USI is excited to partner with Smart Business Network for the second year in a row to announce and recognize the honorees of the Smart 50 awards for 2021. The events of 2020 presented unique challenges to the way we do business, the communities in which we operate and the very health of our employees. As we approach the end of 2021, there were many great examples of how companies and their employees adapted to these challenges and not only survived but thrived. USI is proud to be part of this community and help celebrate and recognize leaders that led during these trying times.
The year 2021 and beyond bring new challenges. The very nature of how we work in a remote or hybrid workplace environment will require adaptation and innovation to maintain teamwork, productivity and culture. Across many industries, there are labor shortages, and the difficulty in recruiting and attracting talent has never been greater.
Employers are also recognizing that promoting diversity in their workforce and creating a culture that celebrates that diversity are not only the right things to do, they are key factors in solving the issue of how to fulfill human capital needs in a tight labor market and build and retain a productive workforce. Companies are also expected to be good citizens of their communities on a host of concerns, from being environmentally conscious to being actively engaged in solving the problems the communities they operate in face. They are expected to be successful enterprises based on the traditional financial measures of success while also leading in their communities. Leaders need to not only serve the traditional stakeholders such as clients, employees and shareholders or owners but are also expected to serve their communities.
Yet another and new challenge? No doubt. But during the Smart 50 judging day, we heard directly from leaders who have the skills and the broad perspective, as well as the desire, to face these challenges head on. It was motivating how leaders are adapting to a rapidly changing external environment while successfully operating their companies.
With regard to the specialty awards for Innovation, Impact and Sustainability, we heard from leaders about how their businesses embody, and their employees are committed to, the values that are essential to excelling in business. As we heard their individual stories and how their leaders are responding, we were inspired and are optimistic about the future for the businesses recognized and the Greater Pittsburgh business community.
The Smart 50 awards gala will be experienced in a virtual setting this year. We are confident that this will contribute to the legacy of the awards and will be a truly unique and exciting event.
On behalf of USI’s Western Pennsylvania team, congratulations to each of the honorees for the well-deserved recognition of your leadership and your enterprises. ●
Vice President, Employee Benefits Practice Leader
USI Insurance Services
Property & Casualty Practice Leader
USI Insurance Services
Property & Casualty Practice Leader
USI Insurance Services
As a family-owned business, ABARTA Coca-Cola Beverages is committed to putting people first and serving customers at the highest level, with excellence and integrity. Its employees are considered an extension of this time-honored, deeply held commitment.
Led by CEO Charlie Bitzer, the company, which has 14 distribution centers across Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, continues to partner with and support its communities through the significant challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. It does so by supporting local events and organizations, in part by donating product and, around the year-end holidays, by hosting toy drives. By delivering happiness, the company believes it creates positivity and prosperity that ripple out into the communities.
Guided by its core values, ABARTA Coca-Cola Beverages is family-owned and community strong.
Air Ground Xpress has been resilient in navigating a cyclical industry, with a strategic plan to continue to manage and preserve the company with a long-range focus. Led by Executive VP Michael Snyder, AGX, its team and its trucks provide a key service, helping to move goods from the airports to businesses and homes.
AGX has built a plan to reward key management with the opportunity to own shares of AGX, become an owner and preserve the company’s legacy. It has successfully bought out two cycles of ownership and is currently in stage three, with a plan to continue to own the company privately and preserve its history, providing long-time management the opportunity to become a partial owner, building a very strong level of engagement.
Founder and CEO Ray Nell Jones has created a safe haven for single mothers to find refuge, empowerment and community through her 501(c)(3) award-winning nonprofit, The Allignment Chapter. The organization’s mission is to help provide economic and emotional relief and resources for low-income single mothers and their children. Launched in 2019, it was inspired by Jones’ journey of poverty and hardship, becoming a single mother at age 19 due to domestic violence. As a single mother, she was compelled to do anything it took to take care of her family, which led to pursuing financial literacy and resourceful tactics, such as couponing. As a result, she acquired thousands of stockpile items, which she gave away to single mothers.
