Cascade Capital Corporation 2017 Business Growth Awards

44 outstanding companies that fortify the strength of our regional economy

Congratulations to the 44 Cascade Capital Corporation Business Growth Awards winners for 2017. These companies are located within Summit, Medina, Portage, Stark, Wayne, Holmes and Ashland counties in Northeastern Ohio.

A company can earn a Business Growth Award by either increasing its sales level by 100 percent or $5 million, or by increasing its employee base by 50 percent or 25 people over the past five years. These impressive growth standards also result in significant economic benefits for the local and regional economies.

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

Cascade Capital Corp.’s primary operating objectives are to provide attractive financing options to small and midsize companies investing in new operating facilities, equipment and human resources, and to invest, on a long-term basis, in the Northeastern Ohio communities that it services.

Cascade Capital provides below-market, long-term fixed interest rate financing options through its SBA 504 loan program. In combination with traditional bank financing, a small to midsize business receives 90 percent financing for its new building or equipment purchase as follows: Bank Financing – 50 percent; Cascade Capital SBA 504 – 40 percent; Business Down Payment – 10 percent. Twenty-year fixed interest rates are currently available at just over 4.3 percent.

Cascade Capital’s SBA 504 refinance program provides companies with the option to refinance long-term debt for a building or equipment purchase made at least two years ago.

Cascade Capital’s venerable Ohio 166 loan program also offers extremely competitive fixed interest rates for non-retail companies investing in equipment or real estate — as low as 3 percent for 10 years and 3.5 percent for 20 years.

A number of 2017 Business Growth Award winners have received funding from Cascade Capital through its SBA 504 and Ohio 166 loan programs.

Cascade Capital is very proud to have invested its own financial resources throughout Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties for several years. To date, Cascade Capital has invested nearly $1 million to support the key job creation objectives of our local and regional economic development partners.

Congratulations to all of Cascade Capital Corporation’s 2017 Business Growth Award winners on a job well done and thank you, too, for your continuing role in supporting and revitalizing our local and regional economies through your impressive growth! ●

Robert Filipiak is president of Cascade Capital Corp. Reach him at (330) 379-3160 or [email protected].

Huntington Legacy Award

Great Lakes Fasteners | Laudan Properties ◆ Kevin R. Weidinger ◆ President

Optimism, hunger are characteristics of the motivated teams Kevin Weidinger leads

Kevin R. Weidinger leads two companies as president: Great Lakes Fasteners and Laudan Properties, both of which have achieved success during the past five years — attributed in no small part to their personnel practices.

Wholesale fastener distributor Great Lakes Fasteners has held steadfast, supporting its diverse customer base even during the volatile economic conditions over the past five years, and it has paid tremendous dividends. Through an aggressive acquisition strategy, investing in salespeople and marketing tools, the company’s sales have risen consistently. Sales revenue for the company has increased nearly 30 percent in the past five years. During that same period, it has more than doubled its employee count.

While historically focused on production fasteners, Great Lakes Fasteners entered the maintenance and repair segment three years ago and has steadily added new clients with that service offering. Today, the company supplies fastener and services through production to plant maintenance.

The company’s success, both current and future, resides in its ability to attract and retain talented associates. Great Lakes Fasteners recruits people who have a positive attitude, strong work ethic and a hunger to be the best in all they do. The company inspires its associates by providing challenging projects, job rotation, profit-sharing bonus and by promoting from within.

Similarly, Laudan Properties’ competitive advantage is its network of licensed contractors. Its performance-based culture is a differentiator. Laudan hires for attitude and trains for skill, favoring hungry, optimistic candidates over those with industry experience.

Its business development department is staffed with motivated leaders willing to go above and beyond expectations to meet client demands. The department helped reshape the company’s growth by focusing on new market segments. For example, investors and fix/flip/rent opportunities have proven to be an area of significant growth.

In building its talent network, Laudan utilizes a talent acquisition department that recruits contractors who go through a training unit where they are briefed on all the latest client-building best practices and expectations. Laudan’s learning management system, Yardstick, is designed to transfer knowledge among associates and contractors to ensure all team members are trained to perform to client expectations.

At Laudan, the organizational chart is upside down with those closest to its customers at the top. Its culture is strong enough that its associates hold each other accountable to hit the standard of performance.

These efforts have manifested in hockey-stick revenue and profit growth trends coupled with steady job creation. The company’s sales revenue increased 250 percent in the past five years while it has added 13 employees during the same period.

Weidinger says to lead and inspire an organization is equal parts art and science. It requires capturing the hearts and minds of team members through a supportive culture driven by a common mission. ●

How to reach: Great Lakes Fasteners (330) 425-4488 or | Laudan Properties (234) 212-3225 or

Akron Community Foundation Philanthropy in Business Award

Leppo Group Inc. ◆ William “Glenn” Leppo ◆ CEO

Leppo Group makes tough adjustments to sustain its success

Leppo Group Inc. has had to adjust to growth. Its success in the past five years has come with a challenging transition away from family management. However, the company hasn’t strayed from its values, among which include giving back.

Its growth has required adjustments. For instance, not many years ago the owners determined all of the company’s strategies and plans for executing them. Today, the company has a leadership team of three family members and four non-family members that sets the strategic direction. Its 10-member business operations team of non-family members lead the teams that implement the strategies and run the stores.

Family still sets the strategy, but most of the day-to-day operations are run by non-family members. William “Glenn” Leppo, CEO of Leppo, says he trusts his co-workers to get the job done in accordance with the company’s values, and he’s made it a point to celebrate their achievements. Following the success it had in 2016, the company paid quarterly and annual bonuses to every full-time co-worker. Whenever a rental or total revenue record is set, the owners cook for each of the stores to express their thanks to those who get the job done.

