Cascade Capital Corp.’s 20th Annual Business Growth Awards

 

It is with great pleasure that I congratulate the 43 Cascade Capital Corp. Business Growth Award winners for 2014. These companies are located within Summit, Medina, Portage, Wayne, Stark 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 or increasing its employee base over the course of the past five years. The importance of its growth measures far beyond actual sales and employee figures though.

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

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

Over the course of the past three to five years, Cascade Capital has committed $1.2 million of its own financial resources towards economic development initiatives in Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties.

Cascade Capital also provides affordable, long-term fixed interest rate financing directly through its SBA 504 Loan Program. The SBA 504 assists growing small to medium-sized 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 company purchases. Twenty-year financing terms are available for building purchases with recent interest rates under 5 percent fixed.

Cascade Capital’s Ohio 166 Loan Program continues to offer perhaps the most competitive fixed interest rate available for business borrowers — only 3 percent fixed for five years and under 4 percent fixed for 15 years.

A number of 2014 Business Growth Award winners have received funding in the past from Cascade Capital through its SBA 504 and Ohio 166 loan programs.

Congratulations to all of Cascade Capital Corp.’s 2014 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.

Robert Filipiak is executive director of Cascade Capital Corp.

Care, compassion drive steady growth for Therese Glorioso and Home Instead Senior Care

akr_bga_ThereseGloriosoTherese Glorioso
President
Home Instead Senior Care
(330) 995-1522
www.homeinstead.com

 

Winner of the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award

The past five years have been good to Home Instead Senior Care. Therese Glorioso, company president, has led the organization that has steadily increased its sales and employee count. These achievements along with her and the company’s charitable efforts have made Home Instead a strong member of its community.

The elder care organization, which provides companionship and home care services for seniors, has grown its employee count from 83 in 2009 to 319 this past year. The impact on the local community of this job creation has been significant, and the company continues to hire. Though it has successfully grown its workforce, the company still lists recruiting and retaining talent as a central challenge.

According to the company, the senior care industry regularly faces staffing shortages. To counter this trend, Home Instead has taken a cue from its clientele to find a solution.

After hearing the calls of its clients for more mature caregivers, the company broadened its hiring to include seniors on its staff. These workers have since become central to Home Instead’s model of care.

There’s also a need to focus on the retention of staffers. To this end, the company implemented monthly focus groups, proactive phone calls to at-home care staff, bonuses and employee recognition and advancement programs.

Glorioso’s bold entrepreneurial spirit and leadership have been major factors to her success with Home Instead. And those qualities have not gone unnoticed. Both Glorioso and the company she heads have been the recipients of several awards, including a congressional award from Steve LaTourette, former U.S. representative from Ohio, honoring Glorioso as an Outstanding Senior Advocate. She has also been recognized as one of the Top 10 Women Business Owners in Northeast Ohio by Crain’s Cleveland Business, and was presented with the Entrepreneur of the Year award from Lakeland Community College’s Entrepreneurship Center.

Her entrepreneurial spirit is further exemplified by her willingness to take risks. In 2006, she acquired an existing home care company. This led to Home Instead more than doubling its revenue in the two years that followed. In the past three years she also purchased an office building, which allowed her to launch a community training center for seniors. Cumulatively, these efforts have helped the company realize a 265 percent growth in sales during the past five years.

Passion, innovation and vision are at the heart of Glorioso’s success. She approaches business in a personalized and compassionate way, which fosters trust and close relationships. She’s been called a servant leader, a quality that comes from her philosophy that her team at Home Instead is her strongest asset. Much of her time is devoted to the continued development of her administrators and caregivers.

Her compassion extends beyond her clients and staff to the community in which she operates. Glorioso serves on many local steering committees that help impact the quality of life for senior citizens. She also initiated a company community service program called “Be A Santa To A Senior.” This program facilitates the giving of wrapped gifts and companionship to homebound seniors in the local community.

The execution of this program is no small task. It takes year-long planning on the company’s behalf to cover all the details and organize the effort that, in the past 10 years, has benefitted more than 5,000 seniors.

Keeven White and WhiteSpace Creative build on a legacy of success

akr_bga_KeevenWhiteKeeven White
President and CEO
WhiteSpace Creative
(330) 762-9320
www.whitespace-creative.com

 

Winner of the FirstMerit Legacy Award

For 10 years running, WhiteSpace Creative, headed by President and CEO Keeven White, has been recognized through the Cascade Capital Business Growth Award program for its achievements in the market. This year, the strategic integrated marketing communications agency continues to build on its trend of sales and employee growth that has earned it a legacy of recognition.