Established in 2015, Armina Stone is locally owned and operated and is made up of a team of diverse skilled individuals. That team is dedicated to the design, fabrication and installation of natural stone and quartz for residential and commercial projects. With three locations in the Greater Pittsburgh area, Armina Stone has emerged as a leading choice among Pittsburgh developers, architects, interior designers and homeowners seeking the finest natural stone and quartz products.
Led by Owner and President Emre Basman, Armina Stone is committed to providing top-quality natural stone and impeccable craftsmanship, while offering the highest value. Regardless of the size of the project, Armina Stone ensures that its products add the beauty and value customers expect, with the quality they demand.
Accion Labs is an innovation engineering firm that uses emerging technologies, a range of accelerators and a field-tested gated innovation delivery process to create transformational software. Led by Founder and CEO Kinesh Doshi, Accion strongly believes that today’s innovation is rooted in a deep understanding of technology levers, and it has strategically organized its many capabilities into distinct Centers of Excellence. The ability to admix various CoE capabilities in fresh and inventive ways solves unique challenges, uncovers new opportunities and unlocks hidden value.
Leadership has worked to democratize innovation so that opportunities to innovate exist at every level, in every function and at every stage. Accion’s motto is, “Driving outcomes through Actions.” Through a collaborative environment, solutions are sought for tomorrow and built today.
Beinhauer Family Funeral Homes first opened a mortuary in 1860. In 1952, its three-story mortuary burned to the ground, and the Beinhauers salvaged what they could from the rubble and built a new funeral home on the same site. As the business continued to grow and more family members became involved, Beinhauer expanded and built the first building designed specifically for funeral services in Peters Township. Led by Co-owner and Funeral Director Scott Beinhauer, the Beinhauer family today serves five communities in the South Hills. Beinhauer, who believes strongly in family values, personal commitment and dedication, is the sixth Beinhauer generation to serve Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities with over 20 years of funeral service experience.
BlueTree Allied Angels, a group of accredited investors, invests in regional, early stage companies. Its members-only organization operates as a network of private equity investors that meets regularly to evaluate and consider pre-institutional investments. Leveraging its members’ knowledge and experience helps to mitigate investment risk, thus strengthening the probability of investment success.
In addition to its angel network, the firm has created the BlueTree Venture Fund. The fund is a passive investment vehicle designed to allow investors to invest their capital without investing their time. Sreekar Gadde, the executive director for BlueTree Allied Angels, leverages his background in engineering, law and business to identify and analyze early stage companies for potential investment opportunities.
For more than 70 years, Brayman Construction Corporation has focused on innovation, technology and community restoration, enabling the organization to evolve from a small bridge and concrete company to a nationally recognized, heavy civil construction company. Brayman has expertise in a wide variety of projects, including large-scale complex bridges, deep foundations, marine and dam construction and rehabilitation, complex and heavy steel erection and rehabilitation, and demolition services. CEO Stephen Muck purchased the company in 1992 and grew Brayman into a construction powerhouse. Muck is a trailblazer in construction robotics and construction technology and is dedicated to serving the community economically and philanthropically. Given Brayman Construction’s 70-year history, continued innovation and positive community impact, the organization can be considered one of the smartest companies in the region.
CEO Kevin O’Kane and his team at Catilize Health have innovated in the health insurance space by creating a plan that covers 100 percent of employees’ out-of-pocket costs that simultaneously adds to a company’s EBIDTA. Catilize Health is the standalone professional benefit administrator of the Spousal Incentive Health Reimbursement Account (SIHRA) plan. For nearly two decades, the SIHRA plan has helped employers reduce risk while measurably increasing their bottom line. The plan works by allowing eligible participants and dependents the freedom to enroll in a spouse’s employer-sponsored medical plan.
O’Kane has grown Catilize Health’s revenue and customer base by perfecting this innovation through leveraging existing laws and rules to provide a no-deductible insurance option as a benefit to employees that adds to a company’s EBITDA through cost reduction.
Centerville Clinics provides high-quality, comprehensive health care to 40,000 patients in Fayette, Greene and Washington counties. It operates 12 medical, five dental and 10 behavioral health sites, and offers specialty medical care, laboratory, X-ray services and a black lung clinic program for those with pulmonary diseases.