The company’s co-workers also trust Glenn to live up to the company’s values.

Among its values is the drive to give back. It has two particular causes that it supports: autism and breast cancer. Leppo gives as much as $4,000 annually to charities that work in these areas and it does so in a unique way.

The company has two 80-foot boom lifts designed to create awareness, and generate donations, for the causes it supports. One is painted yellow and features colorful puzzle-piece designs along with the words “Autism Awareness.” The special lift helps raise autism awareness and 10 percent of the revenue earned from the boom is donated each year to a local autism charity.

Another special boom lift is painted pink for breast cancer awareness. Like the other lift, this machine helps raise awareness and donations, with the company pledging 10 percent of the revenue earned from this boom to a local breast cancer charity.

The company is striving toward sustainability, which it defines as the continued prosperity of Leppo beyond the working lives of all current co-workers. To achieve sustainability, the company focuses on efficiency, financial performance, people development, stability for its staff, growth and smooth transitions.

Growth, however, is a major component of the company’s strategic planning as it connects several other components. Leppo’s growth over the past five years includes the addition of a Northeast Ohio location, 34 additional staff and increased sales revenue by 55 percent. Leppo is now the 79th largest equipment rental company in the country. ●

How to reach: Leppo Group Inc.: (330) 633-3999 or

Entrepreneurial Spirit Award

J. Rayl Transport Inc. ◆ Jeremy Rayl

The late CEO of J. Rayl Transport leaves a lasting mark on the family business

The late Jeremy Rayl, former CEO of J. Rayl Transport Inc., who passed away suddenly at the age of 39, is described by his long-time friend and COO Ryan Richards as one of the most generous and big-hearted people he’s ever met.

Fiscally savvy and aggressive in the way he approached both business and life, Jeremy’s personality is woven into the fabric of the company, its people philosophy and its approach to the market. He was a risk taker who hated losing and was competitive in everything from sports to business, but was mindful of taking care of the people around him.

“He definitely did not accept finishing second,” Richards says.

But Jeremy’s aspirations at one point were focused on a career outside of the family business and on something other than transportation. Jeremy went to college with the idea of becoming a stockbroker. He studied finance and worked at a bank immediately after college.

Not long into his career, his father, Tim, asked for his help with the family business. True to his character, Jeremy went to work on the company finances.

“He needed to step in and help his family. That’s most important to him — helping people he loved,” Richards says.

Through his involvement with the company, Jeremy saw its potential in an industry he considered filled with opportunity for improvement. He grew within the company and eventually took the lead when his father stepped down some eight years ago. Soon after, he began to make changes that would lead to consistent 18 percent growth for the company year-over-year.

Making his mark

One of Jeremy’s earliest changes was upgrading the management team. He convinced Ryan to leave his job at a large corporation to join J. Rayl, and together they assembled the new management team.

“Jeremy was smart enough to know what he didn’t know,” Richards says, which was the guiding factor in how he assembled that team that’s still together today.

Jeremy, a planner, created a strategy that would guide the company through 2020 that included goals and milestones and indicators of when to take the next steps.

One of the innovations Jeremy implemented was in compressed natural gas fueling. The company built a CNG fueling station on Arlington Road near its headquarters and he assembled the largest for-hire compressed natural gas fleet of trucks in the country. The move transitioned a portion of the fleet — 134 trucks total — to alternative fuels that unhitched the company to at-times volatile diesel prices while eliminating the discharge of millions of pounds of carbon emissions.

Ryan says that reducing the company’s impact on the environment was the leading factor in the move.

“From an environmental standpoint, we wanted to make a difference,” Richards says, noting that the trucks have zero carbon impact on the environment. “Plus, it would protect us should diesel prices really go up.”

From a business standpoint, he says the CNG trucks do offer a point of differentiation that may help the company attract business or position it to take advantage of government incentives for companies that reduce their carbon footprint.

Jeremy also helped diversify the business, establishing multiple modes of services that meant the company could offer the best fit to its customers and not try to shoehorn them into a less-than-ideal fit.

A lasting legacy

Outside of the nitty-gritty of business development, Jeremy was considered to have an honest and genuine focus on employees and customers.

“It sounds easy, but at the same time transportation is a commodity business. You can get it from multiple sources. When things are busy customers can tell if you care about their business or not. He made sure we never took our customers or employees for granted,” Richards says. “That’s easy to do when we were one-fourth the size, but as we’ve gotten bigger, he made sure that didn’t get lost in the shuffle.”

Jeremy always took the time to listen to employees’ perspectives and didn’t mind explaining why a decision was made. He asked for input from his team and the people on the front lines. He interacted with customers and drivers to create a family feel, finding ways to help employees strike a work/life balance even as the company outgrew the intimacy of a small family company.

Today, the company operates four fully staffed offices and seven other locations in four states. It employs more than 400 people and has a fleet of 350 trucks.

“He was a visionary,” Richards says. “He was always thinking 12, 24, 36, 48 months out, always looking for new opportunities. We’ll try to keep that spirit with us — always look forward not back — and make sure the culture his father started and he continued in terms of really valuing our employees and our customers and holding on to the essence of the family business … stay with us.” ●

How to reach: J. Rayl Transport Inc.: (330) 784-1134 or

Manufacturing | Greatest Employee Growth

P. Graham Dunn Inc. ◆

Joe Knutson helps P. Graham Dunn expand into new channels

P. Graham Dunn Inc. has been on a growth trajectory during the past decade, unrivaled by any other in its history. In the past five years, the company’s employee count increased from 135 in 2012 to 237 this past year.
Much of the growth can be attributed to the company’s expansion outside of the Christian gift channel and into the general market where it found a spot on the shelves of mass-market retailers. This has led to a significant increase in brand recognition and in some cases topping category charts in the gift segment.

