One morning in January, Ric Selip asked his wife for his last goodbye kiss as the owner of Grand River Rubber & Plastics Co. Later that day, he signed purchase agreements and transition documents for his Ashtabula company.
Fortunately, Selip was (and is) confident about the move because the buyers are a pretty familiar group – his employees. The company is converting to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), a transition that will mean minimal operational or cultural changes and continued financial stability.
In the press release, Selip said he, co-owner/executive vice president Joe Misinec and senior vice president Donald Chaplin - who will all continue to manage the company during the transition - are “confident we have chosen the very best people - employees right here in Ashtabula County - to carry on the legacy, success and great work of this company.”
Smart Business spoke with Selip about the benefits of ESOP.
Tell us about the impetus behind turning Grand River into an ESOP.
My partner Joe Misinec and I have been running Grand River Rubber & Plastics for 35 years. While we looked at other options, the ESOP option offered us a smooth transition to the new leadership team. The improving economy of 2010 further proved it was time to put the leadership and direction of this great company in the hands of the next generation. We have always recognized that our people are our greatest asset. We have many long-term employees who have been with us every step of the way, and we wanted to share the future with all of them. There was no additional bank financing taken on to complete the transition. We will hold the note and be paid as cash flow allows. This was important in that we did not want to, in any way, put the company under any financial stress. This is how we have always run the company and will until we exit stage right, as they say.
How does this benefit you, as owners?
As owners, we were honored by the fact that the employees have chosen us to continue to run the company through the transition. By transitioning the company to the employees, it will not only allow the company to maintain a strong balance sheet, but allow us to secure our future personally. Until the ESOP loan is paid by the employees, we will still manage the company. Additionally, we do not have to be distracted by a strong culture change – a change that would undoubtedly come from an outside buyer.
What challenges did you face in both making this decision and executing it?
Statistics consistently show that employee-owned companies outperform non-employee owned companies. Our challenge was educating our workforce as to the benefits of ESOP. In early 2010 we brought a small group of employees to the Ohio Employees Ownership Center Conference. If we learned nothing else from that day, it was: “If you expect employees to act like owners, you need to start treating them like owners.” We embarked on a consistent program of employee education on the benefits and risks of this potential course.
What benefits does this create for the company?
The benefit for our company is a smooth transition without financial stress or the worry that might come from an outside purchaser. Our community, vendors, suppliers and customers can rest easy knowing a strategic plan is in place – a plan authored and executed by owners and executives they have always known.
How will your role change in the new organizational structure, and have you developed an exit strategy for your personal involvement?
Our goal is to continue to operate the company through the better part of this new decade. This will be an exciting time of teaching to lead and learning to trust in our employees. We firmly believe that this plan will be successful as the employees can move forward with their destiny in their own hands. Our plan is to stay though the transition and the completion of the ESOP loan.
How to reach: Grand River Rubber and Plastics, www.grandriverrubber.com
Dustin S. Klein and Brooke Bates contributed to this article.
When a company finally comes to terms that its voice and data convergence is severely lacking, it becomes essential to establish criteria to launch a consistent, yet potentially tricky, foundation. Because businesses large and small rely on phone and data systems as a lifeline to communicate with customers, suppliers and staff members, practical decisions need to be made and failure is a real possibility.
The key to a successful transition to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) without disruption of company operations lies in the merging of familiar platforms that are currently in use, thus optimizing the existing infrastructure, says Jose Zamora, senior IT technician at ATW Management Inc.
Since VoIP can share the same CAT5e data cabling by prioritizing voice over data to protect quality, phone calls can be made without affecting data speeds. Wiring installation and maintenance costs can be controlled if not eliminated. The new architecture consists of a VoIP phone system merged with the existing data infrastructure to create a unified communications framework.
Smart Business spoke to Zamora about how accomplishing this means taking advantage of how VoIP phone systems and their features have evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of today’s businesses.
What VoIP technology is available to businesses today?
Today’s telecom manufacturers offer VoIP equipment that ranges from easy-to use ’plug and play‘ systems with limited capabilities to feature rich systems that encompass video, voice and data along with all the bells and whistles. The common thread is associated with licenses, which are necessary for connectivity and operational utility. Fortunately, basic functions are sold in bundles. Most VoIP products embrace Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which allow interoperation within a variety of network hardware implementations and phone sets from different manufacturers that also support SIP. This gives maximum flexibility with a real potential for cost effectiveness and creativity. However, the advanced function licenses can be difficult to understand and implement. But this is also where the real creativity lies.
How can features be used within a business?