Since its inception in 1994, WhiteSpace has been contributing to the Akron economy by courting business from across the U.S. and adding high-growth jobs with above-average salaries to service its growing client base.

The company has expanded its reach to add clients from as far away as the Pacific Northwest. This outward growth has led to the company establishing a sales office in Charlotte, North Carolina, to service high-profile clients there.

Locally, WhiteSpace is contributing to the economy by offering its services to area businesses, some of which include the Akron Zoo, Diebold, Kent State University and The University of Akron. The company also works with local associations, such as the Greater Akron Chamber, the Downtown Akron Partnership and the Advertising Federation of Greater Akron.

WhiteSpace also provides pro bono marketing and communications services to Northeast Ohio nonprofit organizations. The company says it’s annual 24-hour CreateAthon has led to the company partnering with more than 100 organizations, working on more than 250 pro bono projects and production of materials valued at more than $500,000 during the past 13 years.

Keeping up with its expanding client base has meant that the company can continue to provide jobs for residents of Akron and the surrounding communities. Since 2009, WhiteSpace has grown its staff from 28 to 41. The company cites an appealing work environment and encouragement to participate in national award competitions as reasons it’s able to keep local talent in the area. Inherent to its retention efforts are emotional and mental rewards given to employees for their achievements, as well as additional financial compensation.

The company’s growth has been facilitated by acquisitions, namely SmileyHanchulak and Highland PR. The addition of these companies nearly doubled WhiteSpace’s client base and staff, paving the way for the company to enter into the public relations realm.

As it has evolved, so has the company’s approach to services. WhiteSpace has developed a team structure that abandons individual departments in favor of staff groupings in four, client-centric teams. This restructuring allows the company to dedicate a group of staffers to each client, essentially breaking the company into a set of mini agencies that hones each team’s focus on their clients’ needs. Teams can be scaled according to workload and are said to be more responsive.

This rejiggering came with a redefinition of roles and the opportunity to bring on additional talent to ensure each client has all its needs met. The company has also decentralized its leadership structure, broadening its management team to include eight people. Their responsibilities range from business development to talent acquisition and interactive solutions.

Growing its business both organically and strategically has helped the company realize a 120 percent increase in sales since 2009. The company says this, along with its new operating structure and renovations to its headquarters, has put it in a position for a successful future.

Christopher Karman pushes innovation at Daniel’s Amish Collection

akr_bga_ChristopherKarmanChristopher J. Karman
President
Daniel’s Amish Collection
(330) 359-0400

 

 

Winner: Manufacturing, Sales Growth

The often-repeated phrase today is “Go big or go home” — and Christopher J. Karman, president of Daniel’s Amish Collection, and his brother decided that would be their route when they bought the company in 2003.

Back then, the company made Amish handcrafted curios, but the Karmans decided they wanted to be more than a small player in a declining industry.

A broader product selection, targeting high quality retailers and taking Daniel’s Amish Collection national has resulted in explosive growth with sales more than tripling from 2009 to 2013.

The line was expanded to include all major furniture segments such as office furniture, kitchen cabinets and bedroom suites. The product line is sold under two brand names — Amish Mills and Daniel’s Amish Collection.

As the company has grown, so has the need for space. Daniel’s Amish now operates two factories. One is a large, 120,000-square-foot building where bedroom furniture is made, and a table and chair manufacturing facility was just opened in Mount Eaton, Ohio.

The company’s management style is to push for innovation on every level. Its sales and marketing department has the flexibility to speak with customers about new designs. Many times, the company ends up designing new product lines with that feedback in mind.

Giving back to the local community also is important. Most raw materials are bought locally, and the Daniel’s Amish Collection is involved in several charitable and fundraising activities, usually centered around Amish or Mennonite causes.


 

The Swiatkowski’s continue to build on the family’s legacy at Ohio Hickory Harvest

akr_bga_DarleneSwiatkowskiDarlene Swiatkowski
CEO

 

 

 

akr_bga_JoeSwiatkowskiJoseph Swiatkowski
President
Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc.,
(330) 644-6266
www.hickoryharvest.com

 

Winner: Manufacturing, Employee Growth

Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc., a family-owned second- and third-generation company, is a wholesale distributor of dried fruits, nuts, candies and snack mixes. Led by the Swiatkowski’s — CEO Darlene, President Joseph and Vice President Michael — the family pledges to lead by example, to preserve the legacy that’s been carried on for more than 40 years.

The workforce has more than doubled from 2009 to 2013, growing from 26 employees in 2009 to 60 in 2013. Also increasing is its physical footprint. In 2009, Ohio Hickory Harvest built a 30,000-square-foot facility on Logan Parkway in Akron, and in October 2013, completed construction on a 17,000-square-foot expansion that added office and warehouse space to the company.

