Introducing the leaders of the region’s smartest companies
Chase is honored to partner with Smart Business to present the 2014 Pittsburgh Smart 50 Awards. On behalf of our local team, we are thrilled to be part of this special celebration of leadership, innovation and impact in our community.
The inaugural class of Smart 50 honorees represents a diverse set of businesses and industries, but each winner shares an inspiring commitment to his or her organization and our community. We congratulate them on their well-deserved recognition for leading successful organizations.
The Smart 50 honorees have all contributed to the city of Pittsburgh — standing as a source of inspiration and leadership.
While the national economy slowly gains momentum, Pittsburgh has emerged as an enviable hotbed of innovation with industries such as advanced manufacturing, health care, education and technology fueling job growth and new investments.
Our population is growing for the first time in decades and we’re frequently ranked on lists like Business Insider’s 15 Hottest American Cities of the Future, Gallup’s Nine Cities Where Businesses Are Hiring the Most, and ranked second on MetroMonitor from the Brooking Institute’s 20 Best-Performing Cities in America.
For these and many other reasons, our Chase Commercial Banking team is proud to call Pittsburgh home and to be part of this community. Our local bankers are dedicated to helping smart leaders seize the opportunities that bring their goals within reach — offering proactive insight, tailored financial solutions and personalized service to midsized businesses in the region.
We take pride in strengthening our community by helping local businesses thrive, and we are so pleased to see the continuing strength of our robust local economy.
Honorees listed in Alphabetical order by last name
Richard J. Alfera
President and managing partner
Goff, Backa, Alfera & Co.
President and managing partner of Goff, Backa, Alfera & Co, Richard J. Alfera, has led the company by developing a full set of business-focused capabilities typical of a large firm, but in a boutique setting.
He focuses on hiring young professionals and growing their skills and responsibilities, aiming to retain employees at the firm for the bulk of their careers.
Alfera has undertaken a focus on educating clients about the importance of the balanced scorecard approach to financial management to help organizations of all sizes translate strategy, align employee action and harness the full power of value-creating intellectual assets.
A second innovative practice of GBACO has been its focus on becoming “the CPA’s CPA.” Every business needs a good CPA — even a CPA firm. Alfera’s team is nationally recognized as one of the top firms that CPA firms call on to do their compliance audits.
President and CEO
Irwin Car and Equipment
Since President and CEO William Baker acquired Irwin Car and Equipment in 1993, the company has seen consistent growth because of the diversification of industries that Irwin serves, as well as the wide range of products that Irwin produces.
Under Baker’s leadership, Irwin focuses on opportunities for growth, expansion and the development of new customers in new industries.
The active pursuit of unique projects and outside-the-box applications continues to drive Irwin’s success. During Baker’s time leading the business, 16 product line acquisitions of synergistically related companies, as well as the addition of several distribution product lines combined with aggressive organic growth, have given Irwin the stability to survive difficult economic times.
Irwin now reflects Baker’s model for a company that is made up of multiple niche business units that are related at a common level, yet provide a sound and diversified mix of markets, products and industries to eliminate some market cyclicality that is a risk to the company.
President and CEO
Neil Campbell recently took over as the president and CEO of Precision Therapeutics, a personalized medicine company that seeks to improve the outcomes of cancer patients and their quality of life.
The company has been dedicated to personalized cancer care, and it offers a portfolio of products developed to help guide physicians and patients with difficult clinical decisions throughout the cancer care continuum.
During his career, Campbell has successfully developed and/or introduced more than 275 products and services in the areas of high-performance computing, medical software, Internet-of-things, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, clinical and industrial diagnostics, consumer health care products, research products, bioinformatics and nanotechnology.
Campbell, leading from a serial entrepreneur and institutional investor perspective, has experience in startups and raising capital from both the private and public markets. He also currently serves on several industry, government, nonprofit and company boards, and is an active author on a variety of subjects relating to the research, development and commercialization of science and technology.
Chairman, president and CEO
Since Carlos Cardoso joined the company as group president in 2003 and subsequently succeeded to his current role as chairman, president and CEO, Kennametal has improved profitability while sustaining growth at more than twice the rate of global industrial production in the markets it serves.
Under Cardoso, Kennametal has consistently earned more than 40 percent of revenues each year from innovative new products.
To offset the imminent retiring of the bulk of the industry’s workforce, the baby boomers, Cardoso has invested in software that amasses all of Kennametal’s information into an application that runs analytics on production processes and optimizes productivity.
In 2012, Cardoso also founded Kennametal’s Young Engineers Program to provide hands-on learning of advanced manufacturing to high school students.
To drive a philanthropic culture, Cardoso runs the Kennametal Foundation with a keen focus on funding, scholarships and support for post-secondary technical education and development.
Premier Innovations Group
Noah Cohen, CEO of Premier Innovations Group, focuses on innovation, employee empowerment, motivation and cultural development. He encourages his team to work the hours they want, incorporating the mindset of business as a lifestyle. The intent is to accomplish projects on time and create new ideas that benefit the company.
Cohen also has been successful in growing Premier’s brand with a limited budget by strategically offering equity instead of money for internal services, and then developing these stockholders into strong company officers.
