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Engineered expansion Featured

1:18pm EDT June 22, 2004
Entrepreneurs are often judged by their ability to overcome obstacles and stay in the race for the long run. Maureen Cromling, president and CEO of Ross Environment Services since 1982, owns the patent in perseverance.

Cromling's parents, Bob and Ada Ross, founded Ross Environmental in 1949 and sold it to their children in 1983. Cromling's brother, Gary Ross, was the heir apparent, but he preferred engineering to management, and in 2001, Cromling and her husband, Bill Cromling II took sole ownership.

Ross Environmental is one of three Ross companies - Ross Incineration Services Inc., Ross Transportation Services Inc. and Ross Environment Services Inc. - employing a total of 200 people.

Cromling learned the business from the inside out, which helped when the federal government jolted the hazardous waste industry with The Resource Conservation Recovery Act. She was saddled with instituting compliance, which led to an $11 million capital improvement campaign and established Ross Environmental as a technology leader.

When Cromling was appointed president, few women held leadership roles in waste management companies. She wasn't intimidated. Nor was she shaken up when, in 1995, an explosion rocked Ross' incineration system. She led the rebuilding and re-established approval with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; and six months later, Ross Environmental was back in business.

Cromling's next challenge came in 1996, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and, at the same time, had to deal with her mother's death.

"When you have that kind of event, it's life-changing," says Cromling. "I realized I could only do my best, and the people that were working for me could only do their best."

Cromling's illness helped her recognize her strengths and limitations, as well as her capabilities and those of her staff. Last year, the company invested in a $5 million business center and is now planning expansion. How to reach: Ross Environmental Services, (440) 366-2000 or www.rossenvironmental.com