VoIP deployments used to be only associated with multiple locations and global entities, but new and expanding features provide compelling reasons to evaluate and consider VoIP technologies for businesses of all capacities. Call centers as well as service centers utilize customizable software license packages that enable multiple auto attendants, with multi-language abilities, to route calls to multiple call groups. The VoIP system will indicate the position of a call in the call queue and relay expected wait time to both the user and caller. Overflow routing can queue a call, place in a holding pattern, and forward it to a less active user or a prominent sales associate, reducing the chance of a missed call or lost sale. Call attached data components can track vital notes and caller identification information and allow data to be exported in various forms. Utilizing a PC in place of, or as an accessory to the phone set, will enable a screen ‘pop-up’ to display a customer’s information prior to taking the call. This allows the user, whether in the accounting, sales, or inventory departments to simultaneously view data as well as use all of the features of their desk phone from their PC screen utilizing IP Softphones. The IP Softphone is an incredible tool that gives the user complete phone system features from the laptop or even a PDA device utilizing Bluetooth technology.
How does this technology benefit today’s remote and telecommuting work force?
Previously only available to receptionists, call appearance and busy extension details are now available to every user. Current VoIP applications can grant access to extension status and incoming call handling and allow anyone to transfer calls to the proper user while informing the user if the transfer will result in a voicemail or land in another queue. Additionally, users can activate a ’find-me, follow-me’ feature that forwards to multiple numbers or extensions until the desired recipient is contacted. To give a 24/7 presence, home phones and computers as well as cell phones can be a part of the network. Telecommuters and sales departments may assign a supervisor to silently monitor calls and provide a ’barge-in’ feature to allow a more experienced representative to handle sensitive situations. Utilizing Exchange servers and Outlook email clients provides system-wide communication options as well. Voicemail messages taken by the VoIP phone system can be converted to text or wave files to be forwarded to a cell or smart phone, email, or voicemail on a different phone. Internal callers can access cellular networks for emergency redundancy or utilize an independent software gateway.
What about businesses with more than one location?
The most notable environment for VoIP deployments remains with the connection of multiple offices through data connections creating a transparent environment between the users. The use of a single receptionist to handle all calls in a multiple location environment reduces overall operation costs. The common challenge that a VoIP phone system can resolve is the effective management of remote users by giving access to all of the management tools available internally. The elimination of toll charges between locations is another benefit when deploying a VoIP phone system.
When effectively deployed with an existing data infrastructure, a VoIP phone system is the most practical foundation for businesses looking to converge their voice and data applications. Clearly, VoIP is quickly becoming the standard for cutting edge businesses and, when coupled with a technology that can save and make money, the implementation justifies the means.
Jose Zamora is a senior IT technician at ATW Management Inc. Reach him at email@example.com or (281) 931-8400.
Smart Business spoke with John M. Leonard, first vice president and regional manager of the Atlanta office of , about the advantages a third-party real estate firm can provide when you’re buying or selling property.
Why should sellers of real estate utilize the services of a third-party agent or firm?
Building owners should utilize a third-party intermediary or brokerage firm when selling their properties in order to achieve the highest possible price for their real estate, while ensuring that their long-term investment and wealth strategies are executed. At this juncture, sellers are facing declining but slowly improving property values in many markets nationwide. Those values, combined with historically low interest rates, make it an opportune time to buy real estate. Now more than ever, sellers require the knowledge of a market expert who understands how to achieve the highest price per square foot, while maintaining the investment goals of their clients, all while having superior knowledge of the submarket in which a property is located.
The key to maximizing value for the seller is the ability of the agent to create a market for each asset. The primary driver to a competitive bidding environment is broad exposure. With the right representation and marketing, an agent will provide a professional package with defensible underwriting to a large universe of qualified buyers. The result is usually a number of offers from which the seller can decide which best meets their objective with regards to price and terms.
For example, Marcus & Millichap was founded 40 years ago on the premise of making a market for each property we represent. Each agent in every city across the country should have the ability to match the property he or she is listing with the largest pool of pre-qualified investors. That’s the advantage a third-party intermediary can offer: Unparalleled access to investment capital from a variety of sources, including private investors, REITs and other institutions.
With four decades of investment brokerage specialization and the largest sales force in the nation, Marcus & Millichap has access to the largest pool of qualified investors in the industry, including private and institutional investors and 1031 exchange buyers. Each agent has relationships with hundreds of investors, and through these relationships and our marketing network, we operate without geographic limits, making a market for each property by accessing capital from coast to coast.
How can a third-party intermediary firm like yours provide such deep access to U.S. investors?