Centerville Clinics is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), a nonprofit community-based health organization delivering comprehensive primary care, dental and mental health services, and helps patients access specialty and hospital care services not available at the center. FQHCs bring primary health care services to underserved, underinsured and uninsured people in areas where there are not enough physicians and/or where existing clinical providers are not accessible to underserved populations. Centerville Clinics is the safety-net provider for residents of the counties it serves.
In its 16 years of operation, the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses gain a foothold in business, while also serving to grow the regional economy. Since receiving the U.S. Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center award in 2016, CWE Director Anne Flynn Schlicht has designed and delivered over 320 programs to train entrepreneurs to start, manage and expand their businesses. Through these programs, CWE has served over 8,914 entrepreneurs with 747 training hours. Schlicht has built a team of 17 technical assistance experts providing 3,318 hours of business counseling to 1,895 clients, which directly contributed to 199 new businesses in the region and $14.7 million in raised capital through a combination of equity, SBA loans and private loans.
J.D. Ewing runs a smart organization by continuing to focus on and develop a strong company culture. He provides unique employee engagement opportunities that facilitate growth and enjoyment. Fostering a strong culture for team members not only benefits them by creating a sense of security, it also promotes a successful business with strong growth and relationships with dealers.
Ewing is continuously looking for new ways to propel the company forward, whether that is in the products the company carries or the employee engagement opportunities within. Recently, he added a new core value, innovation, to encourage the team to stay creative and bring to the table new ideas, big and small, that will not only grow the company but the individuals, as well.
Comfort Supply Inc. was founded by Frank Heckler in 1985 to deliver high-quality HVAC solutions to the Western Pennsylvania market. His grandfather and four great-uncles were in the retail hardware business in 1905, when central heating began to replace coal-fired stoves. The family had the vision to recognize the shift in demand, and over the course of time, manufactured and installed over 30,000 central heating systems in the Pittsburgh area.
In 1988, Frank and David Heckler, the third and fourth generations in the heating and air conditioning industry, acquired 100 percent of the corporate stock. Frank remained heavily involved in the business until his passing in 2013, and the business is now owned and operated by President David Heckler.
Concurrent Technologies Corp. is an independent, nonprofit, applied scientific research and development professional services organization led by president and CEO Edward J. Sheehan, Jr. Together with its affiliates, Enterprise Ventures Corp. and CTC Foundation, it leverages research, development, test and evaluation work to provide transformative, full lifecycle solutions. To best meet its clients’ needs, it offers the complete ability to design, develop, test, prototype and build, delivering robust, technical and innovative solutions that safeguard national security, retain U.S. technological advantage and ensure the primacy of American manufacturing.
CTC’s commitment to quality is exemplified by its early participation in national and international standards. It was one of the first nonprofit research and development organizations to simultaneously certify to the ISO 9001 and 14001 international standards.
Diamond Kinetics champions mobile sports performance technologies in baseball and softball. As co-founder and CEO of the company, C.J. Handron has led the vision for product development and strategy, and commercial strategy, for a product suite that has now been used by over 100,000 children of all ages and skill levels.
Diamond Kinetics takes a market- and user-centric approach to product development, using a broad network of industry experts and coaches in a customer-discovery-driven process. This process has enabled the company to successfully innovate and lead its industry in the development of four best-in-class sensor products creating “smart” baseball and softball bats and balls. It has also led to innovations in computer vision and machine learning.
In 1970, pharmacists Gilbert and Joan Zilner purchased Diamond Drugs, a corner drug store in Indiana, Pennsylvania. They filled prescriptions for residents and long-term care communities and sold medical supplies. In 1983, they moved the store to a more visible storefront and submitted their first bid to provide pharmacy services to a correctional facility. In 1991, Gilbert and Joan’s son, Mark, joined Diamond after graduating pharmacy school. As director of operations, he had new ideas, especially regarding workflow and serving the growing base of correctional pharmacy customers. By the late 1990s, Diamond was operating a new closed-door facility, along with a retail medical supply store. Six years later, it became the nation’s largest correctional pharmacy provider and was Pennsylvania’s largest independently owned long-term-care pharmacy provider.
