On behalf of Corporate College and Cuyahoga Community College, I want to personally congratulate the recipients of the sixth annual Corporate College Smart 50 Awards, presented by Smart Business.
We are privileged to partner with Smart Business and present the Corporate College Smart 50 Awards in celebration of Northeast Ohio’s top executives and in recognition of their talent to effectively build and lead innovative and “smart” organizations. All of this year’s honorees have made a difference in their organizations and in the region. Their positive impact on employment has reinvented the Northeast Ohio landscape into one of the most up-and-coming business regions in the country.
These large, mid-sized and emerging companies’ leaders motivate and inspire people. They are passionate and focused on what they do. The executives we are celebrating today are able to tackle unique business challenges and continue to lead their organizations toward success. Corporate College is honored to acknowledge this year’s nominees.
Corporate College is a division of Cuyahoga Community College, a nationally recognized leader in higher education and member of the League for Innovation in the Community College. Corporate College is known for its best-in-class client solutions including training, consulting, conference and hospitality services to the business community and its strategic partners. Since its inception in 2003, Corporate College has worked with organizations in all sectors and professionals at every level. We run our organization as a CEO would run his or her business and understand the challenges leaders and organizations face. Clients turn to us for training solutions to meet their strategic business goals and consulting services that improve individual, team and organizational performance. Corporate College provides professional training and development tailored for today’s dynamic business environment.
Robert J. Peterson, J.D., CPA
President and CEO
Corporate College, a Division of Cuyahoga Community College
2019 Smart 50 Award honorees
President and CEO
Park Place Technologies
A global leader in data center maintenance, Park Place Technologies provides a cost-effective, service-first alternative to post-warranty maintenance for storage, server and networking hardware. By keeping customers’ mission-critical hardware continuously running, the organization maximizes data center uptime in more than 140 countries.
The company’s success stems in large part from its award-winning ParkView™ service, which proactively detects faults in storage, server and networking hardware. Park Place has also implemented a 24/7 domestic call center and immediate incident escalation, direct access to OEM-experienced engineering teams and flexible service level agreements to meet organizations’ unique needs.
Led by President and CEO Chris Adams, Park Place acquired six companies over the past year, resulting in $250 million in revenue during 2018.
Leveraging a background in data science, Cal Al-Dhubaib created data analytics consulting firm Pandata to transform the way companies react to their customers. Its innovative Perception Intelligence technology transforms large amounts of qualitative feedback into actionable advice, pulling raw customer feedback data from virtually any source and language, including web analytics, customer surveys, online product reviews, blog posts and social media.
The solution engine analyzes data to detect core themes, providing comprehensive customer profiles in an interactive dashboard that allows companies to track trends and customer sentiment, and drill into concern areas as they relate to services or products. Armed with this insight, brands can better manage their reputation, provide customer service and make informed product and service decisions to boost sales.
GARDINER is a full-service HVAC, energy solutions and professional services company. In 2017, President Todd Barnhart led the company to become the exclusive factory systems, parts, services and solution representative in Northern Ohio for Daikin, the world’s largest HVAC manufacturer.
In addition to brokering this strategic partnership, Barnhart has driven innovation across company operations, bringing new products and services to the market to directly address client needs. A key focus has been growing GARDINER’s energy and performance solutions business, which accounts for one-third of sales, transforming the company from a traditional manufacturer’s representative into a diversified professional building service company. Most recently, Barnhart launched a new Training & Technology Center in Solon to showcase GARDINER’s innovation in the local industry.
President and CEO
Delta Systems Inc.
For nearly 50 years, Delta Systems Inc. has provided the outdoor power equipment industry and adjacent markets with high-quality electronic components products. Led by President and CEO Elizabeth Barry, safety, performance and reliability are of critical focus, ensured through the company’s rigorous development matrix.
Key to its expert product lifecycle management process is that each product — including switches, controls, interfaces and connectivity innovations — is managed from design concept to design validation and successful launch under one roof. The team works closely with customers from start to finish through a stage gate process to understand challenges and develop a partnership to bring each vision to reality.
Much of Delta Systems’ success comes from collaboration, with Barry fostering an environment with the flexibility to encourage new ideas and experimentation.
Eric Beck, DO, MPH
Launched in 2016, UH Ventures was created to develop innovative new business models leveraging existing University Hospitals capabilities to benefit patients and develop new revenue for the health system. Under the leadership of Eric Beck, DO, MPH, it leverages a two-pronged approach to identify, develop and deploy disruptive and innovative creations toward these ends.