Rapid sales and significant employee growth squeezed the physical space of the gift manufacturer. From 2007 to 2015, the company was able to handle manufacturing operations in its 100,000-square-foot building in Dalton. By 2015, severely in need of more space, the company acquired the 62,000-square-foot building directly next door, taking the total manufacturing footprint to 160,000 square feet. But by the time the tenant left the newly purchased facility, the company already needed more space to support growth. So, it connected the two buildings, creating one, 280,000 square-foot facility.

P. Graham Dunn, led by President Joe Knutson, today can be found in thousands of stores throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia, counting among its accounts some of the most recognizable names in retail. In the past five years, the company also has seen its sales revenue grow 128 percent. ●

Technology | Greatest Employee Growth

Razorleaf Corp. ◆

Government contracts present Razorleaf with new opportunities

Founded in 2000, Razorleaf is thinking about its future. The company is translating its recent success in new business areas into organizational investments. Led by President Eric Doubell, the company’s headcount increased from 24 to 39 in the past five years, while it enjoyed an 80 percent sales revenue increase during the same period.

The company has tapped into significant opportunities in the government sector after landing a contract as the lead system integrator for deploying a product lifecycle management, or PLM, solution to the U.S. Navy. In less than a year, Razorleaf delivered a turnkey PLM environment, managed the program team, trained the Navy resources and documented the complete solution.

To build on its recent successes, the company has grown its marketing and sales talent on its management team. Its consultant headcount has more than doubled as it works to support increases in aerospace and government contracts.

Its hands-on experience working side by side with the Navy created other opportunities to help with more digital transformation projects. Through deep understanding of how to apply technology, coupled with an understanding of how to discern business workflows in an organization, Razorleaf helps its customers with product development and engineering breakthroughs in performance, productivity and cost savings.
The company also launched a spinoff business, Razorleaf Government Solutions, which is focused on fulfilling government contracts. ●

Service ◆ Emerging | Greatest Employee Growth

V3 Transportation LLC ◆

V3 Transportation expands into a new headquarters designed around drivers

V3 Transportation LLC, led by President John Sliter, is operating in the fast lane. The company specializes in time-critical transportation.

The company’s initial operational, customer service and administrative staff of two has increased to 45. It now supports a fleet of 175 trucks operated by 185 owner-operated expedited drivers.

V3 Transportation’s success is attracting attention in the industry, appearing in numerous trade magazines. Parallel to the success of the company comes the success of its drivers, with one recently named Expediter of the Year during Expedite Expo 2017.

V3 Transportation quickly outgrew its first office space of 3,500 square feet in Brunswick. In 2016, it purchased and renovated 16,000 square feet of office/shop space in Seville. The new facility was built with the drivers in mind to attract and retain owner-operators and support the company’s growth plan over the next several years.

In addition, the company has experienced steady organic revenue growth year over year, increasing its sales revenue by more than 400 percent since its founding in 2012. Working in an industry heavily reliant on hauling for automobile manufacturers, the company diversified the markets it serves, growing to include chemical and hazardous material, print, commercial and industrial manufacturing and third-party logistics.

A passion for business together with relationships built among management, operational support staff and drivers is expected to create a foundation for the company’s continued success. ●

Service ◆ Established | Greatest Employee Growth

National Interstate Insurance ◆

National Interstate Insurance has battled through a less-than-ideal insurance market to find success

The specialty property and casualty company has grown in the past five years. It now employs 719 people, an increase of 175 since 2012. Led by President and CEO Anthony Mercurio, the company has made improvements to the employee benefits package over the past five years.

It has added paid time off days and a work from home pilot program, expanded flex-time, offered on-site health and biometrics screenings and on-campus fitness classes, and created a department-chaired wellness committee. It has also emphasized career growth and financial wellness, helping employees through seminars and financial consultations.

Its internal growth is made possible by its success in the market. The company has experienced 27 percent growth in revenue since 2012. Its alternative risk transfer portfolio of products has grown by nearly 31 percent in that same period. It now accounts for 56 percent of the company’s revenue.

The company continues to transform a variety of niches in the transportation insurance market with the business segment that lead to customer loyalty rates exceeding 97 percent annually.

Last year, National Interstate began a third building, which it considers to be its centerpiece, to its Richfield campus. The expanded campus facilities will include nearly 300,000 square feet of office space with the capacity to ultimately hold approximately 1,000 employees. ●

Manufacturing | Highest Sales Growth

Fire-Dex LLC ◆

Fire-Dex continues to build through acquisitions, new products

Fire-Dex LLC, a manufacturer of personal protective equipment for firefighters and first responders, has been a model for healthy and steady business expansion from its founding in 1983. The company has pursued growth through strategic acquisitions and new product development.

Since its Medina headquarters opened in 1997, the company has added capabilities and expanded.

In 2007, the company received accreditation for its technology lab, allowing it to test its own equipment. It introduced a new generation of turnouts the year after, with a model designed around improving mobility. Fire-Dex entered the footwear market in 2010 when it launched its first structural firefighting boot.

The company also improved its online customer interface, launching Geartracker to help organizations comply with National Fire Protection Association guidelines, and FireWriter2, which enables the building of custom turnout gear.

In addition, Fire-Dex pursued growth through acquisitions. In 2008, Fire-Dex acquired Chieftain, and then acquired TECGEN PPE in 2015, two equipment manufacturers that helped expand the Fire-Dex family of brands.