As a philanthropist, Cohen utilizes Premier to give back to the community by donating products and money to more than 1,000 charities in the U.S. over the past three years
As the CEO of an alcohol importing company, he also fosters corporate and social responsibility by creating a mobile app for impaired consumers to find taxis and hotels. Cohen has also set up a yearly program to donate free taxis for New Year’s Eve to promote safe drinking.
Chuck Cooper III
Chuck Cooper Foundation
Starting with a group of volunteers, President Chuck Cooper III grew his nonprofit organization from the ground up, recently adding a full-time staff member. Today, the Chuck Cooper Foundation is an incorporated nonprofit with a governing board and recently acquired a $75,000 grant.
The majority of the foundation’s activity focuses on granting graduate scholarships and providing leadership training to African-American students. Cooper was inspired by his father who was the first African-American to be drafted by the NBA, and who returned to Pittsburgh to take a position as the director of parks and recreation after earning his master’s degree.
Cooper also has successfully formed partnerships with organizations such as the NBA, as well as securing grants from Heinz Endowments and the POISE Foundation, and large sponsorships from companies such as PNC, Highmark and Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney.
Running the foundation with limited resources, Cooper has formed a self-sustaining organization by working with its scholars to develop their leadership skills and have them mentor others. This creates a system that seeks to retain promising young talent in the region and keep Pittsburgh one of the nation’s most competitive cities.
Frank J. Cservak Jr.
CM Services LLC
Frank J. Cservak Jr. is focusing the future of his architecture, engineering and construction management company, CM Services LLC, on energy. The core competency of the firm is designing buildings and understanding how they react in the environment.
Under Cservak’s leadership as president, the firm utilizes technology to bring buildings to the newly created standard of net zero energy. This means that on an annual basis, the total amount of energy used on a site is equal to the amount of renewable energy created.
CM Services offers environmentally conscious designs that mitigate impacts of climate change while lowering the building’s life cycle cost. The company provides clients with an energy model to show how much energy is used by heating and cooling, lighting, equipment and electronics, and makes recommendations on how to create a more environmentally friendly facility.
Cservak relies on the values instilled in him while attending the U.S. Military Academy, conducting all business with integrity and in a socially responsible and ethical manner.
Danielle Julia Cuomo
Virtual Assist USA
Virtual Assist USA takes advantage of technical advances to allow entrepreneurs, business owners and managers to have their own virtual assistants to perform tasks such as marketing, social media, Web design and administrative assistance.
President Danielle Julia Cuomo has taken the company ahead of competition by identifying areas where others weren’t excelling — expansive service offerings, turnaround time and bandwidth.
She was first in the industry to offer more streamlined project management solutions, personality profiles for interviews and 24/7 dashboards with time reporting.
Cuomo pushes staff to do more, and reiterates that mistakes are OK because making them is the only way to know if you are doing something right. She believes in changing your business before you have to, because it’s too late if you’re responding to changes in competition or landscape.
She also says real CEOs do the dirty work, and would never ask employees to do something she would not do herself.
Jeffrey T. Deane
Jeffrey T. Deane was the CEO of public accounting firm Malin Bergquist & Co. when, in 2013, he helped design his company’s merger with BKD LLP, one of the largest CPA firms in the U.S.
Deane is now the managing partner of BKD’s Pennsylvania offices, focusing his efforts on growing the firm, bringing new practice specialties to local employers and hiring new talent.
BKD’s Pennsylvania offices have seen new business opportunities increase by 20 percent.
The firm has hired experts in fields such as health care and international transfer pricing, and Deane has initiated a campus recruiting program.
He is also leading implementation of “The BKD Experience: Unmatched Client Services,” a written guide for conducting business and sustaining BKD’s positive reputation for client service among CPA and advisory firms.
In addition, Deane is an elected member of the leadership body of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, serves on the executive committee of the German-American Business Circle of Pittsburgh and chairs the German Executive Group.
Chairman, president and CEO
Randall Dearth joined Calgon Carbon in 2012 as president and CEO after having served on the board of directors since 2007. He was named chairman of the board of directors in May 2014.
Over the past two years, Dearth has initiated a $40 million cost improvement program that included global procurement initiatives, long-term raw material supply strategies and product rationalization. He also invested in existing plants and technologies to allow for future growth, and invested in internal reporting processes to streamline global business activity.
Calgon Carbon released its first sustainability report in 2013, allowing the company to make sustainability a business driver.
In addition, Calgon Carbon is applying for its Responsible Care® certification, based on industry standards to improve product safety.
Under Dearth’s leadership, the company continues to invest heavily in research and development. It currently offers carbon technologies used in more than 700 market applications from purifying air and drinking water, to purifying foods and pharmaceuticals, to separating gas and removing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Gary DeJidas, P.E.
President and CEO
GAI Consultants Inc.
A 40-year veteran of GAI Consultants Inc., President and CEO Gary DeJidas, P.E., leads a company that was one of the few engineering consulting firms to increase its staff during the economic downturn of 2008-2009. GAI not only grew but also completed the largest acquisition in the company’s history.
GAI has expanded to new regions and added services in water resources, nuclear power plant development, mechanical and electrical engineering, real estate counseling and rail transportation. DeJidas has established company-wide quality control and safety programs, formalized a client care program and established a leadership development and succession-planning program.
Never a micromanager, DeJidas hires the best and entrusts his management team to carry out the company’s vision, offering guidance and support along the way.
