Smart 50 honorees impact communities and industries
Effectively building and leading successful organizations is not a simple task. I am pleased to recognize business leaders who have undeniably achieved that goal. Thank you, Smart Business, for allowing Hylant to be a part of the Smart 50 awards.
On behalf of Hylant, I want to personally recognize and congratulate all the honorees.
This year’s honorees have demonstrated commitment and passion for making a noticeable impact on the communities, industries and organizations that they work and live in. The level of community giving is phenomenal, despite some of the adversity within your own businesses. The results of your hard work are evident across Columbus and Central Ohio.
Becoming acquainted with the honorees as more than businesspeople, but as individuals who cherish this community, continues to be my favorite part of Smart 50. Each leader is unique, yet all share the same drive to make a difference. I remain humbled and inspired by the work of our honorees as our region continues to set an example.
When founding Hylant more than 80 years ago, Edward Hylant promised to treat our clients and employees like family — with honesty, respect and trust. Today, we are among the largest privately held, full-service insurance brokerage firms in the United States and a 10-consecutive-year winner of Best Places to Work in Insurance. We offer business insurance, personal insurance and employee benefits services to protect the people and things you care about most. ●
CEO K. Zulene Adams, along with business partner Andrew Gehring, started Z Promotions nearly 14 years ago. Seeing untapped potential in the promotional branding industry, they set forth to offer a comprehensive consultative experience for clients by learning their mission, vision, values and objectives, then using that information to make highly qualified recommendations for the right marketing pieces and how to maximize return.
Z Promotions is an extension of its clients’ marketing teams or, if they don’t have one, becomes their marketing team. This smart and forward way of approaching the client-sales relationship has made it one of the top businesses in the industry. In addition, it now offers clients the opportunity to have their own TV channel on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.
When Tara Bair, president and CEO of Community Health & Wellness Partners of Logan County, opened the nonprofit federally qualified health center in 2014, she envisioned a health care practice that would provide economic-based primary health care and other wellness services. The center opened with two locations in 2014 and serves all patients — insured, uninsured, underinsured and self-pay patients. Its success is due, in large part, to the leadership of Bair, who spearheaded efforts to get the health care center up and running.
The center also is a teaching facility for medical, nursing, nurse practitioner, pharmacy, social work and business students and is accredited by the National Committee for Quality Assurance as a patient-centered medical home.
Nevin Bansal is president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions and founder and executive director of Small Biz Cares, a nonprofit that engages small businesses for philanthropy and community impact. He uniquely leverages resources, creativity and energy to inspire his team and other small business leaders to make a meaningful, lasting impact in the community. He has leveraged his experiences in running a small business, chamber board service and marketing/strategy expertise to create a one-of-a-kind organization, Small Biz Cares.
COVID-19 created a unique challenge in 2020 for both Outreach Promotional Solutions and Small Biz Cares, and Bansal’s leadership helped both organizations pivot and deliver more community impact. For example, Outreach Promotional Solutions pivoted from marketing products that saw a decline, to PPE and medical supplies.
Since becoming president and CEO of Hilliard-based Advanced Drainage Systems in 2017, Scott Barbour has grown the global, publicly traded company through continual innovation, fiscal discipline and acquisitions, while increasing ADS’ commitment to environmentally sustainable strategies.
With nearly 5,000 employees worldwide, ADS is the world’s leading manufacturer of water management solutions for the stormwater and on-site septic wastewater industries. ADS is well known for its early innovations in the development of thermoplastic corrugated pipe, which has increasingly displaced traditional materials due to its strength, light weight and performance. Today, more than 8.5 billion feet of ADS pipe are in service around the world, while its plastics manufacturing and recycling operations make it one of the largest recyclers in the world.
Due to the pandemic, COSI temporarily closed in March 2020. To continue its impact on the community, COSI President and CEO Frederic Bertley, Ph.D., turned the closure into an opportunity to find innovative solutions to continue COSI’s mission to engage, inspire and transform lives and communities. He challenged the COSI team to create online educational programming as an alternative to on-site museum experiences, and within days of closing, the COSI Connects website was born.