Corina Diehl, president and owner of Diehl Automotive Inc., has successfully led the dealership from a single vehicle dealership to six dealerships in two states. The company has also opened stand‐alone collision repair centers in Pittsburgh, Washington and Cranberry, with a new location opening soon in Ford City.
Diehl has also streamlined the accounting and inventory between the Diehl Automotive stores. She has collapsed the accounting so that it’s run through one organization, Diehl Automotive Inc. All Diehl stores can also dip into each other’s inventory, enabling them to trade among each other so vehicles can be delivered to customers within hours.
In addition to improving storefronts and aesthetics, she has improved sales through customized digital marketing programs, as well as by tapping into the dealerships’ massive customer database.
Since the founding in 1971 of Elk Air Conditioning and Heating, there has been a strong commitment to quality, safety and fair value. Through the company’s expansion and evolution, its core commitment to “Quality and Comfort You Can Depend On” has never wavered.
Founded by Ted Kemp and Ray Giles, Elk Air grew and continued to grow under the leadership of Ralph Kemp, the company’s president. In 2012, Eric Rager joined Kemp in ownership, and is now the company’s vice president.
The Elk Air Conditioning team believes in a core structure that puts safety, quality and fair value at a premium. They believe that facilitating a high-end workplace and family dynamic is pivotal to allowing these standards to prosper.
With more than a century in business, Equipment Corporation of America continues to focus on innovating and evolving. ECA is a premier provider of equipment used in drilling, pile driving, hoisting/rigging, slurry cutting and soil mixing. It was founded in 1918 to help expand a construction company’s depth of services before expanding into new markets. In the late 1950s, the company was purchased and became a family-owned business, a structure it retains today.
Led by President Roy Kern, ECA services a wide range of heavy equipment and drilling needs with eight locations in the U.S. and one in Canada, essentially servicing the eastern half of the country. It provides equipment through selling/rental and services, and sells parts for the equipment.
Joe Altieri learned the value of creating amazing teams and healthy organizational cultures from his father and grandfather, both of whom owned thriving businesses when he was young. He started working in the window industry as an independent manufacturers’ sales rep in his early 20s and, during his more than 20 years in the window industry, Altieri recognized the inherent problems with traditional window screens and dealt personally with constant customer frustrations.
He knew there had to be a better way, so he set up shop in his garage and got to work. After years of trial and error, FlexScreen, the world’s first and only flexible window screen, was born. Since its introduction into the marketplace, FlexScreen, which Altieri leads as president, has gained international attention and earned multiple awards.
President and CEO Johnathan Garlow’s insights into the growing office technology industry has helped expand Ford Office Technologies’ solution portfolio. For instance, the addition of a network operations center that serves as the hub for IT services, new state-of-the-art document management software and an internal marketing division give Ford unique capabilities. Garlow’s vision and drive have led to acquisitions — including two this year — making Ford the largest independent multiline dealer of copier, printer and MFP technology in Western Pennsylvania.
Ford Office Technologies has excelled during this time of uncertainty by flexing its business model to incorporate work-from-home office solutions and expand managed IT services, helping clients seamlessly and securely adapt their work environments.
Franjo Construction Corp. is a locally recognized, privately owned general contractor, construction manager and design/builder servicing the needs of clients on a regional basis through its building, restoration and construction management operating divisions.
Franjo is a leader in building innovative, cutting-edge projects. Today, more than 100 trade employees work for the company in the field and the office, where employee retention is high, with a number celebrating 10 or more years.
Joe Leonello, now the company’s president, started working full time at Franjo in 2002. Frank Leonello joined Franjo full time in 2003, and today is the company’s CEO. With a proven formula for success, Franjo has expanded its services by establishing the multiple facilities under its current management structure.
GGC National Contractors, led by President and Founding Partner John Castellano, was founded on the principles of sustainable quality construction. Specializing in commercial, retail, office and technology, multifamily, automotive and health care industries, GGC National provides its clients with outstanding reliable service, from preconstruction services through project completion.
The general contractor sets itself apart from the competition through the effective and innovative use of technology, enabling it to operate anywhere in the country. Its home office receives updates from job sites in real time as its superintendents both document and frequently upload photos of project progress, facilitating communication with subcontractors and clients. Despite the challenges 2020 brought, GGC has seen a significant increase in revenue and employee growth, and is planning an office expansion.