The company has also grown through acquisitions with the purchase of I. M. Good Snacks in 2005 and in 2012 formed a new LLC and became majority owners in the Columbus-based American Confections. That has opened the door to manufacturing chocolate and yogurt pretzels, and the ability to pan has led to the establishment of coated raisins, cranberries and peanuts.

Over the past two years, Ohio Hickory Harvest has added two new form fill and seal packaging machines and another nut roaster, which brings the company up to three nut roasters and six packaging machines.

Ohio Hickory Harvest is a member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and is involved in the community.


Venture Products’ Dallas Steiner and Randy Kitzmiller capture honors as the company expands

 

akr_bga_DallasSteinerDallas Steiner
CEO

 

 

 

akr_bga_RandyKitzmillerRandy Kitzmiller
President
Venture Products Inc.
(330) 683-0075
www.ventrac.com

 

Winner: Manufacturing, Best Story

Venture Products Inc., led by CEO Dallas Steiner and President Randy Kitzmiller, may manufacture Ventrac brand compact tractors in Orrville, Ohio, but its products can be spotted all over the world.

The brand serves a diverse market that includes municipalities, private contractors, sports facilities, churches and airports, and the company exports its tractors to more than 20 countries. It has particularly strong success in Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Canada.

Because of its success on the global stage, Venture Products received two prestigious awards in 2013. The first was the Presidential “E” Award presented to the company for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports. The second was a U.S. Small Business Administration Small Business Exporter of the Year award for the Cleveland District, which the company earned for its outstanding sales, profits and creative export marketing strategies.

Venture Products’ sales have increased 210 percent between 2009 and 2013, and its employee count has gone from 51 to 108 in the same time period. That significant growth through the past several years spurred the company to build a larger manufacturing facility in 2012 for all company operations. The 116,000-square-foot building has given Venture Products the space to expand manufacturing and fill corporate needs to keep up with growing sales. In keeping with the company’s recent track record of honors, the energy efficient building received Efficiency Smart’s Ambassador of Efficiency Award in 2013.

Greg Cordray helps Keystone Technology Consultants rebound from business changes in 2013

akr_bga_GregCordrayGreg Cordray
President and founder
Keystone Technology Consultants
(330) 666-6200
www.keystonecorp.com

 

Winner: Technology, Sales Growth

Keystone Technology Consultants, an information technology firm specializing in all facets of business technology management, makes its return to the Cascade Capital Business Growth Award list.

This year, the company is recognized for its sales growth, which has doubled since 2009. Founded in 1996 by company President Greg Cordray, the company has shown resilience after spinning off its marketing and finance business units in early 2013, which cost the company a portion of its reported sales revenue as well as five employees. But the company was able to reclaim the amount lost in the next business year and add back two employees. These efforts brought its overall sales revenue at the end of 2013 on par with 2012.

Despite the generally sluggish economy, Keystone has reported sales growth during the past five years and employee growth each year leading up to 2012.

As it looks to continue this trend of upward mobility, Keystone announced in March that it had purchased property east of its Wye Road location to accommodate its physical expansion, more than doubling the company’s footprint in Akron. The company says that it needs the additional space to support new building structures as it continues to expand its staff and services.

This growth has allowed the company to give back to the community it calls home through work with the Positive Education Program, Old Trail School, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, among other organizations.


Employment increases as Bruce Lehrman’s Involta expands

akr_bga_BruceLehrmanBruce Lehrman
Founder and CEO
Involta
(330) 752-7163
www.involta.com

 

Winner: Technology, Employee Growth

Though its headquarters was established in 2007 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Involta’s commitment to the Akron market has not waned since Founder and CEO Bruce Lehrman opened its purpose-built, $17 million colocation data center in 2012.

Involta, which builds, owns and operates multitenant data centers and provides related cloud, technical and managed technical services to its clients, opened the 26,000-square-foot Akron location on a brownfield redevelopment that was the former site of the Brown Graves Lumberyard.

Since it opened, the company has been growing both in terms of its workforce and capacity for its customers. Earlier this year, Involta completed a $4 million expansion in Akron that doubled the amount of data center space for customers. The Akron site includes an on-site substation and a local metro fiber ring throughout the Akron area. The construction of the fiber ring is an asset leveraged by many businesses in the Akron area to connect to the data center at a significant cost savings.

Countrywide, Involta is operating seven facilities with an eighth slated to open in December.

In addition to the increase in its physical footprint, the company has experienced significant growth in both revenue and employees. Regarding the former, Involta has seen its revenues more than triple from 2009 to today. It has also grown its workforce, adding 59 employees in the past five years, settling at 96 in 2013. This trend of steady revenue and employee growth has persisted since 2009.