This digital doorway to science grew to include new digital tools to serve youth impacted by school closures who were struggling as a result of the digital divide. Bertley inspired the team to create a new series of hands-on STEM kits, the COSI Connects Learning Lunchbox, filled with five days’ worth of science activities.
Max Brickman envisioned and created a different type of venture capital firm when he founded Heartland Ventures four years ago. He didn’t seek to start a fund just to help companies scale and to make financial returns for himself and his partners. He made a smart decision to design and construct the fund on a bedrock that has been around for generations — successful medium to large businesses in Ohio and nearby states. At Heartland Ventures, investors embrace technology to create safer workplaces, hire good people more quickly and enhance operational efficiency.
Brickman leads the fund and its nimble team with a desire to create more positive connectivity between different areas of the country and economic engines in Ohio and the broader heartland.
Led by Chairman and CEO Hugh Cathey, ChromoCare’s employees can work part time for ChromoCare and part time for other employers in their complex, allowing them to learn different job skills, have scheduling flexibility and maintain full benefits plans. The company also offers flex time, encourages cross-training, offers equity participation and provides gym facilities at no cost.
ChromoCare provides unique genetic testing to patients using prescription medications. Its main product, The G•A•P Test, aligns an individual’s genetic makeup with their medications so they are always effective, with no adverse side effects. ChromoCare works with The Ohio State University and the University of Findlay’s College of Pharmacy to identify new opportunities in pharmacology and genetics to expand on the capabilities of The G•A•P Test.
Although less than three years old, Ohio Legal Help — led by Executive Director Susan Choe — has had a huge impact on low-income, underserved and vulnerable Ohioans. Using scalable technology as its foundation, Ohio Legal Help is helping shrink the justice gap, provide more equitable access to the justice system and empower Ohioans with the tools and information they need to resolve legal issues.
Choe and her team continue to add new information and post updates to OhioLegalHelp.org, making the site even more beneficial, particularly for people who don’t have access to legal assistance. They recently launched a secure online hub called My OLH, where users can create an account to find, save and complete complex court forms.
A strong leader with a strategic vision, Feazel CFO Rhea Cunningham has proven capabilities in finance, legal and operational improvements and support. Cunningham leads the company in fiscal and legal operations, as well as human resources activities across all aspects and locations. She also oversees the company’s ongoing expansion efforts into emerging markets.
Cunningham has helped the Feazel brand continue to grow, bringing innovation into the roofing industry and taking steps to set the brand apart from its competition. She leads by example and inspires the team to take smart risks to drive positive change in their professional lives. Cunningham’s ability to effectively lead and build Feazel has been proven in the continued success and growth of the company.
President Mark Daniels leads M+A Architects’ mission to design for the future, evolving and organically growing through strategic relationships with the firms’ respected partners. By influencing design on a national level, M+A seeks to enhance communities and elevate human experiences, working every day to enrich lives through innovative design.
Daniels recognizes each individual as their whole self, not separating his staff into professional and personal segments, and invests in their individuality from all areas of life. He is a true leader, taking pride in hiring only the best people and giving them the autonomy they deserve to create a greater future and a fulfilling work environment. Known throughout the industry for its culture, Daniels is responsible for setting the tone of excellence at M+A.
COhatch founder and CEO Matthew Davis is committed to revitalizing communities. He has reinvented the way many professionals can work, live and meet in Central Ohio, with regional and national expansion growth. He and his team have built a company that truly is impacting people and communities for good. Davis has a vision of building communities of people who help one another, share their resources and knowledge, and develop a good quality of life, all while giving back to their communities.
COhatch offers co-working spaces for small businesses or large companies entering into the gig economy, and off-site meeting spaces for companies looking to boost creativity, productivity and team building. It also has shared spaces and resources such as event spaces that the community can use.
Under the leadership of its fourth president, David Decker, Ph.D., Franklin University has expanded its portfolio of academic offerings and focused on workforce development. The university has also introduced international partnerships and established a world-class Instructional Innovation Center to enhance student learning and success.
