Cascade Capital Corporation 2016 BUSINESS GROWTH AWARDS

These 41 outstanding companies fortify the strength of our regional economy in many different ways


Robert Filipiak ◆ executive director ◆ Cascade Capital Corp.

It is with great pleasure that I would like to congratulate the 41 Cascade Capital Corporation Business Growth Award winners for 2016. These companies are located within Summit, Medina, Portage, Wayne, Stark, Holmes and Ashland counties in Northeastern Ohio.

Based on both the Business Growth Award’s criteria and the challenges facing small companies in today’s business environment, this is quite an accomplishment.

A company can earn a Business Growth Award by either increasing its sales level by 100 percent/$5 million or by increasing its employee base by 50 percent/25 people over the course of the past five years. These impressive growth standards also provide significant economic benefits to the local/regional economy.

Growing companies sales of their goods & services to other parts of the state, across the nation and even internationally, enriches our local/regional economy.

Receipts and profits generated by these companies are positively manifested when these companies purchase local goods and services, invest in new operating facilities/ equipment and hire new employees. These wealth-creating mechanisms directly lead to the economic vitality of our local/regional economy.

The goals of Cascade Capital Corporation are to provide meaningful financing assistance to small and medium-sized companies poised to grow through investment in new operating facilities, equipment and human resources and to invest, on a long-term basis, in the communities it services.

Cascade Capital provides affordable, long-term fixed interest rate financing directly through its SBA 504 Loan Program.

In combination with traditional bank financing, a small/medium-sized business receives 90 percent financing for its new building or equipment purchase: Bank Financing — 50 percent; Cascade SBA 504 — 40 percent; Business Down Payment — 10 percent. Twenty-year fixed interest rates are available for building purchases with current rates just over four percent — that’s low!

Cascade Capital has recently added another long term financing tool: the SBA 504 Refinance Program. This is available to companies that would like to refinance long-term debt for a building or equipment purchase made at least two years ago. Like the SBA 504 Program, below market 20-year fixed interest rates are available.

Cascade Capital’s Ohio 166 Loan Program also offers extremely competitive fixed interest rates for business borrowers investing in equipment or real estate: as low as 3 percent for 10 years and 3.5 percent for 20 years.
A number of 2016 Business Growth Award winners have received funding in the past from Cascade Capital through its SBA 504 and Ohio 166 Loan Programs.

As far as investing in the communities it services, Cascade Capital has committed over $900,000 of its own financial resources towards important economic development initiatives in Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties.

Congratulations to all of Cascade Capital Corporation’s 2016 Business Growth Award winners on a job well done! Thank you too for your continuing role in supporting and revitalizing our local/regional economy through your impressive growth in sales and jobs created.

Robert Filipiak is executive director of Cascade Capital Corp., an economic development finance company that has provided dependable financing options to growing small- to medium-sized companies in Greater Akron and Northeastern Ohio since 1983. Reach him at (330) 379-3160 or [email protected].

Huntington Legacy Award

Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc. ◆ W. Michael Jarrett ◆ president

Jarrett Logistics is proud of its past, focused on the future

Focusing on business growth during the past five years, Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc. has created new marketing initiatives, executed technological improvements, expanded its facilities and is continuing to add employees.

The company is led by President W. Michael Jarrett and seeks to provide a complete package of logistics solutions for high-growth manufacturing, distribution and wholesale clients who value logistics management and partnerships and choose to focus on their core competencies.

It has grown at an average rate of 14 percent over the past 10 years and expects to continue at this pace through 2016. Jarrett Logistics Systems has launched new marketing initiatives to assist with the continual sales growth of the company. The company’s goal is to get its brand in front of more decision makers throughout the U.S. in the supply chain industry through various email marketing campaigns. Jarrett’s tag line, “Delivering Peace of Mind,” will be the focus of the campaign.

Technology growth remained another focal point for Jarrett as he led the business into 2016 and beyond. The company website will be redesigned, with a new look that will provide clients a greater opportunity for routing freight and receiving quotes, as well as tracking and tracing all facets of their shipping program. A simplified, combined approach allows additional time saving opportunities for JLS partners. The company has also added an additional IT coordinator, as well as three logistics analyst positions to develop its business intelligence software.

Three years ago, JLS expanded its building with additional office space to be able to accommodate its growing companies. There was additional room to add three teams of six employees to establish more customer account teams. At the start of 2015, JLS had outgrown the new expansion and started construction on the third phase of the building.

