Cascade Capital Corporation 2019 Business Growth Awards


38 outstanding companies that fortify the strength of our regional economy

It is with great pleasure that I would like to congratulate the 38 Cascade Capital Corporation Business Growth Awards winners for 2019. These companies are located within Summit, Medina, Portage, Stark, Wayne, Ashland and Holmes counties in Northeastern Ohio.

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 create major economic benefits for our local/regional economy.

The sales of growing companies’ goods and services to other parts of the state, across the nation and even internationally enrich our economy. Receipts and profits generated by these companies are positively manifested when they 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.

Cascade Capital Corporation focuses on economic development. Its primary operating objectives are to provide attractive financing options to small and medium-sized companies investing in new operating facilities, equipment and human resources and to invest, on a long-term basis, in the Northeastern Ohio communities that it services.

Cascade Capital Corporation provides below-market, long-term fixed interest rate financing through its SBA 504 Loan Program. In combination with traditional bank financing, small and medium-sized companies receive 90 percent financing for new building, equipment and business purchases as follows: bank financing, 50 percent, Cascade Capital Corporation SBA 504, 40 percent; and business down payment, 10 percent. The primary SBA 504 financing term options are for 20 and 25 years, with current fixed interest rates set at around 3.5 percent.

Cascade Capital Corporation’s Ohio 166 Loan Program offers an extremely competitive fixed interest rate of 3 percent for nonretail companies investing in operating facilities or equipment.

A number of 2019 Business Growth Award winners have received funding from Cascade Capital Corporation through its SBA 504 and Ohio 166 Loan Programs.

Cascade Capital Corporation is very proud to have invested its own financial resources to promote economic development throughout Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties for several years. To date, Cascade Capital Corporation has invested over $1.25 million to support new business development, existing business expansion, technology advancement and new job creation throughout the region.

Congratulations to all of Cascade Capital Corporation’s 2019 Business Growth Award winners on a job well done, and thank you for your continuing role in supporting and revitalizing our local/regional economy! ●

Robert Filipiak is president 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

Venture Products Inc. / Dallas Steiner, CEO and COB

Venture Products Inc. is a family-owned company and has been so since its start more than two decades ago. Even before the Ventrac tractor product line was added, the founding Steiner family spent almost 25 years building agricultural equipment and other compact tractors, laying the groundwork for a lasting legacy marrying passion for creative metalworking with entrepreneurial spirit.

Today, Dallas Steiner carries on that family legacy as CEO and COB of Venture Products, the manufacturer of Ventrac compact tractors and commercial-grade attachments. Learning the art of welding from his father and grandfather, he joined with his siblings to launch Steiner Corp. in 1975 — the same year he graduated from high school. Over 14 years, Steiner helped grow the company across three divisions — turf equipment, agricultural equipment and a community repair shop.

In 1998, he sold two of those divisions to recommit the business’s focus on the next generation of all-wheel drive compact tractors. By 1996, he had refocused the company’s vision and goals further by renaming the organization Venture Products. In the time since, he’s continued to lead the company in developing its high-quality subcompact tractor products under the Ventrac brand to become an industry leader worldwide.

Serving a variety of markets, Venture Products has developed a line of more than 40 custom Ventrac attachments, complemented by a Ventrac Mount System that enables machine operators to quickly change tasks, taking less than a minute to attach or detach an attachment. The core Ventrac tractor itself, meanwhile, is built with a proprietary FlexFrame, allowing it to both articulate and oscillate, ensuring the machine can crawl over terrain no matter how it changes for maximum stability and capability, even on nonflat surfaces.

Supplying versatility and capability for many different marketplaces, Ventrac’s evolving portfolio of durable machinery and parts has propelled company sales 145 percent in the last five years.

In addition to developing new, innovative products, Venture Products has found success in the discovery of new manufacturing and management techniques. Its Orville, Ohio-based corporate offices house state-of-the-art research and development facilities, leveraging 3D and 2D CAD software to computer generate the highest quality industrial designs.

As Steiner continues to honor his family’s transformative and long-lasting legacy of metalwork to grow Venture Products, he remains equally dedicated to its parallel legacy of service and generosity. This is articulated throughout the organization through its Heritage Principle: “At the end of the day, let this day be better because you were in it.” The organization participates in local service projects throughout the year, and recently built a tractor for YWAM, a youth ministry in Kiev, Ukraine. ●


Entrepreneurial Spirit Award

Great Day Improvements LLC, dba Patio Enclosures and Stanek Windows / Ed Weinfurtner, Managing partner


Ed Weinfurtner is an entrepreneur and the founder of Blue Olive Partners LLC, a business investment and operating partnership. Over the past 30 years, he has been an owner, investor and operator of multiple privately held businesses in a variety of industries. Yet one of his greatest challenges came in 2014, when he took ownership of a young company struggling financially, operationally and culturally.

That company was Great Day Improvements, the exclusive retailer, manufacturer and installer of Patio Enclosures and Stanek Windoww, which today iareranked among the Top 25 largest residential remodeling companies in the U.S., according to Qualified Remodeler.

When Weinfurtner assumed leadership of the organization five years ago, employee morale was at an all-time low. Internal processes were inefficient or undefined altogether, and the business lacked any real-time data with which to gauge performance and customer satisfaction. Without the tools needed to drill down into every aspect of the business, he began his journey to overhaul the business blind.

With decades of experience, Weinfurtner took a simple, systematic approach to implementing new business intelligence tools and gathering customer feedback, as well as evaluating the business’s existing processes and core competencies. He then defined a mission, vision and growth strategy to unify and rally Great Day Improvements’ staff behind. He also revamped internal workings to support continuous improvement and growth initiatives measured against defined metrics of success viewable in real time. Empowered with this information, company leadership has not only been able to identify and focus on addressing deficient areas but also to encourage better decision making by employees at all levels of the organization.

Under Weinfurtner’s steady guidance, Great Day Improvements has accomplished much to be proud of over the past five years. Reaching $79 million in revenue, the organization boasts increased overall customer satisfaction levels, as well as positive online reviews. It’s also expanded into nine new markets over the past two years, bringing its total to 31, and just this year completed its first acquisition, of Hartshorn Custom Contracting Inc. out of Tampa, Florida.

The acquisition has further expanded the company’s geographical footprint and product line with custom manufacturing and installation of exceptional quality pool enclosures and screen rooms. It also added significant tenured talent to Great Day Improvements’ team of enclosure experts, with staff today numbered at 427.

Yet in Weinfurtner’s words, “e’re just getting started.” While he’s made significant impact in turning Great Day Improvements around in a short period of time, creating a customer-centric and rapidly growing organization, his long-term business strategy sees the company going even further, continuing to expand across new product lines, acquisitions and geographies. ●


Akron Community Foundation Philanthropy in Business Award

Daniel’s Amish Collection / Christopher J. Karman, President

Under the leadership of President Christopher J. Karman, Daniel’s Amish Collection has grown steadily over more than two decades to become a leader among North American furniture manufacturers, achieving nearly $30 million in sales. Providing customized, Amish-handcrafted furniture in rich American hardwoods, the Killbuck, Ohio-based organization has found success in pairing proven, traditional Amish methods with modern facilities and innovative designs.

Yet while Karman and his team have carved out a profitable American-made niche in the highly competitive furniture industry, it is its philanthropic work that it is most proud of. As dedicated to giving back to others as they are to delivering high-quality products, the staff at Daniel’s Amish Collection are involved in charitable and fundraising activities throughout the year.

Chief among these are donations to Haiti relief, auctions and fundraisers for community members in need and supplying Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for local families.

In addition to allocating time and funds toward these causes, Daniel’s Amish Collection donates the use of its facilities when needed. A prime example centers around a local person struggling with mounting medical bills. Alongside the local Amish community, employees used company facilities to make 3,000 pizzas by hand, starting at 2 a.m. before selling them door to door through noon. Donating the ingredients, labor and time, Daniel’s Amish Collection and its supporters donated 100 percent of proceeds — an impressive $24,000 — to help pay off the beneficiary’s medical debt.

Looking at Daniel’s Amish Collection’s founding roots, this generosity comes as no surprise. The company is built upon the woodworking career of Daniel Yoder, a humble Amish man from Holmes County, Ohio. His entry into woodworking was necessitated by his youngest son’s development of a serious condition in the mid-1990s that required significant medical care. Needing flexibility to make frequent, long trips to the hospital, as well as funds to make ends meet, Yoder resigned from his job as a stone mason and started hand-carving small Amish horse and buggies in his barn. That first year, he made 20,000 buggies – selling them to passersby for $1 each — and thus began his woodworking career.

Yoder’s son recovered from his illness and today, he is healthy and working hard at Daniel’s Amish Collection to provide custom, heirloom-quality furniture. Together with like-minded staff, he and his father continue to invest in philanthropic efforts to help others in their community realize similarly happy endings to their own stories of struggle — a company legacy that can’t be measured in dollars. ●


Manufacturing | Greatest Employee Growth

Fire-Dex LLC, a global manufacturing leader of head-to-toe personal protective equipment for firefighters and first responders, has increased sales $16.14 million since 2014. This rapid growth necessitated a facility expansion in 2018 to continue supporting the fire industry with new life-saving technologies, doubling the organization’s footprint in Northeast Ohio and bringing more than 30 new jobs to Medina.

Since its move to the city 20 years ago, Fire-Dex has acquired three businesses, the most recent of which is Darwood Manufacturing in Pelham, Georgia. Led by CEO Bill Burke, Fire-Dex purchased the plant in June 2018 as it was preparing to close and rehired more than 100 employees who had been laid off. The company is now transforming the building into a state-of-the-art facility that focuses on lean manufacturing, similar to its Ohio operation.

Focused on providing an excellent work environment for its rapidly growing staff, Fire-Dex has been recognized with the Northcoast 99 Best Places to Work Award three times. Equipped with on-site training facilities, it invests in the success of its employees as they, in turn, invest in the company’s efforts to develop new life-saving technologies to address the leading causes of occupational deaths in firefighters: heat stress and cancer. Improving its communities within and without, Fire-Dex maintains the business philosophy and culture on which it was founded as it continues to expand. ●


Manufacturing | Greatest Revenue Growth

Executive Chairman Matt Kaulig began LeafFilter Gutter Protection in 2005, founded from his basement, and has since grown the cutting-edge gutter guard technology provider into a top U.S. home improvement company based in Hudson, Ohio.

Selling its permanent gutter guard system directly to consumers, LeafFilter Gutter Protection has broadened the national reach of its industry-leading technology through strategic investment in automating and scaling LeafFilter’s processes, including implementation of a custom ERP and CRM solution to unify sales, service, marketing and finance. This central system has provided a strong foundation for the launch of LeafFilter’s latest venture, new accessibility solutions brand Leaf Home Safety Solutions. Leaf’Filter’s patented, high-value product solutions provide a stylish, safe environment to consumers with accessibility needs.

Kaulig Racing, founded in 2016, completes the LeafFilter family and elevates the entire LeafFilter brand in the market via its NASCAR exposure. The American professional stock car racing team currently competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Through diversified revenue streams and extensive market reach — backed by a reputation for excellent quality and customer service — Kaulig continues to grow the Leaffilter family of businesses nationwide. Leaffilter has increased sales fivefold since 2014, and nearly quadrupled its staff to keep pace. ●


Manufacturing | Best Overall Story

When serial entrepreneur Ed Weinfurtner first took ownership of Great Day Improvements — the exclusive retailer, manufacturer and installer of Patio Enclosures and Stanek Windows —In 2014, it struggling financially and operationally, and morale was at a low point. However, under Weinfurtner’s experienced guidance, the organization has since doubled in size and now ranks among the Top 25 largest residential remodeling companies in the U.S., according to Qualified Remodeler.

Weinfurtner came in with a simple growth strategy to turn the business around. He focused on the needs of the company’s customers, leveraging new tools to gauge real-time performance and customer satisfaction data, and evaluated the organization’s core competencies. He then defined a mission, vision and growth strategy, as well as key processes to support continuous improvement, to unite the Great Day Improvements team in executing an impressive turnaround.

Weinfurtner’s efforts have resulted in the organization being recognized for exceptional customer service, construction expertise and overall excellence by The business has expanded under his leadership into nine new markets over the past two years for a total of 31 and now boasts $79 million in revenue and employs 427 people, with increased overall customer satisfaction levels and positive online reviews. ●


Technology Services | Employee Growth

OEC, which helps dealers increase sales of original equipment (OE) parts, has increased its employee headcount 244 percent since 2014. This growth is due in large part to the company’s 2015 release of MyPriceLink, in partnership with General Motors. The industry-first, patented solution provides the automotive marketplace with real-time, dynamic list pricing on OE collision parts based on timing and local market conditions and has positioned OEC as a market leader.

Attracting OEC’s lead investor, Providence Equity Partners, in 2016 and expanding to include Ford Motor Company collision parts in 2018, the revolutionary MyPriceLink technology has put OEC in a position to make multiple strategic acquisitions in recent years. It acquired Clifford Thames in 2017 and Bluegrasscoms in 2018, both out of the United Kingdom, bringing complementary products and services to the OEC portfolio. Both acquisitions significantly extending the company’s footprint, with CT first expanding OEC’s offices from 350 employees in two locations to over 800 employees in 13 offices around the world, and BGC then bumping OEC’s global staff count to 1,000.

Chairman and CEO Chuck Rotuno continues to push OEC’s growth in terms of size and service capability. With sales more than doubled over the past five years — with record revenue in 2018—the organization will continue to invest in building a world-class team. ●


Technology Services | Revenue Growth

Open Practice Solutions Ltd. (OPS) was founded in 2005 with the mission of developing a web-based practice management and medical billing application that fully incorporates all components of the revenue cycle to help private practices stay viable. By combining a robust and ever-improving suite of products with outstanding customer service, the company has grown consistently since its start and today employs 25 across 43 states.