Franklin’s innovative initiatives provide access to higher education, personal growth and professional achievement, and include the addition of four master’s programs and five applied doctoral programs. The expansion of the university’s academic portfolio and its ability to meet workforce needs was made possible through the International Institute for Innovative Instruction. As part of Decker’s vision to unite curriculum design, teaching and learning assessment, and technology training professionals, it partners with organizations to create customized learning experiences.
With PopCom, CEO Dawn Dickson-Akpoghene has built a technology company with a software solution to revolutionize automated retail. The startup is at the forefront, with an automated retail technology platform for vending machines and kiosks that allows retailers to engage and understand customers, sell more products and learn from big data. Essentially, the company makes vending machines and kiosks smarter.
Dickson-Akpoghene created the company after struggling to find vending machines that could sell her roll-up flat products (flatoutofheels.com) at high-traffic areas like airports. Also absent was the data she relied on to track and monitor traffic and conversion rates through her website and shopping cart; analytics, email collection, retargeting, remarketing — arguably the tenets of successful sales growth — were not possible with traditional low-IQ vending machines.
As the leading consumer health care navigation and care coordination company, Quantum Health helps employees of self-insured U.S. companies have a more effective and satisfying health care experience, while consistently delivering significant cost savings to employers. CFO Scott Doolittle’s broad, strategic business perspective, combined with his operational expertise, have been critical in leading the company through average annual revenue growth of 30 percent during his five-year tenure.
By developing scalable systems, processes and controls to support the rapid expansion of its business operations, Doolittle has ensured the company keeps evolving in a fast-paced environment, while simultaneously guiding it through two high-profile investor transactions. This rapid rise in revenue and operations over five years has added more than 1,000 jobs in the Columbus community.
Bruce Duff has grown ARCOS LLC to become the leading Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions company in North America, enabling utilities to respond, restore and report in real-time for day-to-day events and emergencies. ARCOS’ Resource Management solution helps utilities restore power faster through automated crew callout and crew management. ARCOS has seen significant organic growth through the years, and Duff has led a string of acquisitions that have rapidly accelerated the company’s trajectory.
The top 25-largest electric and gas utilities in North America rely on ARCOS for damage assessment, location services, automation of emergency event management and insightful reporting. They also use ARCOS’ Resource Management solution to communicate with emergency responders, regulators, media and staff for important updates during an event.
Since taking the reins at Flying Horse Farms in 2017, the passion, insight and leadership of President and CEO Nichole E. Dunn have been evident. And while 2020 could have been devastating for the nonprofit, whose mission was built on in-person experiences with health-compromised children, it turned out to be one for the history books.
Dunn’s quick decision-making to suspend “normal” camp programming and shift resources to creating a robust virtual program allowed for the continued delivery of an important mission at a critical time. She directed the efforts in an effective, smart, efficient manner, engaging camper families to ensure the experience was meeting the needs of kids and caregivers. In addition, online programming created a sense of connection for children and families processing their upended schedules and routines.
CEO Eric Frasier has helped shape the direction of SAGE Integration, allowing for a respectful but needed disruption among competitors and the industry as a whole. Through his leadership, SAGE has positioned itself as a technology company rather than simply another security company. Incorporating Frasier’s ingenuity and direction, the executive team has positioned SAGE through marketing, sales and operational excellence efforts.
He has sought to focus each day on five goals — treating SAGE employees as the Tip of The Spear, customer satisfaction, innovation, social responsibility and growth. Throughout the pandemic, Frasier remained laser-focused on taking care of SAGE employees and its clients. The insight he provided during a very tough 2020 enabled SAGE to hire 12 new team members and pay bonuses to employees.
Alex Frommeyer has put Midwest innovation on the map. Before Beam, innovation in the dental insurance industry was at a standstill. Frommeyer set out to make Beam the first and only digital-first dental insurance provider in the U.S. that leverages technology to make dental insurance smarter. Beam is the only dental benefits provider that uses a connected, smart toothbrush to track dental hygiene behavior and incorporates that into policy pricing.