We have created a property marketing system that contains an extensive inventory of investment real estate, which is enhanced by the expertise of our 1,200 investment specialists. Over the years, we have developed a powerful system for maximizing value for sellers of commercial real estate. One of the cornerstones of this marketing system is our ability to generate the broadest possible exposure for every property locally, regionally and nationally. By making a market for each property, we maximize value for our clients.
This central property and listing database enables the instantaneous communication of listing information to our agents across the country. An agent can specify a client’s property investment criteria. When a matching property is listed, the agent is immediately notified. This system serves as a valuable tool, matching each property with the optimal investors. With an understanding of the owner’s objectives and a thorough underwriting of the property, an integrated marketing plan is then developed. Agents identify and target the most qualified owners and investors locally, regionally and nationally, specifically matched to the property. Marketing materials are then presented along with follow-up contact.
What additional marketing efforts would you recommend?
Further marketing efforts come from advertising in national, regional and local publications to create the broadest exposure for exclusively listed properties. Also, in some of our biggest markets nationwide, we host investor symposiums, supported by our national research group, to educate investors on market conditions and investment trends and to showcase new property listings.
This results in maximized value for sellers, one property at a time. By dedicating all of our focus, resources and training to real estate investment services, we offer an unmatched level of experience and expertise. Investment specialization and submarket focus also results in strong relationships with private investors nationwide and even abroad. Any good brokerage intermediary should encourage a culture of information sharing, not competition.
In addition to marketing, what other services does a premier third-party intermediary provide?
A firm should be able to provide a spectrum of investment and financing services to each client. We enhance our brokerage services by leveraging the expertise of our subsidiary firm, mortgage broker Marcus & Millichap Capital Corporation (MMCC). In today’s challenging financing environment and as underwriting standards continue to remain tight, we provide access to a wide array of lenders and financing solutions across all property types and markets.
Also, our dominance in the private investor market results in substantial capital seeking larger, institutional properties. Our specialty groups have long-term relationships with the nation’s most prominent institutions and assist them in market analysis, acquisition and disposition of properties nationally.
What is the role of a specialty group in brokerage firms?
Our specialty groups provide investors with in-depth expertise on each major property sector, as well as some niche sectors. Our biggest group, the National Multi Housing Group (NMHG), provides institutional and private investors with guidance on the U.S. apartment sector. The National Retail Group (NRG) provides investors with investment and capital solutions in the single- and multi-tenant retail sector. Our National Office and Industrial Properties Group (NOIPG) provides investors with investment services related to the office and industrial sectors. Additionally, we have our Net Lease Properties Group (NLPG), National Hospitality Group (NHG), National Self-Storage Group (NSSG), National Manufactured Home Communities Group (NMHCG), among others.
One of our specialty divisions, the Special Assets Services (SAS) division, provides unique services to investors whose properties face distressed situations. During the height of the economic downturn in 2009, the SAS marketed and closed more $1.7 billion in transactions for financial institutions and government agencies. The division encompasses nine regions across the nation and provides a full array of capabilities to lenders. Services range from property evaluation, market assessment and valuation to asset management and sales.
John M. Leonard is a first vice president and regional manager of the Atlanta office of . Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (678) 808-2700.
You’ve trimmed all the visible fat from your operations and improved efficiency as much as you can. Yet your bottom line still isn’t where you want it to be. So now you’re thinking about diversifying into a new market or product to improve your bottom line. Not a bad idea. Done right, diversification can be a lifesaver. Done wrong, however, it can be, at the very least, a letdown and, at the very worst, a quick path to disaster.
“Business owners diversify for many reasons, such as to gain a competitive advantage, minimize risks from concentrating too heavily on a particular market, or as a method to adapt to customers’ needs,” says Steve Williams, managing partner at HMWC CPAs & Business Advisors in Tustin. “Branching out to new lines of business, markets and suppliers may seem like a good idea, but, without a careful strategy, adequate resources and realistic expectations, it could turn out to be a bad one. We help our clients to be successful from the initial stages.”
Smart Business spoke with Williams about the best path to diversification.
What are some typical strategies for diversifying?
Diversification can take on many forms. You can take advantage of new market opportunities through introduction of a product developed through research and development. You may want to expand a product or service line to gain additional customers. Another alternative is to take on an entirely new area of business through a merger or acquisition.
Sometimes it makes sense to buy another company for economies of scale, reduced supply-line costs or other economic reasons. One type of diversification is horizontal integration, which involves expansion into the same industry and/or a similar product area. For instance, a vehicle dealership could buy another dealership.