In the past five years alone, OPS has increased staffing 78.6 percent to keep up with nearly tripled sales growth. It has continued expanding the reach of its end-to-end revenue management solution, OpenPM — one of the only true web-based solutions in the industry — and now boasts a user base of 800 practices representing over 2,700 providers. To reach additional practices, OPM recently added a partner channel to the existing direct sales channel, now serving 12 resellers.

Looking ahead, OPS President Michael Teutsch plans to continue accelerating the organization’s growth through a dual focus on continuous improvement of its financial management tools and on client experience. Placing particular focus on the latter through a high-quality client onboarding experience, as well as excellent first-call support resolution, OPS strives to ensure its client base of independent physicians can work as efficiently as possible in an ever-increasingly difficult market, not just to survive, but to thrive. ●


Technology Services | Best Overall Story

Akron-based software architecture and development company Metisentry LLC has fostered more than a decade of steady growth in an extremely competitive industry, specializing in the development and maintenance of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms. And with the strategic acquisition of WillCo Technologies in 2017, it has reached new heights, becoming the largest credentials management software provider to the U.S. Department of Defense with its proprietary CyberSTAR™ online software, which boasts a user base of more than 1.6 million, including sole assurance compliance support for the entire U.S. Army.

This has played a significant role in Metisentry’s recent revenue growth, which is up 357 percent over the past five years. Led by President Marling Engle, the company is also branching out to focus on SaaS investment opportunities, benefiting not only seed and startup SaaS businesses but stage two SaaS businesses. The Metisentry funding network is connecting outside investors and investment groups with new SaaS funding opportunities, as well, benefiting the industry at large.

While the size and scope of its growing national portfolio is impressive, equally so is the organization’s commitment to maintaining strong support of its local Akron community. Giving back, Metisentry participates regularly in the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s annual food drive and Downtown Akron Partnership’s “Green and Clean” event, among other initiatives. ●


Service ◆ Established | Employee Growth

Peoples Services Inc., a third-generation, family-owned supply chain logistics services organization, initially started as a moving and storage company more than a century ago. It has since grown to operate 45 third-party logistics warehouses in multiple states to provide more than 7.5 million square feet of public and contract warehouse space, specializing in handling commodities from chemicals and plastics to food-grade and consumer goods.

To support consistent growth, Peoples Services has quadrupled its staff in the last five years. A significant portion of that stems from the organization’s acquisition activity. In 2015, it acquired Style Crest Logistics’ assets, which included seven new Midwest locations, with more than 1 million square feet of storage space. The additions have helped the company improve its customer service levels and expand its services in food-grade storage, an industry President and CEO Douglas J. Sibila anticipates significant growth and stability in, now and in the future.

In 2017, Peoples Services acquired the assets of B&M Storage & Distribution Inc., adding another 90,000 square feet of warehouse space. And in 2018, it acquired the assets of Grimes Logistics Services Inc., adding five new locations with almost 1 million square feet of warehouse space. This latest acquisition added a seventh state to Peoples Services’ footprint, extending it from Michigan down to Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. ●


Service ◆ Established | Revenue Growth

Transportation and logistics solutions provider Jarrett is the parent organization of Jarrett Logistics Systems, a third-party logistics company, PackShip, a white-glove and final-mile carrier, and Jarrett Fleet Services, a truck fleet maintenance company. It has been recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies 13 times, and looking at the company’s revenue over the past five years, it’s no surprise why. Jarrett has increased sales 153 percent and doesn’t show signs of slowing.

Much of its growth success can be attributed to JLS Advanced Analytics, the company’s robust analytics platform. President and CEO W. Michael Jarrett and his team strategically leverage the business intelligence gathered to make confident business decisions. This is particularly true when it comes to continuous enhancement of Jarrett’s proprietary transportation management system, jShip, which facilitates improvements throughout its clients’ entire supply chain.

In addition to strategic technology investments, Jarrett last year acquired the Schneider National location in Seville, Ohio, to expand Jarrett Fleet Services’ maintenance and repair services, as well as to serve as a dropping and hooking location for PackShip and autonomous truck transfer hub. The 53-acre property is located near the I-71 and I-76 interchanges, a heavy truck traffic area with easy accessibility to the Cleveland and Akron markets. This positions Jarrett for significant growth opportunities. ●


Service ◆ Established | Best Overall Story

When family-owned equipment rental agency Leppo Group Inc. failed to secure a winning spot as a Top Workplace in Northeast Ohio in 2016, CEO Wm. Glenn Leppo took the results not as a failure but as a challenge to become an even better place to work. He and his team took action and achieved Top Workplace status in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Implementing a new recruitment and hiring program, complete with a revamped onboarding process, the company has filled all but two of its 184 positions despite the current labor shortage and has grown its staff by 41 percent over the past five years. This growth correlates with the company’s continued geographic expansion, now spanning six full-service locations serving Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

Today, Leppo Group is better positioned than ever to service its booming client base with the best products, best service and best people — as evidenced by its 76 percent increase in revenue since 2014. Driven by trust in “The Leppo Way,” the company’s reinvigorated team members participate in regular small group sessions and achievement celebrations with senior leadership. They not only contribute to the continued growth and development of the organization but to recognize just how far the “Top Workplace” has come in more than six decades in business. ●


Service ◆ Emerging | Employee Growth

VMI Group Inc., a concrete construction contractor based in Macedonia, has grown from its 2012 start with just two employees to a staff of 75 full-time associates. Capable of fielding large-scale structural, industrial, commercial and site concrete work, the organization has scaled rapidly through investment in state-of-the-art equipment, certifications and the high-quality people needed to operate.

Led by President Neille Vitale, key technology investments include laser-guided horizontal concrete placement screeds to allow for consistently flat concrete surfaces and universal total station technology that allows for the tightest grading and concrete placing precision. VMI is certified by the Ohio Unified Certification Program as a Disadvantaged Business Entity, allowing it to participate as a DBE on federally assisted projects and contracts. It is also certified by the Cleveland as a Female Business Enterprise for poured concrete foundation contractors and structural concrete contractors.

VMI’s commitment to investing in the people, technology and certifications needed to provide the highest quality concrete work on time and on budget has paid off, resulting in a 264 percent sales increase since 2014 to reach $16.4 million in revenue. The company is trusted by owners, developers and contractors throughout Ohio and continues to grow its commercial and industrial building business int the Akron, Cleveland and Columbus regions. ●


Service ◆ Emerging | Revenue Growth

In its fifth full year in business, Shoemaker Rigging & Transport LLC continues to achieve astounding growth. Unlike others in the industrial rigging, moving machinery and heavy equipment machinery industry, the company hasn’t stayed local. Instead, Owner and CEO Steven Shoemaker has led the organization to expand its service capabilities nationally and abroad.

Fielding machine removal and reinstallation projects for small, family-owned shops as well as large Fortune 5000 companies, Shoemaker Rigging & Transport has built its success on its ability to handle difficult moves — typically indoors, where only a fraction of an inch is available to get through varying spaces. It’s also reputed for its ability to take apart complicated pieces of machinery, move them to the customer’s desired location and quickly and accurately reassemble them. Clients benefit — both from financial and expertise standpoints — from using the same rigorously trained organization to disassemble their heavy machinery as they do to reassemble.

Excelling in both, Shoemaker Rigging & Transport’s growth has exceeded a staggering ninefold increase in sales since its start. It has more than tripled its staff over the past five years accordingly. To attract and retain highly qualified personnel for its dangerous work, the organization provides profit sharing in addition to competitive wages, an excellent benefit package and travel opportunities. ●


Honor Roll | Manufacturing


Daniel’s Amish Collection | Christopher J. Karman

Providing customized, Amish-handcrafted furniture in rich American hardwoods for more than 20 years, Daniel’s Amish Collection has grown steadily to become a leader among North American furniture manufacturers. Earning $1 million in sales a decade ago, the organization has found success by marrying proven traditional Amish methods with modern facilities and innovative designs — achieving nearly $30 million in sales today. The business continues to grow its staff accordingly, hiring 40 new employees in the past five years.

Fire-Dex LLC | Bill Burke

Fire-Dex LLC is a global manufacturing leader of head-to-toe personal protective equipment (PPE) for firefighters and first responders. The organization has grown significantly through strategic acquisition and facility expansion to continue supporting the fire industry with new life-saving technologies. Additionally, Fire-Dex provides firefighters with resources and tools to help implement decontamination procedures and introduce alternative PPE guidelines. Its efforts have seen company sales increase $16.14 million since 2014, with a 63 percent increase in staff.

Flohr Machine Co. | Gerard Flohr

Family-owned-and-operated Flohr Machine Co. has grown from its humble start in 1966 as a backyard garage operation into a full-service precision contract machining company. Today it serves industries including medical, defense, automotive, energy and more, with quality machined parts requiring both small and large milling and turning diameters. Its consistent and sustainable growth over the years stems from timely upgrading of state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Notably achieving ISO certification this year, Flohr Machine has grown sales 20 percent since 2014.

Great Day Improvements LLC, dba Patio Enclosures and Stanek Windows | Ed Weinfurtner

Great Day Improvements is the exclusive retailer, manufacturer and installer of Patio Enclosures and Stanek Windows. In 2014, the struggling company underwent an ownership change that resulted in a cultural, operational and financial turnaround, with staff doubling and sales increasing $29.39 million since. Great Day Improvements ranks among the Top 25 largest residential remodeling companies in the U.S., according to Qualified Remodeler, and has been recognized for excellence by

LeafFilter Gutter Protection | Matt Kaulig

Company leadership has grown LeafFilter Gutter Protection from a home basement operation in 2005 into one of the largest home improvement companies in the United States, encompassing multiple offices across the country. Growing alongside new accessibility solutions brand Leaf Home Safety Solutions under the umbrella of Leaf Home Solutions, the LeafFilter family has achieved 402 percent sales growth and added more than 800 employees over the past five years.

Main Street Gourmet LLC | Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson

Main Street Gourmet LLC’s co-founding partners have used innovative concepts to grow the organization beyond its 1987 roots as a small, retail coffee and muffin shop to being an industry leader in custom baked goods manufacturing. From being one of the first bakeries to offer all-natural muffins in the 1980s and fat-free muffins in the early 1990s, to concentrating efforts on developing frozen custom bakery products for national and regional providers, the growing company is a consistent leader in its field.

Midwest Industrial Supply Inc. | Steven Vitale

Headquartered in downtown Canton, family-owned Midwest Industrial Supply Inc. is a national and international provider of dust control, soil stabilization, anti-icing/deicing and rail solutions. The company, which has been recognized repeatedly on the Inc. 5000 list, has grown steadily over more than four decades through strategic acquisition, expansion of its manufacturing capabilities and a world-class staff. With significant staff additions and plans for a new manufacturing plant currently underway, Midwest aims to double revenue by 2025.

Venture Products Inc. | Dallas Steiner

Family-owned Venture Products is a manufacturer of Ventrac compact tractors and commercial-grade attachments. With global headquarters in Orrville, Ohio, the company got its start locally in 1998 and has since continued to develop its high-quality subcompact tractor products to become an industry leader worldwide. Serving a variety of markets, Ventrac’s line of more than 40 custom attachments enables Ventrac machine operators to quickly move among tasks and have helped increase sales 145 percent since 2014.

Honor Roll | Technology Services


AtNetPlus | Jay Mellon

Celebrating 20 years in business, IT service provider AtNetPlus is also celebrating the successful turnaround of its cultural and financial standing. Over the past four years, leadership has strategically rebuilt a positive, customer-centric team that shares a common vision for AtNetPlus’ future. These efforts have resulted in significant sales growth, including a 35 percent jump in monthly recurring revenue due to increased Managed Services deals from 2016 to 2017, and an additional 39 percent increase from 2017 to 2018.

Corporate Technologies Group | Jeff Sumner and Brett Harney

Corporate Technologies Group started out selling traditional telephone lines and long-distance services. Over the 20 years since, it has evolved to offer telecommunications services including local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) management, SD WAN, hosted phones and — as of its early 2019 acquisition of Pro OnCall’s Northern Ohio division — on-premise phone systems and managed services. Over the past five years, the organization has realized a 70 percent staff increase and 32 percent sales increase.

DRB Systems LLC | Dan Pittman

As a leading provider of point-of-sale software, tunnel control solutions and more, DRB Systems LLC helps car wash operators improve profitability and productivity. Founded in 1984, DRB was a pioneer in commercializing the unlimited monthly wash plans that are now an industry standard — a legacy of technology innovation it has continued, complemented by strategic acquisitions, to dominate the industry. To support its ongoing, rapid growth, DRB leadership has added 190 employees to the organization since 2014.

Drips | Aaron Christopher Evans

In three short years, startup Drips — a pioneer in conversational marketing™ — has grown from three employees with a single client to more than 50 employees managing more than $10 million in revenue, with no assistance from outside capital. Leveraging innovative direct marketing and lead generation strategies and technologies, the organization is helping some of the biggest brands in the world use automated, humanized texting conversations at scale to communicate with customers both how and when they want.

Etactics Inc. | Michael Teutsch

Etactics Inc. is a revenue cycle solutions company serving more than 2,000 clients nationwide. The company’s core services help physicians, hospitals and medical groups to immediately improve their accounts receivable while automating and enhancing the invoicing and statement process, ultimately improving cash flow. Focused on adding new products and services that add significant value for clients, the organization has seen a 29 percent increase in sales and a 31 percent increase in staff since 2014.