Headed by CEO Bill Burke, the company has experienced sales revenue growth of 40 percent in the past five years, while adding 17 employees during that same period. The company plans to double the size of its Medina manufacturing facility this year, an expansion expected to open many doors for continued success and growth in the years to come. ●

Technology | Highest Sales Growth

SecureData 365 ◆

SecureData 365 sees itself as a job multiplier

Michael Campanelli, executive vice president of SecureData 365, oversees the purpose-built data centers that are located in Canton and Cleveland. He’s also witnessed the sales growth at the company, which increased 120 percent between 2012 and 2017. During that same period its employee count went from 14 to 21.

Beyond its own staff, the company sees another way in which it contributes to the local economy: as a job multiplier. More than 4,000 IT technicians came to work at either its Canton or Cleveland data centers last year, making the presence of these data centers an economic driver for these professionals and companies in the area.

Additionally, the data center in Cleveland has attracted the interest of several businesses that previously moved their IT infrastructure, and the jobs that went with them, out of state. These companies are now bringing their IT equipment back to the area along with high-paying jobs in a growing and in-demand field.

SecureData 365 data center is creating opportunities that previously didn’t exist in the city. This is a big reason the Cleveland Technology Center received tax incentives that include no sales tax on equipment purchased in Cleveland. The state has agreed that any new customer’s IT equipment placed in the center in the next 15 years will be eligible for exemption from the state’s 8 percent sales tax. ●

Service ◆ Emerging | Highest Sales Growth

Barrington Carpet & Flooring Design ◆

Diversification leads to growth after crisis at Barrington Carpet & Flooring Design

Barrington Carpet & Flooring Design was founded in 1998 to provide all the flooring for a large scattered-site builder in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. All of its revenue was derived from builder and retail flooring sales and installations.

From 2007 through the rest of the decade, the country experienced the biggest new home construction slowdown it had ever seen. Barrington’s builder-based business was hit especially hard, losing several of its key homebuilders to this nationwide crisis. That’s when Barrington decided to diversify.

The company formed a property management and commercial flooring division, two categories of business that would spearhead its growth. Today, the property management division accounts for more than 20 percent of Barrington’s sales, and the commercial business, which now represents 18 percent of its overall business, is considered its biggest opportunity for future growth.

Diversification has been the key to Barrington’s success and is the primary driving force behind its double-digit, year-over-year, top-line revenue growth since 2009. Under President Craig Phillips, the company’s sales revenue has increased 106 percent since 2012, while Barrington has grown its employee count from 10 to 21. The increased commercial and property management business in the Cleveland area led the company to open a small office with a warehouse in Valley View.

Barrington serves Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Indiana, Southern Michigan and West Virginia. ●

Service ◆ Established | Highest Sales Growth

Peoples Services Inc. ◆

Peoples Services celebrates sales success as it expands its reach

Peoples Services Inc., led by President and CEO Douglas J. Sibila, has grown in recent years, in part by securing a slew of acquisitions. In 2013, it acquired Central Warehouse Operations with locations in Vandalia, Ohio, and Saginaw and Midland, Michigan, expanding its reach to a sixth state. The additional 650,000 square feet increased its capacity to over 5 million square feet of warehousing across 20 facilities.

In 2015, it acquired the assets of Style Crest Logistics, with over 1 million square feet of storage space in the Fremont, Ohio, area. Its seven locations enhanced Peoples Services’ regional footprint in the Midwest. It is expected to help improve its service levels to many customers and opens new areas in food-grade storage, an industry projected for future growth.

In 2016, Peoples Services upgraded its tolling operations in Parkersburg, West Virginia, to include two additional packaging lines. It added an additional mill and upgraded the packaging equipment for improved production on the lines and increased capacity to customers. The company also installed a back-up generator to support operations in the event of a power outage. With these new tolling updates and equipment, Peoples Services anticipates a capacity increase of 50 percent.

In the past five years, the company, which celebrated 100 years in business in 2014, has experienced a sales revenue increase of 53 percent and added 120 employees. ●

Manufacturing | Best Overall Success Story

LeafFilter North Inc. ◆

Matt Kaulig grows LeafFilter from a single office to a national company

Over the past 12 years, LeafFilter North Inc. has experienced exceptional growth in both sales and employment. President and CEO Matt Kaulig started his home improvement business from his home office as the only employee. Now headquartered in Hudson, the company’s success has spread throughout North America.

In the past five years alone, LeafFilter’s sales revenue has increased by more than 233 percent. Its successes have contributed to tremendous job growth across the continent. LeafFilter more than doubled its headcount from 2015 to 2016, bringing its total employees in North America to 1,277 people, a huge increase from the seven it employed in 2007.

Kaulig has created a strong, engaged employee base. He offers employees opportunities for growth, competitive compensation packages, 401(k) retirement plans and fully paid health care coverage. He’s also providing employees with the tools, time and training to help them find success in their role.

Kaulig has reinvested in the company, remodeling LeafFilter’s corporate headquarters into a state-of-the-art space that bolsters its corporate culture, and ignites drive, creativity and collaboration.

Along the road to success, LeafFilter has been the recipient of many awards. The company was recognized as the third-largest remodeler by Remodeling magazine and the ninth-largest home improvement company by Qualified Remodeler magazine.

Currently, LeafFilter handles all manufacturing, sales, installation and distribution rights of LeafFilter Gutter Protection. The product is completely made in America. ●

Technology | Best Overall Success Story

Patriot Software Co. ◆

Being a small business helps Patriot Software understand other small businesses

Michael J. Kappel set the foundation for Patriot Software Co. in 1986 in the basement of a factory in Canton. Those rough early years offered him a firsthand look at the difficulties new businesses face, and planted the seed for a way to help them. Thirty years later, the company he built serves thousands of small business customers across the U.S.