For Suranjan Shome’s Epiphany Management Group, growth happens organically

akr_bga_SuranjanShomeSuranjan Shome
President & CEO
Epiphany Management Group
(888) 364-4512
www.epiphanymgmt.com

 

Winner: Technology, Best Story

When Suranjan Shome founded Epiphany Management Group in Akron, he did it alone and without existing customers. His goal was to provide direction, planning, leadership and support to K-12 schools in technology, professional development and communications.

Despite an economic slump shortly after the company was established in 2007, EMG managed to add 11 employees by 2009 and grew its staff to 73 employees by 2013, spreading across four states. The company’s revenue shot into the millions during that time and achieved gross profit percentages of more than 30 percent.

Helping guide EMG’s growth is a copyrighted strategic planning process that flows into all sections of the organization. This has provided the organization with a clear direction, message and purpose for itself and its employees, creating an alignment throughout the organization between employee and organizational goals and direction. It has also contributed to inspiring EMG employees to help realize stellar customer satisfaction and customer retention outcomes.

At EMG, the power does not primarily reside with Shome. Rather, he has implemented an executive and general management structure that delegates decision-making autonomy and accountability throughout the company.

In 2011, EMG made investments in senior management personnel, processes and systems automation, which directly correlates to revenues doubling by 2013. Financing for this growth came without outside venture funding.

On a local level, EMG offered paid internships to Akron Public School students and worked with local nonprofit data centers to develop shared services for schools.

How Sue Grabowski’s generosity and strategic mind helped Grabowski & Co. reach new heights

akr_bga_SueGrabowskiSue Grabowski
President
Grabowski & Co.
(330) 498-0753
www.grabowskiandco.com

 

Winner: Service, Sales Growth, Emerging Company

From humble beginnings 17 years ago in a spare room of her home, Sue Grabowski launched her business. Grabowski & Co. is a marketing communications firm serving a range of organizations, from Fortune 500 firms to small businesses and nonprofits. The firm focuses on honing client’s messages, and those messages conveyed through words, art and various online platforms. Grabowski, company president, gears up her team, creates a game plan for clients and builds strong relationships in the community.

The company has shown promising growth with its service offerings, business location and client base, significantly expanding its Web and design services and adding a social media director to help clients in the digital arena. Several creative positions such as art directors, Web director and Web programmer have been added to the team. Since April of 2014, three more members were added to the firm.

In 2014, a second building was purchased behind the existing headquarters to accommodate its expanding staff. The purpose of the new building is to house the art and Web teams.

Over the past five years, 30 new clients have been added to the firm’s already robust roster, which has helped the company double its revenue since 2009.

Grabowski & Co. has a family culture that has helped maintain relationships in the community. Employees of the company are encouraged to be actively involved as well.

Employees are not grounded to specific titles and duties. Grabowski wants her team to pursue their talents and passions in order to soar.


Innovative services have helped Eric Graf spur growth at Ritzman Pharmacies

akr_bga_EricGrafEric Graf
President & CEO
Ritzman Pharmacy Inc.
(330) 335-2318
www.ritzmanrx.com

 

Winner: Service, Sales Growth, Established Company

Ritzman Pharmacies Inc. has been a family-owned fixture in its community for over 60 years. Its mission is to provide comfort, security and care in filling the needs of its customers with quality products, professional excellence and service beyond the commonplace. The outcomes were a result of personal service to customers and the acquisition of small, family-owned pharmacy stores.

The mission has resulted in established sales and growth. Over the past five years the company has increased from 11 to 27 business units and 160 to 315 associates. Ritzman Pharmacy now has 25 retail pharmacy locations around Northeast Ohio. It has also seen revenues nearly double since 2009.

One successful business unit is Ritzman Med-Dose service, a compliance packaging service that dispenses patient’s medications in containers marked for the precise date and time when medicine should be taken. The dispensing method is helping keep hundreds of people compliant with their medications and able to stay in their own homes, as well as minimizing hospital events.

Another innovative business unit is a home infusion services company, which allows people to leave the hospital while still using an IV until therapy is complete. Customers can live productive lives at home or work while managing their treatments.

Ritzman Pharmacy’s achievements have been made possible because of its compassionate and loyal staff. Their commitment has been the foundation of the success the company has built. Ritzman pharmacists and employees continue to provide top-notch customer service, working to make each customer feel comfortable.