Beam is bringing sweeping change to the industry. Since launching in 2012, it continues to disrupt giant dental insurance incumbents. In 2021, the company is taking innovation even further, exploring a new connected toothbrush, expanding its offering to more states and exploring making its insurance product available to individuals.
LifeCare Alliance President and CEO Charles W. “Chuck” Gehring is a venerated leader in Central Ohio’s nonprofit community, with his practical leadership, collaborative nature and dedication to service. With a servant’s heart, he leads LifeCare Alliance in providing health and nutrition services to 30,000 homebound, disabled and chronically ill clients annually. During the pandemic, the number of meals delivered weekly increased by 68 percent as congregate centers closed and other individuals needed home-delivered services.
As a compassionate and devoted leader, Gehring’s unwavering commitment ensures LifeCare Alliance’s services are given to all eligible individuals, regardless of their ability to pay, and the agency has continued to serve those in need despite the significant rise in the number of clients and meal deliveries.
As President and CEO Beth Gifford founded Columbus Works and began to evaluate early outcomes, her desire to understand the root cause of poverty in a booming economy compelled her to research and identify models that provided solutions. As a result, Columbus Works is the only organization of its type to integrate multiple high-performing workforce, social service and science-based methods into one system to impact poverty in Central Ohio. The model is based on identifying where high-quality jobs are located and working with neighbors living in poverty in that same community.
In addition, Gifford co-chairs the Workforce Advisory Committee of the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio, working to build and measure the collective impact of the workforce organizations providing services throughout Franklin County.
For over 134 years, Columbus Early Learning Centers has been providing high-quality early learning and care to Columbus children. Led by CEO Gina M. Ginn, Ph.D., the centers help young learners develop, families succeed and neighborhoods thrive. In Ginn’s five years of leading CELC, the number of early learning centers has increased from two to five and the staff has grown from 17 to 73, while the number of children annually served has increased from 118 to 300.
CELC is in the midst of a capital campaign for its fifth center in partnership with Bridgeway Academy and is working with two additional community partners to evaluate locations to help increase access to affordable high-quality care and education.
The Basement Doctor CEO Ron Greenbaum has spent 30 years building a strong suite of businesses that provide needed services, and valuable tools and resources, to industries nationally. These include cleaning, waterproofing, restoration, crawlspace and foundation repair, and a do-it-yourself home improvement market. Greenbaum started working with a small waterproofing company in 1992, and within a few years, invested in the company that would use his likeness to grow the brand. He became the Basement Doctor.
Greenbaum’s business growth lies in recognizing a need and finding a way to service it through his skills and expertise in a niche industry. To date, he has started and developed six companies that service customers locally and, through ecommerce platforms, distribute to wholesale and retail customers across the U.S.
Air Force One CEO Greg Guy works closely with members of his leadership team to understand the pulse of the company and its clients. With the objective of analyzing associate feedback and discussing opportunities that will lead his team forward to success, he engages with associates to build an extraordinary team. Guy continuously searches for ways to improve and grow his HVAC business in a constantly changing industry. Under his direction, the company began extensive research on the benefits of photohydroionization at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Installed directly into the supply side of a building’s existing HVAC equipment, it continuously disinfects the air stream and hard surfaces, reducing micro-organisms, including COVID-19, by 99.99 percent.
In her role at Community Shelter Board, Executive Director Michelle Heritage facilitates and leads work with the community to make sure everyone in Columbus and Franklin County has a place to call home. She brings together diverse organizations to work together as an efficient system and uses an outcome-based funding model that measures performance, monitors success and assures the system’s effectiveness. She also combines innovative solutions and best practices with time-tested strategies to implement programs that quickly and stably house people in crisis.
Under her leadership, Community Shelter Board’s system of care served 14,000 people last year with homelessness prevention, shelter, street outreach, rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing. Even during the pandemic, Heritage created and launched two new major initiatives for people facing homelessness.
Lehman Daman Construction Services Inc. President Jimmy Hoben and his executive team live and operate based on a set of core values that have led to healthy success — not just with customers, but with employees, business partners and the community. The company has a culture of consistently running low-cost experiments. Sometimes these involve new technology, but more often, they involve tinkering with the construction process to determine how the company can yield better results.