Marion Lewis is a results-driven entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and business community leader with more than 25 years of successful experience. As the founder and CEO of Govenda by BoardBookit, she is passionate about providing best-in-class solutions and modern tools to support organizations’ boards of directors. With the rebranding of BoardBookit to Govenda in 2021, Lewis has established a smart, bold, new mission: To empower organizations to create sustainable value by equipping boards and leadership with innovative tools that transform governance practices. Her vision is to accelerate stakeholder governance as a force for good. Ranked 1,371 on the 2021 Inc. 5000 list of Fastest Growing Companies, the former BoardBookit emerged as a market leader for board portal software.
Co-founded by CEO Ryan Green, Gridwise is an app that helps ride-sharing drivers who work more than one ride share service increase their earnings by tracking mileage, analyzing revenue, generating tax reports and streamlining how they operate. The app grew from a landing page to explain the Gridwise concept to an informational text messaging and email service, and then finally to an app. All those steps helped set a strong frame for the type of solution to build for drivers and set the foundation for building out and scaling the mobile application.
Gridwise has raised more than $6 million in funding and is now in over 35 cities. It continues to grow in both revenue and number of active users.
Kim Tillotson Fleming is CEO of Hefren-Tillotson Inc., a privately held firm offering comprehensive financial planning and investment advisory services for individuals, foundations, trusts and qualified retirement plans. Fleming’s impact on the community is expressed through her stewardship of Hefren-Tillotson’s volunteering and outreach efforts. She encourages company involvement to make the greatest possible difference in the lives of her “neighbors” in the Pittsburgh region and in other parts of the world.
She and her employees participate in United Way volunteer activities year-round and Fleming has led a Hefren-Tillotson Habitat for Humanity trip to Guatemala; in August, they participated in a local project in Homewood. They also raise money for ALS care and research and donate to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank.
Idelic, led by Co-Founder and CEO Nick Bartel, helps transportation fleets save time, money and lives. The company achieves this mission by leveraging robust data to unlock hidden insights and promote safe driving. Idelic shows this commitment by embedding safety practices into its products, culture and everyday activities.
The company embraces innovation and enables its team, customers and partners to raise the standard of excellence by thinking critically, taking risks and challenging the status quo. The Idelic team takes pride in committing to the success of others, which in turn helps it generate success. That collaboration brings together various viewpoints and disciplines to solve complex problems. Idelic listens intently, thinks mindfully and seeks different voices to ensure the highest standards of quality and safety.
II-VI was founded in 1971 to make laser optics for CO2 lasers. These lasers transformed factories, significantly lowering the cost of manufacturing processes such as cutting, welding, drilling and marking. As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, the markets II-VI now serves are in communications, industrial lasers, aerospace and defense, consumer electronics, semiconductor capital equipment, life sciences and automotive.
The company serves markets in North America, China, Europe and Japan, with a broad portfolio of products based on engineered materials, optics and optoelectronics technology platforms. From its solid foundation at the materials level, the company moves up the value chain in applications where it can differentiate its products based on combining complementary technologies in its portfolio, leveraging its intellectual property, or leaning on its strong customer relationships.
Tom McClellan, MD, is the spark, co-founder and CEO of award-winning startup studio Intermed Labs. He is an inventor, entrepreneur and board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Intermed Labs is a team of experienced entrepreneurs who have successfully brought medical devices and products to market. This team has joined with medical, engineering, business and technology experts to create a world-class startup studio that partners with health care systems and institutions to build successful Med Tech companies.
A startup studio is different from an incubator in that it works on a project as early as the problem-identification stage. McClellan has significant experience in design, engineering, medicine and the translation process of Med Tech solutions to the market and has over 30 issued or pending patents.
Kristy Knichel, president and CEO of Knichel Logistics, runs a smart organization by making herself accessible and focusing on the value of communication. Accessible not only to her employees, she is accessible to customers, carriers, the company’s Class 1 railroad partners, various transportation industry organizations and businesswomen across numerous industries. This is resulting in the creation of dedicated online learning paths to give employees free access to high-quality training material at their own pace, content of their choosing, aligned with improving their job skillsets.