The Patriot Software family of companies includes two business segments: the recruiting segment and the small business segment.

Patriot’s recruiting segment consists of Top Echelon Network LLC, an online recruitment network, and Top Echelon Contracting LLC, a recruiter’s back office solution. Its small business segment is driven by Patriot Software, a cloud-based software solution for time and attendance, payroll and accounting.

Kappel, Patriot Software’s president and CEO, has grown the company significantly since its days in the factory basement. Patriot Software Co. has seen an increase in its headcount from 67 employees in 2012 to 125 in 2016. During that same period it has realized a 24 percent increase in sales revenue.

Patriot Software is experiencing extraordinary growth. Its compound annual growth rate the past two years is 197 percent, which the company attributes to innovation, continuous improvement and ease-of-use. Its collaborative environment empowers employees to add to the efficiency of the company’s products and services, which has helped Patriot become a standout in the payroll and accounting industry. ●

Service ◆ Emerging | Best Overall Success Story

Lead to Conversion LLC ◆

Lead to Conversion realizes growth while helping clients do the same

Lead to Conversion LLC is a digital marketing agency based in Northeast Ohio that has a client list that includes businesses across the U.S.

Founded in 2006, the company, led by CEO Sean Bolton, has seen its sales revenue grow 275 percent in the past five years, while increasing its employee count from two to 13 in the same timespan.

As growth continues, the company is focused on offering employees unique benefits. Lead to Conversion has a work-from-home option, giving employees the flexibility to work off-site four days each week. All employees are provided with the opportunity to grow beyond their current role, and the company practices cross-training for its multiple service lines to help employees be more well-rounded. Lead to Conversion offers a monthly and quarterly bonus program that it considers to be very competitive within the industry.

Its internal training may also be a factor in the company’s effectiveness. Lead to Conversion is creating customized online marketing strategies. It has redesigned and redeveloped dozens of sites, all of which have seen an immediate increase in organic search rankings, targeted traffic and conversions, a track record it has maintained for four years running.

Additionally, the company’s clients have seen website traffic increases that range from 15 percent growth to more than 1,000 percent growth based on Lead to Conversion’s custom marketing strategies. ●

Service ◆ Established | Best Overall Success Story

Mielke Holdings LLC ◆

Mielke Holdings’ strategic growth plan creates opportunities at all levels

Mielke Holdings LLC has been focused on growth for the past five years. By further developing its services while seeking geographic expansions, the company has more than doubled its sales revenue and grown its employee count from 101 to 165. More importantly, these moves have created the blueprint for how it will grow and expand into the future.

Attracting, training and retaining a highly skilled workforce has been critical to Mielke’s growth. In 2013, the company introduced the new position of director of Workforce Development, which focuses solely on recruiting, career planning, education and skills development. This adds to Mielke’s existing accredited trade apprenticeship programs and other new programs meant to improve its employee acquisition, development and retention efforts, while providing a leadership pipeline to support the company’s expansion into new territories and new business units.

As business units were formed or acquired, the company implemented a new organizational structure. It divided into six separate corporate entities working under the parent holding company.

The updated business structure created ownership opportunities for key employee managers within the different business units, which has allowed individual executives to share in the business success from their divisions while remaining tied to the overall success of the entire team. The strategy is expected to facilitate multiple succession options for the key employees at Mielke and the ownership team headed by CEO David Mielke. ●

Honor Roll: Manufacturing | Technology | Service


Daniel’s Amish Collection | Christopher J. Karman

In the past five years, sales at Daniel’s Amish Collection have grown by leaps and bounds. That growth has required it to operate two factories. The company also purchased a 25-acre plot that will be the site of its new headquarters and a factory to handle anticipated future growth. Daniel’s Amish manufactures its products locally and buys 75 percent of its supplies locally, which it says creates another two to three jobs in other local businesses to meet the increased demand.

Fire-Dex LLC | Bill Burke

Since its move to Medina 20 years ago, Fire-Dex LLC has continued to realize healthy and steady business expansion. In 2008, Fire-Dex acquired Chieftain, a leading fire gear company. Recognizing the health benefits of wearing lighter-weight gear when structural turnouts aren’t necessary, Fire-Dex acquired TECGEN PPE in September 2015 as the latest addition to the Fire-Dex family of brands. Fire-Dex continues to pursue growth as it develops innovative head-to-toe personal protective equipment for firefighters and first responders.

Flohr Machine Co. | Gerard Flohr

In the past five years, Flohr Machine Co. has upgraded eight machines from 1980s technology to today’s best. The company has expanded and remodeled its facility for better lighting, product flow and safety. Flohr Machine also expanded its capabilities and its customer base in the past two years, and has patent-pending products for the fluid pump industry. The company is currently collaborating on new designs for the tire industry and redesigning frac blocks for the oil and gas industry.

Industrial Tube and Steel Corp. | Richard Siess

Over the past decade, Industrial Tube and Steel Corp. has demonstrated tremendous growth. The company has invested in equipment, adding new cutting and machining capabilities as well as IT upgrades, and built new Ohio facilities in Kent and West Chester, and added a location in Nashville. Industrial Tube and Steel has increased its total number of pounds shipped by 41 percent, which has helped grow its revenue over the past several years.