While many construction companies can build the buildings that Lehman Daman constructs, the difference is in how painful or streamlined the process of building is. Leadership believes that by living by its core values, the company provides a better user experience for its customers, resulting in faster, more cost-effective projects.
EasyIT CEO Kurt Hoeft has exemplified innovation, serving as the company’s visionary and overseeing sales. EasyIT, a managed service provider, both serves as clients’ IT departments and works with clients’ own internal IT staff to provide co-managed IT services, allowing businesses to increase and improve security efforts without outsourcing their entire IT department.
During the pandemic, Hoeft created a culture of working hard, whether at home, in the office, or on a Zoom call. The team understood the expectations, and Hoeft and his brother, Eric, COO, led their staff with transparency and pride. The team always knew the situation of the company, what the latest guidelines were and how EasyIT would provide service in a safe way for everyone.
Judy Huang has built her career on a willingness to take risks and innovate to create value for her customers and employees. She founded 889 Global Solutions in 2000, a company she leads as CEO, with a focus on sourcing customized industrial and medical device manufacturing from Asia for American companies, utilizing engineering and quality control teams in China. She has been recognized as a pioneer in the sourcing industry.
In the wake of the tremendous economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Huang has remained persistent in leading her team to provide customers with attention to detail and transparency to minimize disruptions and maximize efficiencies. She emphasizes flexibility, with continuing investment in remote working tools and advanced planning and supply chain monitoring to minimize disruptions to customers.
ZED Digital President Sumithra Jagannath is a nationwide leader in smart city and smart transportation software research. During the pandemic, she successfully launched the first smart bus technology, an Internet of Things-based solution that provides contactless payment for public transit.
Her mobile app trip-planning tool has enabled over 2 million people find transportation options in Ohio and Kentucky, and during the pandemic, over 100,000 essential workers used the technology to pay in a contactless manner on smart buses. This hardware and software solution, invented by Jagannath, provides the first contactless and hands-free payment solution, allowing users to board the bus with their phone in their pocket. While boarding, the sensor automatically connects with a user’s phone to enable payment, avoiding line-ups at the fare box.
Before Katrina Kerns was named president and CEO of North Community Counseling Centers, the organization was struggling financially. Since joining NCCC, she has helped the agency grow in the number of staff, locations, and programs and services, and has grown revenue. This growth has been achieved sustainably and occurred without sacrificing the culture at NCCC, a workplace that takes care of its staff and fosters their professional and personal development.
NCCC’s growth has also resulted from Kerns’ ability to identify the community’s unmet needs. She recognizes staff’s strengths and potential and helps them lead new programs and services. As a result, NCCC runs more efficiently and adheres to its mission of caring for the community by providing affordable, high-quality, accessible and culturally humble mental health services.
When Darla King started King Business Interiors Inc. in 1998, she believed that founding a woman-owned business would allow her to stand out among her mostly male competitors. Over the past 22 years, she has lead King Business Interiors to become a trusted partner for world-class working environments.
King, the company’s owner and president, believes you don’t need to choose between putting all your energy into your own company or the serving the community, recognizing she has a greater impact by doing both. Leveraging her core strengths as a leader, King trusts and empowers her team, allowing her time to serve on nonprofit boards. By facing the challenges of the last year head on, she became a thought leader in managing workplace safety, supporting remote workforces and nurturing company culture.
Since 2007, Dura-Seal President and CEO Bob Lester has grown the sealcoating, asphalt and concrete services company with intentional, impactful decisions. Working in the paving industry for more than 20 years, he’s led two buyouts, an acquisition and the sale of a manufacturing company. The company employs more than 50, and since 2007, revenue has grown more than 3,000 percent. By prioritizing people, innovation and community, Lester’s leadership sets Dura-Seal apart.
While Lester has experienced the ups and downs of owning a small business, the 2020 downturn was an entirely different and unexpected obstacle. But his leadership and vision for a stable, innovative business helped Dura-Seal weather the storm as he motivated his leadership team to pivot and develop new business development strategies to come out ahead.