The new construction was completed at the end of March 2015, which allowed the company to add 21 additional employees. Later in the year, JLS maximized its office space and began construction of a new building across the street from the headquarters. The new building is 10,000 square feet, which will create room for 15 additional customer account teams. Since the start of 2015, the company has added 19 employees to the ever growing Jarrett Cos. Campus.

The goal is to continue the company’s growth and success by utilizing and continually enhancing leading-edge logistics software; marketing to high-growth companies that value supply chain management partnerships; designing flexible custom logistics solutions; and employing the best logistics personnel in the industry.

Under Jarrett’s leadership, the company always want to meet or exceed customer expectations by designing, implementing and executing supply chain solutions that provide customers with the least-cost, best-service logistics network.

The company has also contributed to the local economy through its philanthropic support. Jarrett Logistics Systems has made contributions to the local Relay for Life, United Way, the Salvation Army and the local Children Services branch. It’s all helped position JLS to be a leader in its industry and a company poised for continued success.
How to reach: Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc.,

Akron Community Foundation Philanthropy in Business Award

Cohen & Co. Ltd. ◆ J. Michael Kolk ◆ partner

Cohen & Co. takes a multi-faceted approach to help those in need

Community service has always been and continues to be an important aspect of the culture at Cohen & Co. Ltd., even in the midst of significant growth on the accounting firm’s business side. In 2014, Cohen & Co. focused on enhancing its community efforts by starting Cohen Cares. The committee meets regularly to produce a charitable calendar of events from its firm-wide Community Service Day to holiday and other events.

The firm-wide service day is actively promoted each and every year and has been a regular event on the calendar for the past 15 years. Everyone at the firm is encouraged to attend and volunteer at designated sites near their respective offices. Employees and leaders come together to paint, clean up communities, pack food at food banks and perform other acts that serve to help those in need.

In addition to this annual day of service to the communities the firm serves, Cohen Cares and its employees participate in a number of activities that also play an important part in brightening the lives of others. These include events like chili cook-offs, donation drives and other philanthropic endeavors. About 75 percent of the firm’s employees take part in some form of volunteerism. Members of the staff also take time out of their day and out of their own personal lives to serve on numerous not-for-profit boards and committees.

The philanthropic work wouldn’t be possible at Cohen & Co. without the hard work and commitment to service that takes place on the business side.

Over the past five years, Cohen & Co. has experienced exponential growth. Now with 400-plus employees across six offices in Ohio, Michigan, New York and Wisconsin, one of the firm’s biggest accomplishments has been balancing that exponential growth with the maintenance of a healthy corporate culture. These bedrock elements of the firm’s culture are essential components for a company that wishes to exceed expectations for customers and do the same for the community it calls home.

Technical excellence remains at the core of what Cohen & Co. does and what it offers private companies and their owners.

Employees are provided with training through a number of avenues, including Cohen University — a comprehensive institution through which the firm can develop employees and reinforce the firm’s five core competencies of technical ability, client service, productivity, staff development/teamwork and business growth.

The university hosts a flagship three-day, off-site technical and business training program for all levels of the firm; provides new managers with a multiple-month training program to bring them up to speed on how the firm operates and how they can contribute in their new position; and hosts weekly tax lunches for those in all six offices to tackle the most complex client issues and learn about the latest legislative developments.

The firm also pays for external training throughout the year in a variety of areas. Overall, staff members undergo more than 100 hours of training and development annually. Combined, it’s the strong technical excellence and equally strong commitment to community that continue to drive the firm’s culture and success year after year.
How to reach: Cohen & Co. Ltd.,

Entrepreneurial Spirit Award


Main Street Gourmet LLC ◆ Steve Marks & Harvey Nelson ◆ co-founders

The team at Main Street Gourmet lives for the impossible task

Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson have instilled a culture at Main Street Gourmet LLC that promotes entrepreneurial spirit as well as the belief that employees must have a sense of satisfaction in their job.

This concept has resulted in both a very low rate of turnover and a significant amount of promotion from within. The company, a custom manufacturer of frozen bakery products for specialty grocery stores and food operators, has been repeatedly recognized as one of the best companies to work for in Northeast Ohio. Many employees have worked for the company for more than 20 years, which is a remarkable achievement in today’s world.

Some of the challenges those employees face are not easy. Main Street Gourmet focuses on customers that are finicky about their ingredients, demand differentiation and often want a product that is difficult to produce. The company’s strategy to make this philosophy its driving force has proven to be a successful competitive advantage. It has resulted in the company obtaining many premier food and restaurant operators.