DeJidas also has spearheaded employee-focused initiatives including fostering a sense of camaraderie through a “one company” mentality, an employee stock ownership program, a safety management program, profitability awareness, leadership development, a GAIM Plan where personal goal setting takes the place of performance reviews, and a quality management system program.
Nicholas J. Deluliis
President and CEO
CONSOL Energy Inc./CNX Center
President and CEO Nicholas J. Deluliis is leading CONSOL Energy Inc./CNX Center and its natural gas division that has grown from a pure-play coalbed methane producer to a full-fledged exploration and production operation.
The business is a leading producer in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, with aggressive growth targets over the next several years in the Appalachian Basin.
The diversified energy company also sells its premium Appalachian coals worldwide to electricity generators and steelmakers.
Founded in 1864, CONSOL Energy today generates the fuels — natural gas and coal — that comprise two-thirds of the nation’s power supply.
Under Deluliis’ leadership, the company is establishing new record levels of natural gas production and economies of scale-driven lower unit costs, positioning CONSOL Energy for continued success in its 150th year of operation.
The Forbes Funds
Since assuming the presidency of The Forbes Funds in 2013, Kate Dewey has built upon her decades of experience creating nationally recognized nonprofit programs, expanding the organization’s goals to connect technologists and entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh with the nonprofit sector.
She is also working to accelerate new operating prototypes that include public/private partnerships. For example, The Forbes Funds and TowerCare Technologies are partnering to prototype an online fundraising platform that aims to appeal to millennials.
The first live demonstration in October centered on veterans. It involved six regional organizations and is projected to net approximately $4 million in three years.
In August of this year, The Forbes Funds also requested and was awarded a grant of $1.05 million from the BNY Mellon Foundation to develop and launch a new impact-investing pilot program targeted at developing new market-ready technologies that improve the efficiency or effectiveness of nonprofits. This is the largest grant ever given by the foundation other than to institutions of higher education.
John R. Dickson IV
President and CEO
John R. Dickson IV has served as the president and CEO of Redstone Highlands since 2001.
In his first year leading the organization, Dickson helped Redstone become the first not-for-profit long-term care organization in the U.S. to endorse the Quality First Covenant with LeadingAge, which embraces the highest standards for aging services.
Dickson also designed financial restructuring plans to position Redstone to refinance its debt and better meet stakeholder needs.
With an awareness of the changing senior services landscape, Dickson led Redstone to launch Senior Independence of Southwestern PA in 2010. This affiliation provides community-based services to seniors throughout the area, focusing on Redstone residents in need of additional support to remain independent.
In the spirit of nonprofit care, when through no fault of their own a resident’s personal financial assets is depleted, Redstone continues to provide a home for life for that resident. Last year, Redstone provided nearly $2.5 million in free care to residents in need.
President and CEO
Mt. Lebanon Office Furniture and Interiors
Mt. Lebanon Office Furniture and Interiors, under the leadership of President and CEO Jim Droney, is a company specializing in consulting, space planning, designing, selling, and installing office and classroom furniture in the Pittsburgh area. It has continuously updated and re-energized its showroom, including a makeover early this year.
The business has been in operation for more than 50 years, surviving economic downturns, floods and power failures, the transition from the original founders to the next generation, and other challenges.
The company also supports more than 200 local nonprofit organizations annually through financial aid, time, effort, free products and/or gift certificates.
Mt. Lebanon Office Furniture and Interiors prides itself on being sustainable by advocating and leading the office sustainability movement to reuse, recycle and rethink the office environment. And with more than 150 manufacturer and supplier partners, the company maintains a strong reputation in the industry.
President and CEO
JMJS Inc., dba COE Distributing
J.D. Ewing’s business model encourages collaboration between himself, employees, customers and vendors to foster a culture of employee empowerment and satisfaction. Each employee at JMJS Inc., dba COE Distributing, is given the opportunity to be a part of company decisions and direction.
He also makes sacrifices in order to see his company thrive and his employees have a career, not just a job. Ewing has worked many holidays so that his employees can be off with their families, and even has forgone his paycheck to invest more into the business to see it grow to new levels.
He reviews the decisions he makes for the company often to ensure they are working with the current economy and technology.
Under Ewing’s leadership as president and CEO, the company’s revenue and employee base has grown substantially. Since January 2010, total revenue has grown while opportunities for existing and new employees has stayed in step with growth.
President and CEO
Michele Fabrizi leads MARC USA as president and CEO with a five-year vision horizon to reinvent the marketing communications agency every five years as needed to stay ahead of industry changes.
The MARC USA teams are customized for each client to deliver integrated communication plans based on individual needs.
Fabrizi created a single profit and loss statement structure to foster collaboration and media-neutral solutions built on what’s best for the client. She also allied with Carnegie Mellon University to continuously develop her team’s skills in behavioral economics, decision-science, neuron marketing and advanced analytics.
Under Fabrizi’s leadership, MARC USA stands out from other agencies of its size for its breadth and depth of services, leadership in the application of behavioral economics and brain science, and its national focus with offices in Chicago, Boston and Miami as well as its Pittsburgh headquarters.
The company is marking its 60th anniversary next year and enjoys long-standing client relationships, including True Value Hardware since 1983 and Rite Aid since 1995.
Thomas Joseph III
Founder and CTO
Epiphany Solar Water Systems LLC
Epiphany Solar Water Systems LLC co-founder and CTO Thomas Joseph III focuses the company on “why” certain choices are made. Employees are encouraged to question the purpose of an action, and decisions are based on the same model.