Since becoming president and CEO of I Am Boundless Inc., Patrick Maynard, Ph.D., has revolutionized the 40-year-old agency. Six years ago, he inherited a nonprofit with a proven track record of providing high-quality, person-centered, residential-based services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, the agency lacked future focus and was not actively seeking to expand services.
Maynard worked with the board, staff and individuals served by the organization to create a strategic vision for its immediate present and long-term future. Embracing innovation at every turn, Maynard has led Boundless’ transformation from a successful but stagnant agency into a leading-edge family of companies with sustainable operations. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Maynard’s eagerness to embrace innovation, pivot and grow has enabled Boundless to maintain its mission focus.
Throughout the pandemic, Fahlgren Mortine Executive Vice President Marty McDonald has led with the ability to quickly pivot, adapt and reinvent the organization to address problems and opportunities. She never lost sight of the long-term purpose, values and strategies to achieve future success.
The firm’s business metrics have lived up to the definition of a smart organization, including strong financial performance, unparalleled success in winning new business, industry-best client retention, low staff attrition, industry innovation, community service and award-winning creative work. Under her leadership, Fahlgren Mortine launched a nine-month initiative to hit the refresh button on the 59-year-old firm’s brand position, including creative development to identify, articulate and express emotionally and rationally what makes Fahlgren Mortine unique.
Rockbridge founder and CEO Jim Merkel has over two decades of experience building and leading smart, successful hospitality, investment and operating brands. He focuses on creating great teams, while providing a vision for how to grow, lead and identify opportunities for success in an ever-evolving industry landscape.
Merkel founded Rockbridge in 1999 and led the company through a 20-year anniversary celebration, which he branded as R20. The R20 brand identifies four core themes that drive Rockbridge’s success. The company refers to them as its Rocks — Relevance, Relationships, Resilience and Responsibility. The R20 brand symbolizes slowing down, showing gratitude, reflecting and planning for the future.
Rockbridge — which develops, designs and builds award-winning, independent and branded hotels — currently has eight hospitality-focused funds and over 270 hotel investments in 38 states.
Led by President and COO Lorien Parry Luehrs, HomeTown Ticketing is recognized as the leader and industry standard in digital ticketing for K-12 schools and Divisions II – III colleges, helping them seamlessly transition from cash and paper to digital ticketing.
Luehrs has used her vast industry knowledge, expertise, vision, determination and relentless drive for growth and perfection to shape HomeTown by finding and providing innovative solutions for digital ticketing and customer service. Under her day-to-day operational leadership, HomeTown Ticketing has developed, implemented and provided the tools, features and support for schools to manage event access, sell tickets online and take control of their revenue stream. Her vision and philosophy are impeccably on point, and her management skills and work ethic are second to none.
The arrival of Hal Paz, M.D., at The Ohio State University in June 2019 came at a time of dramatic growth. His initial goals included creating an ecosystem of care that begins in the home, addressing societal health issues and expanding digital health technologies and the use of personalized medicine. He quickly moved the institution to new and incredibly difficult priorities — COVID-19 response, anti-racism action and addressing social determinants of health — to respond to these crises.
Immediately upon the onset of the pandemic, the Wexner Medical Center focused on how it could best contribute to solving the crisis. Researchers began developing testing solutions to help track the spread of coronavirus, and with Battelle, jointly developed a rapid, highly sensitive diagnostic test for COVID-19.
When John Perez founded Perez Morris, he understood the importance of the law firm being rooted in the community, both in helping the underserved and in embracing struggling families. Over 20 years later, these values continue to be championed by John’s daughter-in-law and successor, Sarah Perez, managing attorney at the business law firm. She has a hand in day-to-day work through her commercial litigation, labor and employment, and transactional practice areas. Perez takes pride in running a smart firm, focused on building its business and its community by being involved in client work and in larger initiatives as a leader. The attorneys she works with recognize her as a bright attorney who is as capable, if not more so, as attorneys with significantly more years of experience.