LeafFilter North Inc. | Matt Kaulig

LeafFilter North Inc. scaled from a home office in 2005 to a top U.S. home improvement company. In the past five years, the company experienced tremendous growth, increasing its sales revenue by more than 233 percent. Headquartered in Hudson, the number of positions at LeafFilter has doubled from 2015 to 2016. The company now employs 1,277 individuals throughout the U.S. and Canada who are offered opportunities for growth and competitive compensation packages.

Main Street Gourmet LLC | Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson

In the early 2000s, Main Street Gourmet LLC re-invented itself, establishing a Custom Baked Goods division that produced exclusive bakery products for its customers. The move helped Main Street win the business of many premier food and restaurant operators, which spurred company growth. In the past five years, its employee growth has neared 40 percent while sales growth jumped to nearly 55 percent. The Custom Baked Goods Division now represents more than 80 percent of Main Street’s sales.

P. Graham Dunn Inc. | Joe Knutson

Since 2012, P. Graham Dunn Inc. has experienced more change and growth than at any other stretch of time in the past 40 years, in part because of its expansion outside the Christian gift channel into the general market, along with mass accounts. The company has seen a tremendous increase in its customer accounts and its sales growth has more than doubled. P. Graham Dunn also added just over 100 employees during the same stretch.

Prime Woodcraft Inc. | Ansir Junaid

Prime Woodcraft Inc., a group of companies involved in a range of enterprises, grew out of a garage and into a multimillion-dollar business with a customer list that now includes some of the largest corporations in the U.S. In 2015, PWC moved its headquarters to Brunswick, which created approximately 100 new jobs. The group has announced plans to open new facilities in the state over the next three years, creating an estimated 200 jobs.


AtNetPlus Inc. | Jay Mellon and Jim Laber

Over the past five years, IT support firm AtNetPlus Inc.’s employee numbers and revenue have increased to match its expanded offerings and its additional 19 office and workspaces. Third party customer surveys that compare AtNetPlus to other companies within the industry in the areas of initial response time, timeliness of resolution, satisfaction with the resolution, support representatives’ ability, professionalism, and overall service continue to trend up and stay ahead of the industry average.

Corporate Technologies Group Inc. | Jeff Sumner and Brett Harney

Corporate Technologies Group Inc., a cloud technology sales, implementation and service company, has seen steady sales growth in the past five years. The firm began with the idea that customer service would set it apart from the competition, and this has been proven through the tremendous growth of the business. Corporate Technologies’ leadership has helped develop a culture of doing the right thing for its clients, day in and day out.

Etactics Inc. | Michael Teutsch

Etactics Inc., which delivers time-sensitive documents, processed more than 37 million client transactions this past year. As it adds clients, the company continues to develop new products and services while looking at ways to outsource services outside of its core competency through new partner relationships with other businesses. Etactics is investing significantly to prepare for its next stage of growth and expects to add to its full-time staff during the next 12 months.

Metisentry | Marling Engle

Metisentry has been empowering businesses to create efficiency through technology and achieve success for a decade. It’s also been a driver within the local economy. In 2016, the company continued its trend of increasing its income year-over-year. Simultaneously, its employment experienced steady growth, increasing another 30 percent in 2016. This year, Metisentry has tracked up over 100 percent in both categories and is looking forward to continuing its contribution to Akron’s economy.

Open Practice Solutions Ltd. | Michael Teutsch

In the past six years, Open Practice Solutions Ltd., a developer of web-based medical billing applications, has accomplished much. The company has grown its presence from three states to 40. It now serves 4,800 providers and more than 6,000 users. During this period, the company also has seen its revenue increase dramatically while increasing its staff from a single developer to 19 employees, with even more hires expected in the coming year.

Patriot Software Co. | Michael J. Kappel

Patriot Software Co. has grown significantly in the past five years. The Patriot Software LLC division has seen a compound annual growth rate of 197 percent just in the most recent two-year span. This growth is largely attributed to the success of Patriot’s cloud-based accounting, payroll and time and attendance software products. Patriot’s employee count nearly doubled since 2012. The company’s collaborative environment has enabled Patriot to stand out in the payroll and accounting industry.

Razorleaf Corp. | Eric Doubell

Razorleaf Corp. has been on a strong growth curve for the past three years and has made investments to support this growth long term. The company has added both marketing and sales talent on its management team to drive business growth across all sectors. It launched Razorleaf Government Solutions, a spinoff that focuses on the support and fulfillment of government contracts, and more than doubled its consultant headcount to support an increase in contracts in aerospace and government organizations.

SecureData 365 | Michael Campanelli

More than 4,000 IT technicians conducted business at either SecureData 365’s Canton or Cleveland data center last year, which helped the company realize a consistent uptick in sales. The Cleveland data center has attracted the interest of several businesses that previously moved their IT infrastructure, and the jobs that went with it, out of state. The availability of SecureData 365 is a factor in these companies bringing their IT equipment home along with good jobs.


415 Group | Frank Monaco

415 Group has realized consistent 10 percent growth for the past decade, and in 2016 reported growth of almost 25 percent from the prior year. The CPA firm’s IT consulting division has been growing along with its QuickBooks consulting division, which the firm says is now among the largest installers and developers of QuickBooks in Ohio. 415 has moved in to and renovated a new space in Canton, which was done to accommodate the firm’s anticipated growth.

Barrington Carpet & Flooring Design | Craig Phillips

During the past decade, Barrington Carpet & Flooring Design has retooled its approach to the market after losing several key homebuilders during the housing crisis. It expanded from builder and retail flooring sales and installations and started a property management and a commercial flooring division, two categories of business that would spearhead its growth. Its revenue has grown significantly and the company added a small office and warehouse in Valley View to accommodate the growth.