The company’s goal is to solve the world’s problems by starting locally with the purification of water produced by hydro-fractured gas wells.
Epiphany has challenged conventional approaches in design and production of water desalination and purification technologies. Products are designed to be modular, robust and lightweight, using as many common, off-the-shelf components as possible to build a replicable and sustainable business.
Conventional desalination technologies such as reverse osmosis and multi-effect distillation are expensive and energy intensive. Epiphany’s technologies address these concerns. Although the company’s current focus is on local and regional shale oil and gas wells, the long-term vision is to take the lessons learned in treating water and apply them to treating less contaminated ocean and salt water throughout the world.
President and CEO
Tollgrade Communications Inc.
Tollgrade Communications Inc. is a worldwide leader in broadband testing equipment with more than 200 million copper phone lines tested daily.
Edward Kennedy joined Tollgrade Communications as CEO and president in 2010. Within his first year, he launched Lighthouse, the company’s flagship offering for the smart grid market, to diversify Tollgrade’s product portfolio.
Deployments and revenue from smart grid sensors doubled in 2012 and 2013. Last year, the company was recognized as the market share leader in its technology category.
The platform has been deployed on three continents, won eight awards and was recognized by former President Bill Clinton at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative Americas meeting, where Kennedy presented Tollgrade’s commitment to build a predictive grid with DTE Energy in Detroit.
Kennedy also had a vision to transition the company’s fault detection solution for copper telecom lines to electric power lines to aid utilities to decrease large-scale power outages.
The Rivers Club
Established in 1983, The Rivers Club offers full-service dining and athletic facilities, and is one of the top places to be seen in Pittsburgh.
However, membership and usage fell during the economic downturn. Club Corp., which owns and operates The Rivers Club, brought back original general manager Jack Kimbell to run the business and ensure the facility’s future.
As general manager, Kimbell conducted surveys, held focus groups and compiled an action plan of items to improve. Some were small things like uniform lighting, discarding mismatched silverware, painting, etc. Others were more significant — instilling a culture of service accountability, building a great place to work, changing staff who did not buy in, attracting great talent and bringing back a few senior staffers who left years ago. As a result, member dining is up 45 percent in the past 18 months and overall gross revenues are up 15 percent.
These efforts are leading towards The Rivers Club’s first Gold Circle of Excellence performance in the club’s 31-year history.
Rhiza CEO Josh Knauer envisions the company as a leading provider of marketing analytics, and a recent $3 million capital infusion will aid in accelerating that growth.
New products are expanding Rhiza’s suite of analytics with tools to rapidly create marketing plans, support cross-channel media buys and support the development of data-driven marketing and sales collateral.
The company’s core technology leverages advanced research in distributed systems, data visualization, geospatial analysis and predictive analytics in a platform designed to handle big data with ease.
The software as a service product is enterprise ready, and major media companies, including Comcast and Cox, use the platform. Knauer plans to continue to scale the software as a service model to make it accessible to midsize businesses and nonprofits needing to better target customers, donors and supporters.
Rhiza’s staff, which has more than doubled in the past six months, also gives back to the community by participating in local tech events, hiring student interns from area universities and lecturing on campuses.
Elite Orthotics Inc.
Elite Orthotics Inc., founded in 1998, was a profitable business, but Jeff Kuhn, president, determined that he needed to take the business to the next level.
Working with John Laslavic, a licensed business coach from Thistle Sea Business Development, Kuhn implemented new policies and procedures, job descriptions with key performance indicators and more, leading to substantial growth and profit.
The company is dedicated to raising the bar on quality standards and improving outcomes with custom-fabricated orthotic devices, including crow walkers, ankle gauntlets, pediatric braces, knee-ankle-foot orthosis, ankle-foot orthosis and supra-malleolar orthosis.
Kuhn, disappointed with an AFO device he wore, wanted to create a more superior fit.
Elite Orthotics uses a composite material that can be placed in a convection oven, heated to a low temperature, placed on a patient’s limb, wrapped to compress and molded.
Each product is designed for the individual patient, and also can be reheated and remodeled if a patient’s anatomy changes.
Black Knight Security
The partners behind Black Knight Security created a document entitled “Principals for Growing Value in a Privately Held Business” that defined company culture, and resulted in 46 percent revenue growth from 2013 to 2014.
Those philosophies are reflected in, “What we stand for,” a framed document President Dennis Lejeck keeps at his desk to inspire him on how to lead the company: continuous self-improvement; achieve desired outcomes; know your truths; work hard, work smart; high character behavior; and we will not be great by what we accomplish, rather by what we help others accomplish.
Black Knight Security differentiates itself from competitors by attracting and recruiting quality employees through an extensive screening and interview process that includes a nine-panel drug screen, personality profile exam and written essay. As a result, guard tenure is 2.16 years, while the average turnover rate in the private security industry is 125 percent.
Clients include the US Steel Tower, the H.J. Heinz Co. and Pennsylvania Department of General Services.
System One provides specialized workforce solutions and integrated services, with a focus on engineering and energy staffing. System One also has developed a proprietary vendor management system to provide clients with a single source, technology-driven recruiting and on-boarding platform.