The first is its Operations Platform, which includes the oversight and potentialization of existing UH verticals. The second is its Ventures & Innovations Platform, which stands up a variety of opportunities that can play a vital role in the overall future of health care. Combined with its diverse team of innovators, comprehensive process and toolkit, and wide-ranging portfolio of projects, UH Ventures is positioned to take risks to deliver value and vitality for UH, its patients and the local community.
President and CEO
LeafFilter Gutter Protection
LeafFilter Gutter Protection’s cutting-edge gutter guard technology provides customers with a permanent solution to protect gutters against clogs. The system eliminates the need to clean gutters and protects homes from water-related damages.
Selling directly to consumers, the brand has broadened the reach of its technology since naming CEO Jeff Beck, who has prioritized automating and scaling LeafFilter’s processes. Notably, he’s built a custom ERP and CRM solution to unify sales, service, marketing and finance within a central system for increased efficiency and scalability.
This has been a critical foundation as LeafFilter has continued to expand and restructure. It now falls under the umbrella of a newly formed entity Leaf Home Solutions, alongside new accessibility solutions brand Leaf Home Safety Solutions.
Kris Beck & Mike Pepe
CEO; Founder & President
Kris Beck and Mike Pepe joined forces in 2018 to scale the growth of Proformex, a cloud-based software platform that helps agents, advisers, trustees and fiduciaries proactively monitor their clients’ life insurance policies. The system automates the manual, time-consuming work required for proper life insurance policy management to improve operational efficiency, profitability and customer experience.
Securely storing relevant data and documentation for an agent’s entire book of business for both comprehensive and individual policy management, the smart technology behind Proformex tracks and analyzes policy performance. The platform alerts an agent when performance issues arise and can identify opportunities for delivering more value. Additionally, Proformex automates client reporting.
Founder, president and CEO
SPR Therapeutics Inc.
In the midst of a national opioid crisis, SPR Therapeutics Inc. is working to identify an alternate solution to pain management. The medical device company is engaging in developing, manufacturing and commercializing interventional pain management therapies that are non-opioid based and minimally invasive.
Founder, president and CEO Maria Bennett leverages SPRINT® technology, which she invented while completing her master of science degree in biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University. Left in place 60 days, SPRINT® is the first and only peripheral nerve stimulation technology for the treatment of acute and chronic pain that is not permanently implanted. The company has been able to continue development of this smart technology through $30 million in federal funding and grants from the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health.
The Anderson-Dubose Co.
Since his promotion to COO of The Anderson-Dubose Co. (AD) in 2018, Mike Boddy has made significant strides in improving the safety, sustainability and scalability of the organization, which provides logistics solutions to corporations in the quick service industry. Chief among his accomplishments was closing a complex 53,000-square-foot warehouse expansion. Day-to-day operations continued smoothly through Boddy’s orchestration of resources and internal collaboration, and AD celebrated two years injury free as of April 2019.
Boddy has also made headway in implementing warehouse automations, as well as the realignment of field and customer service operations to optimize special customer requests and restaurants’ backroom processes. This realignment translates to a 95.77 percent customer satisfaction rating, ranking AD among the top percentile in the U.S.
CLE Urban Winery
Destiny Burns has brought her vision of a “working winery” and tasting room to the historic urban setting of Cleveland Height with CLE Urban Winery. Although the number of wineries is growing at a rapid rate in the region, Burns sets her location apart with a unique combination. Guests enjoy multiple award-winning wines in the tasting room, while seeing the craft brewery-style winery in action, experiencing production from start to finish.
CLE Urban Winery wines are handcrafted and bottled on site to ensure high-quality and affordable end products and are named in honor of Cleveland. Burns hosts wine-related events, wine education and appreciation programs, classes and clubs, and plans to expand through additional local tasting rooms and a wholesale distribution channel.
David M. Carr
Brennan Industries — a manufacturer of hydraulic, pneumatic and instrumentation fittings, adapters and accessories — recently celebrated 65 years in business, and President David M. Carr leads the organization to continuously evolve with the times. He conducts frequent process reviews with his management team and employees, and makes smart improvements to streamline operations and boost customer accessibility.
His most recent improvement is the expansion of the company’s Solon corporate facility, built with employees in mind — employees whom Carr considers to be Brennan Industries’ greatest assets. The building will have state-of-the art technology in the warehouse and front office, with collaborative spaces, a dedicated training center and customizable workstations that can be used at standing or seated levels. Carr will continue his open-door policy, encouraging innovative thinking and problem solving.