EnviroScience CEO Daniel Dunstan and President Martin Hilovsky put their faith in people

akr_bga_DanDunstanDaniel Dunstan
CEO

 

 

 

akr_bga_MartinHilovskyMartin Hilovsky
President
EnviroScience Inc.
(330) 688-0111
www.enviroscienceinc.com

 

Winner: Service, Employee Growth, Emerging Company

Employees are the heart and soul of EnviroScience Inc. The environmental and ecological company that was founded in 1989 owes its longevity to hiring motivated people and assisting them in pursing their talents.

Company CEO Daniel Dunstan and President Martin Hilovsky have provided the necessary time, money and support that has allowed key employees to purse innovative business opportunities outside of EnviroScience’s core services. The support comes in the form of faith from upper management and encouraging calculated risks. The success of this philosophy has led to new divisions within the company. Additionally, ample opportunities have assisted employees to climb the corporate ladder to achieve management positions.

The team is the most important resource at EnviroScience and employees share in the accomplishments. The company has a long-standing policy that requires 35 percent of its net income each year go directly back to the employees by way of bonuses. Another motivational tool used is to foster taking ownership. When bonuses are apportioned, more emphasis is put on departments having the highest profitability. Employees are inspired to work their best with solid results.

Over the past five years the staff and profits have more than doubled, with 36 employees joining the company since 2009.

The company is looking forward to a very productive second half, and plans to branch out its marketing efforts to include other industries and governmental agencies. The expected result is a company that continues to succeed, one employee at a time.


How Sam Falleta keeps the business dialogue moving at Incept

akr_bga_SamFallettaSam Falleta
CEO
Incept
(330) 649-8000
www.inceptresults.com

 

Winner: Service, Employee Growth, Established Company

Relationships are essential to Incept’s CEO, Sam Falleta. The marketing firm specializes in the development and strengthening of relationships with current and prospective customers.

Founded in 1993, the company strives to push past the preconceived notions of working with a contact center. Stakeholders are not greeted with automated responses and monotone voices, Incept is a conversational business culture.

Incept is powered by the belief that one-on-one personal relationships are central to people’s lives, and that the building blocks of those relationships are conversations. A productive conversation involves active listening in order to grasp the underlying motivations and wants of a client. The goal is for any employee or customer to leave a discussion feeling valued and understood.

Incept’s philanthropic efforts are equally important to the company. A charitable organization, InceptGives, contributes to countless local charities and causes. InceptGives is responsible for the distribution of 10 percent of Incept’s annual earnings to worthwhile causes locally, nationally and internationally.

More than 100 jobs have been created through the efforts of Incept, with the company’s staff growing from 140 in 2009 to 259 in 2012.

The company has won many accolades, including being named Top Workplace in Northeast Ohio three of the last four years by The Plain Dealer and Workplace Dynamics. In 2013 it was named one of five psychologically healthy workplaces by Ohio Psychological Association, honors that reflect why Incept continues to be a place where employees enjoy working and thriving.


How Dave Michelson and National Interstate Insurance Co. have capitalized on 25 years of momentum

akr_bga_DaveMichelsonDave Michelson
President & CEO
National Interstate Insurance Co.
(330) 659-8900
www.natl.com

 

Winner: Service, Best Story

January 2014 was a time to clink glasses and toast. National Interstate Insurance Co., a specialty property and casualty insurance holding company, reached a milestone — its 25th anniversary. Using knowledge the company has gained during that time, the company is looking to focus its efforts on core products that have made it successful, while exploring new opportunities in underserved niches to fuel growth.

The company has expanded into new markets, such as developing a new insurance program designed to serve the needs of the for-profit ambulance market. National Interstate has also started providing excess liability insurance.

Over the past two years the company has received four U.S. Captive Service awards.

National Interstate feels strongly that these milestones would not have been possible without the hard work of its employees. Retaining its most valuable asset — its people — requires finding ways to enhance employee benefits and make National Interstate a great place to work.

The company has contributed to the community through blood and food drives, as well as other charity activities. In 2013, the corporation partnered with Kent State to offer scholarships to students who are studying for an insurance or related business degree. The goal is to maintain a pipeline of the best candidates, while also keeping jobs, taxes and talent in Northeast Ohio.

The result has been an 83 percent growth in sales. Employee count increased from 300 in 2009 to some 600 nationwide today, giving twice as many employees a reason to celebrate success.

Manufacturing Honor Roll

ACS Industries Inc.
Joe Zeno
ACS Industries Inc.’s pathway to success includes looking for any activity that is underserved and overcharged. In 2008, the team focused on the hot slag industry as an underserved market. ACS sold its first slag bucket in 2009, and today is a leader in the field with more than 500 buckets in service throughout the world.