Another type of diversification is vertical integration, in which a company moves into a different level of the supply chain. Usually each subsidiary, owned by the parent company, combines together to form a more efficient and cost-effective supply chain. For example, a manufacturing company might purchase a distributor or retailer. Some businesses use vertical integration strategies to eliminate the middleman — such as wholesalers and retailers — and keep the profits in-house.
These diversification strategies typically require significant capital expenditures. In most cases, you’ll have to pay (i.e., acquisition costs, time, operational changes and other resources) before you can reap the benefits, which may take time to materialize.
What are some easier, less-costly strategies?
There are several less-expensive methods to enhance your product lines and service offerings and provide the best value for your customers while maximizing your business’s growth over time. Some strategies to consider:
- Ramp up sales. If you don’t have an outside sales team, consider hiring salespeople (or contracting with independent sales reps) to prospect for customers. Your distribution channels, which are in contact with a diverse customer base, can also be instrumental in finding new business.
- Add the extras. You can compete nationally and globally by offering value-added services to your customers. For instance, don’t just sell a product; offer a complete package that includes warranties, preventive maintenance contracts, educational and training offerings, and any other services that will make the product more attractive.
- Know your customer. Get to know your customers’ businesses and the changes they’re making, such as an increase in production capacity or new packaging for a product. Offer to support their new business goals by customizing products, services and other offerings to fit their needs. This will convey your value to them, help develop a new business opportunity and keep your customers satisfied.
- Seek smaller fish. Many companies rely heavily on large-volume customers who make up a significant portion of their sales base. Consider diversifying your customer base to lessen the impact should a major customer decide to depart.
Is a business plan needed?
Adding successful products or services, for example, isn’t as simple as just buying equipment and finding building space. Develop a business plan that encompasses goals, production, human resources, financial and marketing issues. Goals, for example, may include increasing sales, gaining a broader product line, and having greater control over quality and delivery. Make sure that the plan identifies important details, such as capital costs, incurring additional debt, time commitment to manage the new product line, etc. Calculate the potential profitability by projecting an income statement that considers all the additional revenue and expense (both fixed and variable costs) factors. Consider how your projected balance sheet and income statement might affect relationships with banks or investors. These are just some of the issues that should be addressed in your business plan.
What about ‘barriers to entry’?
When you expand into new markets, there are ‘barriers to entry,’ which can include capital investment costs, branding, government regulations, taxes and permits, unions, heavily entrenched competitors and a wide array of other factors. For example, when you look to get into new markets you’ll likely be up against many established relationships, so you’ll need to identify solid reasons for customers to jump ship.
Barriers to entry should be fully analyzed, especially the financial factors, before committing to a diversification plan. Consider your company’s strengths (such as a highly skilled work force or any specialized equipment you can bring to the table) as well as its weaknesses (i.e., poor cash flow at the moment). Be objective, honest and realistic in this assessment.
Steve Williams, CPA, is the managing partner of HMWC CPAs & Business Advisors (www.hmwccpa.com) in Tustin. He also heads the firm’s Healthcare Practice and has served healthcare clients for more than 25 years. He can be reached at (714) 505-9000.
Family-owned businesses can be one of the most rewarding types of business, but also can be one of the most difficult to manage, especially when it comes to working relationships. Everything from advancement and salaries to hiring new talent and changing vendors can be overlooked or mishandled so as to not offend a family member.
Smart Business learned more from Donna Mittendorf and Jim Terrell of Comerica Bank about managing a family-owned business and how to prevent the problems and pitfalls that typically arise when working with those with whom you have close personal ties.
What are the advantages of having a family-owned business?
Donna: There are numerous advantages to having a family-owned business, such as the continuity it affords with customers and vendor relationships. Customers and vendors know your family name and will continue to work with you as a result. There is also a built-in loyalty to the business, and its long-term approach and nature gives it a competitive edge. Family-owned businesses tend to spend money wisely since they are building wealth to pass on to future generations, and they are typically more stable as they are less likely to make radical cutbacks during an economic downturn.
However, don’t turn these advantages into complacency. It’s easy for a family business to become complacent and not welcome change if the business is successful. The problem is your competition is keeping up with technology, product advances and other advancements that could render your business ineffective.
How can you minimize conflict when working with family?
Jim: It’s difficult to balance business relationships with family ties. A clear understanding of the roles and expectations of each family employee can prevent many of the problems that tend to pop up in family-owned businesses. Keep everyone accountable and, when a major decision needs to be made, make sure it’s made with the growth and stability of the business in mind.
How should a family-owned business plan for change?
Donna: If the business is going to be handed over to the next generation, the decision needs to be made well in advance. Other issues like how management will change with the new generation and what the responsibilities are for each member also need to be addressed well ahead of any leadership change.