Catastrophe Management Solutions LLC | Curtis F. Pilot

Catastrophe Management Solutions LLC, an insurance call center support service for major catastrophes, has trained over 2,800 temporary and full-time employees in the past five years. Recently, it has developed more traditional call center services. Over the past five years, CMS has provided temporary work for over 1,700 employees to this end. The company’s expanded call center services have led to increases in full-time employees and it continues to chase growth.

Cohen & Co. | J. Michael Kolk

With eight offices in five states, including recent additions in Detroit and Pittsburgh, Cohen & Co. accounting and consulting firm finds collaboration, camaraderie and communication key to sustaining engagement as it continues to grow. The firm hosts several events designed to keep employees engaged, such as its firm-wide Olympic-style event in which employees compete in athletic and intellectual challenges. Cohen & Co.’s recent survey initiative is meant to take the pulse of the organization and get feedback for continuous improvement.

Community Hospice | Norm Mast

Community Hospice has had significant growth over the past five years. Last year, Community Hospice joined with Health Services of Coshocton to combine resources, assuring continued access to hospice services in Coshocton County. That same year, grant funding enabled Community Hospice to open its first Learning Lab in its Stark County office to provide training for clinical staff. Additionally, the nonprofit’s nine fundraising events and proceeds from five community benefits brought in contributions totaling over $2.5 million.

Concept Services | Daniel Harsh

Concept Services has experienced 137 percent employee growth since 2013, averaging over 30 percent growth per year over the past three years. This has resulted in job creation throughout Medina and Summit counties via the local businesses and contractors that have partnered with the company. In the second quarter of 2016, Concept Services finalized construction of its third campus, which is equipped with a dedicated training center for employee training, external customer sales skills training and customer relationship management advancement sessions.

Danbury Senior Living | William Lemmon and Brian Spring

The first Danbury Senior Living facility was built in North Canton in 1997. During the past five years, the brand has grown from 191 residential units to 1,156. Once its properties under construction are completed, the Danbury portfolio will have 1,654 units across 16 facilities. Simultaneously, company-wide employment has increased from 100 employees in 2011 to over 900 this year. Danbury expects it could reach 1,500 employees by the end of 2018 as it grows and opens new facilities.

Focal Point Social Media Marketing | Mark Krohn

Focal Point Social Media Marketing has, since its inception, followed a trajectory of growth in both sales and staff. By utilizing social media, today’s most embraced communication medium, Focal Point is helping impact organizations’ growth. The firm is also helping to advance charitable causes. Focal Point regularly donates a portion of its revenues to the Up Side of Downs, a Northeast Ohio nonprofit advocating for individuals with Down syndrome.

Great Lakes Fasteners | Kevin R. Weidinger

Great Lakes Fasteners entered the maintenance and repair segment three years ago and has steadily added new clients in that service offering. Today, GLF supplies fasteners and services through production to plant maintenance. The company’s packaging division is creating opportunity with its original equipment manufacturer customers. GLF sources the fasteners, packages them, places a custom label on the kit and then ships the finished good directly to the original equipment manufacturers. The division has created several new jobs since 2010.

Group Management Services | Mike Kahoe

Group Management Services, a professional employer organization that manages HR functions for small businesses, has seen its sales climb rapidly in recent years after a period of steady growth. Its success has led it to outgrow its current 15,000-square-foot headquarters, requiring a move to a 47,000 square-foot facility next year, though the company will remain in Richfield. The new facility should better accommodate its growing staff, which has increased from 67 to 180 in the past five years.

Innovation Foods | Thomas Lane

Innovation Foods has grown from producing 50 meals a day to over 4,000 meals per day for charter schools, summer meal programs, mobile meals, PASSPORT programs and senior centers. In the past five years, the company’s full-time staff has more than doubled as it has realized significant sales revenue growth. It’s also expanding its geographic footprint, growing to provide services in six counties. Innovation Foods is focused on creating new products and ideas as it looks to impact more Northeast Ohio citizens.

J. Rayl Transport Inc. | Tim Rayl

J. Rayl Transport Inc., a transportation and logistics company, has enjoyed steady growth in the past five years in both sales and headcount. Headquartered in Akron, the company has four fully staffed offices and seven other locations in four states. The company is working to reduce its carbon footprint and reduce fuel costs by transitioning 134 of its 350 trucks to compressed natural gas, and built a CNG fueling station in Akron. Of J. Rayl Transport’s more than 400 associates, at least 250 operate out of Northeast Ohio.

Jarrett Logistics Systems | W. Michael Jarrett

Jarrett Logistics Systems has grown at an average of 10 percent over the past 10 years. The company implemented a full-time HR department, which has improved hiring and grown the employee count, requiring additional office space. The company added a 10,000 square-foot JLS routing center and a 105,000-square foot warehouse. It has invested in its analytics platform and its transportation management system, added a transactional sector, and now has a presence in Los Angeles and Indianapolis.

KHM Travel Group | Rick Zimmerman

KHM Travel Group has seen its sales continue to rise in 2016, doubling its sales from 2012. It’s also increased its involvement in the travel industry, with members of its executive and leadership teams joining local and national advisory boards and travel associations. KHM Travel created a new company vision statement, mission and core values, as well as a new employee recognition program. The changes are helping the agency gain recognition as an innovative leader in travel.

Katar Holding Inc. | Kenneth J. Brown

Since Katar Holding Inc.’s first Buffalo Wild Wings franchise opened in 1995 in Ashland, the franchise count has grown to seven and their presence has expanded to include Richland, Stark, Wayne, Lake and Lorain counties. As the number of franchises increased, so has Katar’s employee count. The company currently has more than 800 employees working throughout Northeast Ohio. Katar expects to continue its growth through investment, reinvestment and relocation throughout the region.