Over the last five years, Main Street Gourmet has experienced employment growth of nearly 30 percent and sales growth of almost 45 percent. The custom baked goods division now represents more than 80 percent of sales.

A majority of the company’s management and supervisory staff have risen through the ranks to now oversee the employees doing the same jobs they themselves performed when they first entered the organization. Managers who know what it takes to succeed in a position are best able to educate and motivate the current holders of those positions, fostering increased productivity and improved camaraderie at the same time.

This entrepreneurial environment has allowed and motivated employees to not only think outside the box, but also recommend and implement changes to traditional processes. As a result, Main Street Gourmet has experienced improvement in new product development, operations (from receiving to material handling, prep, production, packing and labeling), purchasing and finance just to name a few functional areas with positive and exciting changes.

Other key strategic moves include the implementation of a piece rate production system, which allows Main Street Gourmet to keep up with growth in a controlled manner, and the creation of a dedicated sales force to replace brokers, which led to more focus on the company’s products.

Marks and Nelson have promoted cross-functional experience and training in which several managers are now in leadership positions in areas that were not their initial focus or expertise. Many employees have been able to gain broad-based experience and make a difference in other parts of the company.

There is also excellent collaboration among employees, who help each other learn and develop new skills. It’s all about the people, who Marks and Nelson consider to be the company’s greatest asset. The unique atmosphere and culture is the main reason Main Street Gourmet has been successful developing custom products for customers.

Innovation, investment, entrepreneurship and hard work have all helped Marks and Nelson take their dream of Main Street Gourmet and turn it into a reality.
How to reach: Main Street Gourmet LLC,

Greatest Employee Growth, Manufacturing

Daniel’s Amish Collection ◆

Christopher J. Karman has built a strong team at Daniel’s Amish Collection

Daniel’s Amish Collection estimates that for every job that it creates in its factory, at least two to three jobs are created in other local businesses to meet the company’s increased demand.

Many times, Daniel’s Amish Collection can outsource some activities to local people who can do the work, allowing the company to expand its production without having to expand its factory. The team at Daniel’s Amish continues to grow, however, going from 100 employees in 2011 to 155 in 2015, a 55 percent increase.

Daniel’s Amish also has impacted the local community in a charitable and giving way. The company has taken part in numerous fund raising activities — usually centered on an Amish or Mennonite cause such as Haiti Relief (an effort which has been going on for 25 years in the community) and auctions/fund raisers for people who are sick or have other issues.

Giving back can come in many forms — such as the giving of time, or use of the company’s facilities. Many times, Daniel’s Amish will allow groups to use its facilities to raise money for different things.

One example involved a local person who found himself in debt over mounting medical bills.

Daniel Yoder, along with our employees and the local Amish community, used the company’s buildings to make 3,000 pizzas by hand, starting at 2 a.m. in the morning. Everyone went door-to-door selling these pizzas for $8 a pizza. All of the pizzas were sold by noon and everything was donated — so 100 percent of the $24,000 raised went to help that person pay off his medical bills.

Greatest Employee Growth, Technology

Griffith Holdings Inc. ◆

Frank Griffith built a company with a wide range of expertise in Griffith Holdings

Griffith Holdings Inc. is a family of brands combining new media interactive agencies in the web design; digital marketing and custom cloud computing software development space; as well as portraiture art studio; bed and breakfast real estate entity; and a strategic sales and marketing services firm advising CEOs and boards. It also has a telecommunications consultancy and a workplace violence training organization.

Such commitments require a strong team and GHI’s staff has grown significantly over the past five years, going from 21 employees in 2011 to 48 in 2015. Sales are also up, rising 434 percent during the same time period. The company is led by Frank Griffith, GFI’s founder, chairman and CEO.

The workplace violence company, ALICE Training, serves more than 50,000 clients worldwide including such brands as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, as well as the Cleveland Clinic, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Kent State University, Stanford University, Case Western Reserve University and Ingersoll Rand.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are also clients along with state governments across the United States. ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) Training was created to be the pioneer in active shooter preparation training across the country.

It was the first program to question the reasonableness of lockdown-only policies and training, says the ALICE Training Institute.

“Because they were first, they have the most experience, the credibility and the most support for implementation of our program,” says the company’s website.

Greatest Employee Growth, Service ◆ Emerging

Great Lakes Fasteners Inc. ◆

Great Lakes Fasteners is expanding its business in a big way

Great Lakes Fasteners Inc. is a fastener supply company with offices and two distribution centers in Twinsburg.