Keeping people and the economy moving has never been more important than in 2020. Thanks to years of excellent financial stewardship, a culture of innovation, a nimble and courageous team, and leadership from Central Ohio Transit Authority president and CEO Joanna M. Pinkerton, COTA didn’t miss a day of service while reimagining mobility solutions.
That capability can be attributed to Pinkerton’s drive for transformation and an urgency to redefine COTA’s role as a transportation agency in Central Ohio. COTA had big, transformational plans for 2020 after coming off of record-breaking ridership in 2019 and a rapidly expanding area population. And despite the COVID-19 pandemic, under Pinkerton’s guidance, the organization forged ahead and, in some cases, accelerated those plans.
Over the last few years, Two Labs has experienced significant growth, both organically and by acquisition. During this growth, Senior Vice President, Human Resources Christie Prue has demonstrated strong leadership by continuing to keep the culture and employee satisfaction at the forefront.
With several acquisitions in the last two years, the company has expanded its footprint to include a presence in over 30 states, leading to an increase in sales and market presence. Two Labs is constantly recruiting new talent, and by focusing on what is best for employees, the company will remain in high growth mode while consistently retaining talent. Prue has worked endlessly to become a benefits-savvy leader because she understands the impact that benefits have on the ability to attract and retain talent.
Denise M. Robinson took over Alvis as CEO in 2005, and since then has increased the company’s operating budget by nearly 500 percent, operating with more than 500 employees throughout Ohio. Alvis is a comprehensive human services agency that meets the needs of some of Central Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens. Robinson has brought Alvis programs to the highest levels of evidence-informed practices. She has championed the organization’s involvement in building a stronger community through its work with clients and the community involvement of the agency’s leadership.
Robinson oversees an agency that is committed to providing evidence-informed services that have been proven to be effective in turning lives around. She seeks solutions to make clients whole, implementing programs that result in lasting change for individuals, families and communities.
Led by Chairman, President and CEO Craig Rogerson, Hexion is a leading specialty chemical company based in Columbus. In his role since 2017, Rogerson has been instrumental in a number of strategic initiatives intended to position Hexion for continued success, including assembling a global leadership team that continues to successfully navigate the global pandemic. While 2020 was challenging, Hexion’s associates stayed focused on serving customers and safely operating manufacturing sites.
Under Rogerson’s leadership, Hexion’s research and development activities are focused on developing and delivering solutions and services that adapt to the changing needs of its customers and deliver outstanding returns for its investors. It operates in a safe, sustainable and responsible manner, leaving the planet — and the communities where it works — better than when it started.
While all businesses were impacted by the pandemic, gyms were one of the first to close and last to reopen. But during COVID-19, Orangetheory Fitness Franchise Owner Sarah San Pedro opened a new location in Clintonville and offered free classes to health care workers and teachers.
San Pedro owns multiple Orangetheory Studios and was one of the first to bring OTF to Central Ohio. In her eight years, San Pedro and her locations have had an incredible impact on both their communities and their members and have, year over year, seen increased sales in their membership. Orangetheory gives back to the community and to employees’ families and its members. For example, it partners with other businesses on joint discount programs and efforts to support local nonprofits.
Jenny Saunders, president of FCBank a Division of CNB Bank, is a trusted leader in Central Ohio. Well-known for her professional and philanthropic endeavors, leading a bank with core values that align with her personal values and the ability to effect change in the community is a perfect fit.
Saunders has cultivated an environment in which employees, community leaders and local organizations work together for the betterment of their communities, while consistently maintaining a reputation for high-quality consumer and commercial banking. She promotes a customer-centric approach to banking, while recognizing the need to differentiate from the competition with higher-level service, properly matched products and collaborative community involvement. And internally, with her positive and unique approach, Saunders has created a culture in which employees can thrive and grow.
Jeffrey H. Sopp, CEO of Kensington Hill Partners LLC, is the silent powerhouse behind some of the most well-known, impactful and business savvy-companies and industries in Central Ohio. Consulting with CEOs and top-level leadership, Sopp harnesses their collective knowledge, experience, passion and drive to propel corporations and industries forward.
