Newsclips Featured

9:32am EDT July 22, 2002
Local lenders recognized

Former Congressman Louis B. Stokes and Gilbert Goldberg, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration's Cleveland District office, recognized four leading SBA lenders for loans made to minority-owned and small businesses. The SBA office guaranteed more than 800 loans for more than $150 million in 2000.

Last year, a record 127 loans, or 16 percent of all loans guaranteed by the Cleveland district office, were made to minority-owned businesses. National City Bank was the Leading Loan Volume Lender, with 126 loans totalling $21.6 million, and Key Bank was the Leading Minority Loan Volume Lender, with 19 minority loans totalling more than $6 million.

Community lender Second Nation Bank of Warren was the Community Leading Loan Volume Lender, with 86 loans at $9 million, and Mid-Am Bank of Toledo was Community Leading Minority Loan Volume Lender with 12 minority loans totalling more than $2 million. The organizations were recognized at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nov. 16.

CSU president to lead education council

Claire A. Van Ummerson, president of Cleveland State University, has accepted the position of vice president and director of the American Council on Education's Office of Women in Higher Education. The American Council on Education is an association of 1,800 member colleges and universities dedicated to analysis of higher education issues and advocacy on behalf of quality higher education programs.

Van Ummerson will coordinate OWHE's efforts in conjunction with higher education associations to address gender equality and women's leadership issues, consult with educational institutions on equality and promotion matters, and help develop strategies to respond to female students' concerns. Shen joined CSU in 1993 and will take her new position some time before June of next year.

In her tenure, Van Ummerson led an extensive building construction program, implemented innovative degree programs and quadrupled CSU's endowment.

A new chair

William F. Patient, retired chairman and CEO of the Geon Co., has been elected chairman of the Cleveland State University Foundation. For the past seven years, Patient has served as a member of the university's board of trustees, the past two years as chairman. The foundation, a nonprofit organization, solicits, receives and manages gifts and distributes funds according to the donor's wishes.

Patient succeeds Steve Percy, who chaired the foundation for four years. Patient joined the BFGoodrich Co. in 1989 as senior vice president and president of Geon Vinyl Division. Four years later, Geon spun off as a separate public company, with Patient as chairman, president and CEO. He retired in 1999.

"Corporate leaders need to be community leaders," he says "I am proud that as a CSU trustee, I was able to help the university grow into the outstanding institution that it is today. As we face tight budgets, and public funds for higher education continue to decline, it is critically important that the foundation expand its fund-raising base. I look forward to leading the foundation and finding creative new sources of public and private financial support for this university."

Would you like fries with that contract?

In a survey by Robert Half International Inc., a staffing service specializing in accounting, finance and information technology fields, 49 percent of executives polled said their most successful business meetings outside the office were conducted over a meal. The survey included responses from 1,400 CFOs from a random sample of companies with more than 20 employees.

The second most successful location was the golf course, 9 percent; a trade show or conference, 7 percent; the car, 5 percent; a sporting event, 3 percent; and on an airplane, 2 percent.

FirstMerit builds branch

FirstMerit Bank has opened its newest Cleveland branch at 10717 Lorain Ave.

FirstMerit has built two branches in Cleveland in the past five years, and is the only bank to build stand-alone branches in the city in the last 10 years. The new Westown branch is across from the Westown Plaza and will provide West Side residents with a full range of retail and commercial banking services. It will be equipped with two drive-up teller windows, a drive-up ATM, safety deposit boxes and customer dedicated parking.

High residential demand for a full-service bank and the expansion of local businesses contributed to the decision to build. FirstMerit Corp. is a financial services company with 170 banking offices in 22 Ohio and Western Pennsylvania counties.

So much technology, so little time

A recent survey finds that human resource departments have budgets for technology but are confused about how to spend them. RewardsPlus, a Baltimore-based benefit solutions firm, polled 291 top human resource/benefits executives about technology.

The survey found that 55.6 percent of HR professionals say the biggest issue is choosing the right technology to meet the ever-increasing scope of their responsibilities. More than 9 percent of those surveyed were concerned about using new technology; 4.2 percent were concerned the human resources department will be ignored for future purchases. Only 21.4 percent say the cost of technology is their biggest concern.

HR executives were also asked about the top challenge they faced. Retention and recruitment were cited by 56.7 percent, up from 52 percent last year; management of corporate growth and change, 16.3 percent; and employee motivation, 11.5 percent.

Arras acquires Brandhouse Consulting

Arras Group, a Cleveland-based integrated marketing communications agency, has acquired Brandhouse Consulting Group. Arras, founded in 1991, specializes in market research, sales promotion, direct marketing, advertising, merchandising, sales support and public relations.

Brandhouse brings to the coupling a focus on the home marketplace with client such as DuPont Sleep Products, General Electric, MTD Yard-Man and Karastan. The incorporation of Brandhouse will add to Arras a focus on the development of marketing communications programming, research and development and branding and positioning of products. Brandhouse founder Greg Iszler will remain as president of the Home Division.

"This is a natural fit for us," said Jim Hickey, president of Arras Group. "Our agency is based on integration. ... As a result, we will enhance our ability to provide actionable insight to our clients on an ongoing and timely basis."

Marconi multiplies

With business in its DC Power unit doubling in the last year thanks to growth in the Internet and telecommunications sectors, Marconi announced plans to expand its manufacturing facilities to meet increased demand.

The $6 million, 109,000-square-foot facility in Avon will enable Marconi to improve productivity and output. In addition, in the communications field, in which two months can be a telecom eternity, Marconi anticipates it will be able to reduce power systems lead times by two-thirds.