Being open and available to personnel has enabled Knichel to listen to their ideas and act on making them a reality. The end result is a well-trained, more confident staff that has markedly improved their skillsets.
Vivek Gupta has been driving innovation ever since he took the reins of Mastech Digital as its president and CEO in 2016. Even the pandemic proved to be an opportunity for him to display his company’s resilience and leadership in a fragile environment. From the outset, Gupta took a hard look at the cost structure of the company and eliminated all discretionary spend without sacrificing productivity and efficiency. Investments in digital tools and technology increased, which improved the operational efficiencies of the company.
Seeking a pole position for when the recovery started, he looked for acquisitions that would add synergistic value to Mastech Digital’s portfolio of service offerings, ultimately acquiring Amberleaf, which brought customer experience solutions capability, in late 2020.
Metafy has created a mutually beneficial platform in the gaming space that puts the power in the hands of its coaches and its users. The Metafy coaching platform leverages world-class professional gamers to help other gamers improve their video game prowess through personalized tips and strategies to help them win on a number of titles.
CEO and Co-founder Josh Fabian created Metafy from the ground up, with a heavy emphasis in prioritizing the people who benefit the most from the platform. By using crowdsourcing tools to build in public, Fabian has created an open space for coaches and customers to provide direct feedback, share their experiences and make necessary adjustments to continue providing an elevated experience to both coaches and users on the platform.
Mortgage Connect LP is a national mortgage service provider, serving the origination, default, valuation and capital markets sectors. Led by CEO Jeff Coury, the company offers customizable solutions to the nation’s largest lenders and servicers. Established in 2008, Mortgage Connect was refounded and recapitalized in 2012 when Coury joined the company to innovate its approach to the standard loan closing model. Since then, the company has flourished to become a premier independent mortgage services provider.
Coury knows that a high-performing company culture will both determine the organization’s immediate performance and ensure its survival during unpredictable markets. That is why he focuses his cultural strategy through multilevel initiatives that include an inclusive culture, employee growth, organizational effectiveness, leadership and change management.
Parthian Battery Solutions is a startup company that recertifies and repurposes post-consumer lithuim-ion batteries. Parthian ensures the most amount of value is extracted from the batteries over their lifespan, while simultaneously minimizing their environmental impact. The company’s practices more than double the useful life of the battery, and each unit of hardware it produces prevents hundreds of pounds of battery waste from being prematurely disposed of, along with hundreds of pounds of virgin elements from being dug up from the Earth. Additionally, Parthian’s establishment of a safe and viable second-use battery market brings forward lithium-ion technology at more affordable prices, making it attainable to the masses.
Auggie Chico, the founder and CEO of Parthian Battery Solutions, bootstrapped Parthian from concept to revenue in less than six months.
Anil Bhadsavle immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1969. He became a partner in Penn Mag, a business specializing in the grinding of magnetite, which, at that time, primarily serviced the coal industry. In the early 1980s, Bhadsavle singlehandedly designed Penn Mag’s plant and its products, developed strong relationships with suppliers and customers, and made the business profitable.
By 2007, as the owner, Bhadsavle had transformed the business into an innovative company with an improved plant offering specialized products, a diversified customer base, significantly increased profit margins and a loyal and highly effective workforce. Bhadsavle has continued to grow the business and adapt to a changing environment to include diversification into new markets with niche products.
Pittsburgh Botanic Garden inspires people to value plants, garden design and the natural world by cultivating plant collections of the Allegheny Plateau and temperate regions, creating display gardens, conducting educational programs and conserving the environment. The garden is a qualified caretaker for 460 acres of southwest Pennsylvania’s land and water.
Dedicated staff including Executive Director Keith Kaiser and volunteers provide and maintain a habitat for native flora and fauna. In addition to ongoing conservation efforts such as mitigating acid mine drainage and reforestation projects, the garden provides 60 acres of cultivated gardens and woodlands for the public to connect to plants. Through this innate experience, young minds are engaged, gardeners are inspired and all visitors find a sense of calm.
