cle_cs_KateBangKate Bang
USI Insurance Services

Under the leadership of Kate Bang, president of USI Insurance Services, the office has grown top-line revenue by 35 percent over the last two years and was the only office in 2013 to achieve USI’s Five Diamond status, which recognizes excellence in new business development, client retention and profitability.

Bang manages the benefits consulting and retention teams and works directly with clients to implement innovative solutions to control rising health care costs. In the male-dominated health insurance industry, Bang continues to rise to the top by not trying to be “one of the boys,” but instead identifying and implementing ways that her unique skills can redefine and exceed client expectations.

As one of only three female office presidents within the 34-office USI national employee benefits practice, Bang is dedicated to excellence in all that she does for her clients and employees, ensuring the success of not only the Cleveland office, but also the individuals who make up the team.

Bang’s impact on USI resonates in the words of Mike Sicard, USI chairman, president and CEO, who says, “Kate has been an innovative and entrepreneurial leader for our firm and earned her way to leadership and recognition through her efforts and professionalism. From building a trusted group of clients directly, she stood out as the person to lead our growth and expansion in Cleveland and has taken the opportunity and succeeded.

“Without hesitation I would introduce Kate to anyone looking for a role model for how to succeed in any firm, as well as in challenging firms and industries like our own which has historically fewer women in sales and leadership roles. If someone asked me to introduce them to someone in Ohio who would represent what our firm is about, I would introduce them to Kate Bang.”


neo_sw_StacyBonitzStacy Bonitz
Corporate controller
Philpott Solutions Group

While many companies didn’t have time for celebrating during the recession, Philpott Rubber observed two momentous occasions. The first was Philpott’s 120th birthday, the second occurred soon after when Stacy Bonitz became the first female executive in Philpott’s history when she took on the role of corporate controller at Philpott Solutions Group.

When Bonitz joined the company, Philpott’s culture was one of strong, well-practiced aversion to risk and resistant to change. Bonitz and President and CEO Mike Baach set upon a course so employees would be more confident in their ability to perform at ever-increasing levels. Bonitz created an environment with attractive dashboard where managers make decisions in real time, and easily review company progress, thus addressing challenges before they become costly mistakes.

“The enthusiasm she projects daily, regardless of the pressures she is under is infectious and catalyzes a positive attitude and productive behavior throughout our organization,” Baach says. “There is no more vivid example of how a challenge caused by the downturn in the economy can be turned into a profit-making opportunity than the one that resulted in the creation of Philpott Industrial Leasing Ltd.”

In concert with Bonitz and others on the finance team, Philpott in 2010 was able to found the industrial leasing entity by using cash on hand to place product on credit-worthy customers’ floors using a Philpott-funded three-year closed end lease.

“Because of the energy, creativity and focus of Stacy and her team, that idea became a profitable business in less than a month,” Baach says. “Similar ideas-to-reality stories have continued since Stacy joined us when there was only the Philpott Rubber Co. Her strong backbone, unconditional support and consistent efforts resulted in the creation of other Philpott companies: Philpott Energy & Transportation, Philpott Industrial Plastics, Philpott Specialty Products and Philpott China.”


neo_sw_VirginiaBowmanVirginia L. Bowman
Manager, Forestry Services
The Illuminating Co.

As a female professional in the male-dominated utility forestry field, Virginia L. Bowman has gained respect as a result of her educational background, training and on-the-job performance.

Early in her career with The Illuminating Co., Bowman gained knowledge of the challenges and opportunities inherent in distribution utility forestry operations through a close association with her manager. This mentoring relationship helped her acquire information from a 35-year veteran in vegetation management work, which is mostly done in residential areas.

There, the level of customer interaction is greater than for the distribution system, with many customers being greatly attached to the trees and vegetation growing in their yards and neighborhoods. Tree removal often generates opposition and even media interest, but Bowman learned the importance of being respectful to customers while always steering the reason for the work back to service reliability issues.

Bowman also learned to use her talents and skills to benefit the company. Her immediate priority upon promotion to a supervisory position was to hire qualified foresters to meet required staffing levels. In addition, she was tasked with improving service reliability by identifying those areas that had shown a higher degree of tree-related outages and then was able to develop a plan and budget to get the work completed.

A key accomplishment in her career occurred from 2012 to 2104 when she developed and executed a multimillion-dollar project to proactively remove trees affected by the emerald ash borer. These trees endangered electrical wires and equipment and could cause service interruptions. She actively engaged and empowered her staff and contractors to identify and address current and future ash tree threats to electric service reliability.

