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Jeff Baldassari wants you to know exactly what it took to build the product you buy from his company. The Taylor Cos. has taken a lead from the nutritional facts that are affixed to everything we eat and applied the same type of label to his products to explain their environmental footprint.

Labels include carbon emissions and water use on a per unit basis. They also include other key sustainability related information regarding the company’s products and practices. It’s part of an ongoing effort by Baldassari, the company’s president and CEO, to respect the environment through every step of what The Taylor Cos. does in its work.

The company has invested nearly $900,000 in energy-efficient equipment and combined with an energy audit and the implementation of better practices, has managed to reduce its energy consumption by 59 percent.

Sustainability is a part of the corporate culture at The Taylor Cos., whether you’re talking about employees, customers or people in the surrounding community. Baldassari works with his team to consistently find new ways to be a better steward to the environment and he speaks regularly about the topic to encourage others in the business community to take the same approach.

His company has made a significant effort in its own backyard, sponsoring scholarships in the Bedford Schools and through the volunteer participation of employees through numerous school and civic programs in Bedford.

Baldassari is also encouraging his peers in the furniture design industry to pursue better practices of sustainability. He has submitted a course called, “A Sustainable Approach” to the furniture designers’ governing body in hopes of gaining accreditation. The course would demonstrate to all the benefits of sustainability and help encourage companies to be thinking of the environment in everything they do, just like The Taylor Cos.

HOW TO REACH: The Taylor Cos., (440) 232-0700 or www.thetaylorcompanies.com

Published in Akron/Canton

Dianne DePasquale-Hagerty was not just looking for a job when she came to Medina Creative Housing. She was looking for a place that could help her physically disabled brother and autistic nephew and be a place of support and encouragement for her family.

She had taken some time off from her professional career to raise her son but was ready to jump back into her work. She had passion, creativity and a strong level of commitment to making a difference in the lives of others. But she quickly learned that while Medina Creative Housing shared much of her enthusiasm, it was an organization that was lacking in vision. There was no strategic plan in place to best meet the needs of Medina County’s disabled population.

After becoming executive director, DePasquale-Hagerty spent time with stakeholders of these services in an effort to find out what was working, what wasn’t working and what could be done to make it better. She was surprised to learn that many of the homes that were intended to provide disabled adults with independent residences were not very accessible to people with disabilities.

So she launched an effort to change that and ended up making an amazing difference.

“I’ve been on the board for six years,” says Michael Carlson, president of the board of Medina Creative Housing. “When I started, we had one employee: Dianne. Now we have 55 employees and a budget in excess of $1 million. This is a testimony to her energy, enthusiasm and dedication to providing housing to a population in our county that, in the past, wasn’t served.”

DePasquale-Hagerty has helped change the way society views people with disabilities. Instead of viewing them as a drain on community resources, she is building a model where people see that disabled individuals can give back to the community.

HOW TO REACH: Medina Creative Housing, (330) 591-4434 or www.medinacreativehousing.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 19:01

Ready, set...Action!

There is a lot of money to be made when blockbuster Hollywood movies are filmed in Northeast Ohio. But Ivan Schwarz is thinking about more than just dollar signs when he tries to bring new film productions to the region through the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.

Schwarz, the organization’s executive director, wants people who filming their movies in Cleveland for the first time to have a great experience while they are in town. He brings staff along on trips to other parts of the country to provide examples of what can make these experiences even better.

Schwarz is constantly looking to build strong local talent by working with his people to help them make great contributions to the production effort and take steps toward launching their own entry into the industry. He has worked closely with Cuyahoga Community College and other local colleges and universities on curriculum and staff development and has himself served as an adjunct professor for several classes.

Of course, in addition to these efforts, Schwarz also has his eye on the economic impact that movies can bring when they are produced in Cleveland. After years of lobbying, the two-year, $30 million Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit was passed in July 2009, helping to make Northeast Ohio a top destination for filmmakers. His efforts have brought more than 20 full-length feature films with local budgets in excess of $100 million to the area to be filmed.

He has also formed partnerships with Positively Cleveland to bring business to Cleveland’s hotels, Continental Airlines to bring in location scouts to see Cleveland’s attributes and COSE to work with small businesses and make connections to fulfill the needs of film production efforts. Schwarz has played a key role in positioning the film industry for long-term success in Northeast Ohio.

HOW TO REACH: Greater Cleveland Film Commission, (216) 623-3910 or www.clevelandfilm.com

Published in Akron/Canton

Dr. Lee Ponsky could not stand by and do nothing. He had just returned from a trip to Nigeria and watched as doctors used empty bread bags for surgical gloves and fishing line for stitches, putting patients at great risk during otherwise routine surgical procedures.