As President and CEO of Pittsburgh Technical College, Alicia B. Harvey-Smith, Ph.D, has executed tremendous strides in increasing the college’s exposure to the public, government officials, business leaders, community partners and numerous other constituents in a manner that had not before been initiated by a leader in this position. The college’s first president since it became a nonprofit organization, her guidance has opened new doors for PTC to the community, access to funding and enrollment opportunities.
She has met with several state representatives and congresspeople, collaborating on initiatives to improve educational outcomes in the region and opportunities to access funding, allowing PTC to expand its services to its students and to a broader population.
Anne Foulkes is the first female general counsel at PPG, a 138-year-old global paints, coatings and specialty materials company. With more than 46,000 employees and operations in more than 70 countries, Foukes plays a pivotal role in leading PPG’s legal activities. When she was named to her current post as PPG’s senior vice president and general counsel in 2018, she was the highest-ranking female officer in the organization and the first woman on PPG’s executive committee.
Foulkes has provided legal counsel for virtually every PPG business unit and function. She has guided the company as it completed numerous merger and acquisition transactions, including the largest acquisitions in the company’s 138-year history.
Susanne Cole has dedicated her career to Pressley Ridge and the youth and families receiving services there. Her vision for the organization enabled her to rise through the ranks to ultimately become president and CEO, responsible for ensuring the organization successfully serves nearly 9,000 children and families each year.
Throughout the unprecedented events of 2020, during a time when many nonprofits struggled to make ends meet, Pressley Ridge was able to not only continue providing services but also to expand to meet the demand for increased mental health care. Cole’s vision for a more diverse and equitable workplace has led Pressley Ridge to embark upon a multiyear strategic plan to educate all staff on diversity, equity and inclusion and to address disparities within the organization and communities served.
Propel Schools is a system of 13 public charter schools that serves approximately 4,000 scholars, primarily from underserved communities throughout Allegheny County. Propel partners with families, dozens of community organizations and businesses to provide a K-8 learning experience that positively transforms the lives of scholars and their families.
Tina Chekan, Ph.D., has been a shining star on the Propel team since its inception in 2003 when, as a kindergarten teacher, she helped open the first school serving 180 scholars in the basement of the former Homestead Hospital. She became CEO and superintendent in 2013 when Propel consisted of nine schools. Since then, she has played a significant role in enabling families throughout the region to choose excellence in public education, regardless of their ZIP code.
Ritchey Metals is a growing manufacturing business with over five generations of dedication. Since 1965, when President Stephen Ritchey’s grandfather started Ritchey Metals, it has grown to more than 110 employees, including many with 20 or more years of service. Its success requires not only holding fast to rigid quality manufacturing standards but also remaining flexible enough to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace.
Ritchey Metals is the preferred supplier of zinc, aluminum and non-ferrous alloys across the die-casting, electroplating and steel coating industries. The foundational principle of the company is the focus on the customer. Leadership believes that by providing fanatical customer service, the company gains the ability to support team members and their families while playing an important role in the industry and local community.
Rivers Agile is a technology consulting company that has built an excellent reputation for technical innovation, superior engineering and a regular cadence for building and deploying software solutions to the market. Since 2008, Rivers Agile has fulfilled the need for first-rate quality assurance services in Pittsburgh and has matured into an end-to-end software solutions provider.
Whether Founder and CEO Ben Wilson and his team are defining new software or refining an existing application or website, they work with clients throughout the entire product lifecycle to help them achieve their strategic vision. Rivers Agile’s highly skilled team works with recently funded startups through Fortune 50 clients and prides itself on being a collaborative team, from software development to quality assurance and project management.
Benjamin Schmidt, Ph.D., has led product development at RoadBotics since its inception in 2016, when he was the founding chief technology officer. He has extensive experience bringing machine learning technologies out of the research lab and into the market, as well as effectively leading and managing product and engineering teams in a startup environment by harnessing a cohesive strategic vision. Throughout his career, he has applied his unique background in engineering, data science and technology entrepreneurship to build companies that solve complex infrastructure challenges, ranging from pavement management with RoadBotics to national energy grids with his previous company, kWantera.
Under his visionary leadership, RoadBotics has rapidly expanded its footprint as an industry-recognized global leader in road assessments, serving over 250 government agencies across 15 countries.