Bowman, manager of Forestry Services, is recognized as a rising star within the company’s management ranks, having produced excellent results in several cross-functional improvement initiatives.


neo_sw_TeresaHackTeresa C. Hack
President and COO
Channel Products

Teresa C. Hack is a leader. With a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s degree in organizational leadership, and a career path featuring a series of management and executive roles, it may seem obvious how and why she earned the privilege to run a manufacturing company.

A closer look, however, reveals her path was different than most. Her parents divorced when she was young, and although her grandparents stepped up to raise her, life was quite difficult. Hack dropped out of high school in the 10th grade and began working at a local diner.

While there were financial considerations among other factors that contributed to her short high school experience, she maintained her belief that she had the power of choice — either to be a victim of circumstance or aim high and rise above it all.

Eventually, Hack returned to school. She took a deep interest in leadership, personal development, business and similar topics.

Perhaps ironically, Hack chose a career in the male-dominated field of engineering and manufacturing to pursue her goals, climbing the ranks through a series of operational, management and corporate roles.

Today, she serves as president and COO at Channel Products, where she oversees a company culture that allows for autonomy, empowerment, a focus on individual strengths, a bias toward action, meritocracy and its “remarkable levels of teamwork.”

“To me culture is not just the foundation of a great company; it’s something to be lived, breathed and displayed with every interaction,” she says, adding that for those who want to know the source of a company’s values, it just takes a closer look at its leader.


neo_sw_RamonaHoodRamona Hood
Managing director
FedEx Custom Critical

It was almost 25 years ago that Ramona Hood started with FedEx Custom Critical as a receptionist. But she was becoming restless after spending several years in the position, she and decided to pursue a leadership role. She credits her mentor Virginia Albanese, CEO and president, with making her realize her potential, along with other mentors, coaches and sponsors who have guided her.

Hood transferred to another department in her efforts to climb the ranks within the company. After holding various positions in operations, she worked her way up to senior manager.

When she had served a number of years in that department, she knew it was time to get out of her comfort zone if she wanted to continue to advance her career. She then became a senior manager in the sales department, working on strategic sales and developing leadership in that department.

Hood was able to balance work, a home life and her education while at FedEx Custom Critical, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business management from Walsh University.

Her next stop was the FedEx Truckload Brokerage department, where she was again promoted, this time joining the company’s executive team in her current position as managing director of FedEx Truckload Brokerage.

One of her strengths is the ability to deliver results. In her eight years as managing director of FedEx Truckload Brokerage, revenue has grown more than 30 percent, while contribution margin has grown more than 20 percent.

She is now pursuing her executive master’s degree in business administration at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Hood also believes it’s important to give back to the community and has served on several boards such as court-appointed special advocates, Summit Education Initiative, American Red Cross, Akron Public Schools and Cleveland YWCA.


neo_sw_TraceyNicholsTracey Nichols
Director of Economic Development
City of Cleveland

Tracey Nichols has served as the director economic development for the city of Cleveland since 2008, when financial uncertainty reigned across the nation. During her tenure, Nichols has helped the city attract new businesses and assist in the expansion of others — nearly $5 billion in new construction has been realized despite the recession.

A significant challenge to securing development in Cleveland involves repurposing brownfield sites with environmental issues that had years of industrial and other use. Nichols has developed a strong proficiency for identifying resources to assess and clean the properties. Innovative programs such as the Vacant Property Initiative have resulted in reusing an abundance of vacant properties. Since 2008, the city has facilitated through the initiative $711 million in total project investment, creating 4,744 new jobs and retaining 2,160 others.

Nichols has also garnered positive results in economic development by leading her team to assist more than 560 projects that created 11,800 new jobs, retained more than 8,000 jobs and resulted in $146.8 million in new grants or pass‐through loan funding.

Under her leadership, the department created a strategy to increase and improve communication with the public. When challenged to find the expertise to create an informative website, she identified a “fellow” from the Marshall Fund who developed a user‐friendly, valuable and positive website to encourage investment in Cleveland.

In the past year, Nichols has been appointed to the Board of International Economic Development Committee and given two prestigious honors: Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits 2015 Public Executive of the Year Award and Crain’s Cleveland Business Women of Note Award.

Nichols previously served for 17 years with Cuyahoga County where she was the assistant director of economic development for her last four years. She earned her degree in business management, concentrating in accounting and finance, from Case Western Reserve University.