Since 1958, GLF has been servicing Midwestern manufacturers by providing innovative, problem-solving skills with a comprehensive portfolio of high-quality fastener products. Despite the volatile economic conditions over the past five years, GLF held steadfast and supported its diverse customer base, a move that has paid dividends. GLF specializes in the oil and gas, window and door, transportation, high-tech and power generation segments.

Through an aggressive acquisition strategy and an investment in salespeople and marketing tools, GLF’s sales have risen by 73 percent since 2011. Employee growth has been even better as the team has grown by 275 percent during the same five-year period under the leadership of President Kevin R. Weidinger.

While historically a production fastener focused distributor, GLF entered the maintenance and repair (MRO) segment three years ago and has steadily added new clients with that service offering. GLF’s packaging division also continues to drive value and opportunity with its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers.

Great Lakes sources the fasteners, packages them, places a custom label on the kit and then ships a finished good directly to the OEM. This division has created several new jobs in Twinsburg since 2010 and has helped many GLF customers streamline their supply chain and improve production line efficiency.

GLF recruits people that have a positive attitude, strong work ethic and a hunger to be the best in all they do.  The company’s past and future success rests firmly on its ability to continue to attract and retain talented associates.

Greatest Employee Growth, Service ◆ Established

Community Hospice ◆

Community Hospice seeks to extend quality time with loved ones

There are some who look at hospice care and believe that it shortens life. The topic frequently comes up when Community Hospice engages in conversations with the community it serves.

The company, led by Executive Director and President Norm Mast, seeks to reassure those concerned that hospices do nothing to deliberately shorten life. In fact, there have been studies that show that hospice and palliative care can actually prolong life while improving the quality of life for the patient and his or her family.

If patients are free from pain and other negative symptoms, surrounded by loved ones and provided with emotional support, it’s not surprising that they might actually do better and live longer. Community Hospice advocates annually both statewide and in Washington D.C. to increase awareness for issues and bills that will continue to add resources and benefits to hospice patients and their families.

The team providing that care and support has grown quite a bit over the past five years, increasing from 88 employees in 2011 to 152 employees in 2015.

In ongoing survey results compiled by Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS), when a post-death survey is administered to the patient’s primary caregiver two months after death, Community Hospice consistently scores higher than the national average in several areas.

These include receiving timely care, treating family members with respect, providing excellent hospice team communications, receiving hospice care training and understanding the side effects of pain medication. It contributes to the goal of providing peace, hope and compassion to patients and families the company serves.

Highest Sales Growth, Manufacturing

Kent Displays Inc. ◆

Dr. Albert M. Green has made Kent Displays a leader in product innovation

As an Ohio-based advanced manufacturing small business that produces a consumer electronics-packaged product distributed across the U.S. and around the world, Kent Displays Inc. addresses many technical, operational, marketing and workforce challenges on a daily basis.

KDI has expanded from a small core staff of under 25 to over 80 highly skilled employees — including engineers, scientists, software developers and skilled roll-to-roll manufacturing technicians — to sell innovative products to major global retailers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Led by CEO Dr. Albert M. Green, the result is 110 percent sales growth over the past five years.
To address commercialization challenges, KDI technical experts designed a process performed in the lab and managed it to evolve into a unique continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing process that can run 24/7 to make millions of flexible LCDs for eWriters and other applications.

The company has developed a wide web conductive polymer coating process and the subsequent supply chain for this custom-coated film required for the Boogie Board eWriters.

This new process led to the commissioning of a clean room-based manufacturing line in 2009 incorporating state-of-the-art advancements in roll-to-roll manufacturing. The line was the first of its kind in the world and produces no wastewater/chemicals and less solvent emissions than sheet-based processes.

KDI’s manufacturing operations required multidisciplinary process knowledge as the new manufacturing process required a convergence of semiconductor and film converting technologies.

Highest Sales Growth, Technology

Open Practice Solutions LTD. ◆

Michael Teutsch has Open Practice Solutions poised to be an industry leader

The computerization of medical offices began in earnest in the 1990s. The focus was on the automation of the billing process — taking ledger cards used for billing patients, and insurance forms that were being handwritten — and automating these processes.

The first generation of systems were based on proprietary technology. Then came Unix, DOS, and finally Windows-based systems in the 90s. By the time the Internet became a platform for hosting business applications, the focus of the medical software industry had shifted from accounts receivables applications to medical records applications that also did billing.