Under the leadership of COO Greg Lignelli, System One has a proven methodology for connecting skilled energy candidates with global energy employers. Lignelli spearheaded the company’s expansion into oil and gas, wind and renewable energy, smart metering and utility support services.
He also championed the System One Technical Training Center, which develops a workforce for energy-related nondestructive testing and pipeline inspection.
In its first year, the company made a list of the 100 fastest-growing staffing firms in the U.S. — before Lignelli-led acquisitions of Compliance in 2011 and Joulé in 2013.
Today, System One has an employee base of more than 6,000 and operates through 40 offices nationwide.
John Patrick Lydon
As CEO, John Patrick Lydon leads nonprofit Auberle’s mission to help troubled children and their families while facing an uncertain economy, shrinking government funding and instability in private fundraising.
He has made achieving measurable and replicable outcomes a top priority — a focus that resulted in Auberle being named Agency of the Year in the U.S. by the Alliance for Children and Families.
Lydon challenges staff to ask how they will know a new project is successful, which has resulted in a 19 percent increase in numbers served in 2013, improved systems and diverse funding.
He empowers staff to make decisions and execute new projects, including launching 23 initiatives in one year. That approach has created a positive response among staff, with 80 percent of employees in a 2013 survey stating that they felt highly engaged.
He also advocates for human services throughout the region, leading an effort in 2012 that averted cuts by pointing out that the $5 million drew another $17 million in state matching funds.
Deep Well Services
When hydraulic fracturing attracted the oil and gas industry to the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in western Pennsylvania, much of the talent and investment came from traditional energy industry locations outside of the region.
President Mark Marmo and his partners at Deep Well Services figured that it was costly to bring in specialized piping and drilling equipment, presenting an opportunity for a local company that could prove it was just as competent.
Revenue has quadrupled since the company was founded in 2011, and more than 60 percent of employees are from Pennsylvania or West Virginia.
That growth also can be attributed to Marmo’s focus on listening to customers and becoming a technological leader in the industry.
Deep Well Services recently unveiled a unique, custom-made snubbing unit with features developed based on customer needs. Snubbers are used to cushion vibrations caused by drilling, and the company’s portable model is the most technically advanced in the field.
Kraig McEwen completely transformed Aesynt Inc., formerly McKesson Automation, since being appointed to lead the company as CEO in November 2011.
Realizing it couldn’t grow as quickly as desired while part of McKesson Corp. he took Aesynt private to better serve customers and employees while maintaining a leadership position in the health care market.
A senior leadership team marketed Aesynt to private investors and within five months Francisco Partners acquired the automation business, and then supported McEwen in his bid to acquire Health Robotics, a leading global supplier of automated technology for intravenous medication preparation, compounding and dispensing.
Aesynt has launched more new products in the past 12 months than in the previous four combined. Included among these was new enterprise inventory management system software, InsyteTM. All of the new products were designed to reduce medication costs for health systems while increasing quality.
The company has 54 patents and has aggressive annual goals for patent submission.
SMC Consulting LLC
Managing Partner Sam McWilliams started SMC Consulting LLC in 1999 with a few sub-consultants. Today, the firm has grown into a full-service interior design business that services clients in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.
The company offers a comprehensive menu of services and innovative solutions that provide measurable results. In addition to its private sector work, SMC Consulting offers public sector services marketed to government at the county, state and federal levels.
McWilliams has a passion to create exceptional work and make an impact on her industry. She is very selective when it comes to hiring designers, and seeks out candidates who share her passion and work ethic.
While focused on developing new talent, McWilliams also oversees all work at SMC Consulting — not a single document leaves the office without receiving her stamp of approval. Although others might delegate some responsibilities, McWilliams wants to ensure that the company’s work continues to be exceptional.
Tickets for Kids Charities
With only five full-time employees and a part-time assistant, Executive Director Rosemary Mendel oversees a program that has distributed more than 1.6 million free and discounted tickets valued at $40 million to in-need and at-risk children in western Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S.
Tickets are acquired through a donor network, and then distributed through social services agencies such as the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Clubs.
In 2013 alone, Tickets for Kids Charities distributed 106,993 tickets valued at more than $2.8 million, and partnered with 2,742 social service agencies.
The program provides underserved, low-income children and their families access to cultural resources in their communities. Potential donors are asked to imagine their childhoods without going to the circus, attending a ballgame or experiencing a concert. These childhood milestones are out of reach for a percentage of the population without the program.
Since joining the organization in 2013, Mendel has helped generate an impressive list of first-funders and donors.
Catherine V. Mott
Founder and CEO
Blue Tree Capital Group LLC
Founder and CEO Catherine V. Mott created Blue Tree Capital Group LLC to attract funding, create jobs and give back to the community. The company manages Blue Tree Allied Angels, a private investor group focused on area startup organizations, and the Blue Tree Venture Fund, started in 2014 to provide “follow on” capital for early-stage businesses.
BTAA, formed in 2003, was recognized by INC in 2009 as a top 50 angel investor network, and has invested about $30 million in 46 companies, creating hundreds of new jobs for the region.
The new venture fund has raised about $10 million, with another $20 million in the works. The fund will target 12 to 15 companies for investment.
Mott formerly served as board chairman of the Angel Capital Association and the Angel Resource Institute, focusing on best practices, professional development and public policy issues.
She also hosted a Leaders’ Conference to introduce colleagues to the many investment opportunities in western Pennsylvania.