Business owners also need to make sure to have their estate planned out and have items like a will and stock transfers in order in case of a sudden emergency. It’s also a good idea to have leadership transition and family ownership plans in writing so there is no confusion.
Family businesses often take great pride in their traditions, but make sure you don’t take this to an extreme and forget to change and grow. This is one of the most common mistakes family-owned businesses make and one of the main reasons some are unsuccessful.
How should family-owned businesses handle succession?
Jim: There can be resentment among family and longtime non-family employees if succession is not handled properly. It’s not easy to bring in a son or daughter and introduce him or her as the new boss to people who have been working at your business for decades. Make sure family members are brought in at the bottom, or close to the bottom, and let them work their way up. They will feel they earned the position and there will be less resentment from other employees than if they start off in a corner suite.
When should a family-owned business look for outside help?
Donna: It’s a good idea to look for outside advice on plans for succession management, buy-out arrangements or in the event of aging of principals, illness of an owner, or children who want in or out of the business. Business owners should seek reputable organizations and professionals and assess what each can offer. Ask the institution for samples of the work they have done and if possible, try to get previous customers’ testimonials. Comerica advisers can help with everything from estate planning and portfolio management, to trusts and insurance.
DONNA MITTENDORF and JIM TERRELL are senior vice presidents for Comerica’s Texas Small Business Banking Division. Comerica Bank is the commercial banking subsidiary of Comerica Incorporated (NYSE: CMA), the largest U.S. banking company headquartered in Texas, and strategically aligned by three business segments: The Business Bank, The Retail Bank, and Wealth & Institutional Management. Comerica focuses on relationships, and helping people and businesses be successful. In addition to Dallas, Houston and Austin, Texas, Comerica Bank locations can be found in Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan, with select businesses operating in several other states, as well as in Canada and Mexico. Comerica reported total assets of $55.0 billion at September 30, 2010. To receive e-mail alerts of breaking Comerica news, go to www.comerica.com/newsalerts.
César García lost his mother, father and sister to cancer in a short eight-year period. However he’s maintained an optimistic, driven outlook throughout his life, which he has since dedicated to helping diagnose and treat medical conditions.
García brings more than 37 years of experience in design, manufacturing and commercialization devices to Chatsworth, Calif.-based Iris International Inc. He began working with the company in 2002 to provide product development expertise and has since risen to chairman, president and CEO. During his tenure at the diagnostic products company, he’s launched 15 new products.
Shortly after becoming president in 2003, García spearheaded Iris’ new flagship product, the iQ automated urine microscopy analyzer, which integrated with an automated chemistry analyzer. This product would help the company raise capital, pay down debt and strengthen Iris’ balance sheet. Revenue rapidly grew, and García led the growth strategy that still drives unit sales and has resulted in 75 percent dominance over U.S. market share.
This is just one example of García’s efforts to provide differentiated diagnostic solutions to improve laboratory productivity and efficiency. García also has expanded the company’s focus to personalized medicine with the acquisition of a molecular diagnostics company.
In addition to his work to improve health care via Iris, García serves on the boards for the Advanced Medical Technology Association and Alameda, the diagnostics industry not-for-profit representative. He supports charitable organizations such as Toys for Tots and Walk for the Cure with Diabetes.
He also promotes health and happiness for his employees, supporting programs such as Health Miles, offering free membership in Employee Health Club, providing tuition reimbursement and facilitating on-site language classes and tutoring.
How to reach: Iris International Inc., www.proiris.com
Should it come as any surprise that parking was among the few sour notes expressed in a survey of downtown retailers, building owners and employees about the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's recent efforts to improve the area?
Of the 1,063 who responded, more than 40 percent said parking has gotten worse over the past three years. The biggest culprit: the cost of parking during the day. The problem also has been tagged by more than half of the respondents as a priority for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership in the coming year.
Meanwhile, 63 percent of the retailers, 62 percent of the property owners and 57 percent of downtown employees said the downtown-based business association is doing either a good or excellent job.
And then there's the city's cleanliness. Roughly half of the respondents rated downtown's cleanliness as good or excellent. All told, 82 percent of the property owners, 79 percent of the retailers and 73 percent of the employees said the area is cleaner or significantly cleaner since the organization launched its Downtown Ambassadors cleaning program last spring.
'Anything but rosy'
That's how the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership described the potential consequences for downtown Pittsburgh if the so-called Plan B for new baseball and football stadiums wasn't approved.
Just before a last-ditch negotiating session between sports-team officials and local government leaders and the final vote that did, in fact, approve a plan for new stadiums, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership offered its own board endorsement.