The founders of Open Practice Solutions Ltd. (OPS) saw that while physician practices were getting squeezed with ever-decreasing reimbursements, the quality of the A/R systems in the market was getting worse every year, as the market focused on the government subsidized move to electronic medical records. Seeing both the need for a web-based solution and the need again for a solution that was focused on helping private practices stay viable, OPS was founded in 2005.

The first three to six years were spent working with early adopters to craft a solution that delivered the functionality and reliability needed to help a practice thrive. The last five years have seen OPS begin the process of taking the system to market across the country.

Under the leadership of President and CEO Michael Teutsch, OPS has 17 employees, with five more hires expected in the next year. The past five years have seen a 319 percent growth in sales and confidence is high that the growth will only accelerate over the next five years.

Highest Sales Growth, Service ◆ Emerging

Lead to Conversion LLC ◆

Sean Bolton encourages his team at Lead to Conversion to be unique

Lead to Conversion LLC is in its 10th year of partnering with businesses around the United States and Canada, including many local businesses in Northeast Ohio such as the Cleveland Clinic, Carnegie Investment Counsel, Lincoln Electric and many more. LTC is led by CEO Sean Bolton and does not take a boilerplate approach to its work, one of the reasons the company has experienced a 414 percent sales increase since 2011.

LTC does ongoing consulting and site design work, as well as highly custom-tailored online marketing strategies with quantified return on investment (ROI) tracking.

In terms of responsive, mobile-friendly website design, LTC has redesigned and redeveloped dozens of sites and is proud to say that it has yet to re-launch a client website that didn’t see an immediate increase in organic search rankings, targeted traffic and conversions.

In an industry the company views as oversaturated with website designers and online marketing “gurus”, LTC is proud of its strong track record.

One of the reasons behind the success may be the unique benefits provided to LTC employees. They’re able to work from the company’s Hudson office, but are only required to work on location once a week. The company incentivizes personnel with monthly bonus potential that goes above and beyond typical salary and incentive programs.

Everyone is afforded the opportunity to grow beyond their existing roles in the organization and cross-training is conducted regularly for multiple service lines to help employees be well-rounded in terms of website design and online marketing.

Highest Sales Growth, Service ◆ Established

Ritzman Pharmacies Inc. ◆

You can get more than medicine at Ritzman Pharmacies

One of the reasons Ritzman Pharmacies Inc. has been a consistently strong business, growing sales by 123 percent over the past five years and increasing staff by 29 percent during the same time period, is the fact that the company is much more than a drugstore.

CEO Eric Graf has carried on the tradition of the company that first opened in downtown Wadsworth back in 1950 and has grown to 25 pharmacy locations across Northeast Ohio. Ritzman has devoted itself to quality care and healthful living, as exemplified by the launch of its Ritzman Revives workshops last summer.
The theme of the four-part series was “Food is Medicine” and brought individuals together to explain how healthier diets can optimize individual health outcomes.

Ritzman Revives follows in the footsteps of the company’s Ritzman Restores community events, and is a science-based program focused on helping customers achieve optimal individual health through fitness, healthy eating habits and supplements.

During each session, Ritzman pharmacists explained the importance of incorporating healthier diets as a key part of an overall health strategy. The workshops aimed to energize communities to lead healthier lifestyles, which may help prevent chronic diseases.

The overall program includes in-practice blood pressure checks — accurate readings provided by a pharmacist, instead of a machine — as well as energy assessments, energizing products and tools. The Revives program is one way that Ritzman sought to deliver on its four promises of providing care beyond the prescription, a place for individualized care, a place to learn and a place to gather.

Best Overall Success Story, Manufacturing

ACS Industries Inc. ◆

Joe Zeno doesn’t let uncertain economy keep ACS Industries down

The team at ACS Industries Inc. sees plenty of challenges ahead for its business of manufacturing and selling construction equipment attachments and replacement parts. Commodities and oil are bouncing off multi-year lows.

The rapid collapse has been a disaster for mining and drilling companies, not to mention companies selling equipment into those markets. The dollar is strong, which is weighing on the competitiveness of all American manufacturers. The sustainability and length of the current business cycle in the U.S. is becoming somewhat suspect while world economies, especially the European Union, are slowing.

But with challenges there also comes opportunity for visionary companies.

Led by CEO Joe Zeno, ACS has been able to launch a number of new projects that should meaningfully and profitably contribute to the company’s future growth.

ACS developed a special load-out bucket for Komatsu that has been well-received in the aggregate industry. Over the last two years, the company has sold 100 of these buckets to Komatsu and a growing number of spin-off designs directly to end users. As a result, there are further opportunities both with Komatsu and in the aggregate/mining industry that ACS is actively pursuing.