Dennis M. Oates
Chairman, president and CEO
Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc.
Just two months after joining the board of directors at Universal Stainless & Alloy Products Inc., Dennis M. Oates was named president and CEO. As a first step, Oates refocused the entire company on a relentless pursuit of best-in-class lead times, on-time performance and customer responsiveness.
Lean manufacturing practices were implemented, capital investments were made to overcome operational bottlenecks, advanced metrics were adopted to monitor progress and the management team was built up with key members.
Oates gained the title of chairman, and then in 2011, acquired Patriot Special Metals. This move put the pieces in place to substantially broaden Universal’s production capabilities and its product range, while enabling its entry into new market niches.
The next phase for realizing the full benefits of the acquisition and moving Universal to more technologically advanced alloys was earning 12 major industry certifications that led to winning 33 new customer approvals in three years from companies such as Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation.
Women are a growing part of the energy industry. Their presence, however, has created a new need in what has long been a male-dominated industry — women’s apparel.
Amelia Papapetropoulos and the company she owns, Fire Within, have been actively filling that growing need.
Fire Within is the first company of its kind to take the lead on manufacturing industrial clothing for women. Many other companies feel that it is sufficient to provide smaller sizes of men’s apparel. Fire Within recognizes that women’s bodies are different, but the jobs are the same.
By researching and talking to women who use Fire Within products, the company has created a line that meets and exceeds the needs of women working in the energy industry, all while providing top-of-the-line safety features. By helping women in the energy industry, Fire Within is leading the way to get more women involved in one of the area’s fastest growing markets.
President and managing partner
While working at Borg-Warner, one of the largest suppliers to automakers around the world, Rocco Petrilli learned about an emerging field, super abrasive machining, which is sometimes described as grinding at machining speeds.
This SAM technology can save manufacturing costs, reduce the time required to manufacture parts and produce parts that last longer.
In 2011, after Petrilli left Borg-Warner, he learned that the company had made a strategic decision to abandon its SAM facility and get out of the business. Drawing on his network, he quickly put together an investment group and created Super Abrasive Machining Innovations or SAMI LLC.
Acting as president and managing partner, he located SAMI in Elk County, the global center of the powdered metal industry where the “hard parts” of cars are manufactured. Because these parts are so tough, SAM is a perfect technology for making them.
In the last four years, SAMI has quadrupled in size and is now working to identify potential acquisitions that would broaden its capabilities.
Loriann Putzier, along with her partner Rick Irwin, formed IntegraCare Corp., a for-profit operator of assisted, independent and memory care communities. As COO, Putzier has grown IntegraCare into a management company handling 12 communities with four more set to open in the next year.
IntegraCare’s success is largely due to the strong imprinting Putzier and Irwin have placed on the company. IntegraCare communities operate on a set of principles known as The Distinctives.
These 22 telltale characteristics of IntegraCare range from making sure each community has a front porch to encourage community, to aviaries that provide entertainment to residents and families, to cleanliness standards that include smell checks to ensure no IntegraCare community smells “like a nursing home.”
This focus has ensured sustained growth in practically every important measure over the past 15 years, top performance in regulators’ reviews and strong consumer satisfaction marks from patients and families.
President and COO
Rice Energy Inc.
Toby Rice founded Rice Energy Inc. in 2007, and the premise for the company was simple: To create a shale development company that delivers industry-leading results by leveraging technology.
As president and COO, Rice’s innovative leadership, uncanny ability to recognize potential and create the right team, and ability to generate pride, empowerment and ownership of the family-owned and operated company, ultimately culminated in Rice Energy going public in January 2014.
In an industry with an aging management demographic — Rice Energy’s executive team is nearly 20 years younger than the oil and gas industry average — Rice Energy has become a beacon for young, entrepreneurial minds.
Rice’s vision has shown that technology can enable the company to collect and process data and turn that information into solutions faster.
In this regard, youth and their embracement of technology is an asset. Today, Rice Energy is a top 40 producer of natural gas in the U.S. and manages approximately 2,000 sub-contractors on a daily basis.
When Michael P. Robb joined the Center for Community Resources as executive director in 2005, the nonprofit social service organization was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Under Robb’s direction, the organization has grown into three distinct nonprofits, tripling both its combined budget and staff. Seeing unmet needs, he created a nonprofit that supports other nonprofits that lack the financial capacity to fully achieve their goals, as well as property development and construction services with a nonprofit focus.
The organizations consistently offer services to individuals and the community that are essential, innovative, unique and demonstrate a commitment.
The nonprofits also expanded beyond Butler County. The Center for Community Resources provided services in Armstrong, Butler, Indiana, Lawrence and Mercer counties to more than 13,000 individuals last year.
This year, the agency expanded into Clarion County, working with Clarion County Mental Health to re-establish a consumer-led mental health drop-in center.
Now 10 years old, Excela Health continues to hold true to its mission of improving the health and well-being of every life it touches through its more than 4,700 employees, 585 physicians in 35 clinical specialties, 180 allied health professionals, 19 residents, and 1,000-plus volunteers and auxiliary members.
A Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation, Excela Health offers care across a continuum from prevention and wellness to emergency care, acute care, intensive care, outpatient care, physical, speech and occupational rehabilitation, home care, hospice, and medical equipment and supplies.