President and CEO
Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio
Regional nonprofit Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio works with a vast network of partners to acquire, gather and distribute nutritious food to tens of thousands of people throughout Crawford, Erie, Huron and Lorain counties. Although it started as a small operation, President and CEO Julie Chase-Morefield’s efforts since joining the organization in 2004 have helped grow it into the largest hunger-relief organization in North Central Ohio and the fourth-largest largest nonprofit in Lorain County.
Under her leadership, Second Harvest has significantly increased distribution of food and grocery products to member charities and developed education and programming around healthy, nutritious food options. Among these initiatives are a farmer’s market push, fresh produce partner education and healthy School Pantries food distribution program.
Fifth Third Bank
Under the leadership of Regional President Joe DiRocco, collaboration and talent within Fifth Third’s commercial and private bank divisions have excelled. DiRocco inspires this team to focus on the customer and the community by tying employees’ work to improving lives through financial solutions and supporting strong communities.
Chief among the banking institution’s focus to improve lives is aiding millennials in paying down the significant challenge of student loan debt. Fifth Third has developed two unique apps to help them do so; the Momentum app enables debit card users to round up purchases to make micropayments toward loans, while the Dobot app connects to a checking account and automates savings. Since launching Momentum in 2017, Fifth Third has helped users pay down $2 million in student loan debt.
Aaron Christopher Evans
Co-founder and CEO
Co-founded by CEO Aaron Christopher “A.C.” Evans in 2016, Drips is leveraging innovative artificial intelligence to help brands connect with consumers the way they prefer to be reached and when. Utilizing analytics of human behavior, the Drips platform securely automates lead and customer interactions via email, SMS text messages and automated calls.
The marketing software technology helps brands better scale their outbound efforts, receive more qualified inbound calls, create goodwill with their prospects and reduce overall lead generation costs. Additionally, Drips provides white glove service to continually test market campaigns and programs so clients continue to learn how to provide better messages to the consumer and improve performance. With the success of its smart technology, Drips is projected to double its revenue in 2019.
President and Founder
Planned Financial Services
Planned Financial Services is an independent financial planning and wealth management firm celebrating 25 years of sustained growth and success. Founder and president Frank Fantozzi leads the firm in providing for the financial well-being of his clients, evolving and innovating to stay at the cutting edge of the industry.
Restructuring the company in 2016 as a full-service Registered Investment Advisor, Fantozzi’s ongoing success stems from utilizing an innovative Return on Life® approach with clients. This strategy combines insightful analysis with personalized financial strategies and investment advice. Over the past year, PFS earned accolades including a Centre for Fiduciary Excellence LLC certification, Distinguished Marketing and Sales Award, Weatherhead 100 Upstart award and Forbes Best-In-State Wealth Advisors distinction.
President and CEO
Morrison Products Inc.
Led by the third generation of the Holmes family, Morrison Products Inc. has grown to become the leading manufacturer of stamped metal products in the country, designing, manufacturing and selling air moving equipment for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industries worldwide. In recent years, President and CEO Megan Fellinger has focused on deepening the integration of continuous improvement into all aspects of business processes.
In response to 2018 Department of Energy increases in efficiency requirements, she led Morrison to acquire a fan manufacturing company and elevate its quality program. Management also recruited additional quality leaders and engineers to develop improved airflow technology.
Combining Morrison’s 2018 acquisition and organic growth, the team has grown by 107 percent year over year while increasing revenue 125 percent over the past 10 years.
Founder and CEO
Flack Global Metals
Recognizing a void in the steel industry, Jeremy Flack founded Flack Global Metals — which fulfills supply chains for OEMs using flat rolled steel, aluminum and stainless — in 2010 using an innovative, asset-light model and proprietary risk management hedging solutions. The business is independent of geographical location, leveraging a broad, carefully developed network of suppliers, placing FGM in a unique position to adapt its supply chain to best serve its customers, giving them a better way to buy steel.
In 2018, FGM secured an expanded facility with the addition of RaboBank, a global commodity trade finance bank. The first of its kind in the North American steel industry, it emphasizes current market pricing rather than dated appraisals and supports FGM’s ability to utilize that pricing in its financing.
Joining MRI Software, a provider of real estate and investment management software, as CEO in 2014, Patrick Ghilani set out to rebuild the company’s legacy as an innovator and market leader. In the years since, he’s done that, channeling innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit into a new, customer-centric mission.