Metisentry LLC | Marling Engle

Since a strategic acquisition in 2017, Akron-based Metisentry has become the largest credentials management software provider to the U.S. Department of Defense with its proprietary CyberSTAR™ online software. Building upon a decade of steady growth prior, the organization has continued to add to its core competency in SaaS applications, most recently adding a focus on SaaS investment opportunities. Over the past five years, Metisentry’s efforts have realized a 357 percent increase in sales.

OEC | Chuck Rotuno

An organization helping dealers sell more original equipment (OE) parts, OEC has seen significant growth since 2015, when it partnered with General Motors to release MyPriceLink. Its industry-first solution provides the automotive marketplace with real-time, dynamic list pricing on OE collision parts based on timing and local market conditions. This technology recently expanded to include Ford Motor Co. collision parts and has positioned OEC to make multiple strategic acquisitions, with the number of employees increasing by 244 percent since 2014.

Open Practice Solutions Ltd. | Michael Teutsch

Open Practice Solutions Ltd. has provided industry-leading software for medical billing and practice management since 2005. The company has since grown to employee 25 employees across 43 states, leveraging new partner channels to help private practices stay viable. By prioritizing continuous improvement both to the client experience and to its financial management tools, Open Practice Solutions has achieved 288 percent revenue growth over the past five years and increased its staff by 78.6 percent.

QualityIP | Ryan Markham

Award-winning managed IT services company QualityIP began operating in 2004 with a focus on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. Leadership has continued to evolve the organization in the years since to offer a variety of additional high-quality IT support services, resulting in a 145 increase in sales since 2014 and the addition of 32 employees. Still growing, QualityIP’s certified IT technicians are experts in managed infrastructure, managed IT security, managed Cloud and managed support.

S3 Technologies | Nancy and Chris Larker

Focused on helping companies overcome challenges through technology, Akron-based S3 Technologies provides security, audio, video and network technology solutions for clients across industries including commercial, institutional, manufacturing and government. Adept at finding the right solution for a unique space and budget, most of S3’s client base stems from satisfied customer referrals. Building upon its reputation for excellence and skill, the organization has doubled its staff since 2014 to accommodate steadily increasing sales.

Sherlock Services Inc. | Ron Pollard

Originally operated as an HP system parts broker and HP3000 support vendor at its start in 1991, Sherlock Services Inc. has evolved to become a premier third-party IT maintenance provider. Its global reach supplies data center infrastructure services for storage, servers, networking systems and printers. Continuing strategic expansion of its service capabilities that has nearly doubled the organization’s sales since 2014, it has acquired two companies since 2017, growing its expert IT support staff accordingly.

Honor Roll | Service


Cohen & Co. | J. Michael Kolk

With the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in 2017, leadership at accounting and consulting firm Cohen & Co. knew the sweeping legislation would impact its client base. It responded by tasking the company’s tax department with analyzing the TCJA to understand its nuances and identify new opportunities, producing thought leadership and meeting with clients to help them continue to operate effectively and efficiently. Such dedication and expertise are why Cohen & Co. continues to grow year over year.

Concept Services | Dan Harsh

Concept Services began in 2002 with a sole focus on lead generation and management through old-fashioned phone call strategies. It has since grown into an operation employing more than 100 employees working in a 26,000-square-foot facility to help clients across multiple industries reach their sales goals through full-service strategies incorporating phone calls, CRM and digital marketing. Its continued evolution has resulted in a 105 percent increase in company sales over the past five years.

Crimcheck | Tom Sheih

Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), Crimcheck provides companies with pre-employment screenings, Fair Credit Reporting Act-certified background checks, drug screenings and more to help clients protect their brand. The fast-growing company has seen a 155 percent increase in revenue over the past five years, due in large part to its easy-to-use, proprietary eFetch Platform and commitment to live, personal service, facilitated through its U.S.-based customer service center.

GPD Group | Darrin Kotecki

Architectural, engineering and planning services provider GPD Group first established roots in Akron in 1961. In the decades since, it has grown to a firm of more than 650 professionals located in 15 offices nationwide. Leadership attributes the company’s success not only to hard work but to its employee ownership structure — established in 1986 — which has fostered a deep sense of community and dedication. GPD’s sales have increased under this structure by $20.1 million since 2014.

Great Lakes Fasteners Inc. | Kevin R. Weidinger

Since 1958, Great Lakes Fasteners Inc. has been supplying quality production and MRO fasteners to Midwest manufacturers at a value price. Backed by a staff averaging 10 years in the fastener industry, the organization provides customized fastener designs and prototypes. Its commitment to providing customers with quality products and services on time and at the right price has seen Great Lakes Fasteners increase sales by 67 percent over the past five years.

Jarrett | W. Michael Jarrett

Jarrett is a leading provider of transportation and logistics solutions, creating continuous improvements throughout clients’ entire supply chain. It does so through continuous expansion of services and technologies, encompassing divisions Jarrett Fleet Services, Jarrett Logistics Systems and PackShip. Recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies 13 times, Jarrett has increased sales 153 percent and its staff 162 percent since 2014, and doesn’t show signs of slowing any time soon.

KHM Travel Group | Rick Zimmerman

KHM Travel Group began as a small, family-owned business in Brunswick with a handful of team members working out of a one-room office suite. It has grown over a decade to become one of the most innovative host travel agencies in the nation, employing a team of more than 50 working daily to support more than 4,000 independent travel agents. Recognized on Travel Weekly’s Power List, KHM has increased sales by 96 percent since 2014.

Laudan Properties | Kevin R. Weidinger

Founded in 2008, Laudan Properties has grown from a single-state residential property solutions provider to having a national reach and full-service capabilities. Laudan’s competitive advantage is its network of highly trained, licensed contractors who partner to develop creative, customized solutions to meet specialty needs. One of the strongest, most versatile networks of prescreened, prequalified contractors in the industry, Laudan has strategically built this team to deliver on the principle, “Do what you say you’re going to do.”

Leppo Group Inc. | Wm. Glenn Leppo

Since its founding in 1945 in Akron, family-owned equipment rental agency Leppo Group Inc. has expanded across six full-service locations serving Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Overhauling its recruitment, hiring and onboarding processes in recent years has helped the organization find and retain top talent, expanding its staff 41 percent since 2014. These efforts have helped it better service its growing client base and earn 76 percent more in sales revenue over the past five years.

National Interstate Insurance | Tony Mercurio

Leading specialty property and casualty insurance holding company National Interstate Insurance offers more than 30 insurance products, leveraging an eye for transforming niches in the transportation insurance market. Key among its innovative product segments is its Alternative Risk Transfer portfolio of products, which has grown by nearly 30 percent since 2013 to account for more than $425 million of the company’s $750 million in revenue. The latter is up by $66 million from 2014.

Peoples Services Inc. | Douglas J. Sibila

Third-generation, family-owned Peoples Services Inc., which started as a moving and storage company, has thrived for more than a century. It has grown to operate 45 third-party logistics warehouses in multiple states to provide more than 7.5 million square feet of public and contract warehouse space. Specializing in handling commodities from chemicals and plastics to food grade and consumer goods, the organization’s sales have jumped $35.5 million over the past five years, with staff increasing 67 percent.

Pritt Entertainment Group | Ryan Pritt

Pritt Entertainment Group is an Akron-based creative agency that brings brands to life through high-quality video, animation, photography, graphic design and live events. While primarily focused in Northeast Ohio, the organization has grown to boast client corporations and sports teams across North America, generating 122 percent more in sales since 2014 and necessitating plans for a second office relocation to accommodate its doubled staff. PEG uses its broadened reach to spread enthusiasm and interest about Akron.

PROforma 3rd Degree Marketing | Steve Flaughers

Marketing agency PROforma 3rd Degree Marketing is a new, fast-growing division of PROforma, a leader in the printing, promotional products and packaging industries. Pairing robust creative services and digital media capabilities with PROforma’s global resource network — which includes 1 million custom products and services — PROforma 3rd Degree Marketing clients benefit from partnering with a single-source provider of full-service, integrated solutions. Staffed by experienced marketing professionals, the agency helps brands connect with target audiences effectively and efficiently.

QualCare LLC, dba Home Instead Senior Care | Therese Zdesar, RN, BSN

QualCare LLC, operating as Home Instead Senior Care, is a trusted source of customized in-home elderly care services. It has grown from its humble roots in 1994 as a small, kitchen table-run operation to become the largest senior care organization in the world, with a network of more than 1,000 franchise offices in 12 global markets. This legacy of growth is upheld by the local franchise — serving Portage, Lake and Geauga counties — through a strategic CAREGivers retention program.

Sequoia Financial Group | Thomas Haught

Financial planning firm Sequoia Financial Group has grown significantly since 2014, successfully integrating four firms for a total footprint stretching across two offices in Michigan, four in Ohio and one in Florida. Focused on acquiring and developing talent to provide the best client experience to its customer base, the organization has grown its staff 65 percent and more than doubled revenue in that time. This year, Sequoia formed a new growth department to drive continued momentum.

Shoemaker Rigging & Transport LLC | Steven Shoemaker

Founded in 2013, industrial rigging, moving machinery and heavy equipment company Shoemaker Rigging & Transport LLC has grown beyond the industry standard of local operations to serve client needs nationally and abroad. Fielding machine removal and reinstallation projects for small, family-owned shops, as well as Fortune 5000 companies, the organization’s growth has been explosive since operations began in 2014, with sales increasing 818 percent and Shoemaker Rigging & Transport’s staff growing 416 percent.

Spray Foam Solutions Inc. | Aaron Raber

Full-service spray foam insulation contracting company Spray Foam Solutions Inc. serves residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial and steel frame insulation needs with healthy, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions. Leveraging a team with more than 70 years of combined experience in the construction industry, the organization uses custom-designed, state-of-the-art spray foam insulation rigs that are entirely self-contained to deliver high quality within a set timeline. This has propelled sales 65 percent in the last five years, with staff growth of 67 percent.

TruTech Tools Ltd. | Bill Spohn Sr.

TruTech Tools Ltd. has served the HVACR, building performance and weatherization markets with quality tools and equipment since 2007. It has grown steadily over the past five years by not only providing complementary advice, recommendations and resources before a sale, but by being a continued trusted partner after a sale. The distributor has built a helpful, knowledgeable staff that has increased 33 percent in the past five years to maintain this high level of customer service, even as sales have more than doubled in that time.

VMI Group Inc. | Neille Vitale

Founded in 2012 with two employees, concrete construction contractor VMI Group Inc. quickly scaled from its focus on constructing concrete driveways and small-scale concrete work to fielding large-scale structural, industrial, commercial and site concrete work. To do so, the organization invested in state-of-the-art equipment and technology solutions, as well as a fast-growing team of experts. Today, VMI employs approximately 75 full-time employees — more than triple its staff in 2014 — and has increased sales 264 percent over the same time period.

Cascade Capital Corporation 2018 Business Growth Awards

48 outstanding companies that fortify the strength of our regional economy

It is with great pleasure that I congratulate the 48 Cascade Capital Corporation Business Growth Award winners for 2018. These companies are located within Summit, Medina, Portage, Stark, Wayne, Ashland and Holmes counties in Northeastern Ohio.

A company can earn a Business Growth Award by either increasing its sales level by 100 percent or $5 million, or by increasing its employee base by 50 percent or 25 people over the course of the past five years. These impressive growth standards also result in significant economic benefits for our local and regional economies.

Growing companies’ sales of their goods and services to other parts of the state, across the nation and even internationally, enrich our local and regional economies. Receipts and profits generated by these companies are positively manifested when these companies purchase local goods and services, invest in new operating facilities and equipment, and hire new employees. These wealth-creating mechanisms directly lead to the economic vitality of our local and regional economies.

Cascade Capital Corporation’s primary operating objectives are to provide attractive financing options to small and midsize companies investing in new operating facilities, equipment and human resources, and to invest, on a long-term basis, in the Northeastern Ohio communities that Cascade Capital Corporation services.

Cascade Capital Corporation provides below-market, long-term fixed interest rate financing options through its SBA 504 loan program. In combination with traditional bank financing, small to midsize companies receive 90 percent financing for new building, equipment or business purchases as follows: Bank Financing – 50 percent; Cascade Capital SBA 504 – 40 percent; Business Down Payment – 10 percent. SBA 504 financing term options include 10, 20 and 25 years with current fixed rates in the 5 percent range.

Cascade Capital Corporation’s Ohio 166 loan program offers an extremely competitive fixed interest rate of 3 percent for non-retail companies investing in operating facilities or equipment.

A number of 2018 Business Growth Award winners have received funding from Cascade Capital Corporation through its SBA 504 and Ohio 166 loan programs.

Cascade Capital Corporation is very proud to have invested its own financial resources throughout Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties for several years. To date, Cascade Capital Corporation has invested over $1.15 million to support our local and regional economic development partners with their business development and job creation objectives.

Congratulations to all of Cascade Capital Corporation’s 2018 Business Growth Award winners on a job well done, and thank you, too, for your continuing role in supporting and revitalizing our local and regional economies as a result of your impressive growth! ●

Robert Filipiak is president 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

National Interstate Insurance | Anthony Mercurio, President and CEO

National Interstate Insurance’s development framework has it building for a strong future

The insurance industry, particularly the transportation insurance marketplace, continues to experience a soft market. But despite this challenging economic environment, National Interstate Insurance is reporting 18 percent growth in revenue since 2013, and it has grown its alternative risk transfer portfolio of products by nearly 30 percent in that same period — a product segment that now accounts for most of the company’s revenue.