When Robert Rogalski became Excela Health’s CEO, the organization had recently undergone a merger of four hospitals — Latrobe, Westmoreland, Fricke and Mercy Jeanette. Mercy Jeanette has since closed, but the other three remain, and Rogalski has unified those cultures over the years.
Under the leadership of Rogalski, Excela Health remains a fiscally responsible organization, continuously looking for ways to consolidate, integrate and initiate practices and processes that can sustain the organization over time.
President and CEO
American Textile Co.
According to the Family Business Institute, only 30 percent of family-owned businesses reach the second generation and just 12 percent make it to the third generation.
President and CEO Lance Ruttenberg is the third-generation leader of American Textile Co., a provider of bedding solutions. It has been his family’s ownership that has enabled the company to thrive.
Over the past five years, the company’s strategy has delivered high double-digit growth as it expanded demand with new products and a growing customer base. This rapid rise is the result of a conscious effort to create innovative allergy and temperature control products that are recession proof, as well as the company’s calculated strategy to manufacture and ship items at four strategically located sites in the U.S.
This year, the company also opened a newly expanded manufacturing and distribution center that doubled its space and employment. This development makes American Textile part of the textile resurgence across the Southeast.
In 2015, the Silk Screen Asian Film Festival, dubbed one of the best Asian film festivals in the U.S., will celebrate its 10th year. The festival is expected to draw nearly 10,000 movie buffs to view nearly 40 films.
While the festival has proven a great success, its executive director, Harish Saluja’s vision for Silk Screen extends well beyond the screen.
Since its founding, Silk Screen has expanded to become a year-round organization with educational and entertainment offerings across western Pennsylvania. The programming ranges from Chinese dancers at Pittsburgh’s First Night Celebration on New Year’s Eve to thought-provoking screenings of Asian films in collaboration with two of the top private schools in the region.
Saluja also continues to innovate. His latest project, Silk Sounds, is a musical group that is a combination of Western and Asian cultures.
Silk Screen’s emergence as a cultural institution provides newcomers to Pittsburgh, and their neighbors with deeper Pittsburgh roots, an environment for great cultural interaction, understanding and art.
Charles “Chuck” Sanders
Founder and CEO
Urban Lending Solutions
CEO Charles “Chuck” Sanders co-founded Urban Lending Solutions in 2002 as a small title and settlement services provider. ULS and its subsidiaries offer a wide variety of services to clients, including mortgage fulfillment services, home retention solutions, valuation services, title and settlement services, document generation and call center services.
Sanders quickly understood that the backbone of a well-run outsourcing operation is a skilled and highly trained staff. ULS has developed a comprehensive approach to ensuring staff members reach their highest potential through four training programs.
BeUrban is a required compliance and ULS company-specific training that covers new employee orientation, and client contractual and regulatory courses.
[email protected] consists of readiness training that takes place to help new businesses and new employees to do their daily roles.
[email protected] are professional development certificate programs that help employees grow new skills outside their daily roles.
[email protected] is a program dedicated to building the capability of the company’s leadership.
Founder and CEO
While working as a creative director at the Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio, Jesse Schell was convinced to leave Disney to teach at the fledgling Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. From the moment he left, Disney pursued him to work as a consultant.
He founded Schell Games in 2002, where he serves as CEO, to make it easier for him to interact with Disney. Twelve years later, Schell Games is a dominant force in the transformational game market, a phrase Schell coined to describe games that use entertainment mechanics to positively transform players in a meaningful way.
The company’s projects in this space include a partnership with Yale University to produce an HIV-prevention game for teens, a mobile game focused on drug prevention for kids and an educational game that promises to transform the current K-12 school system.
Schell has grown his company to become the largest and most successful game studio in Pennsylvania, without taking on any outside investment.
Owner and executive chairman
As a third-party logistics provider to the consumer electronics industry, GENCO continues to innovate under third-generation Owner and Executive Chairman Herb Shear.
One of Shear’s more innovative accomplishments that has helped set the company up for another 100 years was when he transitioned the company from solution-based to a vertical market-focused company. For Shear, that involved employing a product lifestyle logistics approach, something innovative in the industry.
He’s been focused recently on organic growth and exploring ways to stretch the capabilities of the company through new market penetration, unique product lines and strategic acquisitions.
The company employs more than 8,000 people, yet Shear is an accessible leader. He gets to know his people and believes that innovation comes from understanding how front-line employees deliver products and services to customers, as well as listening to and acting upon the information gleaned from customers.
Founder and CEO
Founder and chief of marketing & sales
Founder and director of talent acquisition
When Chris Simchick, Scott Barnyak and Christy Maruca founded SDLC Partners they accepted two beliefs — to work smarter and harder than ever before, and to continue to grow individually for the company to meet its long-term objectives.
In developing SDLC’s operating core values, the three founders established metrics by which they would evolve opportunities, hire employees and govern the company. Along with a balanced value model, these principles became the bedrock of the company’s culture.
SDLC’s overall goal is to help clients execute strategies while balancing speed to market, cost and quality. By working smart and executing flawlessly, the company has become known as the execution partner of choice and a results-driven alternative to the large consulting companies.
Best practice chair
Around the globe each year, thousands of seasoned executives who have become chairs of CEO advisory groups for Vistage International facilitate more than 16,000 meetings for the organization’s nearly 20,000 executive members. They bring the organization’s motto to life: “Better leaders, better decision, better results.”