His efforts included working on internal communications, elevating industry veterans within the business and bringing in seasoned leaders from outside to bolster his team. MRI’s progress attracted strategic investment, and by 2016, it had embarked on an acquisition spree that continues today, entering into new markets.
Shifting MRI toward a plug-and-play platform model, and SaaS deployment methodology, Ghilani maintains the company’s open and connected approach to software, and the company adds hundreds of new clients each year.
Co-founder and CEO
Todd Goldstein co-founded LaunchHouse with the vision of a community in which entrepreneurs and small business owners could build their dreams together. Over the past decade, he’s worked to make that vision a reality, creating a coworking community designed with private offices, open office space, conference rooms and a maker’s space.
By sharing resources such as printing, wi-fi and coffee among members, overhead remains low, making LaunchHouse an affordable option for companies of various sizes.
The benefits go beyond budget, with Goldstein emphasizing networking, education and an environment for growth. LaunchHouse brings together a diverse community that collaborates together to support one another’s goals and provides support by connecting companies to a network of funders and investors when the need arises.
Managing Director, Partner
BlueBridge Networks LLC
Helmed by Managing Director and Partner Kevin Goodman, IT solutions provider BlueBridge Networks has built a reputation for excellence and reliability while diversifying its offerings over time, including data center services, cloud computing, cyber security practice, managed services and infrastructure solutions. Engineering its assets to high specifications, BlueBridge stands out from competitors through its uniquely designed data centers, which provide redundancies for business continuity and network security.
It practices internally what it preaches in terms of network security measures and partners with a network of vendors based on the resources they can offer BlueBridge customers, rather than relying upon an exclusive vendor partnership. A one-stop shop, BlueBridge aims to help businesses maximize uptime and minimize costs while getting their messages across to clients.
Chris E. Haas
President and CEO
All Pro Freight Systems Inc.
Borrowing $500 from his mother in 1990, Chris E. Haas began All Pro Freight Systems Inc. as a one-man freight brokerage business, making cold calls out of the basement of his starter home. He’s since grown the company into a successful, full-service transportation needs supplier offering local, regional and long-haul trucking, as well as warehousing facilities and storage trailer rental.
A leader in the transportation management industry, All Pro Freight’s success stems from its market-driven business model. Haas’ team works closely with the company’s customer base, providing customized transportation management services that help increase efficiency and productivity while driving bottom-line profits. Providing professional transportation services in local markets and throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada, All Pro Freight is known for consistently reliable, on-time, safety-conscious delivery.
Blue Technologies Inc.
Blue Technologies is an award-winning office technology solutions provider led by President Paul Hanna. Its continued growth stems from Hanna’s belief in being a student of the game, even after 20 years in business. His strategy keeps Blue in front of technology evolution to ensure consistent delivery of industry-leading products backed by world-class service.
Hanna instills this dedication to providing clients with exceptional products and service throughout the organization through Blue’s “Commitment to Excellence–EVERY DAY,” a five-point service pledge made to customers in writing to protect them after an acquisition. Employees are empowered to live up to this commitment through ongoing training and vendor certifications, access to subject matter experts and technology resources, including a recently upgraded ERP and website with Hubspot integration.
Founder and CEO
Hennes Communications is one of the few firms in the U.S. focused exclusively on crisis communications and crisis management. Founded by CEO Bruce Hennes, it offers a wide range of services, including media training, litigation communications support, pre-crisis preparation, peer reviews of crisis plans and crisis drills.
Hennes founded the firm in 1989 as a public relations firm, but after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, business evaporated. Seeking to reinvent the company, Hennes analyzed the firm’s work over the past decade and recognized a niche specialty in crisis management.
He’s since grown Hennes Communications into an award-winning firm serving billion-dollar clients. Much of this success stems from Hennes’ smart decision to staff the firm exclusively with senior-level consultants with the experience and gravitas to field crisis management and crisis communications.
President and CEO
Shiloh Industries Inc.
Since its founding in 1950, Shiloh Industries Inc. had experienced modest growth as a small, regional automotive supplier. However since appointing Ramzi Hermiz as president and CEO seven years ago, growth has been exponential for the now-global enterprise.
Hermiz analyzed industry trends and refocused on Shiloh’s mission to design, engineer and manufacture sustainable lightweighting solutions. While competitors focused on a single process or material to manufacture products, Shiloh focused on customers’ product goals and specifications — such as improving emissions and fuel economy — to provide the best solution, with alternatives based on total vehicle cost. The success of Hermiz’s smart strategies is demonstrated by both organic and acquisition growth, with revenue jumping from $400 million to $1.1 billion in 2018.