"We believe that downtown Pittsburgh, the center of our region, truly is at a crossroads," wrote PDP board Chairman George Warner. "Unless we take a proactive approach to investing in our future now, the future may turn out to be anything but rosy, not only for downtown, but for the region as a whole. We applaud the efforts of Mayor Murphy and County Commissioners Cranmer and Dawida for showing foresight and leadership to develop Plan B."
As it stands, then, rosy it is.
That's one way to keep business from leaving Pittsburgh
When the CEO Venture Fund III agreed to invest $2 million in Durham, N.C.-based Demeter BioTechnologies Ltd. (OTC: BBLDBOT), the fund's principals offered one minor caveat: The company would have to move its headquarters and primary operations to Pittsburgh.
This is among the first reversals of a trend that seems to continually drain the region of many promising upstarts. And it's also being viewed by many in the high-tech community as another shot in the arm for Pittsburgh's fledgling bio-tech community.
"This funding from CEO Fund culminates many months of effort to insure the financial stability of the company and to provide the resources to accelerate the company's product development efforts," says Richard Ekstrom, president of Demeter BioTechnologies. "We are very encouraged about our progress in developing a possible treatment for prostrate cancer. We believe we can now achieve our goal to begin clinical trials for our first application during the first half of 1999.
And, he adds, "Pittsburgh is a very livable city."
A $2 million incentive no-doubt makes it even more livable. But only time will tell.
When you can't see your desk through the mess...
If you had to sift through piles of paper on your desk just to find this publication, you likely are the perfect candidate for organizational guru Sylvia Jessy's new book, "Organized Chaos: The Key You Need to Declutter, Organize & Simplify Your Life."
The book, named after her Pittsburgh-based company, no-doubt will aptly characterize your organizational style-or lack thereof, and it offers a host of solutions regardless of your problem. But as Jessy points out in her self-published book, it's never an overnight process.
"Being organized is not something that takes a long time to achieve," she says. "Decluttering the piles or rooms we've junked up, however, may take a lot longer. But remember they didn't get junked-up overnight."
The question she says you should ask yourself when assessing your level of organization is, "When you look at your environment, do you see opportunity or obstacles? The difference between these two is that opportunities can allow us to be passionate about doing something while moving us closer to our goals. Obstacles, on the other hand, are standing in the way of achieving our goals. Obstacles can be opportunities run amok."
To order your copy, call (412) 362-0793 or send e-mail to OrganizedChaos@Juno.com.
The following companies have been selected as winners for the first annual Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service. They will be honored Dec. 3 at an awards banquet at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven, and featured in the December issue of SBN.
Honorees, in alphabetical order, are:
- Arnold & Co. Communications, Beachwood, full-service marketing agency;
- Cleveland Grand Prix Charities Inc., Cleveland, auto-race organizer and fund-raiser;
- Cohen & Co., Cleveland, regional accounting and consulting firm;
- Conley Canitano & Associates, Mayfield Hts., information technology firm;
- Connecting Touch & Wellness Center Inc., Cuyahoga Falls, massage therapy clinic;
- Mr. Hero/Restaurant Developers Corp., Independence, food service company;
- PPG Industries Inc., Barberton, specialty chemicals manufacturer;
- Public Relations Partners Inc., Cleveland, public relations firm;
- Ross Equipment, Cleveland, aerial work platform sales and rentals;
- Saltz, Shamis & Goldfarb, CPA, Akron, regional accounting and financial services firm;
- WKYC TV-3, Cleveland, television station.
"Our panel of judges did an outstanding job of sorting through a large pile of strong applications, and we're pleased with the diversity of the honorees and their community service agendas," said Bob Rosenbaum, editor of SBN and an organizer of the Pillar Award program. "If the judges expressed one common feeling, it's regret that we had to limit the number of winners."
For details of their award-winning community service programs, look for special coverage in the December issue of SBN.
Heading toward one-stop energy shopping
At the October Corporate Club breakfast, local business execs learned that those who survive the looming energy deregulation shakeout will need to provide more for consumers than lower energy bills.
That, according to guest speaker Garry Regan, president of North Coast Energy Inc., may include a transformation from natural gas and oil suppliers to total energy providers-complete with one bill for several services. It's something North Coast Energy plans to undertake either through a partner company or an acquisition.
"We have a unique ability because we start at the wellhead," said Regan. "We own the resource." Natural gas, he says, is the fuel predominantly used to make electricity.
But consumers shouldn't expect to see less expensive energy prices just because of increased competition. "There is no glut of oil," Regan said. "That's a perception. This country is in an energy crisis."