Among these coaches, Dick Singer is acknowledged as one of the best. Singer joined Vistage in 2003 and was named best practice chair for Pittsburgh and Northeast Ohio in 2011. Best practice chairs are acknowledged as the best of the best, and serve as mentors to other Vistage chairs. They are the coaches who coach the coaches.
As a Vistage chair with three groups in Pittsburgh, nearly 60 senior executives of regional businesses consider Singer their business coach and leadership guru, ranging from leaders with fewer than 10 employees to senior executives with thousands of employees and billions in sales.
In 2013, Singer was the recipient of the Pat Hyndman award, recognizing his service to the worldwide Vistage community.
David J. Stern
President and CEO
As the second-generation owner, president and CEO of Paris Cos., David J. Stern demonstrates an unwavering drive to be the premier textile rental company in his market area and a leader in the industry.
His constant focus on remaining true to the core values of the company and continually exhibiting those values in his daily life have resonated throughout the ranks of the organization to create a culture and service level that differentiates Paris Cos. in a mature industry.
Stern’s and Paris’ achievements in the linen uniform supply industry are even more notable in light of the nature of the industry, which is characterized by slow growth, heightened competition emphasized by pricing and declining profitability.
When the industry as a whole was reeling from contraction and uncertainty, Paris expanded. The company invested in the development of two 50,000-square-foot processing facilities in 2004 and 2009 that incorporated the most advanced technology available at the time.
SnapRetail was founded in 2010 when CEO Ted Teele and a team of experienced retail industry and technology professionals saw the need for retailers to compete better with big-box stores online. Today, thousands of retailers across the U.S. use SnapRetail to take marketing to the next level.
SnapRetail helps the cornerstones of these local communities compete with their big box competitors in a variety of ways. First, it provides an easy-to-use, affordable, Web-based solution for marketing automation, making it fast and simple for retailers to connect with customers and promote their products and stores.
Second, all customers have dedicated marketing specialists who provide guidance with the SnapRetail product, and with retail marketing in general.
SnapRetail also provides more than 100 educational seminars and webinars each year. More than 20,000 retailers attend the company’s free educational programs.
SnapRetail has provided its clients more time, more traffic and more sales.
President and CEO
As a family-owned company led by President and CEO Pete Tsudis, TruFoodMfg has experienced significant growth in the past 10 years, prompting it to rebrand itself in 2013. From its headquarters in Pittsburgh, TruFoodMfg has grown into a leading contract manufacturer of snack food products.
Growing steadily each quarter, the company is on track to produce more than 40 million pounds of nutrition and confection product — a 100 percent increase from the previous year.
What many companies achieve over several years, TruFoodMfg has experienced in two short years with sales increasing 100 percent each year. This growth also includes adding 300 employees and taking over a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing facility across from its original 97,800-square-foot plant.
While growth has been the primary theme at TruFoodMfg, leadership has stayed true to the company’s core values — honesty and integrity — which are the cornerstone of TruFoodMfg and the inspiration for its new brand.
TMD Holdings LLC
Henry Wang saw a new China emerging and a global market that was becoming increasingly reliant upon China for manufacturing. He decided to combine his heritage and entrepreneurial skills to create a new company that would provide companies around the globe with a one-stop approach to the production of consumer goods.
TMD Holdings LLC, the company Wang and his brother built, has emerged as a leading supplier of garden implements to Lowe’s, household goods for Target and many other specialty items that the TMD team designs and affordably produces in comparatively rapid fashion, sometimes as little as a few weeks from inspiration to production.
Wang has spearheaded the organization of the company as CEO, including its internal design department, which works closely with buyers at large retail chains to solve problems rather than simply produce products. Because of the company’s unique focus and its nimble approach to business, it has recorded double-digit growth each year of its existence.
Homeless Children’s Education Fund
Through countless networking events, fundraisers and everyday meetings, Bill Wolfe has shared the mission of the Homeless Children’s Education Fund all over town to not only spread awareness for the issue but also raise funds for an issue near to his heart.
Since he took the position of executive director, HCEF has increased the number of homeless shelters it serves from 17 to 25.
Additionally, HCEF has continuously served more than 2,500 children annually through its Gear for Grades backpack and school supply program, more than 1,000 children annually through after school and enrichment programming, and has added a scholarship program for homeless youth who are heading into secondary education.
Wolfe orchestrates a staff of six who reach thousands of children experiencing homelessness every year, and in 2012, he helped HCEF create Homeless Children’s Awareness Week to spread awareness throughout the Pittsburgh community about the issues children face in homelessness.
President and CEO
Jason Wolfe, a self-made, serial entrepreneur, has continuously built, sold and re-built companies over the past 20 years, including his latest venture, GiftCards.com, where he is president and CEO.
Wolfe focuses on three key areas to run his companies: strategy, people and execution. At GiftCards.com, he’s created a company that displays the stability of an established firm and the growth and culture of a startup.
The company is leading the way in the gift card industry by migrating from plastics to e-gifting. GiftCards.com is developing innovative apps and application programming interfaces to empower multiple commerce sites to offer online gift cards within their environments.
One of the firm’s most promising innovations is its patented gift credit app, GiftYaTM, which is a gift credit that is applied to the recipient’s debit or credit card. GiftCards.com believes GiftYaTM will eventually replace plastic gift cards because it is easy to use, customizable and can be used at any merchant worldwide.