Daniel’s Amish Collection
Christopher J. Karman
Once known mainly in Ohio, Daniel’s Amish Collection is a national brand. A broader product selection and a push to go after high quality retailers have paid dividends. That decision also helped the workforce grow. In 2003, there were 12 craftsman employed. Today, that number has grown to approximately 150 workers.

Durajoint Concrete Accessories
Michael Diskin
Michael Diskin is proud to be a hands-on owner with many long-term employees. Durajoint Concrete Accessories has capabilities that include building special made-to-order plastic products for the construction industry. Since 2009, Durajoint has seen its sales steadily increase year over year.

Ohio Hickory Harvest
Brand Products Inc.
Darlene Swiatkowski and
Joseph Swiatkowski
An emphasis on quality, customer service and leading by example has brought success to the Swiatkowski family. Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc. is a wholesale distributor of dried fruits, nuts, candies and snack mixes. In the fall of 2013, the company completed a 17,000-square-foot expansion that added warehouse and office space. The workforce has grown from 26 in 2009 to 60 in 2013.

OrDerv Foods
Keith A. Kropp
New products have been key to helping OrDerv Foods grow. Originally a sauerkraut balls manufacturer, Keith A. Kropp has continued to expand the company’s offerings, adding a significant new line in 2011 called Olivations. In 2013, there were 25 workers, expanding to a new building in 2014 will increase that to 35.

TEK USA Composites
Chris Willison
An economic downturn gave TEK USA Composites an opportunity to reinvent itself. The company targeted the energy sector, specifically oil and gas. Developing these complex products and components put TEK in a strong position with patented technologies. The state-of-the-art 60,000-square-foot facility has opened more possibilities for multiyear, multimillion-dollar programs.

Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.
John Najeway
Co-owner John Najeway says the craft brewery, which distributes its products in nine states, has outgrown its space. Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. now occupies 30,000 square feet, and Najeway sees the need for 45,000 to 60,000 square feet to keep up with demand. New fermenters will allow the brewery to boost capacity to 24,000 barrels a year, making it one of Ohio’s largest craft breweries.

Venture Products Inc.
Dallas Steiner and Randy Kitzmiller
Since 2009, Venture Products Inc. has more than doubled its employees, reaching 108 in 2013. The company manufactures Ventrac brand compact tractors and commercial grade attachments. Sales have increased 210 percent from 2009 to 2013, and export sales make up 22 percent of Venture Products’ total sales, providing the opportunity for growth and stability.

Technology Honor Roll

Area 51 Data Solutions
Marling Engle and Craig Sutphin
Area 51 Data Solutions, born from a merger of Area 51 Consulting and TCI Data Solutions, strives to be a leader in the IT managed services and cloud solutions industry for small to midsize businesses in the Akron area. The company has seen its sales more than quadruple and employee count double since 2009.

AtNetPlus Inc.
Jay Mellon and Jim Laber
AtNetPlus Inc. works alongside its clients to create business solutions specific to their technology needs. This clear focus on the client and exceptional customer service has resulted in year-to-year sales growth of nearly 70 percent in the past five years. In 2013, AtNetPlus added six employees and expanded its office space to account for future growth.

Corporate Technologies Group Inc.
Jeff Sumner and Brett Harney
As a leading Northeast Ohio voice and data technology company, Corporate Technologies Group Inc. has kept its focus on new technologies to meet customer needs.  This includes continually educating themselves on the emerging cloud-based services and hosted Voice over Internet Protocol offerings. By offering these constant and reliable network services, the company has seen its sales increase every year since 2010.

Epiphany Management Group
Suranjan Shome
In the past five years, Epiphany Management Group has grown from 11 to 73 employees by adhering to its founder’s strategic planning process, giving the company a clear direction, message and purpose. With employee and organizational goals aligned, employees are inspired to achieve the best possible customer satisfaction and retention outcomes.

Etactics Inc.
Michael P. Teutsch
With thousands of clients nationwide, Etactics Inc. never strayed from its Summit County roots on its mission to employ technology to provide innovative, cloud-based data solutions to improve cash flow for its clients. During 2013, it enhanced its product offerings through new partner relationships that are on the cutting edge of their respective fields.

Involta
Bruce Lehrman
Involta builds, owns and operates multitenant data centers providing cloud, technical and managed technical services across the country. The company recently invested $17 million in a dedicated colocation data center in Akron. In 2013, Involta started to expand beyond those services with its Involta CompliantCloud platform. The company has experienced significant employee and revenue growth year to year.

Keystone Technology Consultants
Greg Cordray
Keystone Technology Consultants is a full-service information technology firm that addresses business priorities through technology. Its solutions are developed to empower Keystone’s clients to achieve their objectives. In 2013, Keystone spun off two of its business units but managed to maintain its sales revenue and bring on more employees by the close of the year.