The company, led by President and CEO Anthony Mercurio, has grown in several other key ways over the past five years. For example, its Richfield campus expansion is complete, which added two floors of flexible, collaborative spaces as well as a fitness room, an activity room and a mothers’ room for new moms returning to work. And because its business is personal and relationship-driven, the expanded campus facilities are designed to host customers on-site with meeting, pre-function and entertainment spaces throughout.

National Interstate also improved its employee benefits package with expanded flex-time; a wellness program that earns employees points to redeem on Fitbits, gift cards and more; and on-site health and biometrics screenings.

The company takes an all-encompassing approach to wellness, beyond traditional body health and fitness, by helping employees focus on career growth and financial wellness through on-site and virtual seminars and financial consultations. National Interstate recently updated its performance management system, focusing on more frequent employee/manager check-ins with the intention of putting career control into the hands of the employee.

To inspire current employees to reach for new heights, the company offers web-based, on- and off-site training courses, a tuition reimbursement program and a leadership academy for managers to promote professional development and accelerate employee progression.

But before someone joins National Interstate, the company is striving to better equip potential employees to enter the workforce before they graduate college. Currently, the company partners with local colleges and universities to further develop insurance and risk management programs, and it offers scholarship funds and program support to students interested in risk management and insurance.

Additionally, five years ago, the company developed its ignition program as a graduate development program to prepare recent high-performing graduates for careers at National Interstate. The four-week curriculum comprises online learning and in-person business sessions, education sessions, professional development presentations and social activities. Many of its ignition participants reach their first promotion within 18 months and most program graduates are on second or third promotions.

Each year, National Interstate evaluates its program successes and looks for areas of improvement. Feedback has been a powerful tool as it continues to strengthen both programs and understand the needs of the future.

The company believes in strong preparations beginning while potential employees are still in school and continuing that learning and development throughout their career with tools offered by National Interstate. ●

Entrepreneurial Spirit Award

LeafFilter Gutter Protection | Matt Kaulig, CEO and Owner

Taking control has helped LeafFilter Gutter Protection realize exponential growth

Scaling from a home office to a top home improvement company in the nation is no easy accomplishment. Yet, that’s exactly what Matt Kaulig set out to do in 2005, while focused on selling only one product: LeafFilter Gutter Protection. Company CEO and Owner Kaulig’s entrepreneurial spirit, strategic direction and unique business philosophy have led his company to incredible success.

Much of that success can be attributed to Kaulig’s independent thinking. For example, in 2008, while many businesses recoiled against the risks of uncertainty with the tumultuous economy, Kaulig saw an opportunity to expand his business into three new markets — Virginia, Cincinnati and Baltimore — and invest in advertising. The moves helped the company nearly double its revenue from 2008 to 2009.

While other gutter protection and home improvement companies are typically managed through a dealer network, Kaulig opted to take full control of his company, electing to run it through a no-dealer network. This gave him complete control over the customer experience, including the sales, installation and service process, in addition to complete quality control of the product.

In 2009, 69 dealers across the country were selling LeafFilter, and Kaulig was responsible for producing 70 percent of all sales.

By the end of 2009, Kaulig acquired the distribution rights to LeafFilter in the U.S. and Canada with the intention of mentoring the other dealers across the country so that they could expand and grow. At the time, some markets were poorly managed by dealers that did not meet customer expectations or handle customer grievances efficiently. Not wanting other dealers’ actions to sully the LeafFilter brand name, Kaulig moved to a no-dealer network and took full control of the company, brand and product in 2009, a move that contributed to the overall success and growth of LeafFilter. In fact, revenue grew eight times from 2010 to 2017.

And the growth isn’t stopping. Recently the company opened new locations in Austin, Texas; Houston; London, Ontario; Toronto; Denver; and Oklahoma City.

Kaulig brings the same passion and drive to his newest endeavor: NASCAR. Kaulig Racing is a full-time American stock car racing team owned by Kaulig, with LeafFilter positioned as the primary sponsor.

Kaulig Racing has already received a considerable amount of recognition on and off the track. During the first year of competition in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Kaulig Racing finished seventh overall in the championship standings. Off track, NASCAR presented Kaulig Racing with the “Marketing Team of the Year” for the innovative use of new marketing channels.

Not only has Kaulig Racing been a successful NASCAR team, it has also elevated LeafFilter’s brand in the market. ●

Akron Community Foundation Philanthropy in Business Award

GPD Group | Darrin Kotecki, President

Community, culture, clients are the focus at GPD Group

GPD Group is a team of over 600 architects, designers and engineers. While they come together from a diverse collection of disciplines, experiences and locations, the team is unified by its values. Its values ensure that the firm provides the highest quality of work to its clients while remaining true to its identity.

Headquartered in Akron and led by President Darrin Kotecki, the firm has offices nationwide. Founded in 1961, the original partners sold the firm to its employees in 1986. Employee ownership has enabled the company to grow in part because of its focus on the needs of its associates and the communities where it works.

GPD’s business concept can be summarized by the firm’s value statement and its credo, “We treat customers like our employees and employees like our customers.” It is through this bonding of its two most important assets that GPD Group is able to be a firm of choice for its customers while being a group with whom the best people associate.

The firm seeks to improve the well-being of its employees, clients, communities and business partners by transforming opportunities into success. Through its unprecedented broad-based and equal employee ownership structure, its owners are empowered to develop solutions to meet its clients’ unique needs. Further, its streamlined management structure sets the foundation upon which quick decisions can be made, and efficient and effective project delivery can be promoted.

GPD’s ownership structure also aligns with its purpose to transform opportunities into successes with its clients, communities, business partners and employees and foster long-term relationships.

GPD is a recipient of the 2016 NorthCoast 99 Award, an honor that marks the fourth time the firm was recognized by the ERC for building and maintaining a great workplace.

GPD’s culture has always valued a strong sense of community, and with that, it has a unifying desire to give back to others. While GPD likes to support all types of groups, the firm especially enjoys supporting organizations that help children in need. In 2014, GPD created the GPD Employees’ Foundation to support communities both financially and through volunteer work. Groups of employees formed committees to establish the foundation and provided the framework for the raising and distributing of funds, as well as informing potential recipients of application opportunities and constituents of its efforts. Through the foundation, GPD supports classrooms, therapy programs in hospitals, camps for children with terminal illnesses, inclusive playgrounds and much more.

The GPD Employees’ Foundation has distributed nearly $1.7 million since its inception, with over 1,600 volunteer hours completed in its communities last year. Major recipients in Northeast Ohio include A Kid Again, Camp Quality, The First Tee of Akron, Inclusion Day at the Soap Box Derby, Akron Public Schools and others. ●

Manufacturing | Greatest Employee Growth

LeafFilter Gutter Protection | Matt Kaulig | CEO and owner

In 2005, Matt Kaulig left his position at a local remodeling company to sell LeafFilter Gutter Protection as a dealer in the basement of his home. For a few years, he was a one-man show, scheduling appointments, answering phones, managing sales, overseeing the installation process, handling all customer grievances, and organizing a complete marketing strategy.

As Kaulig’s business grew, he hired one marketing manager, a small installation team and four sales reps. By 2008, he inched his way into new territories, expanding to nearby markets including Toledo, Columbus and Pittsburgh.

Despite growth, Kaulig remained cautious, strategically entering new markets and growing his team tactically, fueling growth through profits.

Kaulig continued to open three new offices a year for the next 10 years, growing revenue upwards of 25,000 percent from end-of year 2005 to 2015.

At the beginning of 2017, Kaulig took a big step and expanded internationally, opening two new offices in Canada. Currently, LeafFilter has over 37 offices in North America. The company, which began with just a single employee, now employs 1,500 people.

A key point in LeafFilter is to develop people from employees to leaders. Kaulig, the company’s CEO and owner, finds it imperative to promote from within and provide the necessary training that will allow people to advance and maximize their potential for the betterment of the company. His people-first mentality has been responsible for much of the company’s success. ●

Manufacturing | Greatest Revenue Growth

MAC Trailer Enterprises Inc. | Michael Conny | President and CEO

MAC Trailer Enterprises Inc. is the nation’s foremost manufacturer of dump, flatbed and transfer trailers, straight trucks, dry bulk pneumatic tanks and liquid tank trailers. Headed by President and CEO Michael Conny, MAC is headquartered in Alliance with plants in Montana, Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere in Ohio. It has added three manufacturing facilities in three states over the past five years. Sales and production figures have significantly increased. The company currently employs about 1,300 people with more than 800 of those employed locally.

For MAC, technology is not something it purchases. The company has the ability and vision to create it. Its research and development department is constantly innovating its products and has garnered several patents for its inventions.

MAC has consistently weathered economic storms while never sacrificing care and concern for its employees. For example, in the past five years, an on-site health clinic has been established at each of its plants that are staffed by a nurse practitioner. Employee luncheons are regularly held to gather feedback and suggestions for improvements from staff.

As a manufacturer, MAC Trailer recognizes the complexity of today’s ever-changing market and the necessity to make its clients more competitive. MAC incorporates alternative components, such as materials to improve fuel economies, maximize performance, reduce maintenance costs, increase payloads and focus on safety. This focus has helped the company realize an 11 percent increase in revenue year-over-year. ●

Manufacturing | Best Overall Story

Venture Products Inc. | Dallas Steiner | CEO

Venture Products Inc., headquartered in Orrville, is the manufacturer of Ventrac compact tractors and commercial grade attachments. Since the first release of Ventrac products in 1998, Venture Products has become a leader in the sub-compact tractor market, with its equipment being used by professionals worldwide — literally worldwide.

Export sales are 20 percent of total sales for the company. The success in exports provides diversity to its customer base and stability for its long-term growth.

For example, in June 2014, Venture CEO Dallas Steiner met with the company’s Ventrac distributor in South Korea to discuss the possibility of having Ventrac handle the snow removal needs at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Between 2014 through 2017, Ventrac Korea pursued the contractors that handled the snow removal for the Olympics. It was eventually awarded the contract to clear the snow from the main Olympic Stadium that would host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Steiner, who traveled to South Korea for the event, said it was exciting to have every Olympian pass within feet of the company’s tractors as they entered into the stadium. The company’s 232 employees all had a part in designing, manufacturing, distributing, supporting and sharing in the accomplishment to be a part of the world scene. The company was able to make a difference and to be a part of history. ●

Technology Services | Greatest Employee Growth

Open Practice Solutions LTD | Michael Teutsch | President

The computerization of medical offices began in earnest in the 1990s. The focus was on the automation of the billing process. By the time the internet became a platform for hosting business applications, the focus of the medical software industry had shifted from accounts receivable applications to medical records applications that also did billing.

The founders of Open Practice Solutions LTD 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.

Its first 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 seven years have seen OPS begin the process of taking the system to market across the country. Since that time, the company has grown from three states to 40, and from a single developer to 22 employees.

The company, led by President Michael Teutsch, is focused on providing continuous improvement to the financial management tools that independent physicians need to survive and thrive in an increasingly difficult market, and providing the best possible client experience. ●

Technology | Revenue Growth

Excel Impact LLC | Craig Sturgill | President

Excel Impact LLC, founded in 2013, is a leading performance-driven online customer acquisition provider with a focus on the insurance industry. Specializing in Medicare, health and life insurance, among other growing verticals, it connects insurance shoppers with insurance agencies across the country that can assist consumers in purchasing the right insurance plan for their needs.

The company, headquartered in Medina and led by President Craig Sturgill, has a second office in Miami where its strategic marketing and technology team is located. The company currently has 12 employees of different nationalities, three of whom are immigrants. It plans to hire additional team members, as well as scale existing channels in 2018 to meet its goal of increasing gross revenue for the year. The additional hires will be spread between the Ohio and Florida offices.

From its first year in business in 2013 to 2017, its year-end revenue grew nearly 17,500 percent. This incredibly fast growth is partially attributed to its heavy focus on the senior citizen demographic, which is exploding at the rate of 10,000 consumers turning 65 every day. Excel Impact believes its highly efficient process, strategic partnerships, close attention to detail, top-notch team, transparency and high moral standard, data science and analytics, robust technology, and focus on the niche senior demographic has enabled it to achieve its record-setting growth over the past several years. ●

Technology | Best Overall Story

Razorleaf Corp. | Eric Doubell | President

Specializing in digital transformation technologies, Razorleaf Corp., headed by President Eric Doubell, has been on a strong growth curve for the past three years and has invested in the organization to support this growth long term.

The company opened its first international division in Northampton, U.K., and added both marketing and sales talent on its management team to drive more business growth across all sectors.

Razorleaf has more than doubled its consultant headcount to support its increase in contracts in aerospace and government organizations, and launched a new spinoff business, Razorleaf Government Solutions, which focuses on government contracts.

The company’s rapid growth in the government sector began when it landed a contract as the lead system integrator for deploying a product life cycle management solution to the U.S. Navy, and in less than 12 months delivered a turnkey PLM environment. Razorleaf managed the program team, trained the Navy resources and documented the complete solution.

That experience led to other digital transformation projects. In late 2017, Razorleaf began a multimillion-dollar digital transformation project with a research and development organization that contracts with the government. Razorleaf helped automate the organization’s manual business processes and realign its ways of doing business to support digitalization across the organization.

As more organizations seek to digitalize their business processes and improve their product innovation processes, Razorleaf will help establish a roadmap for success. ●

Service ◆ Established | Employee Growth

GPD Group | Darrin Kotecki | President

GPD Group, an architectural firm, wants to improve the well-being of its employees, clients, communities and business partners by transforming opportunities into success. Through its equal employee ownership structure, its employee owners are empowered to develop solutions to meet clients’ unique needs. Having a streamlined management structure means quick decisions can be made, and efficient and effective project delivery can be promoted. GPD’s ownership structure also promotes long-term relationships among its many internal and external stakeholders.