Laudan Properties | Kevin R. Weidinger

Laudan Properties has achieved exceptional revenue growth while adding 13 employees to its roster in the past five years. Business development helped reshape the company’s growth focus on new market segments as the housing market recovered. Investors, flippers and rent opportunities have proven to be great growth segments, and have helped the company realize a hockey stick revenue and profit growth trajectory. Laudan Properties has plans for two new buildings to accommodate its anticipated continued growth.

Lead to Conversion LLC | Sean Bolton

Lead to Conversion LLC has experienced growth in both its employees and its organization, especially in the past several years. Since 2012, the company has seen its employee base grow from two to 13, and its sales revenue grow 275 percent. The company emphasizes benefits to its employees such as flexible hours, monthly and quarterly bonuses, continuous improvement and cross-training opportunities. It expects its growth trajectory to continue, requiring the addition of more employees in the coming years.

Leppo Group Inc. | William “Glenn” Leppo

In the past five years, Leppo Group Inc. has undergone significant growth, which is a major focus of its strategic planning process. That growth included an additional Northeast Ohio location, 34 additional staff and an increase in sales revenue of 55 percent. Leppo is now the 79th largest equipment rental company in the country. Its growth required changes in the way it does business — for example, Leppo added 24-hour delivery service to its energy exploration customers.

Mielke Holdings LLC | David Mielke

In 2012, Mielke Holdings LLC launched an aggressive plan focused on strategic growth. It opened a permanent branch office in Tampa, Florida, acquired the business assets of a key subcontractor and spun off a high-potential existing business unit into a stand-alone company. These strategies more than doubled its sales revenues, increased its employee count from 101 to 165 and laid the groundwork for future growth. The expansion also led it to restructure into six corporate entities operating under parent company, Mielke Holdings.

National Interstate Insurance | Anthony Mercurio

Despite a challenging economic environment, National Interstate Insurance’s revenues grew 27 percent since 2012. Its alternative risk transfer portfolio has grown 31 percent in that same period, a segment that now accounts for more than half of company revenues. The company has also expanded its Richfield campus, adding a third building that will house employee amenities and help enhance employee collaboration. The 300,000-square-foot addition gives National Interstate the capacity to ultimately accommodate approximately 1,000 employees.

Outtech Inc. | Jay Scholes

Over the past five years, Outtech Inc. has seen its revenues and its employee count steadily rise. The sales and marketing organization has been expanding its influence and reputation in the outdoor equipment space, representing some of the top sporting and hunting retailers and manufacturers in the U.S. As a reward to its employees, the owners of Outtech recently concluded a sale of the company to its employees through an employee stock ownership plan.

Peoples Services Inc. | Douglas J. Sibila

Peoples Services Inc., which recently celebrated 100 years in business, has increased its sales revenue by 53 percent and added 120 employees since 2012 as it continues to experience business growth. A 2012 recipient of the U.S. Small Business Administration Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year award, the company has been acquiring assets that have helped expand its geographic footprint and reach into a sixth state, while upgrading its operations and equipment for increased capacity.

QualCare LLC, dba Home Instead Senior Care | Therese Zdesar, RN

Over the past five years, QualCare LLC, dba Home Instead Senior Care, has seen a steady increase in sales revenue while it added 41 employees — a significant achievement given the effort required to meet its retention and recruitment expectations. To face that challenge, the company initiated programs to improve its performance in that area that focus on facilitating a culture of care and compassion. Additionally, it created a new administrative position specifically for recruiting the best candidates.

Sequoia Financial Group | Tom Haught

Sequoia Financial Group’s strategic plan works toward achieving success by growth, acquisition and client loyalty. Key to its strategic plan is business line expansion and acquiring and developing talent. Sequoia recently acquired two wealth management firms, expanding its presence into the Detroit area as well as the Beachwood area. Having nearly doubled its sales in the past five years, the company is working to increase revenues by 100 percent in the next five years.

Shoemaker Rigging & Transport | Steven Shoemaker

Steady growth in sales and employee count in recent years has been a characteristic of Shoemaker Rigging & Transport. Shortly after launching, the industrial and commercial rigging, trucking and heavy machinery moving company became one of the larger rigging companies in the industry. Shoemaker Rigging also was recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in Northeast Ohio in 2016 in both revenues and new hires. In addition, the company contributes to a host of charities and charitable events.

V3 Transportation LLC | John Sliter

Since its inception in 2012, V3 Transportation LLC has become one of the fastest-growing operations in its field, realizing exceptional organic revenue growth year over year, while also increasing its employee count from two to 45 in that span. The company supports a fleet of 175 trucks operated by 185 owner-operated expedited drivers and has diversified the markets it serves. V3’s growth has required it to move into a new office with nearly five times the space.

The Village Network | Richard Graziano

The Village Network has achieved significant growth over the past five years, realizing surpluses in three of the past five years while more than quadrupling the number of clients served. The organization introduced outpatient services that extended services for clients aging out of the foster care system. It has grown from 7 percent of total revenue to more than 21 percent in the past five years while expanding its reach to 43 different schools.

WhiteSpace Creative | Keeven White

WhiteSpace Creative has averaged nearly 20 percent annual growth during the past 10 years. The advertising agency is bringing dollars into Akron from outside markets, which helps the firm create high-growth jobs for local residents.

As a result of recent acquisitions and the expectation of further growth, WhiteSpace is developing a 65,000-square-foot office and warehouse complex on three acres of land near downtown Akron that will be a shared space for businesses, events and the creative community.