nutrition inr one state-of-the-art facility. The innovative team-based model creates an environment where traditional health care professionals collaborate with their patients’ lifestyle advisers.
Now, health care institutions and wellness specialists from all over the country are taking notice of this differentiated approach and unique prototype, which can provide highly proactive, preventive and individualized care for patients through all aspects of health — primary care, fitness, medical services, nutrition, pharmacy, therapy and aesthetics.
Rich, who is a pharmacist, previously co-owned Fisher’s Specialty Pharmacy, which sold in 2003, and then co-founded Three Rivers Pharmaceuticals, which sold in 2010.
President and CEO
Burns Scalo Real Estate
Over the past 30 years, Jim Scalo has built one of Western Pennsylvania’s largest integrated real estate businesses. Burns Scalo Real Estate owns, manages and provides third-party real estate services to more than 5 million square feet of commercial real estate assets.
After college, Scalo began managing the small portfolio of rental investment properties owned by Burns & Scalo, a roofing company started by his father and a partner. He expanded the business, managing larger properties and acting as a commercial developer. In 1994, Scalo was named president and CEO of Burns Scalo Real Estate, which he now solely owns.
Clients find the firm’s experience investing and managing real estate as an owner to be invaluable. Scalo also was a pioneer in developing flex space, a combination of office and warehouse space.
President and owner
Shannon Construction Co.
Shannon Construction Co. is a general contractor and construction manager for commercial building projects, but the family-owned and -operated firm dates back to 1927. The company was started by President and Owner Ken Schultz’s grandfather, who emigrated from Sweden.
For the past 45 years, Shannon Construction has been known for its complex occupied renovation projects, which utilize a creative, collaborative approach. The company does little marketing and work comes from repeat clients and word of mouth.
Along with being a consistently early adopter of technologies, Schultz’s philosophy is that if you support, develop and reward your field team, they’ll focus the team on meeting company and client expectations. Shannon Construction is also one of the few companies to treat subcontractors as true business partners, regardless of tenure.
Camelback Resources is an oil and gas services company, which services some of the largest exploration and production companies in the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays. Under the leadership of President Jeff Sefchok and CFO Adam Townsend, Camelback is committed to safe, sustainable solutions for its customers and the environment.
Each truck is inspected daily, receives regular maintenance and is equipped with safety equipment. Drivers are partnered with a mentor and receive continual safety training. In addition to safety, data management and reporting is vital to the company.
By understanding the dynamics of the energy sector, specifically natural gas, the company can provide low-cost, safe, environmentally aware solutions and ensure the more than 30 people it employs have sufficient and steady work.
Wendy P. Staso
Huckestein Mechanical Services Inc.
Wendy P. Staso purchased Huckestein Mechanical Services Inc., a struggling 60-year-old mechanical contractor, in 2010. For the next three years, Huckestein focused on survival, while the CEO laid a foundation for sustainability. She made difficult decisions — cuts to reduce costs and stabilize the company. She also shifted the business model to a niche provider focused on providing design build projects, service, maintenance and value-added services such as energy management directly to owners and end users.
As a result, over the past five years, revenue tripled, the employee count doubled, and the company added critical positions to enhance its offerings. While technology is the backbone of Huckestein, every decision is centered around customer experience. Along with a 98 percent customer retention rate, 80 percent of revenue growth came from existing customers.
Susan A. Stuart
President and CEO
CORE | Center for Organ Recovery & Education
The Center for Organ Recovery & Education not only saves lives through its organ donor procurement, CORE also works with legislators to try to get more people to be organ donors.
As a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital, Susan A. Stuart witnessed the comfort that donation offers donor families and the second chance it offers recipients. Stuart was so moved by CORE’s work she took a job as an organ and tissue procurement coordinator and rose through the ranks. After a stop at UPMC, she returned to CORE in 2004 as president and CEO.
Today, she heads an organization that focuses on operational excellence and makes sure it takes care of its staff of more than 100, who work with families facing difficult decisions on a daily basis.
President and CEO
The Jewish Association on Aging
Having spent over 20 years in academic medicine, Deborah Winn-Horvitz became president and CEO of The Jewish Association on Aging in 2011.
JAA assists more than 2,000 seniors and their families every day, as comprehensive care programs keep seniors active, safe, independent and connected to the community. Perhaps more importantly, the 112-year-old nonprofit provides care to those who can no longer pay for these services. Almost 10 percent of the $40 million budget is invested in the Free Care Fund.
Winn-Horvitz has helped JAA open a state-of-the-art memory care center; expand the home and community services program; add a second satellite location of the outpatient rehabilitation program; find a way to continue, and grow, the hospice program; and expand JAA’s technological footprint, among other things.
Eric P. Xing, Ph.D.
Founder, CEO and chief scientist
Carnegie Mellon University’s Eric P. Xing, Ph.D. — who some rank as the world’s top computer science and artificial intelligence researcher — has leveraged his expertise and international reputation to found Petuum Inc.
The CEO and chief scientist’s mission is to industrialize and democratize the creation and use of AI systems and solutions to make even the most advanced AI technology accessible and affordable. With $108 million in investor funding, Petuum is one of the world’s highest-funded AI and machine learning startups.
Attracted by the opportunity to work with Xing on cutting-edge projects with real world applications, in just over a year, the Petuum team has grown to more than 100 machine learning researchers, data scientists, software engineers and industry specialists, who have more than 30,000 academic citations between them.