While new technology may improve the efficiency of how energy providers explore for and produce oil and natural gas, it won't change what's already in the ground. "We have a gas pump mentality, " he said. "It (natural gas and oil) is a finite resource. I don't think you and I are going to find drastic changes economically, because as technology improves, we'll have to spend more money to drill."
The next Corporate Club breakfast, of which SBN is a sponsor, features Bill Sanford, president of fast-growing Steris Corp. The events are held on Tuesday mornings, with breakfast at 7 a.m. and the speaker at 7:30. Cost is $25 a person.
Other dates and speakers are:
- Jan. 12, 1999: David Burner, chairman and CEO, BFGoodrich Co.
- Feb. 9, 1999: Michael Salkind, president, Ohio Aerospace Institute
- March 9, 1999: Robert Rawson, partner-in-charge, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue
For more information and reservations, call Executive Caterers at Landerhaven, at (440) 449-0700.
Ups and Downs
Downs to the Fed. Greenspan's quarter-percent interest rate cut didn't create the psychological boost expected. Don't be surprised to see the knife again soon-either to satisfy Wall Street or to fight off an investor revolt.
Downs to the IMF for a good imitation of Chicken Little. Whether its gloomy forecast for the world economy proves right or not, isn't the organization supposed to help prop up troubled economies instead of burning cash in the back room?
Ups to the U.S. budget surplus-$70 billion. But how to use it... lower the national debt? Pay the independent counsel's expense account? Or hold onto this mythical pile of cash until Wall Street settles down.
Downs to Long-Term Capital Management, which runs the hedge fund that needed a $3.5 billion bailout-helping to spark the massive third-quarter sell-off. We get it; it's a hedge against having any money to lose when the market goes bad.
Downs to the Nikkei. You think the Dow is crazy.
Ups to Gliatech for reiterating a commitment to the city where it was born. The bio-med firm nixed a lucrative deal from North Carolina's Research Triangle to stay in Greater Cleveland. Anybody listening over at BP?
Let my people go
Have you ever grown weary of watching your employees trotting off to use the facilities every hour on the hour? Ever considered cracking down on what you suspect to be bogus breaks? You'd better proceed with caution, lest you inadvertently drive your health-care spending higher.
According to a new book from Cornell University Press, Void Where Prohibited: Rest Breaks and the Right to Urinate on Company Time, companies that regulate controls on bathroom visits run the risk of major illness. That could eventually lead to higher health-care premiums, to say nothing of the possible exposure to legal liability.
Authors Marc Linder and Ingrid Nygaard, respectively a labor lawyer and urogynecologist, note that while federal and state regulations compel most employers to provide rest room facilities for employees, they don't force any company to permit employees access to them. The authors point out that workers prevented from emptying their bladder as necessary can develop a syndrome which they call "line-worker's bladder," which can in turn lead to severe health complications, including urinary infections and even heart disease.
Editor's note: For our cover story of the 99 greatest moments in 99 years of business, check the Cleveland page under the Get Local link at left. Here are some local highs and lows, with assistance from George Knepper, retired Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at The University of Akron.
1900: Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. is founded by Harvey S. Firestone, and production begins with 12 employees. It grows to become Akrons third major rubber company, after B.F.Goodrich (founded in 1870) and Goodyear (1898).
1905: Akron becomes the world leader in tire and rubber products.
1906: Firestone tires chosen by Henry Ford for the first mass produced automobiles.
1913: The worst flood in Akrons history destroys the Ohio Canal.
1913: Buchtel College becomes The University of Akron.
1926: Dr. Waldo Semon, a Goodrich scientist, invents polyvinyl chloride (PVC), beginning a multibillion-dollar worldwide vinyl industry.
1929: Akrons population peaks at 255,000 people.
1929: Goodyear builds the worlds largest airship dock and construction begins on the first rigid airship, the Goodyear Zeppelin.
1935: The first Akron Soap Box Derby is held.
1935: United Rubber Workers (URW) is founded at the Portage Hotel.
1937: Firestone is the first to sign a collective bargaining agreement with URW.
1937: Synthetic rubber is invented by BFGoodrich scientists, a crucial development that aids Allied victory after WWII cuts off the supply of natural rubber.
1940: The Rubber Bowl is built.
1943: Goodyear Aircraft Division completes a two-year ramp-up, from zero to 33,000 employees.
1950: The New Union Depot is built at the end of the railroad era. It now houses the Black Cultural Center at The University of Akron.
1957: Downtown redevelopment begins with construction of Cascade Plaza.