Ponsky discovered hospitals discard more than 2 million tons of medical surplus every year, including a whole lot of medical supplies and equipment that can’t be used due to strict regulations in the United States. These items would be of great benefit, however, to the people of Nigeria and other places where clean supplies are so scarce. He just needed a way to redirect the surplus to these people whose lives could be saved.

MedWish International was founded by Ponsky in 1993 to do just that. His goal was to create a non-profit organization that could facilitate the recovery and repurposing of otherwise wasted medical supplies and equipment. He founded MedWish in his parents’ garage just prior to beginning medical school at Case Western Reserve University.

The organization, which Ponsky leads as president, has grown quite a bit from those humble beginnings. MedWish now has a 38,000 square-foot home and is saving lives around the world. Over the past five years, it has recovered over 2.2 million pounds of lifesaving medical supplies and equipment from over 50 U.S. hospitals and has shipped aid overseas to 90 countries since its inception.

Ponsky’s drive and determination is fueled by the opportunity to help people who really need it. He is confident that he can do even more and continue growing MedWish International’s reach to help more and more countries. His efforts have saved lives and at the same time, lessened the load on the landfills where these tools were destined to end up.

HOW TO REACH: MedWish International, (216) 692-1685 or www.medwish.org

Published in Akron/Canton

KeyCorp has built a great partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure since getting involved with the cause in 2010, and a big reason why is the engagement of its employees in community service.

Beth E. Mooney, Key’s chairman and CEO, has challenged her employees and others in the community to “think about what you can do, individually or corporately, to step up and join in this important cause to fight for the cure.”

Mooney recognizes that while corporations can use their brand awareness to take a visible stand on particular causes, it’s the employees and their willingness to take action and get involved that truly makes the most difference.

When you can get your employees to say, “What else can I do to help?” you’re on the right path. This is what has taken place at KeyCorp, a company that has quickly become a role model for other participants in the annual Northeast Ohio Race for the Cure.

Key initially sought to raise $30,000 in pledges and was able to more than triple that goal, reaching $100,000 raised to support breast cancer research. This was done through a number of employee fundraising activities that were bolstered by matching donations from the bank.

The leadership team charged with coordinating KeyCorp’s efforts developed a state-of-the-art internal communication system with a Race for the Cure mailbox, an entire intranet section with a landing page, stories from employees and survivors, on-site registration and shirt distribution and mailings to all Northeast Ohio branches about fundraising activities and the sale of pink ribbons to customers.

And in March 2011, KeyCorp issued a $1 million grant to the national Komen organization to provide education and outreach to more than 100,000 medically underserved women and men in 17 KeyCorp communities.

HOW TO REACH: KeyCorp, (800) 539-2968 or www.key.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 19:01

How Cohen & Co. goes the extra mile

While it’s often heard that companies feel it is important to give back to local communities, Cohen & Co. puts a new twist on that.

For the firm’s flagship project, working with the United Way, it commits to not only running the local campaign but to a goal of achieving at least a 5 percent increase over the previous year’s results.

Under the leadership of Randall S. Myeroff, president and CEO, the accounting firm received the Pacesetter Award from the United Way. Cohen & Co. devotes an entire week for employees to participate in fundraising activities for the charity. Employees make donations to participate in things like the 50/50 raffle, ice cream social and game days. During United Way week, an online auction is held in which items donated by the firm’s partners and other management team members are sold to the highest bidders. Items range from tickets to sports events to a chance to sit in the booth with a radio personality.

Another project includes participation in the Day of Caring volunteer day. Employees from all Ohio locations volunteer at organizations within their communities and receive a day’s pay, as well.

Employees support communities in a variety of other ways. They are encouraged to participate in civic, charitable, business and professional organizations.

“As with the United Way, our employees get personally involved because they care, not because it adds something to their resumes,” Myeroff says.

As part of its internship program, the firm involves interns and staff on a day of service at the Cleveland Foodbank, working on the assembly line.

The company also helps out financially. More than $250,000 was given in 2010 to organizations ranging from Adoption Network Cleveland to Youngstown State University.

HOW TO REACH: Cohen & Co., (216) 774-1139 or www.cohencpa.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 19:01

How to really be there when your people need you

Matthew Figgie was in urgent need of a kidney transplant. Fortunately for Figgie, his friend and colleague at Clark-Reliance Corp., Rick Solon, was going to do whatever he could do to help. It turned out that the answer to Figgie’s need was closer than either he or Solon realized.