GPD is a 2016 NorthCoast 99 Award winner. The honor marks the fourth time that the firm was recognized by the ERC for building and maintaining a great workplace.

Headquartered in Akron and led by President Darrin Kotecki, the firm has offices across the U.S. It has been employee owned since the original partners sold the firm in 1986. Employee ownership has helped the company to grow. Between 2013 and 2017, the company has increased the number of employees from 445 to 613.

GPD’s business concept can be summarized by the firm’s value statement and its credo, “We treat customers like our employees and employees like our customers.” It is through this bonding of its two most important assets that GPD Group is able to be a firm of choice for its customers while being a group with whom the best people associate. ●

Service ◆ Established | Revenue Growth

KHM Travel Group | Rick Zimmerman | President

KHM Travel Group has seen another year of continued growth and achievement. Over the past five years, the travel agency, led by President Rick Zimmerman, has seen its independent travel agents drive a 69 percent increase in sales from 2013 to 2017.

The significant growth the company has realized can be attributed in part to KHM advancing its educational offerings and listening to the requests of its agents. In 2018, the company moved from bi-weekly commission payouts to weekly; established team-up networking events to forge stronger relationships among junior and senior agents; and launched its coaching program, which uses one-on-one sessions with team members at the corporate office to further agent knowledge of new or challenging areas of business, such as email and social media marketing. These resources have helped improve agent retention and helped them overcome the challenges of operating their travel businesses.

The success of its agents and its sales growth have landed KHM in Travel Weekly’s Power List for the third year in a row, placing KHM among the top players in the travel industry.

KHM continues to build upon the strong foundation it has laid. Its strong network of agents and dedicated team members have enabled it to thrive over the past five years, and its philosophy of working together will empower the travel agency to achieve great things in the future. ●

Service ◆ Established | Best Overall Story

Peoples Services Inc. | Douglas J. Sibila | President and CEO

Peoples Services Inc., led by third-generation President and CEO Douglas J. Sibila, doubled its sales and the number of employees in 2010 and continues to experience significant business growth.

The 104-year-old warehousing and logistics company is privately held with an employee stock ownership program — 20 percent of the company is owned by the employees. Last year, the company contributed $1 million in profit sharing to the employees and it’s on pace to contribute $1.2 million this year.

The company has been expanding rapidly through acquisitions. In September 2015, Peoples acquired the assets of Style Crest Logistics, with more than 1 million square feet of storage space in the Fremont, Ohio, area. In December 2017, Peoples acquired the assets of B&M Storage & Distribution Inc., based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, adding 90,000 square feet of warehouse space, including 60,000 square feet of freezer space. It also enhanced its service level in food-grade storage and distribution while expanding its Southeast regional footprint.

In April 2018, Peoples acquired the assets of Grimes Logistics Services Inc. based in Jacksonville, Florida, adding almost 1 million square feet of warehouse space and extending its footprint to the South.

Added up, these acquisitions give the company a presence in seven states, extending its footprint to include Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. It controls over 7.5 million square feet of warehouse space throughout 42 facilities. ●

Service ◆ Emerging | Employee Growth

Concept Services LTD | Dan Harsh | President

Concept Services LTD began in 2002 as a family-owned business and grew to become an 120-plus employee company.

In 2017, Concept’s management considered how to streamline its current operation, deciding ultimately to restructure and rebrand the organization. It looked first at its service offerings, revamping them by adding to its core service, outbound lead generation, to include a full suite of lead management services. Concept also invested in advanced technology to help provide a better quality experience for clients and employees.

With its services and technology upgraded, Concept began revamping its operational structure. New project management support roles ensured a quality experience for clients and employees.

With all the changes to its operations underway, the company looked to improve offerings for its employees. Concept added new employee programs and benefits, which included employee enrichment, increased paid time off and an improved health benefits plan to aid in the hiring and retention of quality employees.

The company also streamlined its work environment, merging its three locations into its new 26,000-plus square-foot corporate headquarters in Medina that is designed to house more than 200 employees. The new facility will include a modern look and feel along with a 2,500-square-foot training center.

Concept, led by President Dan Harsh, has tackled change head-on and has been able to use it to its advantage. ●

Service ◆ Emerging | Revenue Growth

VMI Group Inc. | Neille Vitale | President

VMI Group Inc. was formed in 2012 with two employees. The company focused its early operations on constructing concrete driveways and small-scale concrete work, with the goal of one day performing large-scale structural concrete work. Within the first year of business, VMI grew to a company of 12 employees with seven-figure revenue.

In order to transition into larger-scale structural, industrial, commercial and site concrete work, VMI invested in laser-guided horizontal concrete placement screeds to create consistently flat concrete surfaces. VMI also invested in universal total station technology, which enabled the tightest grading and concrete placing precision. With the investment in state-of-the-art equipment, talented people and a commitment to quality, VMI was able to earn the trust of owners, developers and contractors throughout Ohio. Because of that trust, VMI was able to achieve its goal and get much larger concrete work in Ohio over the ensuing five years.

VMI also became certified by Ohio Unified Certification Program as a Disadvantaged Business Entity and is certified by Cleveland as a Female Business Enterprise for poured concrete foundation contractors and structural concrete contractors.

In 2018, VMI has approximately 100 full time employees with offices in Macedonia and Columbus, and its revenue has grown 1,600 percent since its first year. VMI, led by President Neille Vitale, is committed to investing in people and leveraging technology to provide the highest quality concrete work on time and on budget. ●

Honor Roll | Manufacturing

Daniel’s Amish Collection | Christopher J. Karman

Daniel’s Amish Collection believes that its entrepreneurial management style and decentralized decision-making have been a key factor in its rapid growth. The manufacturer of wooden bedroom and dining furniture encourages entrepreneurism and innovation at every level. The company’s most significant achievement over the past five years is carving out a profitable, American-made niche in the highly competitive furniture industry, offering customized furniture and infusing the entire organization with quality. This has helped it grow sales dramatically.

Fire-Dex LLC | Bill Burke

Since its move to Medina more than 20 years ago, Fire-Dex LLC has acquired three businesses and introduced many new products focused on firefighters’ health and safety. In 2018, Fire-Dex celebrated its 35th anniversary in part by revealing its completed 29,000-square-foot headquarters expansion. As Fire-Dex grows, increasing its headcount by 27 percent between 2016 and 2017, it’s also helping Medina grow, estimating that the expansion will develop at least 30 new jobs over the next three years in the city.

Flohr Machine Co. | Gerard Flohr

Flohr Machine Co., a family-owned and operated company established in Akron in 1966, started in a backyard garage and now owns 22 CNC machines. Through timely upgrading of equipment and technology, the manufacturer of components for tire molds and energy equipment has been able to maintain consistent and sustainable growth. The company is actively in the process of training the third-generation workforce to continue into the foreseeable future the growth and technological advances it has so far achieved.

LeafFilter Gutter Protection | Matt Kaulig

LeafFilter Gutter Protection scaled from a home office in 2005 to a top U.S. home improvement company. Headquartered in Hudson, the company recently opened new locations in Austin, Texas; Houston; London, Ontario; Toronto; Denver; and Oklahoma City. In the past five years, the company experienced tremendous growth, increasing its sales revenue by more than 262 percent. Its newest endeavor, Kaulig Racing, has elevated LeafFilter’s brand in the market via its NASCAR exposure.

MAC Trailer Enterprises Inc. | Michael Conny

MAC Trailer Enterprises Inc., a truck and trailer manufacturer, has added three manufacturing facilities in three states over the past five years. Sales and production figures have increased significantly, with MAC realizing an 11 percent boost in revenue year-over-year. The company currently employs about 1,300 people with more than 800 of those employed locally. It has added an on-site health clinic at each of its plants that are staffed by a nurse practitioner, which emphasizes the care and concern it has for its employees.

Main Street Gourmet LLC | Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson

In the early 2000s, Main Street Gourmet LLC re-invented itself, establishing a custom baked goods division that produced exclusive bakery products for its customers. The move helped Main Street win the business of many premier food and restaurant operators, which spurred company growth. During the five-year period between 2012 and 2016, its employee growth has neared 40 percent while sales growth jumped to nearly 55 percent. The custom baked goods division now represents more than 80 percent of Main Street’s sales.

Midwest Industrial Supply Inc. | Steven Vitale

Midwest Industrial Supply Inc. is a national and international provider of dust control, soil stabilization, anti-icing/deicing and rail solutions. Headquartered in downtown Canton, the family company has experienced growth during almost every one of its 43 years in business. It has a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent since its inception, and in just the last year, it grew 26 percent in total revenue. Midwest also added 24 new employees in that time, largely because of a May 2017 acquisition.

Packaging Material Services LLC | Greg Bobonik

Packaging Material Services LLC began with a less than 20,000-square-foot warehouse, a three-item product line and a customer base of four. It employed four people and its market range centralized in a two-county radius. Since then, Packaging Material Services has seen remarkable growth. Its revenues have doubled, and its customer base has increased to over 45 companies. It expanded its product line and moved to a 70,000-square-foot building, and its headcount increased to 20 employees.

Rittman Inc. dba Mull Iron | Chester M. Mull III

Rittman Inc. dba Mull Iron might operate in Wayne County, but it’s made its mark on the Akron skyline. As a structural steel erector, the company has built the infrastructure for University of Akron’s InfoCision Stadium, the Akron Art Museum, Goodyear’s world headquarters and more. Within the last five years, the company has doubled its sales and created over 80 new jobs, now employing more than 160 field, shop and administrative personnel.

Venture Products Inc. | Dallas Steiner

Venture Products Inc., the manufacturer of Ventrac compact tractors and commercial grade attachments, has become a leader in the sub-compact tractor market, with its equipment being used by professionals worldwide. Export sales are 20 percent of total sales for the company. The success in exports provides diversity to its customer base and stability for its long-term growth. During the past five years, the company’s sales have grown 124 percent while it has added 123 employees to its headcount.

WARDJet Inc. | Richard Ward

WARDJet Inc. has changed over the years from a waterjet consulting company to the largest reseller of used waterjet cutting machines in North America, to the leader in refurbishing waterjets, to the largest custom CNC and automation company in North America specializing in waterjet cutting systems. Once a home-based business, the company now occupies a large portion of a 220,000-square-foot building in Tallmadge and has close to 100 employees. It has seen its sales grow 81 percent in the past five years.

Honor Roll | Technology Services

Corporate Technologies Group Inc. | Jeff Sumner and Brett Harney

Corporate Technologies Group Inc. has experienced significant growth and change as it heads toward its 20th year in business. This year, CTG has added two new positions. The new technical intern helps the technical support team, while the new full-time marketing coordinator and sales support staffer is vertically integrating the overall marketing approach, a function that had been outsourced in the past. CTG has added 67 new customers since 2014, with 27 added in the past two years.

Etactics Inc. | Michael Teutsch

Etactics Inc., which delivers time-sensitive documents, has invested significantly to prepare for its next stage of growth. As it adds clients, the company continues to develop new products and services while looking at ways to outsource services outside of its core competency through new partner relationships with other businesses. The company currently employs 44 employees, a 10 percent increase from the previous year, and expects to hire more employees during the next 12 months.

Excel Impact LLC | Craig Sturgill

Excel Impact LLC, a performance-driven online customer acquisition provider headquartered in Medina, has seen its year-end revenue grow nearly 17,500 percent between 2013 and 2017. It’s incredibly fast growth is partially attributed to its heavy focus on connecting the growing demographic of senior citizen insurance shoppers with insurance agencies across the country. The company plans to hire additional team members and scale existing channels to meet its goal of increasing gross revenue for the year.

Lead to Conversion LLC | Sean Bolton

Lead to Conversion LLC has experienced growth in both its headcount and its organization, especially in the past several years. Since 2013, the company has seen its employee base grow from six to 14, and its sales revenue grow 130 percent. The company emphasizes benefits to its employees such as flexible hours, monthly and quarterly bonuses, continuous improvement and cross-training opportunities. It expects its growth trajectory to continue, requiring the addition of more employees in the coming years.

Metisentry | Marling Engle

Metisentry is a software as a service factory. The Akron-based company works to solve complex business problems through a combination of web and software development, and cloud services, with the hope that it will change the way people do business. Metisentry has continued its trend of increasing its income year-over-year. Between 2013 and 2017, the company’s sales increased 909 percent, with its headcount rising from five employees to 21 in the same period.

Open Practice Solutions LTD | Michael Teutsch

In recent years, Open Practice Solutions LTD, a developer of web-based medical billing applications, has accomplished much. The company has grown its presence from three states to 40. It now serves 4,800 providers and more than 6,000 users. During the past five years, the company also has seen its sales increase 385 percent, while increasing its staff by 120 percent. The company is looking forward to accelerating that growth over the next five years.

QualityIP | Ryan Markham

QualityIP, an IT services company, has added 19 new jobs in the past five years — an almost 112 percent increase to its staffing levels. In addition, two years ago the company added a third location. It’s now in Kent, Independence and Akron. Its fleet of 10 tech trucks brings its services to over 400 active clients throughout the region. Over the past five years, 2013 through 2017, QualityIP experienced sales growth of more than 150 percent.

Razorleaf Corp. | Eric Doubell

Razorleaf Corp. has seen its sales nearly double in the past five years and has made investments to support this growth long term. The company has added both marketing and sales talent on its management team to drive business growth across all sectors. It launched Razorleaf Government Solutions, a spinoff that focuses on the support and fulfillment of government contracts, and more than doubled its consultant headcount to support an increase in contracts in aerospace and government organizations.