CEO and co-founder
An immersive 14-week coding boot camp with tracks in Java and .NET, Tech Elevator is the brainchild of Co-founder and CEO Anthony Hughes. Passionate about the program’s mission to elevate people, companies and communities, Hughes’ innovative approach to training and technology has helped more than 600 graduates obtain skills to transition their careers into the technology field.
Across products and solutions, Tech Elevator’s experienced team develops a process and program that are scalable across each market. With its curriculum serving as an instructional foundation, the team iterates and improves after each cohort and offers customized versions specific to client company needs.
In addition to its signature boot camp, Tech Elevator hosts specialty workshops and meetups, including partnership events with Women Who Code and Women in Tech.
Team NEO works to enhance Northeast Ohio’s economy by collaborating with partners to attract new businesses and help those already established to grow. In 2018 alone, the business development organization worked with JobsOhio and other economic development partners on 76 projects expected to generate 6,329 new jobs and $2.34 billion in capital investment for the region.
The organization’s success is derived largely from CEO William Koehler’s strategic focus on developing a high-performing, collaborative economic development network to support its mission, tapping into the public, private and philanthropic sectors. To facilitate alignment of these partners, Team NEO facilitates regional “Innovation Clusters,” connecting companies, academic and research institutions with opportunities to collaborate and take advantage of emerging trends that build on the region’s industrial, organizational and workforce strengths.
Chairman, CEO & Co-Founder
Andrew Lefkowitz is a seasoned entrepreneur with a proven track record in building and exiting successful and innovative businesses focused on finding economical, green solutions that benefit our planet. That’s the driving force behind his venture Locus Fermentation Solutions LLC, the accelerator company for Locus Agricultural Solutions and Locus Bio-Energy Solutions LLC.
Locus FS’s goal is to use microorganisms as cost-effective, safer alternatives to chemicals that address pain points in variety of industries. This had never been successfully implemented, until Lefkowitz’s team solved production challenges with patented fermentation technology. Now, it’s making significant impacts on productivity challenges in agriculture, and oil and gas. Since its founding less than five years ago, Locus FS has grown to seven offices in four states.
United Black Fund
of Greater Cleveland
Since its inception in 1981, the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland has helped local grassroots service agencies in Greater Cleveland become sustainable, growth-oriented resources for their communities through comprehensive support spanning operations, finance, governance, talent and programming. The organization has supported more than 80 agency partners each year with grants in excess of $12 million.
One such partnership is UBF’s efforts with Eliza Bryant Village, the oldest continually operating African-American long-term care facility in the United States. UBF Executive Director Cecil Lipscomb serves as the second vice chair for Eliza Bryant Village’s board, overseeing the development of innovative programs such as food demonstrations and chair yoga that help vulnerable African-American seniors overcome barriers to improving quality of life.
Colleen Lorber, Ph.D. is COO of psi, the largest private education and school health organization in Ohio, serving more than 500 schools. Focused on providing educational and health services to schools for more than 41 years, the organization has evolved significantly with Lorber as COO.
Of key strategic focus for Lorber and her team has been increasing the organization’s presence and influence among the major education groups in Ohio. They have also updated psi’s operating procedures to add technology to its employees, schools and supervisory staff for increased accountability, compliance with state and federal mandates, and more in-depth quality assurance of the organization’s extensive school service programs. Lorber has helped psi acquire more than 25 new school contracts and increase revenue by more than $3 million.
In eight years with custom label converter and supplier OMNI Systems, President Andrew Macek has fine-tuned the company’s operations, working to develop meaningful metrics for rapidly streamlined efficiencies and industry-leading process improvements. His efforts have helped OMNI Systems improve its fill, run efficiency and scrap rates, and earn recognition as a leading manufacturing company in the United States by “Printing Impressions.”
Also of strategic importance to Macek is the satisfaction of OMNI Systems’ employees. He’s made strides to promote a positive, engaging workplace culture that encourages employees to bring ideas to the table, rewards high performers and ultimately boosts sales. Under his leadership, the business was named top workplace for worker satisfaction by Monster and Kununu in 2017.
Victoria Marquard-Schultz, Esq., is CEO of OxyGo LLC, a fast-growing, multinational medical and industrial gas equipment manufacturing company. Over the past 26 years, it has grown to be recognized as a market leader for its high-quality products and technical and regulatory expertise in the multibillion dollar compressed gas industry.