Another Clark-Reliance employee, Dave McKee, was tested and turned out to be a match as a kidney donor to Figgie. The transplant was done and two years later, both Figgie and McKee found themselves walking in the Cleveland Kidney Foundation Walk chaired by Solon.

The walk raised a record-setting $185,000 and as part of its role as a sponsor of the walk, Clark-Reliance contributed $7,500 as a scholarship donation.

But Solon, Clark-Reliance’s president and CEO, doesn’t stop there with his philanthropic efforts. He and the company helped Cleveland Public Theatre raise more than $200,000 for its 2010 annual fundraising effort. The contributions help promote the work of local artists and enrich the lives of at-risk children and youth, creating an outlet for those often excluded from participating in the arts.

Such efforts are indications of the belief that Solon instills in his employees to leave their mark and make a difference. Employees view community involvement and contributions as a portion of their overall mission.

Solon’s leadership skills have helped develop a corporate culture that empowers employees to be as compassionate about their community activities as they are about their work. The commitment to community is integrated into everyday activities as it generates feelings of respect, giving and enthusiasm. Many employees are involved in numerous community activities.

But perhaps the most rewarding act of compassion was within the company itself when one member of the Clark-Reliance team saved the life of another.

HOW TO REACH: Clark-Reliance Corp. (440) 572-1500 or www.clarkreliance.com

Published in Akron/Canton

Rick Solon started working at the former Figgie International when Matthew Figgie, son of company owner and Cleveland industrialist Harry E. Figgie Jr., was 10 and would pop in now and then wearing his T-ball uniform.

Little did Solon know then that the company culture he was absorbing would later play a big part in saving the life of that boy who grew up to be the chairman of Clark-Reliance Corp.

“Harry and his wife Nancy both started the culture and the mindset that this company was going to be run in as familial a way as it could ? that we wanted to make sure the community benefitted from that in ways that perhaps weren’t always particularly obvious.”

Solon shaped that philosophy further, empowering employees to be passionate about their work and equally compassionate in community and philanthropic activities. He and employees built a distinguished record of community involvement in causes such as the Cleveland Public Theater, the United Way and the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

But it was with the challenge of chronic kidney disease where the culture of giving also took on the sense of giving life.

Solon, president and CEO, spearheaded an effort to find a compatible donor for Matthew Figgie, his friend and colleague who was ill with kidney failure. In an incredible response, more than 80 people including a number from Clark-Reliance offered to be potential live donors.

“The doctors said that had never been heard of before,” says Figgie, chairman of Clark-Reliance. “That is humbling to say the least. The sheer numbers were unbelievable, and I to this day still get goose bumps.”

Solon, likewise, feels the same emotions.

“The fact that employees know Matthew is going to take his ? I will call it newfound life ? knowing that he is taking that so seriously and is willing to pay it forward, not only at the company level but at the community level and make sure to get involved in causes like the Kidney Foundation and such, that's incredibly inspirational to anybody, and it gives me goose bumps just talking about it.”

Figgie received a kidney donated by a Clark-Reliance employee, Dave McKee, on Dec. 1, 2009. Both Figgie and McKee are doing well. McKee gave Figgie some further reinforcement of his mission while they were both in University Hospitals.

“I was standing in his hospital door and said, ‘Saying thank you is so lame, what do I do?,’” Figgie says. “Dave said, ‘Matt, because of who you are and what you do, you are going to be able to touch hundreds of thousands if not millions of people. Make them better.’ So that's my daily mission to try to help other people.”

As for Solon’s mission, he chaired the 2011 Cleveland Kidney Foundation Walk to raise a record-breaking $185,000. Clark-Reliance was a corporate sponsor and its 162 walkers raised $2,869 in addition to a $7,500 scholarship donation from the company. Figgie will chair the 2012 Kidney Walk.

“Matthew’s need and desire for a kidney was our primary inspiration to get involved with the Kidney Foundation and the Kidney Walk in particular, but we got into that and found out that there are so many people waiting for a kidney,” Solon says. “When you are on the kidney transplant list, you are not sure there is going to be a life.”

“Kidneys are taken for granted until there is an issue,” says Amy Solmos Wayne, Northern Ohio regional director of the National Kidney Foundation. “Our job at the end of the day is to educate everyone. Diabetes and hypertension are the leading two causes of chronic kidney disease, and that is affecting a lot of Northeast Ohioans.”

Solon’s success with the 2011 Kidney Walk pointed out the importance of corporate sponsors and raised awareness about organ donations.