Service Honor Roll

Americas International
Wayne Stair
Since 1997, Americas International has been distributing polymers and rubber additives, representing some of the world’s leading chemical and polymer manufacturers. The company utilizes Internal Quality Auditors to conduct annual process audits to ensure the company meets the needs of customers. By combining technical and product knowledge, its customer service staff is able to provide long-term solutions for customers.

Catastrophe Management Solutions LLC
Curtis F. Pilot
Catastrophe Management Solutions LLC provides call center support to national insurance carriers for all major weather catastrophes. The company has a tradition of values and extensive industry experience, exceptional employee relations and training, innovative technologies and call center management. In 2012, they provided over 600 call center staff to assist in claim processing for Hurricane Sandy.

Certified Nerds
Marling Engle
Certified Nerds is a personal and small business computer sales and repair company that has been serving the region since 2005. Through growth and change, Certified Nerds stays committed to its customer service roots, providing upfront and honest pricing. Of note is their offer for free diagnostics with no bench fees or hidden charges. The company has succeeded in expanding by opening a new location in 2013 and adding two new staff members.

Chapman & Chapman Inc.
Walter K. Chapman
Chapman & Chapman Inc. is an employee benefits consulting, financial planning, wealth management and insurance brokerage. It has maintained a culture of excellence, integrity and fairness. The company has increased its wellness team by creating a client service and compliance department. The company grew from 18 employees in 2009 to 28 in 2013.

Cohen & Co. Ltd.
J. Michael Kolk
Cohen & Co. Ltd., an accounting tax and advisory firm, has maintained steady sales growth year over year while making charitable contributions and volunteering in the community, and helping employees grow. It offers tuition reimbursement for employees to achieve their master’s degree, and its Cohen Network of Empowered Women offers the firm’s women a forum to discuss issues unique to their careers.

County Fire Protection Inc.
John Lubinski
County Fire Protection Inc. is a full-service fire protection company. It provides the service and installation of fire extinguishers and emergency exit lighting with exceptional customer service. It has continued to grow its workforce, adding 13 employees since 2009, and has plans this year to add a sprinkler crew and introduce a mentoring program to train new service technicians.

EnviroScience Inc.
Daniel Dunstan and Martin Hilovsky
Utilizing more than 60 highly educated professionals, EnviroScience Inc. provides technical support and expertise to facilitate a wide range of development projects. Over the past five years, EnviroScience has grown considerably. In 2013, the company made its largest investment with the acquisition and remodeling of a new headquarters. Its revenues and workforce have grown steadily for the past five years.

G.D.S. Express Group Inc.
J.P. Delaney
G.D.S. Express Group Inc. is a family-owned trucking company that places a special value on its people. During the past five years, the transportation and logistics services company has added a full-service Logistics division and service to and from Mexico. Since 2009, it has experienced increases in both sales and employees.

Grabowski & Co.
Sue Grabowski
Grabowski & Co. is a marketing communications firm serving a range of organizations, from Fortune 500 firms to small businesses and nonprofits. Grabowski & Co. has grown its client base services, and in 2014, purchased a second building behind the headquarters to accommodate its growing number of employees.

Great Lakes Fasteners Inc.
Kevin R. Weidinger
Great Lakes Fasteners Inc. is a fastener distributor founded in 1958. The company has been servicing Midwestern manufacturers with innovative, problem-solving skills and a comprehensive portfolio of high-quality fastener products. Its sales have grown 83 percent since 2009, and 10 employee positions have been created since 2011.

Incept
Sam Falletta
Founded in 1993, Incept is a conversational marketing firm specializing in developing and strengthening relationships with the client’s current and prospective customers. Over the past five years, nearly 100 jobs have been created at the company. With an eye toward giving, the company distributes 10 percent of its annual earnings to worthwhile causes locally, nationally and internationally.

J. Rayl Transport
Jeremy Rayl
J. Rayl Transport is an asset-based logistics company that has been family owned since 1987. CEO Jeremy Rayl is the third generation to lead the company. J. Rayl Transport strives to make the roads safer for travel and the air cleaner for breathing, and always works to offer a positive customer service experience, which has led to steady sales growth over the past five years.

Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc.
W. Michael Jarrett
Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc. provides supply chain management to high-growth companies. Services include transportation management, freight bill payment, premium freight management and claims. In 2014, the company added two new truckload brokers, which had a powerful impact on growing its client base. This growth stems from listening to clients and communicating new solutions to clients.