Marquard-Schultz leads the organization with a strategic focus on leveraging technology as a means to improve quality of life, demonstrated in OxyGo’s innovative portable oxygen concentrators. The small, lightweight medical devices can make doctor-prescribed medical oxygen from the surrounding air, eliminating the need to carry heavy tanks and the worry of running out of oxygen. OxyGo provides customizable options and accessories, as well, including car chargers, backpacks and single- or double-cell batteries.
Lori McClung & Scarlett Bouder
Advocacy & Communication Solutions LLC
Fifteen years ago, Lori McClung and Scarlett Bouder joined forces to cofound Advocacy & Communication Solutions LLC, a national communication, advocacy and strategy development service provider for government, nonprofits, philanthropy and for-profits. ACS helps organizations advocate for policy change and communicate effectively with audiences who have the power to effect change.
McClung and Bouder have fostered project success and intentional, steady revenue growth through a three-part, “magic” formula: working only with clients and issues they care about, having flexibility to scale their teams of experts to match client need and carrying a small but purposeful portfolio of clients. This formula has empowered ACS to provide individualized attention to its client base and earned it numerous awards and accolades.
Sam McNulty’s knack for envisioning beyond what is to what could be has helped him to achieve success as a real estate developer, investor and restaurateur. He’s applied his visionary skills to contribute to the revitalization of West 25th Street in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, founding Market Garden Brewery, McNulty’s Bier Markt, Bar Cento, Speakeasy and Nano Brew.
McNulty achieved these successful ventures with the help of business partners Mark Priemer, Mike Foran and Andy Tveekrem, relying on complementary skills without the need to bring in outside investors. When they opened their first venture, Bier Market, in 2005, they faced significant criticism due to the condition of the neighborhood. However their efforts paid off, and today, West 25th Sreet is a thriving destination.
Founded in 1920 by Pauline and Harold Keil, long-time paper merchant Millcraft has sustained customer-centric values for nearly 100 years through three generations of women owners. Now in its fourth generation as a family-owned business, Millcraft is steered by President Travis Mlakar.
Mlakar continues to focus on Millcraft’s legacy of family and community, leading the company into new markets and diversifying capabilities through strategic acquisitions. He drives Millcraft’s commitment to supporting sustainable forest management, adhering to both the Forest Stewardship Council® and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® Chain-of-Custody Standards in providing responsibly sourced paper products.
Millcraft has experienced consistent revenue growth year over year and earned numerous industry recognitions. The company has 250 employees, 17 locations and more than $250 million in revenue.
Owner and president
In 1996, Dominique Moceanu became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in U.S. gymnastics history at the age of 14. Since then, she’s become widely known for more than her gymnastics prowess; Moceanu has become a passionate national advocate for a safer gymnastics and youth sports environment, free from abuse.
To build upon this legacy, she opened a state-of-the-art gymnastics facility, Dominique Moceanu Gymnastics Center, in 2018 in Medina. She’s overseen every detail, with a focus on athlete health and safety, as well as joyful celebration of the sport. A place where every family member can enjoy activities ranging from instructional gymnastics and gymnastics camps to yoga, the center is a safe space for young athletes, embodying the motto “Peace. Strength. Balance.”
Bernie Moreno Cos. /
Local car mogul Bernie Moreno has become a well-known advocate of blockchain technology, a digital, decentralized and public ledger for recording transactions — and its potential to aid in the revitalization of Cleveland. With the goal of making the city ground zero for this young, still-emerging technology, Moreno has brought together a collection of Northeast Ohio’s top leadership minds in an initiative called “Blockland.”
This collective seeks to create a technology and innovation ecosystem that would be for blockchain what Silicon Valley was for internet and digital technology — a hub that will attract significant investment, new jobs and new residents to Cleveland. To ensure success, Moreno has united resources under 10 strategic focus groups spanning talent development, business applications, legal systems, research and more.
When Fred Ode started Foundation Software in 1985, it was a one-man operation. Today, the fast-growing, family-owned national seller of software and payroll services employs a team of 300 and counting. Recognizing early on the accounting complexities faced by the construction industry, Ode has focused on creating smart, contractor-specific software solutions through both Foundation and sister company Payroll4Construction.com.
Staying on top of shifts in both the industry and in technology, Ode continues to finetune his signature FOUNDATION construction accounting software solution to meet user needs, even undertaking a complete rewrite at one point in the 1990s. Most recently, he built out Foundation’s Research & Development Department, developing complementary products, features and services that have generated continued growth and development.