S3 Technologies | Nancy Larker

S3 Technologies, a full-service technology company providing services in the commercial and institutional markets in Northeast and Central Ohio, has gained traction over the last several years. Finding the right solution for each unique space and budget is where S3 thrives. The result has been happy customers, steady company growth with more than 95 percent of its customer base being referrals, an increase of 76 percent in overall sales and 55 percent in employee growth in the last five years.

Sanctuary Marketing Group | Kelly Brown

Sanctuary Marketing group, a digital marketing agency, has gone from working in the living room of an old house to a newly renovated facility in the heart of North Canton at the Hoover building. The company has won the Weatherhead 100 award four consecutive years. It has actively partnered with over 60 companies in Northeast Ohio on their digital marketing strategies and has grown its revenues by 454 percent since 2012.

SecureData 365 | Michael Campanelli

While SecureData 365’s own data centers are rapidly growing, so are its staff and sales. The company has seen its sales increase 104 percent and its headcount grow from 16 to 22 employees. More significantly, the company’s customers are able to employ robust IT staffs locally and send them to a local data center to keep their operations always available. To that end, more than 5,000 IT technicians came to work at either its Canton or Cleveland data center last year.

Sherlock Services Inc. | Ronald Pollard

In the past six years, Sherlock Services has grown from nine to 25 employees and more than doubled its revenue through organic and acquisition growth. The computer hardware sales and service company expanded its product portfolio and hired sales account executives to drive direct business in 2014; acquired Atlantic Tech Services in 2017, adding over 200 customers and two technical personnel; and in 2018, acquired Black River Computer, hired its four employees and again grew its customer base.

Honor Roll | Service

Cohen & Co. | J. Michael Kolk

Expansion and growth continue to be a recurring theme at Cohen & Co. Over the past few years, the accounting and consulting firm has added offices in Pittsburgh; Detroit; St. Clair Shores, Michigan; Baltimore; and Chicago, bringing its total to 10 offices. From 2016 to 2017 alone, its employee count grew from 380 to 556.
Cohen & Co. is now focused on integrating its growing teams, which it is working to achieve through technology and community service initiatives.

Concept Services LTD | Dan Harsh

Concept Services LTD, which began in 2002 as a family-owned company, now has 120 employees. That growth required Concept to spread its workforce among three campuses. But that is changing. The company is merging into a new 26,000-plus square-foot corporate headquarters in Medina that is designed for the future with room to house more than 200 employees. As it expands, Concept is revamping its operational structure, adding project management support roles to ensure a quality experience for clients and employees.

General Transport | Joseph Ostrowske

In the past five years, General Transport has experienced steady growth, fueled by its ability to quickly respond to customer needs as the economy has steadily improved. As an asset-based company, General Transport is heavily invested in both tractors and trailers, purchasing more than $7.5 million in equipment since 2013 through local reps and dealers. The company also has invested more than $550,000 since 2013 in its South Akron offices, showing its commitment to Akron and setting itself up for growth.

GPD Group | Darrin Kotecki

GPD Group’s more than 600 architects, designers and engineers are part of an employee ownership structure that has enabled the company to grow in part because of its focus on the needs of its associates and the communities where it works. The firm seeks to improve the well-being of its employees, clients, communities and business partners by transforming opportunities into success. That effort is paying off — the firm has seen both its revenue and employee count increase steadily in the past five years.

Great Lakes Fasteners Inc. | Kevin R. Weidinger

Great Lakes Fasteners Inc., through organic growth and acquisitions, has established an exciting growth curve by building a diverse group of customers. Its aggressive acquisition strategy and investing in salespeople and marketing tools have propelled its sales higher over the past several years. The company entered the maintenance and repair and cutting tool segment and has steadily added new clients with that service offering. Further, its packaging division has created several new jobs, and has driven value and created opportunities for customers.

Group Management Services Inc. | Mike Kahoe

Twenty-two years after starting as a one-man organization, Group Management Services Inc. is growing faster than ever. The professional employer organization now has nearly 270 employees across eight offices. In fact, the company’s most significant obstacle over the past five years is keeping up with the growth. After reinvesting its profits into the business, the company has expanded from its offices in Richfield, Columbus and Cincinnati, to Indianapolis; Fort Myers, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Detroit; and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Innovation Food Services | Thomas Lane

Innovation Food Services has grown from producing 50 meals a day to over 4,000 meals per day for charter schools, summer meal programs, mobile meals, PASSPORT programs and senior centers. In the past five years, the company’s full-time staff has more than doubled as it has realized significant sales revenue growth. It’s also expanding its geographic footprint, growing to provide services in six counties. Innovation Foods is focused on creating new products and ideas as it looks to impact more Northeast Ohio citizens.

J&K’s Akron Medina Trucks & Parts Inc. | Joshua Slattery

J&K’s Akron Medina Trucks & Parts Inc. is a family-owned and operated business newly located in Uniontown. And though the commercial truck and parts sales company was experiencing sales growth at a good clip, its numbers have been affected by a move the company expects will ultimately facilitate better growth. The company left an area with accessibility and flooding issues to one its customers love. As a result, sales have already begun to climb again.

Jarrett Logistics Systems | W. Michael Jarrett

Jarrett Logistics Systems has seen its sales grow 125 percent between 2013 and 2017. In August 2016, its new 10,000-square-foot JLS Routing Center opened across the street from its headquarters. When it first opened, the building had space to grow. With the recent growth of the past year, it is nearing full capacity. Additionally, the company added, a 105,000-square-foot warehouse in 2016. The six-phase project is headed into phase two, as space is quickly filling up in the current warehouse.

KHM Travel Group | Rick Zimmerman

Over the past five years, KHM Travel Group has seen its independent travel agents drive a 69 percent increase in sales from 2013 to 2017. The agency is dedicated to advancing its educational offerings and listening to the requests of its agents, implementing several new programs designed to increase agent retention and knowledge, and facilitate networking. The success of its agents and its sales growth has placed KHM among the top players in the travel industry.

Katar Holding Inc. | Kenneth J. Brown

Since Katar Holding Inc.’s first Buffalo Wild Wings franchise opened in 1995 in Ashland, the franchise count has grown to seven and its presence has expanded to include Richland, Stark, Wayne, Lake and Lorain counties. The businesses have provided career opportunities to thousands of employees over the past 20 years, including management and other restaurant career positions. Both the company’s sales and employee count have increased steadily over the past five years, with the latter growing 14 percent just between 2016 and 2017.

Laudan Properties | Kevin R. Weidinger

Laudan Properties’ performance-based culture has been a huge differentiator for the national mortgage field services company. It recruits vigorously for candidate fit, while hiring for attitude and training for skill. That approach has helped the company attract the best and brightest in Northeast Ohio and enabled it to keep its foot on the gas as it pursues growth. Over the past five years, the company has added to its staff and seen sales increase 55 percent.

Leppo Group Inc. | William “Glenn” Leppo

The most significant achievement for the construction equipment seller Leppo Group Inc. in the past five years has been the success of its experiments — suggestions from employees at all levels of the company that cover a wide range of opportunities to improve and grow. For example, in 2013, Leppo formed a new operating company, Razor Rents, after a couple years of experimenting with the new shale exploration contractors in eastern Ohio. Razor Rents is now the fastest growing part of its business.

National Interstate Insurance | Anthony Mercurio

Despite a challenging economic environment, National Interstate Insurance is reporting 18 percent growth in revenue since 2013, and has grown its alternative risk transfer portfolio of products by nearly 30 percent in that same period — a product segment that now accounts for most of the company’s revenue. The company’s Richfield campus expansion is complete, which added two floors of flexible, collaborative spaces as well as amenities for employees and hosting clients.

Peoples Services Inc. | Douglas J. Sibila

Peoples Services Inc. is a 104-year-old warehousing and logistics company that is privately held with an employee stock ownership program. The company has been expanding rapidly through acquisitions, giving the company a presence in seven states — Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. It controls more than 7.5 million square feet of warehouse space throughout 42 facilities. In the past five years, the company has added 111 employees and grown sales 49 percent.

Pritt Entertainment Group | Ryan Pritt

In the past five years, Pritt Entertainment Group has grown, both in employee numbers and in revenue. Shortly after hiring its first employee, the company expanded from three people to five, and relocated, conveniently, across the street to another downtown Akron office with three times the space. The extra space allowed the company to grow to nine full-time employees at the end of 2017. Pritt’s client list has grown over those five years, as well, with new client revenue increasing exponentially.

Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing | Steve Flaughers

Proforma 3rd Degree Marketing, a graphic communication company, has grown its sales by more than $1 million in the past five years. The company has done this by taking an innovative and aggressive approach to acquiring its competitors through mergers and acquisitions, hiring sales professionals and leveraging social media. To lead and inspire its employees, the company is hands on with its sales teams, invests in the latest and greatest in sales tools, and shows its appreciation for their work through special events.

QualCare LLC dba Home Instead Senior Care | Therese Zdesar, RN, BSN

Over the past five years, Home Instead Senior Care has increased its headcount by 36 employees — a significant achievement given the effort required to meet its retention and recruitment expectations. Knowing that employees are the No. 1 driver of its success, the company initiated programs to improve its performance in that area that focus on facilitating a culture of care and compassion. Additionally, it created a new administrative position specifically for recruiting the best candidates.

Sequoia Financial Group | Thomas Haught

Sequoia Financial Group’s strategic plan works toward achieving success by growth, acquisition and client loyalty. Key to its strategic plan is business line expansion and acquiring and developing talent. Sequoia has acquired multiple firms since its beginnings, which has stretched its presence from Michigan all the way to Florida. The company increased its sales by 109 percent in the past five years, and added 25 employees to its headcount during the same period.

Shoemaker Rigging & Transport | Steven Shoemaker

Shoemaker Rigging & Transport, an industrial and commercial rigging, trucking and heavy machinery moving company, began operations with three employees in 2014. It has invested millions of dollars in both equipment and real estate since then. Today, over 30 employees make up a diverse pool of individuals with various levels of expertise and experience, and the company supports multiple local subcontractors with hundreds of thousands of dollars in business annually. Since 2014, Shoemaker’s sales have grown 701 percent.

Spray Foam Solutions Inc. | Aaron Raber

Spray Foam Solutions Inc., a spray foam insulation company, has grown from four employees at the start of 2013 to eight by the end of 2017, and nearly doubled its revenue in the same period. The company expects that the current structure and planning it has in place sets it up to grow by at least 20 percent in 2018 and double by 2020. It also has a plan in place for a new building that will accommodate that growth.

The Village Network | Richard Graziano

The Village Network has achieved significant growth over the past five years, realizing surpluses in the past four years — reaching the $1 million-plus mark in four of the last five years and for the first time exceeding the $2 million threshold last year. This year, in partnership with the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Wayne & Holmes Counties, The Village Network will open a new therapeutic stabilization center at its Wooster campus to serve area youth ages 10-21 in crisis.

Unified Construction Systems | Jason Haws

Unified Construction Systems has seen its sales increase 64 percent and its headcount grow 46 percent in the past five years. The contractor, working in commercial glass, insulation and masonry restoration and caulking, has been a part of several projects in Stark, Summit, Wayne, Portage and Cuyahoga counties. The company believes in giving back to the communities in which it works through fundraisers and supporting charitable causes. It also prides itself on having a family-like culture.

VMI Group Inc. | Neille Vitale

While its early work was focused on constructing concrete driveways and small-scale concrete work, VMI Group Inc. has since transitioned into larger-scale structural, industrial, commercial and site concrete work. The company has done so through investment in state-of-the-art equipment, talented people and a commitment to quality. VMI has approximately 100 full-time employees with offices in Macedonia and Columbus, and its revenue has grown 1,600 percent since its first year.

Westfield Bank | Jon Park

Since its inception in 2001, Westfield Bank has grown rapidly by focusing on long-term customer relationships. The growth was accelerated with the acquisition of Western Reserve Bank in 2012, and Valley Savings Bank in 2014. Westfield Bank’s headcount has grown 47 percent in the past five years. It operates in five counties in Northeast Ohio and has more than $1.45 billion in assets. Westfield Bank will continue to grow, while striving to become Northeast Ohio’s highest performing and most admired community bank.

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.

Northeast Ohio 2016 Entrepreneur Of The Year®

Year after year we hear it: “Only in America!”

When we first honored four forward-thinking entrepreneurs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1986, we had only just begun to recognize the ingenuity that is the hallmark of American business prowess. Now, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® reaches across the country to encompass nearly 10,000 distinguished American alumni celebrated in 25 U.S. regional programs. And from its inception in the heartland, the program now spans the globe, taking place in 145 cities and 60 countries worldwide.

We couldn’t be more excited to celebrate the award’s 30th anniversary. We salute the visionaries who launch and reimagine businesses, employ millions and endow your communities, leaving legacies of accomplishment and enrichment while setting the pace for generations of entrepreneurs to come.

We honor their passion, innovation and perseverance as we salute 30 years of ingenuity in America.