Robert Morris University combines the best of a big research university and a small college, providing the education and experience that has helped strivers, drivers and doers launch great careers and great lives for nearly a century. RMU is continuously innovating programs and processes to remain a leading university in the U.S. Now a nationally ranked, doctoral-granting institution, RMU has produced a new strategic plan, RMU 100, which features innovative key initiatives.
Chris Howard, Ph.D., the eighth president of RMU, uses conventional and unconventional approaches to break down barriers that wall-off opportunity for some Americans. With the aid of Howard’s extensive influence and connections in the business world, the university has launched several major initiatives to promote equality.
As president of Rosedale Technical College, Dennis Wilke leads by example, helping to make Rosedale consistently one of the best places to work in Pittsburgh. Driven by the mission, vision and values of the organization, Wilke fosters an environment of passionate, talented, caring people who work together to keep improving every day in a pursuit of excellent service to students, employers and the community.
Wilke has created an environment where faculty and staff are encouraged to act on their ideas. He gets to know every one of the more than 70 employees, engaging in meaningful conversations with each at least once per month. He hand-writes birthday and thank you notes sent to employee’s homes and has engaged the organization in a 12-month leadership training program.
The Ruffed Grouse Society and The American Woodcock Society unite conservationists to improve wildlife habitat and forest health. Since 1961, RGS has promoted stewardship for forests, wildlife and the future. Its vision is to create landscapes of diverse, functioning forest ecosystems that provide homes for wildlife and opportunities for people to experience them.
Led by President and CEO Ben Jones, RGS employs a team of forest wildlife conservation professionals to work with private landowners and government, including local, state and federal land managers who are interested in improving their land for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other songbirds and wildlife with similar requirements. RGS works with landowners and government agencies to develop critical habitat utilizing scientific management practices.
For three decades, health systems have relied on TeleTracking’s operational platform to manage bed capacity and track patient progression from various access points, through discharge and into the post-acute care setting. Led by co-CEOs Michael Zamagias and Christopher Johnson, TeleTracking has been operating with a simple mission: to ensure that no one waits for the care they need. Its state-of-the-art technology — combined with actionable best practices and a strong advisory services team — means it provides the critical operational components required to build a responsive, resilient health care system. One of those key components is the centralization of hospital operations — the ability to see in real-time everything from the number of available beds to receive and treat patients to the number of pieces of available medical equipment.
Tobii Dynavox, part of the Tobii Group, is the leading provider of touch- and eye-tracking-based assistive technology hardware and software for those with communication and mobility challenges. It has helped thousands of individuals with disabilities lead fuller and richer lives. Led by Tara Rudnicki, president, North America, Tobii Dynavox stands at the forefront of assistive technology and special education, delivering advanced, effective and empowering communication and computer access tools.
Also members of the Tobii Dynavox family are Boardmaker, Tobii Pro and Tobii Tech. Tobii Pro works with researchers and scientists to study human behavior with eye tracking, while Tobii Tech works with OEMs to integrate eye tracking into their products. It is all about improving lives, and its team works hard every day to achieve this.
Pamela J Petrow, president and CEO of Vector Security Inc., runs a smart organization. From an external, customer-facing standpoint, she recognizes that consumer expectations and new entrants into the marketspace are pushing providers to deliver the latest products and services at a faster pace, while maintaining high levels of customer service.
Vector Security’s cross-functional New Products Committee evaluates and determines which products and services should be offered, testing them to determine whether they are suited to add to the company’s range of offerings. This process ensures the organization provides the latest and greatest smart solutions to customers. Petrow’s vision and smart leadership have led Vector Security to become a pioneer in industry technologies and best practices.
Jiaman Xu figured that entrepreneurship is a way to create what you like, develop it and offer it to a client segment that will benefit from your product. She came up with the idea for an app that allows users to find a battery charge on the go. The app directs you to the nearest location where you can rent a battery pack from a power unit. She approached the SBDC for business support, received business consulting and market research and attended business webinars.
She was able to start her company, market the product and attend many networking events to promote adoption. Today, the technology is in more than two dozen locations in Pittsburgh and, with the addition of the University of Pittsburgh, there will be nearly 50 locations.