ACS has also resurrected its relationship with the U.S. Marine Corps, which has resulted in substantial new business for 2016. Prospects for business with other branches of the service look promising.

The company also signed a formal contract with IronPlanet, a billion-dollar internet reseller of used construction equipment that has no provider of attachments for customers who buy machines on its site. Work is underway to solve that problem.

Best Overall Success Story, Technology

Metisentry ◆

Marling Engle is always thinking about the next great thing at Metisentry

Metisentry has become a leading force in web and software development, helping businesses improve inefficiencies and solve problems that exist in the marketplace. Founder and CEO Marling Engle’s entrepreneurial spirit, leadership and dedication to the Akron community lends to the company’s success, as well as the success of its employees and its clients.

Software is Engle’s passion. He aspires to apply his knowledge and skill set to help other businesses achieve their goals through the application of the same efficient systems and business operations he has used to find success.

With each new project, Engle is seeking opportunity for product development potential. With this entrepreneurial approach to everyday business problems, his team is building a portfolio of products. The first project he did this with was StationCheck, which is now a thriving startup company headquartered in Northeast Ohio.

The most recent addition is Proposerly, a free online service that allows visitors to create on-the-fly proposals with digital signatures.

Since 2006, Metisentry has grown from a one-man operation to a leading force in web and software development, employing as many as 15 team members and growing. In 2013, the company outgrew its headquarters, split from its sister company, Area 51 Data Solutions, and relocated to a new office space in the heart of downtown Akron.

In 2014, the company realigned its service offerings, creating a renewed focus that leadership believes has contributed greatly to Metisentry’s continued success, including the 131 percent revenue growth from 2013 to 2014.

Best Overall Success Story, Service ◆ Emerging

SecureData 365 ◆

Data centers such as SecureData 365 bring new opportunities to Cleveland

SecureData 365 takes great pride in the opportunity that its presence in Northeast Ohio has created for the region.

With state-of-the-art data centers in both Canton and Cleveland, the company has an opportunity to serve a need in both the Greater Cleveland area as well as other metropolitan locations in the Midwest. While its own team is relatively modest, growing from 10 employees in 2011 to 20 employees in 2015, the opportunity that exists as a job multiplier can significantly impact the local economy.

The opening of the data center in Cleveland has already attracted the interest of several businesses that previously moved their IT infrastructure, along with the jobs that went with it, out of Ohio. The data center’s capabilities and rich fiber background brings jobs back to the area and creates opportunities that previously didn’t exist in Cleveland.

The company estimates that 2,000 IT professionals will call the Cleveland data center “home” to their IT infrastructure.

It sounds like an economic developer’s dream — and perhaps a big reason why the Cleveland Technology Center received tax incentives. The state has agreed that any new customer IT equipment placed in the center in the next 15 years will be eligible for exemption from the state’s 8 percent sales tax.

Sales at SecureData 365, which is led by CEO Ernie Blood, have grown by 112 percent since 2011. Out of necessity and good fortune, SecureData has created an internship program to train IT professionals to either work at one of its data centers or at one of its clients.

Best Overall Success Story, Service ◆ Established


Employees at BDO continue to take opportunities to stretch their skills

In 1986, Gary Shamis took over leadership of the accounting firm established by his father. SS&G had 10 employees then. In 2013, when Shamis stepped down and transitioned leadership to Robert Littman, the firm had 358 employees.

It’s a story of true entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and of daring to be different. Unlike many other accounting firms, SS&G — now BDO, USA LLP — has a strong focus on work-life balance, providing flexible working arrangements and encouraging employees not only to focus on family, but to engage with the community at large.

In the past, SS&G participated in Share, Serve, Give, and now BDO Counts, allowing employees to volunteer at area nonprofits on company time. Under the leadership of CEO Wayne Berson, employees are encouraged to take short breaks, learn about business areas outside their own and hone leadership skills in a multitude of ways.

This workplace culture is embodied by the leadership and allows the accounting firm to hire and retain world-class talent. Employees, in turn, go the extra mile for clients because they know their effort and dedication is valued.

This entrepreneurial spirit is what made SS&G attractive to BDO and continues to drive the growth of the firm’s Northeast Ohio office. By combining with BDO, there is an opportunity to build on the tradition of commitment and dedication to the cause, both within and beyond the company walls.

Clients still receive the same local, hands-on service they value while taking advantage of the access to BDO’s wider array of services and extensive industry experience.