Congratulations to this year’s award recipients and finalists whose stories you’ll read about in the following pages. If you know an entrepreneur who should be recognized as we begin our fourth decade, please let us know.


neo_d_ey_DanTompkinsDan Tompkins
Partner & Program Co-Director




neo_d_ey_CraigGlazierCraig Glazier
Partner & Program Co-Director





BUILDING PRODUCTS, EQUIPMENT and SERVICES  (WINNER) Carolyn Cahlik, Coast to Coast Equipment  |  (FINALIST) James Keene, Keene Building Products  COMMUNITY IMPACT  (WINNER-tie) Alan Rosskamm & John Zitzner, Breakthrough Schools | (WINNER-tie) Terry Davis, Our Lady of the Wayside |  (FINALIST)  Annemarie Grassi, Open Doors Academy | (FINALIST)  Greg Malkin, Young Entrepreneur Institute at University School  DISTRIBUTION & MANUFACTURING   (WINNER) Richard Farone, David Brickner Guardian Technologies | (FINALIST) James Stewart, CIMA Plastics Group | (FINALIST)  Howard Booher, East Manufacturing Corp. | (FINALIST)  Amy Bircher, MMI Textiles, Inc.  FAMILY BUSINESS  (WINNERS) David Bartley & John Bartley, OGI Industries/Ohio Gratings, Inc. |  (FINALIST) Scott Mawaka, Fleet Response  RETAIL & CONSUMER PRODUCTS & SERVICES  (WINNERS)  John Fenn & Mark Campbell, Budget Dumpster |  (FINALIST)  Christopher Karman, Daniel’s Amish Collection |  (FINALIST)  Sean Brauser, Romeo’s Pizza and Pizzafire  SERVICES  (WINNER)  William Davis, ECHO Health, Inc. |  (FINALIST) Anthony Mercurio, National Interstate | (FINALIST) Scott McCafferty and Michael Emich, WTWH Media, LLC   TECHNOLOGY  (WINNER) James Tu, Energy Foods, Inc.  (FINALISTS)  Kyle Quillen & Robert Brick, Agile Networks (FINALIST)  Albert Green, Kent Displays, Inc.


Here are the 2016 Entrepreneurs Of The Year for Northeast Ohio



neo_ey_RobertBrick_KyleQuillenRobert Brick
Founder, chairman and CEO
Kyle Quillen
Founder and CTO
Agile Networks


Nominated by: Garrett Robertson, Agile Networks

Robert Brick and Kyle Quillen are all about the development of their employees at Agile Networks. Agile University sets the expectation for employee development by emphasizing a focus on interdependence, culture and continuous growth during each new hire’s first two weeks on the job. The company, a premier provider of hybrid transport networks, uses its onboarding process to allow every employee hired to gain insight into every position at Agile. It allows Brick and Quillen to gain buy-in for their interdependence business philosophy and ensure that the focus is always on providing an exemplary level of service to the customer.

Brick is the company’s founder, chairman and CEO while Quillen is founder and CTO. These two men are not only business partners, but have known each other for quite some time. Quillen, while still in high school, showed Brick some of the projects he had been working on during a family party. It was at that point that Quillen told Brick that he wanted to start a business with him, to which Brick replied, “Bring me a good idea and I will consider it.” Four years later, Quillen brought that good idea to Brick and they launched Agile Networks. This interaction is prominently displayed on the wall of quotes at Agile to serve as a reminder of how far Quillen and Brick have come.

The company’s two leaders have unique, yet complimentary leadership styles. Brick describes Quillen as “Silicon Valley in Canton,” or the impatient visionary. After he graduated from high school, Quillen lasted about eight months at a local college before deciding that learning on the fly and a practical education better suited his style. With his vision and Brick’s professional experience, tremendous synergies have been developed that have played an integral part in the company’s success.
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neo_ey_AlenRosskamm_JohnZitznerAlan Rosskamm
John Zitzner
Breakthrough Schools


Nominated by: Alfred Miller, Oswald Companies

Alan Rosskamm and John Zitzner are two entrepreneurs with no background in education but a passion for children’s learning. Together they have created Breakthrough Schools, one of the nation’s highest performing charter management organizations in the country. They were often advised against starting a charter school because of the common failures of startup charter schools across the country. They saw a need for better public education in Cleveland and continued against the odds to provide high-quality education options for children.

By the time Rosskamm teamed with Zitzner, who had already formed his first charter school, E-Prep Middle School — and had started pursuing his next idea to improve and expand the network of charter schools in Cleveland. To achieve this goal, the two men teamed up to create Breakthrough Schools. The idea is to bring together multiple currently existing charter schools and streamline the management and administration side of each. Rosskamm was skeptical at first due to the inherent challenges of bringing three schools together and the known uphill funding battle of charter schools. He eventually agreed to serve as CEO to help build financial sustainability and growth.

Zitzner has worked with Rosskamm to grow from one charter school in 2010 to opening their 12th school in August 2016. As president, Zitzner oversees Friends of Breakthrough, the fundraising and advocacy arm of the network and has been very successful working with the district funding and organizing many charity fundraisers. Rosskamm manages the support team for each of the schools. The duo’s primary goal through Breakthrough Schools is to fix the inequality in charter schools funding, both via property tax allocation and the general funding budget. They are working to change Ohio’s public school funding legislation by 2020.
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neo_ey_JohnFenn_Mark-CampbellJohn Fenn
Mark Campbell
Budget Dumpster


Nominated by: Sean Nally, Budget Dumpsters

After going to school together and being friends for many years, John Fenn and Mark Campbell began working together on a real estate venture. As an additional source of income, they also started a junk removal company, which introduced them to the world of dumpster renting. Although they were making ends meet with the real estate and junk removal businesses, they wanted to create a business that would have a more stable income.

While in the junk removal business, Fenn and Campbell worked with Cleveland dumpster companies to negotiate dumpster rental rates.

In addition to customers who would call inquiring about junk removal services, many people also called inquiring about dumpster rentals. Fenn and Campbell seized the opportunity and Budget Dumpster was established.

Budget Dumpster operates as a broker — it negotiates rates for dumpster rentals from dumpster companies, usually receiving a discount for a promised volume. Customers, most often residential or small contractors, contact Budget Dumpster to rent the dumpster. The company acts as the intermediary connecting the customer with the dumpster owner. Budget Dumpster does not own dumpsters nor does it truck/deliver the dumpsters. Aside from trying to be the cheapest dumpster option for consumers, as the name suggests, Budget Dumpster strives to provide exceptional customer service.

The larger, brand-recognizable waste removal companies cater to contractors and construction workers. The owners, however, focus on selling to residential users who seldom know about dumpsters and the related regulations. Budget Dumpster has 25 customer service representatives with the goal of keeping a caller’s wait time at a minimum.

Fenn and Campbell believe this is what differentiates Budget Dumpster from competitors. The company has entered 150 markets in the U.S. and continues to see significant growth. They are developing ideas to diversify their business and enter new markets to create more repeat business.
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neo_ey_JamesStewartJames Stewart
CIMA Plastics Group



Nominated by: Yelena Spadafora, PNC

Jim Stewart’s drive and desire to lead a business — as well as his own style of leadership — is distinctly personal and embodies a deep entrepreneurial spirit. Stewart grew up in Detroit immersed in the inner workings of the automotive industry — his father was president of a successful automotive supply company. But as successful as he was in that business, his father often had thoughts of taking the leap and starting a business of his own. At each attempt, however, the owners of his father’s company would entice him just enough to stay put. These unfulfilled possibilities inspired Stewart to commit to leading a business of his own.

In December 2003, Stewart closed on a deal to acquire a small contract molding company called CIMA Plastics. CIMA stands for Custom Injection Molding and Assembly. It had started out as a successful venture, but had endured several rocky years by the time of Stewart’s acquisition. In the first seven years of his ownership, 65 percent of CIMA’s customers turned over primarily due to outsourcing of services overseas. Most of Stewart’s time immediately following the acquisition was spent simply trying to maintain the customer base and figure out the business as this was not an industry where had expertise.

As a function of the high turnover, CIMA’s financial performance was decidedly cyclical. But Stewart’s vision to transform CIMA Plastics Group from a pure contract molding operation into a diversified, proprietary, product line-driven company is beginning to bear fruit. CIMA’s top three customers comprised 90 percent of sales when Stewart acquired the company in 2003. That metric has now decreased to close to 20 percent with the company remaining profitable for multiple consecutive years. One of the best examples of Stewart’s effectiveness as president is the fact that the company has yet to lay off a single employee.
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neo_ey_ChrisKarmanChristopher Karman
Daniel’s Amish Collection



Nominated by: George Glasser, Huntington Bank

Christopher Karman has a profound dedication to quality and emphasizes doing the right thing while running his Company, Daniel’s Amish Collection. These values are thoroughly demonstrated through his leadership in the company. Karman works every day to be a little better than the last by bringing his relentless work ethic and leading by example. He firmly believes that the key to the success Daniel’s Amish Collection has experienced is because they make quality products, made by quality employees, sold to quality customers.

He goes to extensive lengths to continue to ensure the quality of each of their products, which is instilled throughout the company and its employees. As president, Karman has displayed leadership by using his skill set learned throughout his career to drive the business and keep the company profitable. Part of his philosophy that has led to its success is that you need to have the right people, but also have those people in the right roles.

He excels at the day-to-day management of the company and in identifying solutions for future growth. His partner, Daniel Yoder, focuses more on sales and marketing. Karman also has an innovative team whom he has empowered to come up with creative ideas that drive efficiencies and lead to new product ideas.

Karman stands by his employees and is committed to growing the business in Ohio for years to come. He plans to continue hiring strong employees who have the same passion for quality that he does. Daniel’s Amish Collection encourages creativity and innovation within the workplace while continuing to promote a positive work environment and company culture by actively welcoming any new product or process idea from employees. Specifically, Karman implemented a program that offers 100 percent of the proceeds from the first sale of a new product designed by any employee as part of their compensation.
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neo_ey_HowardBoohertifHoward Booher
Owner and CEO
East Manufacturing Corp.



Nominated by: David DePoincy, East Manufacturing Corp.

As owner and CEO of East Manufacturing Corp., Howard Booher believes in leading by example and has created a culture of innovation and quality based on this top-down leadership style. Booher grew up working long hours on his family’s dairy farm and learned a simple mantra from his grandfather: If it breaks, fix it; if it breaks again, redesign it and make it better. This mantra has guided Booher throughout his life and is the foundation upon which East Manufacturing was built. With only a high school diploma and some engineering classes from Youngstown State University, Howard has been able to grow East Manufacturing into a multimillion-dollar business.

Despite personal sacrifices from his family and recent health issues, Booher has continued to manage both East Manufacturing and work on his personal 1,200-acre farm every day at the age of 75.

Booher has assembled a loyal and seasoned group of executives to help with the day-to-day operations, allowing him to focus on innovating and growing the company at the production level. This group includes individuals who each have more than 30 years of experience with the company, a level of commitment that has allowed Booher to trust each of them to do what is best for the company.

His management style also extends to the assembly lines, where he empowers his employees to develop themselves and to give input in hopes of improving the processes they are a part of every day. Despite recent economic turbulence and rising operating costs, Booher has continued to maintain the belief that his company must be a leader and innovator in its industry. The willingness to reinvest in new ideas has helped East Manufacturing to maintain its position as a top 25 truck trailer manufacturer in North America.
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neo_ey_WilliamDavisWilliam Davis
Chairman and CEO
ECHO Health, Inc.



Nominated by: Tim Holmes, PNC Bank

ECHO Health, Inc. has a culture that requires every employee to question the status quo, supports new ideas from its people and empowers the employees to not fear failure, but embrace it. This culture of disruption is a reflection of William Davis, the company’s chairman and CEO, and his leadership. The origin of ECHO Health is a testament to this. Initially formed as a joint venture funded by Chase Manhattan Bank and Tandem Computers, Davis was offered an opportunity in 1997 to exit the joint venture and continue the business on his own.

To do this, Davis bet on himself and had to give back the remaining $1 million of funding left in the joint venture and start anew with the only remaining asset from the original joint venture, the intellectual property that he had helped to develop.

This offered Davis the opportunity he was looking for — a chance to grow his business outside of a culture driven by quarterly earnings, EBITDA multiples, equity offerings, etc. One of the internal mantras of the company that comes directly from his leadership is “Die with Honor.” He says that one of the things he strives to do personally and instills in his employees is to always do the right thing for their clients and employees, no matter what the cost.

The company has walked away from customers and relationships when Davis did not feel that the service expectations or values and objectives of the other party aligned. Doing so allowed the company to maintain the integrity and values it was founded upon. In order to facilitate Davis’s disruptive nature, he has built a strong management team around him that complements his strengths, allowing him to focus on building solutions to the problems of his customers.
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neo_ey_JamesTuJames Tu
Executive Chairman and CEO
Energy Focus, Inc.



Nominated by: Marc Byrnes, Oswald

Energy Focus, Inc. has a mission to enlighten and inspire the world, and James Tu looks for certain characteristics in new hires that will allow the business to fulfill that mission, including motivation, skills, temperament and an empathetic personality. Tu, the company’s executive chairman and CEO, wants employees to be at Energy Focus for the right reasons. It matters to him that they believe in the concept and mission of the business and in return, he gives all 130 of his full-time employees stock in the company.

Even those who decide that working at Energy Focus is not for them are entitled to benefits upon separation, and receive severance with no questions asked if they are unhappy with their role or current job.

Energy Focus was established in 1985 and has always been the leader in establishing advanced lighting technologies from fiber optic to LED lighting. Creating the LED lighting focus has allowed the company to build LED technology that the world has never seen. Each LED lighting tube has a chip similar to what you would find in your PC or cellphone. Developing new technology is part of what drives Tu, who has always believed a great business is built by solving a huge problem. He has worked hard to increase sales and create brand awareness and put the company in a position to expand its sales force to keep up with the needs of clients.

Tu started his career out of college in global investing, eventually managing investments on Wall Street. He could have stayed in an investment banking role, but aspired for more. He wanted to help others and make an impact on the world. His effort to brand the company with a mission, vision and values has resonated with employees, allowing them to see the purpose of their work.