John T. Petures Jr.
President and CEO
Akron Community Foundation
When John T. Petures Jr. took the helm of Akron Community Foundation — a permanent philanthropic endowment targeting Summit County residents and Greater Akron — in 2008, the Great Recession dipped the foundation’s assets from nearly $140 million to less than $100 million. However, through smart, strategic planning with his staff and board of directors, Petures not only guided the foundation through the recession but developed new ways to revitalize the community resource to reach record growth.
By overhauling outdated policies and procedures both internally and externally over the past decade, Petures has fostered better relationships with potential donors and existing fund holders. In that time, Akron Community Foundation has nearly doubled the number of charitable funds to 640, growing to $215 million in assets.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary, refractometer solutions provider MISCO is a well-established organization. However, under the leadership of CEO Michael Rainer, the company has maintained the fresh energy and atmosphere of a startup, constantly evolving to stay relevant and innovative within the market.
While the company is singularly focused on offering refractometers, Rainer has overseen research and development to branch into a diverse set of industries and developed refractometry products and services tailored to the unique needs of those industries. Concentrating MISCO on perfecting instrument capabilities to outperform its competition, its Model AQUAR-H2 has been hailed as the Rolls Royce of refractometers, rated by FishLab as the best overall and the most precise on the market. MISCO’s newest refractometer also features innovative IoT capabilities.
President and CEO
People Services Inc.
Doug Sibila leads People Services Inc., a network of companies dedicated to providing quality supply chain logistics services and value-added services. Prioritizing acquisitions as the key to People Services’ growth, he’s undertaken a number of them over the past eight years, including an acquisition of Terminal Warehouse that doubled the company’s size.
Strategic buys have expanded People Services’ warehousing and logistic services capabilities across polymers, chemicals, automotive, industrial, consumer goods and, most recently, food-grade storage. They’ve also seen the organization expand into seven states with 42 locations.
With Sibila driving enhanced corporate planning, technology investments and human resource functions across the company, as well as smooth acquisition integrations, People Services has doubled in revenue since 2012 and more than quadrupled from 2009.
The Illuminating Co.,
A FirstEnergy Co.
John Skory began his career with electric utility provider The Illuminating Co., A FirstEnergy Co., in 1977, washing trucks and reading meters. Over the following four decades, he worked his way up the corporate ladder with passion and a dedication to learning, to become regional president of the organization. A Cleveland kid at heart, Skory has spent seven years in this role, largely focused on developing his Northeast Ohio employees and the community at large.
Internally, Skory has made a significant investment in professional training and continuous improvement initiatives, including a recurring training program for front-line employees who perform hazardous electrical work, as well as team-developed servant leadership training, which has helped union and nonunion leaders hone traits of selfless leadership.
Garland Industries Inc.
David Sokol joined Garland Industries Inc. — a manufacturer and distributor of roofing and building envelope solutions for construction, retrofit and renovation needs in commercial, industrial and public building markets — in 1990, working his way through management positions and contributing to record-setting growth. He was promoted to president in 2004, and he’s since led Garland in a smart merger and acquisition program that has enhanced its manufacturing capacities and expansion into new building maintenance and waterproofing markets.
Sokol focuses on promoting a family atmosphere and providing front-line assistance and support to Garland’s salesforce and the leadership of Garland’s subsidiaries. This growing team consists of more than 1,280 employees generating corporate revenue in excess of $735 million annually.
Alison A. Spitzer
The fourth generation of her family to lead Spitzer Management, a network of dealerships selling new and used vehicles, President Alison A. Spitzer is making strategic moves to ensure the business makes it to a fifth generation. Focused on building a team with a common vision and being open to the ever-changing market, she’s made great strides for the organization, reducing turnover and navigating shrinking industry margins.
Spitzer’s efforts have earned her recognition in Cleveland Crain’s 40 under 40, Automotive News 40 under 40 and Automotive News 100 Leading Women lists. She is one of only a handful of women on the retail side of the industry to have been honored in the history of the latter award, which is only given out every five years.
Bill Spohn Sr.
President and CEO
TruTech Tools Ltd.
Established in 2007 by President and CEO Bill Spohn Sr., TrueTech Tools Ltd. is an online distributor of advanced tools and test instruments for technicians serving the HVACR, building performance and weatherization markets. As a digital platform, TrueTech rarely encounters customers in person, so Spohn focuses on providing excellent engagement, training tools and resources through website, podcast and social media channels.