This production facility will allow Marconi to increase sales and continue contributing to the high-tech transformation occurring in Northeast Ohio and beyond.

"We're racing to meet our growing base of customers' requests for dependable power solutions, and physically growing is one way that we can continue to meet these demands," says David J. Smith, vice president and general manager for Marconi's Power business. "This rising demand is expected to continue for the next five years, so Marconi's plan is to be prepared for market demand."

CBIZ drops franchise

Century Business Services Inc. announced the sale of its franchise operation, Century Small Business Solutions Inc., to Fiducial Triple Check Inc., a privately held California corporation. Century Small Business Solutions, based in Mission Viejo, Calif., is the franchiser to a network of about 550 franchisee offices that offer accounting services for small businesses. The operation accounted for less than 1 percent of CBIZ's revenue year-to-date.

CBIZ will retain eight franchisee offices. Proceeds from the sale will be used for debt reduction.

Walworth's new tenant

Lakeside Blueprint Co. acquired four acres in Walworth Run Industrial Park, a former urban brownfield off of West 65th Street which was cleaned up and redeveloped by the Westside Industrial Retention & Expansion Network. Lakeside Blueprint is the second firm to build in the industrial park, with plans for a $1.5 million, 150,000-square-foot facility for the growing blueprint reproduction company.

"This project is an indicator that the Stockyard neighborhood is a great place for growing Cleveland businesses," says John Colm, WIRE-Net director. "Along with B&R Machine, the Lakeside Blueprint deal means Walworth is 50 percent developed."

COSE business

With the launch of its new Web site, COSE.org, the Greater Cleveland Growth Association's Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) now offers e-business solutions to its members.

"We've made enhancements that allow us to significantly increase the value and utility of our Web site and the services we are offering member businesses," explains Steve Millard, vice president and executive director of Member Services/COSE. "Our goal is to create Web tools that are practical, functional and attractive."

A key component of its e-strategy plan involves bringing new ideas, resources and solutions into the hands of small business partners. A signature feature of the site is online education and training. In a recent survey, COSE members identified the need for affordable, convenient training and assistance for employees as one of their top priorities.

The site also allows members enrolled in COSE-sponsored health insurance programs to manage their health plans online, giving them additional control of their health insurance costs by making real-time modifications to their plan.

United Bank & Trust has rosy outlook

UNB Corp., the Canton-based holding company for United National Bank & Trust Co., expects final results from the year to show stellar growth. The 2000 Pillar Award for Community Service winner predicts a 12 to 13 percent earnings per share increase over 1999, says Roger L. Mann, chairman, president and CEO.

"We attribute this growth in earnings to increases in our fee income and improved net interest income," he says. "Many of the strategic initiatives we embarked upon in 1999 and earlier this year are beginning to provide the desired returns."

Connecting the dot-coms

Enhancing a company's ability to give back to the communities that support it is something any business owner should strive to do. That's one of the missions behind Cleveland-based Ameriserv.net, which recently launched www.thecitymission.org in conjunction with The City Mission.

The goal of the new Web site is to enable the organization to secure online donors by allowing visitors to contribute through the site.

The Web site utilizes Ameriserv.net's MAILeZ program, a user-friendly interactive program that enables a company to build a database of e-subscribers, then targets specific interest groups with customized e-mails, explains Greg Olsen of Ameriserv.net. MAILeZ allows companies to gather and organize information about their customers, then use it in an efficient manner. And, during this holiday season, it helps nonprofits target donors without expending tremendous overhead.

Need2Promote

Mark Freeman Advertising has been busy, picking up high technology-oriented clients at a record clip. Its most recent signing was Need2Buy, a California-based online marketplace that serves the electronics industry.

What makes this deal more interesting than simply representing a Web-based client is that Mark Freeman is using its Virtual Office to work with the client. Virtual Office is a password-protected Web site that gives each client access to every job the agency is handling on its behalf, explains agency president and owner Mark Freeman.

"Virtual Office is a godsend to our clients who are frequent travelers or have hectic schedules," he says. "As long as they have an Internet connection, they can access both the current information as well as the history of any particular project we are working on."

Blacking out the insiders

Still confused about what constitutes illegal insider trading? It's not getting any easier to understand, but it is getting easier to cope with.

The SEC earlier this summer adopted a rule that provides specific affirmative defenses against liability for insider trading - Rule 10b5-1. The rule, which went into effect Oct. 23, is designed to define situations in which information possessed by corporate executives and directors doesn't count as valuable information in "an investment decision."

What's that mean, exactly? The short story is that under previous rules, during blackout periods that surround quarterly earnings and other important corporate announcements, insiders typically were banned from trading shares. The new rule relaxes those restrictions.

The long story? Talk to your attorney to clarify exactly where you fall within that "insider" definition.

Firing up a stagnant Web site

Most of the time, when a dot-com shuts down its Web site under the auspices of remodeling, it's akin to a death knell. But in the case of big box retailer Wal-Mart, Web site remodeling was a real business decision aimed at making Wal-Mart's e-business venture profitable.

After a 30-day shutdown in October, Walmart.com roared back to life in November with a host of new features, including the ability to purchase tickets from Southwest Airlines. More important, the company recognized the value of true e-commerce and its costs, and disbanded efforts to sell low-priced items over the Net. Previously, Wal-Mart peddled merchandise such as plastic pocket combs and pencil sharpeners. Those days of low-margin items are over.