Laudan Properties LLC
Kevin R. Weidinger
Laudan Properties LLC is a mortgage field services company that specializes in property preservation. The competitive edge is based off its vast network of licensed contractors. The ability to recruit, train and motivate a diverse contractor network has contributed to the company’s growth. Laudan works with over 150 contractors in 15 states.

Lead to Conversion LLC
Sean Bolton
Lead to Conversion LLC is a digital marketing agency that specializes in responsive website design, organic search engine optimization, paid search management and social media marketing. Its client companies’ website traffic has reportedly increased in excess of 1,000 percent from marketing efforts. Since 2011, its employee base has grown from one to six and sales continue to grow.

Lighting Services Inc.
Kimberly Allerman and Kurt Allerman
For more than 15 years, Lighting Services Inc. has been a design/build lighting retrofit company. A central factor of its success has been conducting needs assessments for clients and providing cost effective solutions. Staying updated on technological trends such as LED technology has helped conserve energy and lower long-term expenses for clients.

National Interstate Insurance Co.
Dave Michelson
National Interstate Insurance Co. is a leading specialty property and casualty holding company. This year marked National Interstate’s 25th anniversary. Over the past five years, full-time employee count has increased from 300 employees to some 600 employees nationwide. Employee retention is due in part to acknowledging and rewarding the entire team and enhancing employee benefits.

Ohio Tool Systems
Jack Grace
Customer service and satisfaction are the top priorities for Ohio Tool Systems. Founded in 1974, the company is a provider of industrial tools and a materials handling distributor. Since the recession, it regained sales volumes seeing record sales in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Ohio Tool Systems has successfully maintained its employee levels during the past few years.

Outtech Inc.
Jay Scholes
Outtech Inc. is a manufacturer’s representative and marketer of outdoor and hunting products and equipment. Innovative ideas like offices at client headquarters sets Outtech apart from its competitors. Outtech has increased in size both in their physical office space and with the addition of two new divisions, Quickfire Productions and Pursuit Graphics.

PackShip USA
W. Michael Jarrett
PackShip USA provides packaging and shipping services for large and high-value merchandise, and logistics management services for mid-market companies. Since 2009, Packship has realized growth in both sales and staff. The company’s success in direct-to-store shipping has led to a growing base of furniture retailer clients and a reduction in its furniture transportation costs.

QualCare LLC, dba Home Instead Senior Care
Therese Glorioso
Home Instead Senior Care provides health care for senior citizens. The company assists clients in their homes, assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Over the past five years, sales for the company have increased 265 percent while it has also realized a 384 percent increase in staff.

Ritzman Pharmacies Inc.
Eric Graf
Ritzman Pharmacies Inc., a family-owned pharmacy, has a focus on providing quality products and professional excellence and service to its customers. Growth has occurred through the acquisition of other small, family-owned pharmacies. In the past five years, it has grown from 11 to 27 locations, and doubled its associates.

Sequoia Financial Group
Tom Haught
Sequoia Financial Group offers comprehensive wealth management services including financial, estate and insurance planning, asset management, corporate retirement services, fiduciary consulting and family office services. In 2013, the total number of employees increased to 39. Sequoia’s employee growth, new building and technology upgrades have aided the firms continued success.

Slate Rock Safety LLC
Kim Wilson
Slate Rock Safety LLC is a woman-owned business and unique e-commerce retailer, distributor and GSA contractor of safety apparel. Employees are encouraged to think outside the box and try new things. Personal accountability and integrity are key to the company’s success. Slate Rock Safety had a sales growth of more than 900 percent from 2008 to 2011.

SS&G
Robert Littman
SS&G is an accounting and business advisory firm providing assurance, tax, consulting, investment and retirement plan design services. The company’s growth can be attributed to the firm’s philosophy of treating clients as partners. SS&G’s addition of employees and increased revenue has led to it becoming the 38th largest accounting firm in the U.S.

SS&G Healthcare Services LLC
Thomas Ferkovic
SS&G Healthcare Services LLC provides consulting and outsourcing including medical billing and accounts receivables. The company offers independent physician and dental practice management and clinical research. With the implementation of federal health care reform, a need for fresh ideas and practical guidance was evident. Over the past five years SS&G has experienced 9 percent employment growth and increased revenue.

Steel City Lighting Co. Inc., dba Five Star Lighting
Kimberly Allerman and Kurt Allerman
Five Star Lighting is a specialized wholesale “lighting only” distributor of lamps, ballasts, light fixtures, lenses/louvers and other lighting-related products. The company takes pride in saving consumer energy costs by suggesting solutions to increase energy efficiency. This year, the company plans to add additional warehouse facilities to increase production.

WhiteSpace Creative
Keeven White
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.