“It was a direct relation to companies that are doing business with Clark-Reliance,” Wayne says. “It's a whole community of support. It's their colleagues supporting their charitable initiatives. It's Rick Solon picking up the phone, telling people, ‘This is what we are involved in, we think it's a great idea and your company should get involved too,’ and they do. It is a perfect model of how this event supposed to work with having a corporate chairman.”

The Kidney Foundation asked Solon to serve on its board of directors, and he has accepted.

“With Rick on our board, we feel we will have a long-time corporate sponsorship, and we know they are going to want to be there because of Matthew's kidney transplant,” she says. “I think they will always continue to be one of our top five corporate teams, whether Matthew or Rick are chairing the event or not. They take it very seriously. They love what they've seen happen with the employees getting involved.”

Published in Cleveland

On the Monday after Thanksgiving every year, Paul Hanna sets up a live “Giving Tree” in the front lobby of Blue Technologies Inc. and decorates it with just lights. Hanna, the document management company’s president, then asks employees to bring in gifts to be given to the children of the Berea Children’s Home and Family Services.

For each gift they bring in, they are given an ornament to hang on the tree and before long, the tree is full of decorations.

It’s a program that brings smiles to a lot of children, but it also boosts the morale of Hanna’s employees. And that, in a nutshell, sums up the mission of Hanna and his team of partners, which includes Keith Stump, vice president of sales, Bill Nelson, vice president of territory sales, and David Morrill, sales manager.

Giving back to the local community in a way that helps children has always been part of Blue Technologies long-term vision. The company annually donates more than $100,000 to organizations such as the Cavaliers Youth Fund, the Bellflower Center for Prevention of Child Abuse, The Gathering Place, the Cleveland Browns Foundation, Applewood Centers, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Berea Children’s Home and Family Services.

Through its partnership with the Berea Children’s Home, the firm has become the lead sponsor in its annual golf outing, donating more than $20,000. In this difficult economy, the golf outing grosses about $125,000 to $140,000 to award scholarships to children in need. Last year, scholarships totaling $115,000 were given to 23 students.

Employees also stepped up in May when a tornado ripped through Joplin, Mo., collecting food and clothing for the victims. The items were packaged and later shipped to the American Red Cross to help more than 100 people in Joplin.

HOW TO REACH: Blue Technologies Inc., (216) 271-4800 or www.btohio.com

Published in Akron/Canton
Thursday, 27 October 2011 16:46

Building a database of philanthropy

For Doug Kridler, president and CEO of The Columbus Foundation, philanthropy is about moving communities forward and building bonds between the inhabitants. To encourage philanthropy, Kridler says citizens must be given convenient access to information on local nonprofit organizations, including what they stand for and exactly how to donate. To this end, The Columbus Foundation has created an online database of such information.

The foundation has enabled more than 1,800 individuals, families and businesses to create unique funds to support community causes they care about. Donors have granted more than $1.2 billion since its founding in 1943, making The Columbus Foundation the ninth largest community foundation in the nation.

Because of Kridler’s leadership in inspiring investment in central Ohio, Smart Business, U.S. Bank and Blue Technologies named him to the 2011 class of Columbus Smart Leader honorees. Kridler told us how The Columbus Foundation uses its information database to make philanthropy easier and more accessible.

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

There is a need for donors to have access to the best information possible to make sure that what they are given is informed and effective. We created an online information and giving platform that enables foundation donors and the general public to access information about our local nonprofits’ finances, stewardship, mission and programs online, anytime.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

Innovative leaders are those that recognize that great ideas can come from anywhere in an organization. I try to nurture an atmosphere of support and respect for innovative thought throughout our organization.

In terms of innovation in our services to our donors and to our community, Power Philanthropy, our online database of community information, is cutting edge in our field. It helps donors get online, 24/7 access to information to help ensure that their giving is as informed and effective as possible.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

Philanthropy invests in the best ideas to help people move their lives and their community forward.  Last year, we and our donors invested over $80 million. We also work hard to celebrate points of community accomplishment.  The Gallup Organization recently released a three-year, 26-city study that concluded that ‘Emotional connection does drive economic growth in communities. Surprisingly, social offerings, openness and beauty are far more important than people’s perceptions of the economy, jobs or basic services in creating a lasting emotional bond between people and their community.’ We are about building that bond, the community pride that inspires optimism and continued investment in community progress.

How to reach: The Columbus Foundation, (614) 251-4000 or www.columbusfoundation.org

See all of the 2011 Columbus Smart Leaders on the next page.

Together with U.S. Bank and Blue Technologies, Smart Business named the following honorees to the 2011 class of Columbus Smart Leaders:

*Indicates Women Presidents’ Organization Breakthrough Business Leader

Published in Columbus