1961: Grant Washington Urban Renewal District becomes the first of many urban renewal projects in Akron.
1967: The University of Akron becomes a state university, allowing it to greatly enlarge services.
1967: Liquid Crystal Display is developed by James Ferguson at Kent State Universitys Liquid Crystal Institute.
1970: On May 4, the Ohio National Guard shoots into a crowd of Vietnam War protesters at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding 13.
1973: The state of Ohio pays $4 million (a $2.5 million profit) to 42-year-old David Brennan for land in the Cuyahoga Valley, enabling a successful attorney to become an empire-building industrialist.
1974: Congress establishes the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area (including the former Brennan land) as an urban park under the National Park Service.
1975: Following hints about plant closings, rubber production in Akron begins a 10-year period of steep decline.
1986: B.F.Goodrich sells its tire business (to Michelin) and focuses on aerospace components and polymers.
1987: Akron is selected as the site for the National Inventors Hall of Fame, sparking a slow but steady increase in construction, diversification and morale.
1992: Four years after being purchased by Bridgestone, Firestones corporate headquarters moves to Nashville.
1997: The Canton/Akron Indians move into the newly built Canal Park stadium.
1998: BFGoodrich, the Rubber Citys first rubber company, announces its planned departure, an announcement that has far more symbolic impact than economic.
1901: Alexander Winton, widely considered the first manufacturer of passenger cars for the general market, introduces his two-cylinder automobile engine.
1903: Alwin and Theodore Ernst open an accounting office in downtown Cleveland, beginning the firm that would later become the worldwide accounting firm of Ernst & Young LLP.
1904: Cleveland Cap Screw Co., a forerunner of TRW Inc., produces a new type of automobile valve that greatly enhances the durability of engines, the first of many technological innovations.
1918: Aviation designer Glenn Martin produces Clevelands first airplane, the MB-2 bomber. He later relocates to Baltimore. Despite several mergers in the decades since, his name still lives on in Lockheed Martin, the nations biggest defense contractor.
1921: George Crile and three other doctors establish the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
1927: The 52-story Terminal Tower opens, reigning for decades as the tallest building between New York and Chicago.
1928: Louis Seltzer appointed editor of the Cleveland Press. For the next 38 years, he is arguably the most powerful man in Cleveland, controlling what is perhaps its most influential institution. The paper closed in 1982.
1929: Cyrus Eaton consolidates his steel holdings into Republic Steel Corp., the countrys third-largest steel company. He would soon lose most of his $100-million fortune in the Depression.
1936: A sit-down strike at a General Motors Fisher Body plant on Coit Road serves as a catalyst for the mass unionization of auto workers nationally.
1937: More than 40 years after he left Cleveland, the body of John D. Rockefeller is returned for burial in Lakeview Cemetery.
1947: A forerunner of NASA establishes the Lewis Research Center near Hopkins Airport. It would later become a significant producer of spin-off research for industry.
1947: A merger of Mather familys iron ore interests creates the second largest ore holdings in the country, after U.S. Steel.
1949: Cleveland drafts a comprehensive general plan (replacing the elegant Group Plan of 1903) to guide downtown development, representing, as one historian later observed, the triumph of the City Efficient over the City Beautiful. It was still being used as the blueprint until well into the 1980s.
1959: St. Lawrence Seaway opens, providing a direct water link between Cleveland and the Atlantic Ocean, and sparking considerable investment in port facilities. Predictions of booming international trade to and from the city prove considerably inflated.
1969: Cuyahoga River catches fire, resulting in nationwide ridicule, but touching off sustained efforts to clean up the river and the body of water into which it flows, Lake Erie.
1967: The Cleveland Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Cleveland Growth Board merge, prompting the successor, the Greater Cleveland Growth Association, to label itself the largest local chamber of commerce in the country.
1972: Community activist Ray Shepardson organizes protests the razing of three vintage Euclid Avenue theatres: the State, the Ohio and the Allen. The corporate community later provides seed funding to restore what is eventually named Playhouse Square. While the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Gateway grab headlines some 20 years later, this is the beginning of Clevelands downtown turnaround.
1973: The NAACP files a federal lawsuit claiming discrimination in Clevelands public schools, leading to the 1976 busing order by Judge Frank Battistimarking steep decline in a once-respected urban school district.
1978: The City of Cleveland defaults on its long-term debt, the first major American city to do so since the Great Depression.
1986: To the chagrin of mysterious powers in New York City, Cleveland is selected as the site for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I.M. Peis impressive, if impractical, structure opens nine years later.
1995: The resurgent Cleveland Indians win the American League pennant for the first time in 41 years.