TruTech harnesses the power of the internet to increase customer intimacy and crowdsource ideas to improve its business and those of its vendors, serving as a channel for users to provide feedback to manufacturers on likes, dislikes and suggestions for product improvement. Its smart digital strategy has contributed to multiple years of double-digit growth and receipt of the Inc. 5000 award in 2016 and 2018.
Through a combination of luck and strength of vision, the Gervasi family acquired the nearly abandoned Jabberwocky Tree farm in 2009 and turned it into Gervasi Vineyard, a premier winery and vineyard in Canton. Today, each year the 55-acre estate attracts more than 200,000 visitors looking for a great place to dine, spend a getaway or host an event.
General manager Scott Swaldo, son of owner Ted Swaldo, oversees operations and continued development of the brand, inspired by his family’s Italian roots. Under their joint guidance, Gervasi Vineyard has grown to encompass a winery, three restaurants, indoor and outdoor event venues, luxury overnight suites, a boutique gift shop and, coming soon, a state-of-the-art distillery and coffee house by day, cocktail lounge by night.
Jill Van Auken
Van Auken Akins Architects LLC
Despite the male-dominated nature of the architectural industry, Jill Van Auken founded Van Auken Akins Architects LLC in 1992 with a vision to earn a seat at the table and win projects that are rewarding, as well as have a positive impact on the community. Today, although licensed women architects account for just 20 percent of the profession, Van Auken Akins has built a staff that is 70 percent female.
While she is often the only woman at a project meeting or job site, Van Auken’s hard work and perseverance have allowed her to establish an impressive client list, with 80 percent of clients coming from referral. She also donates her time and services to schools to mentor the next generation.
Kevin R. Weidinger
President and CEO
Great Lakes Fasteners Inc.
Great Lakes Fasteners Inc. has supplied quality production and MRO fasteners to Midwest manufacturers since 1958. The organization has grown largely through strategic acquisitions, particularly after the economy slumped in 2008.
Unlike competitors during that time, President and CEO Kevin R. Weidinger led the company to invest in salespeople and work with manufacturers on process and cost reductions, suggesting less-expensive standard parts and more efficient ways to buy and stock production lines. The organization extended special credit terms to several clients to help them through the financial crisis. These efforts paid off, with Great Lakes Fasteners weathering the storm and benefiting today from a seasoned staff and loyal clients who have rewarded the organization with additional business opportunities and referrals.
Great Day Improvements LLC
dba Patio Enclosures
& Stanek Windows
Serial entrepreneur Ed Weinfurtner acquired Great Day Improvements LLC, the exclusive manufacturer and installer of Patio Enclosures® brand sunrooms and screen rooms, and Stanek Windows, in 2014. The organization was experiencing significant financial and operational challenges and suffering from low employee morale.
Weinfurtner came in with a simple strategy to turn the business around: Focus on the needs of the company’s customers and evaluate the organization’s core competencies. Driving continuous improvements backed by new tools to gauge real-time performance and customer satisfaction data, Great Day Improvements has since doubled in revenue size, expanded into nine new markets over the past two years and ranks as one of the Top 25 largest residential remodeling companies in the U.S. by Qualified Remodeler.
Sonia M. Winner
President and CEO
of Natural History
As president and CEO of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Sonia M. Winner leads the nearly 100-year-old institution’s efforts to leverage philanthropic support and share the impact of science education and research, both locally and globally. Backed by an outstanding team of world-class scientists, researchers and educators, Winner has been recognized by trustees for her effective leadership and strategy to deliver on the museum’s promise to create a more engaging and interactive showcase at the forefront of conservation, science education and scientific discovery.
Winner has made notable strides in talent management and development for the museum, with a passion for nurturing STEM-based careers for women. She oversees the continued modernization of the museum campus, ensuring renovation projects respond to changes in technology, science education and the community.
John Ziss Jr.
Executive vice president
Kurtz Bros. Inc.
John Ziss Jr. is part of the fourth generation of Kurtz family members moving into leadership roles at landscaping supply and delivery company Kurtz Bros. Inc. Over the last decade, he’s contributed to the expansion of the company, building a vision for the future that includes broadening of the company’s products and services offerings, and its reach both regionally and nationally.
As executive vice president, Ziss takes a hands-on approach to leadership, working beside employees to support and encourage them to be the best they can be. He’s also working to implement a continuous improvement model across company operations, products and services to ensure the company is the best it can be. His smart strategies have helped Kurtz Bros. develop into a leader in the waste-to-resource industry in Northeast Ohio.