Sopp lends his ear to leaders at pivotal junctures in their companies’ growth or their own careers, investing time to understand the needs of leadership in relation to their vision for their company. He then innovatively strategizes with them about how that vision can grow, not only their own company but also to influence or expand an entire industry and the job market in Central Ohio.
Eric Spurling is co-founder of AdVon Commerce, an affiliate marketing and ecommerce company based in Dublin. His leadership stems from his education at West Point Military Academy, along with his service in the military, where he commanded a 12-person Special Forces (Green Beret).
Spurling co-founded a company that catalyzes the ecommerce market and brings revenue to retailers, publishers and brands. He is at the forefront of innovation in the ecommerce industry, with the introduction of the Carrick Bend tech platform. The platform is designed to close the revenue loop between Google Ads and Amazon in a way that brings revenue from both platforms and grows relationships with retailers. Spurling and his team have made the Amazon OSP platform more efficient, creating revenue growth for clients and effectively changing the ecommerce ecosystem.
Atlas Venture Partners CEO Wolf Starr sees endless opportunities for communities to achieve their maximum potential. Starr has always been passionate about community, goodwill and impact, and most recently has used this passion to support diversity, equity and inclusion with the launch of The Pride Fund, the nation’s first venture capital fund supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
Starr has found the most creative ways to bring cross-regional entrepreneurs, creatives and nonprofits together to showcase impactful projects that have the potential to change communities across the world. He knows how to navigate through uncertainty and has created more than one company from scratch. Those around him have tremendous trust in his leadership, as he cares more for others’ success and their growth than about making a profit.
With COVID playing havoc on our world, the Ohio High School Athletic Association, through the leadership of Executive Director Doug Ute, has continued to offer tournament participation opportunities for student-athletes at member schools. Ute and his team have survived due to innovative financial measures. The OHSAA has reduced expenses across several areas, including reducing employee health and retirement benefits, combined with salary cuts, and has utilized online ticketing exclusively for tournaments to eliminate the costs of printing and maintenance of paper tickets. The OHSAA also reduced costs by conducting the majority of its tournaments at high school facilities rather than collegiate or professional sites, controlling expenses for tournaments, and has supplemented its revenue by applying for and receiving two PPP loans.
Wiley Companies is celebrating 40 years in business in 2021, growing from a boutique custom fine chemicals and nutritional supplement and ingredient manufacturer, to having some of the world’s most recognizable brands. On March 1, 2020, Wiley Companies Co-Founder David Wiley stepped down as CEO after leading the company since 1981 and overseeing a massive global expansion. Wiley, a third-generation family business leader, succeed his father as CEO, Wiley Ingredients.
Wiley Companies has grown exponentially but has never wavered on its corporate values. When approached to utilize raw fish oil from wild Alaskan pollack, it first ensured that the techniques used to catch fish were the most sustainable possible. Wiley Companies is the only producer of Omega-3 and Omega-7 raw ingredients with a 100 percent U.S. supply chain.
Dr. Bill Wulf has been CEO of Central Ohio Primary Care Physicians since 2013. Bringing 30 years of medical and leadership experience, he was a leader among the founding physicians that helped establish COPC in 1996. From the onset, he has overseen COPC’s growth as the largest independent primary care physician group in the country.
Wulf’s innovative spirit has included better care models for patients and technological advancements in health care analytics and delivery. He has been instrumental in COPC’s ability to reduce care costs and increase population health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he continued to lead improvements in care delivery as COPC quickly deployed new and innovative telehealth delivery methods to ensure an overwhelming majority of patients could receive care.
Brian Yeager, president and CEO of The Champion Companies, has built a smart organization over the past 11 years. He has a proven track record of implementing innovative ideas to spur business growth. He has also made an impact on his team members and the greater community through Champion’s award-winning company culture and transformative philanthropic endeavors.
Yeager’s ability to effectively build and lead a savvy organization is demonstrated through his impressive growth of Champion into a market-leading multifamily real estate investment, development and management firm. Champion started in 2010 with five team members, one community and 199 units, and since that time has grown to 24 communities, 5,000 units and more than 150 team members by putting people first.