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neo_ey_ScottMawakaScott Mawaka
CEO and president
Fleet Response



Nominated by: Julie Hill, PNC Bank

With a firm understanding that human capital is the core of his business, Scott Mawaka leads Fleet Response with a focus on maximizing each person’s strengths. The central principles of his business — continuity, consistency, development, growth, honesty, integrity — shine through his actions and direction as CEO and president.

Relatively low employee turnover is evidence of the self-worth and empowerment that he strives to enable. In a commoditized world, this philosophy of service is a key differentiator. Mawaka’s management style is apparent from the moment you meet him. He explains his casual attire with the admission that this is “who I am,” but it is clear that his interest and focus is external to himself. His attentiveness to “who you are” permeates through all of his interactions.

He gets to know everyone in his company on a personal level, regardless of their role or rank. He invests in regular business retreats with his leadership team and advisory board in an ongoing effort to understand each and every individual on a personal level. This relationship-building focus transcends through the company and outward to customers and to the community at large. Fleet Response has had considerable impact on a number of purpose-driven charitable organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Youth Challenge and the ALS Association. Together with his wife, he co-founded the Scott and Julie Mawaka Charitable Foundation to continue to drive positive change in the world.

Likening his company to an investment portfolio, Mawaka identifies the need to continually diversify. He sees opportunities in IT, using the vast amounts of available data on driver history to predict behavior. He sees his company having an impact by helping companies identify and mitigate risks early on so they can be proactive (in preventing accidents) rather than reactive (in responding to the needs resulting from accidents).
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neo_ey_RickFarone_DavidBricknerRichard Farone
Managing Partner
David Brickner
Managing Partner
Guardian Technologies


Nominated by: Mark Hopton, Action Management

David Brickner and Richard Farone founded Guardian Technologies along with their former partner, Joe Gorman, after spending 17 years in the consumer products industry at TTI Floor Care North America (formerly Royal Appliance/Dirt Devil vacuums). They took the skills and knowledge they had acquired during that time and decided to create their own company where they would be able to create and cultivate the type of environment that would reward originality and innovation. Both Brickner and Farone felt that their most rewarding time at TTI was during the early years when the company had a true high-risk/high-reward culture and focus on product development.

The plan for Guardian was to create a new company that kept that culture alive while focusing on product innovation and continuous process improvement and streamlining.

Brickner and Farone melded their separate experiences, one in sales and customer relationships and the other in supply chain, in order to grow the company. They have been able to take manufacturing processes that typically take a year and condense them into six months in order to react more quickly to the demand for their products. Together, they made the decision to focus on online sales in advance of their competitors and let the brick-and-mortar stores follow. This allowed the company to be at the forefront of online shopping for home environmental products largely through Amazon, while also keeping a presence in stores such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond.

The managing partners understand that Guardian’s products are utilized in people’s homes every day, and they seek to work only with vendors and suppliers with the highest integrity and commitment to safety and quality, and fill the company with employees who feel the same. Brickner and Farone are on-site daily, but empower their people to make decisions.
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neo_ey_CarolynCahlikCarolyn Cahlik
Coast to Coast Equipment



Nominated by: Yelena Spadafora, PNC

While she had no experience in the construction equipment industry, Carolyn Cahlik took a leap of faith and with her partner launched Coast to Coast Equipment in20016. She found she was subject to a steep learning curve but adopted a “one risk at a time” philosophy. Cahlik, who serves as president, realized that every business needed to take risks in order to grow and succeed — but they had to be the right risks for the organization.

What sets her apart is that she limits her risks in a way that the business is only partially exposed at any given time. While all of the company’s financial risks have been successful to this point, she still follows this philosophy to limit exposure and ensure the sustained success of the business.

After just three years into operations, the 2009 economic downturn severely depressed the values of the company’s construction equipment. This dramatic decrease in value of company assets and inventory could have caused the company to go bankrupt.

Cahlik did not let the economic downturn deter her will to build a successful business. The company began to innovate in ways that industry competitors were not. For instance, she viewed the downturn in capital equipment prices as an opportunity. While most organizations were looking to shed inventory, Coast to Coast was able to purchase equipment at record low prices.

In addition, Cahlik noted that there was still a need for the equipment, but organizations were unable to gain financing to purchase new or used equipment. She was able to leverage her growing inventory in a rental capacity that met the markets’ need and successfully navigated the company through the economic downturn to come out stronger than before. The company has also grown from a company of two (Cahlik and her partner) to one with 26 employees and counting.
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neo_ey_JimKeeneJames Keene
Keene Building Products



Nominated by: Chris Boesch, KeyBank

When James Keene started Keene Building Products in 2002, there was a compelling need in the construction industry for noise and moisture control products. The company has filled that void and has increased its value through technique and product development called — a play on words — “Keene Ideas.”

For instance, two of those “Keene Ideas” are technologies for roofing materials and carpet padding. The roofing material started with a patent for a more sophisticated folding process for manufacturing an entangled net and ended with a major partnership with a roofing company.

Keene also believed there was a solution to the problem carpeting has with hygiene and moisture. When it gets wet it stays wet because the carpet padding wicks moisture to the subfloor and the carpet. Keene created padding that is 95 percent air and allows a drying potential on the bottom while providing a cushion on the top.

The company has disrupted the market in which it operates by serving as both producer and marketer of its products. This business model has eliminated a layer from the supply chain and has brought both Keene Products and the customer cost savings.

Keene, president, encourages his employees to think in positive, juxtaposed and innovative ways. His policy to attract and retain employees is to identify hardworking individuals who want to be challenged and then challenge them by giving them the right opportunities and autonomy. He has built his company with such employees who had little experience but a high desire to learn.

With the future in mind, Keene created an ownership plan for the company. This group of managers is set to earn a portion of the company over the coming years. Keene also hopes to expand the company into other areas in construction, target consumer goods and packaging. His major goal is to grow sales 25 to 40 percent each year.
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neo_ey_AlbertGreenAlbert Green
Kent Displays, Inc.



Nominated by: Dr. J. William Doane, Kent Displays, Inc.

When Albert Green first teamed with Kent Displays, Inc. in the early 2000s to create low power displays on flexible surfaces —he knew they had invented something great. The creation became the Boogie Board® LCD eWriter, which has captivated millions of people.

Green joined KDI in 2007 with a focus to change KDI from the R&D company it was into a consumer-products engine that could change the course of writing in a world full of tablets and alternate forms of communication.

Considering himself to be inherently optimistic, Green attributes much of his success at KDI to believing wholeheartedly in the product the company has developed. He challenged the status quo immediately and seized the opportunity to create a low-cost LCD writing tablet that gives the user an authentic pen-on-paper writing experience, which propelled the company into the consumer products market.

The first Boogie Board® was released in 2010, and within a few years, KDI had expanded its global footprint (Australia, China, Netherlands, Korea, Philippines, New Zealand, Thailand, Japan), secured a spot in several major retailers (Brookstone, Office Depot/OfficeMax, Staples, Costco) and released more than a dozen product models under the Boogie Board® name.

In the six years since KDI began shipping the first LCD electronic writing tablet, the company has sold more than 6 million Boogie Boards® globally through retail stores. It also has increased the team from 20 engineers to a full suite of more than 90 employees — or “athletes” as they are called. Green encourages “athletes” to innovate fearlessly and collaborate to develop the most successful ideas.

KDI’s goal, under Green’s leadership as CEO, is to expand product placement, introduce new products (such as the colorburst display introduced to the market this year) and increase high-end branding and advertising placements (such as the Times Square Jumbotron during holidays).
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neo_ey_AmyBircherAmy Bircher
MMI Textiles, Inc.



Nominated by: Michael Frago, Oswald

Amy Bircher’s first involvement in the textile industry was at age 7 when she started cutting fabric swatches during the summer for her father’s company. Like her father, she obtained a degree in textiles from West Virginia University. She continued to help in her father’s factory during the summers and in 1997 began MMI Textiles, Inc., which stands for “Me, Myself and I,” illustrating the company’s “110 percent commitment to our customers and the integrity of the products sold.”

Bircher, president, takes pride in servicing end-product manufacturers of sewn products with more than 500 customers worldwide.

In an industry is known for a culture of delayed payments to suppliers, MMI has built an exemplary reputation for financial stability since it pays suppliers in a timely fashion. With these initiatives, MMI’s product reach has increased from three to more than 30, thanks to maintaining good relationships. The company takes pride in providing the best quality materials to its customers.

From 1997 to 2001, MMI generated the bulk of its revenue as a manufacturer’s rep serving the Midwest territory with three different product lines. The company entered the distribution business in 2001 and started importing containers of various products from Asia in 2002. From 2002 to 2006, the distribution business grew by double digits. In 2007, MMI purchased NDW Textiles, a converter of industrial textiles.

Since 2007, with the exception of 2013, the company experienced double-digit growth, which occurred when the industry was not doing well — competitors closed shop and much of the textile industry moved to China.

A diversification of products and services is a key factor that has ensured that MMI’s business kept. Solid vendor partnerships, increased resources and commitment to customers also help to ensure that MMI will continue to grow.
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neo_TonyMercurioAnthony Mercurio
National Interstate



Nominated by: Sherri Barr, PNC Bank

When Anthony Mercurio joined National Interstate in 1996, the company was an upstart in the niche sector of transportation insurance, offering only passenger bus transportation coverage. He soon took on leadership roles in product development, operations, acquisition diligence and integration, and people development.

Mercurio turned around two struggling business units and led the creation of what was to become the growth engine of the company — the alternative risk products division. The division went from zero to millions of dollars between 2004 and 2009. He has been a leader in all the company’s growth strategies, resulting in a stable product portfolio of more than 40 offerings.

In 1996, Mercurio was the company’s 46th employee; now, there are more than 700. One of the key factors to a successful employee base has been Mercurio’s ability to lead by example and to articulate a vision. In addition, he inspires team members to develop healthy relationships with each other and the client.

He leads an open meeting every month with employees to review the company’s results. This transparency and inclusiveness make employees feel they have a seat at the table and can offer input on strategic decisions.

Employees also receive wristbands each year, a visual reminder of the company’s values, which are listed inside with the financial goals on the outside.

Mercurio led the integration of Vanliner Insurance Co. in 2010, which entailed retaining key personnel, letting go of some legacy resources not in focus with the operations, onboarding a new culture and turning around business performance.

The subsidiary doubled its revenue in two years. Most recently, the company had some deterioration in a combined accident ratio metric due to internal and external factors. But in his role as president, Mercurio has driven improvement in that ratio with the plans being to achieve an industry-leading metric this year.
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neo_ey_DavidBartley_JohnBartleyDavid Bartley
John Bartley
CEO and president
OGI Industries/Ohio Gratings Inc.


Nominated by: Joe Luckring, The PNC Financial Services Group

While they are brothers, John and David Bartley have leadership styles that could not be more different. David, chairman of OGI Industries/Ohio Gratings Inc., describes his style as “aim, aim, aim;” and John, CEO and president, prefers “fire, fire, fire.” But these competing styles complement each other by leveraging David’s strategic thinking and John’s drive to capitalize on opportunities quickly.

With John and David as living examples, their executives lead with passion and an unparalleled entrepreneurial drive. The company is able to retain these executives and other key talent through OGI’s reputation. At OGI, John and David see their people as No. 1 and customers as No. 2. With such a commitment to their people and a reputation of quality, honesty and innovation, attracting and retaining key talent is not an issue.

In the past decade, OGI received several patents for new grating products designed to support heavy vehicular loading while providing Americans with Disabilities Act compliant spacing, which is used for urban sidewalks and roadways.

John and David began their leadership roles at OGI after taking over the company following their father’s untimely death. Even though they were thrust into these roles, John and David embraced this challenge, determined to take their father’s gift and grow OGI.

The Bartleys refocused the company in order to invest in capacity and innovation, triggering OGI’s significant growth from 2012 to 2015. The most important detail amid this growth is that it is sustainable — OGI’s largest customer constitutes only 4 percent of its sales. Furthermore, OGI’s diverse and growing customer base is due to its commitment to “solutioneer” and to make the impossible possible.

With innovation constantly in the company’s forefront, David sees Ohio Gratings doubling in size in five years based on his analysis of rolling financial trends for the company, industry and related markets.
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neo_ey_AnnmarieGrassiAnnemarie Grassi
Open Doors Academy



Nominated by: Anna Sobkiv, PNC Bank

Open Doors Academy, an out-of-school enrichment program for middle and high school students, is operated based on how CEO Annemarie Grassi grew up — with unconditional love, support and high expectations — and is a reflection of Grassi’s vision.

Grassi cites four ways that Open Doors Academy differs from other after-school programs: family engagement, school-community partnership, continuation of programming and strong adult-peer relationships. The program encourages relationship-building between youth, families, schools and communities.

The program’s success speaks for itself: 100 percent of the students who have completed three years of middle school programming have graduated from high school over the past 15 years, 97 percent pursued postsecondary education and 98 percent completed and graduated from their post-secondary program.

Many employees at the academy grew up in the program and are still in situations with which the organization helps. Grassi works with them to have modified schedules when they need additional time outside of work.

The nonprofit organization depends largely on private funding to operate, and this can be challenging at times. In 2009, the academy had run out of funding and had decided to shutdown. But only 20 days after the last day of school, the Ohio Department of Education awarded three grants that Grassi had persistently sought several times earlier. Three days later, Open Doors Academy rehired all six employees across four campuses and added 13 new additional employees.

The academy has been operating steadily ever since, and has continued its role, as Grassi puts it: “To protect, inspire, nurture and challenge adolescents to reach their full potential in safe and structured environment, encouraging relationship-building between youth, families, schools and communities as a pillar for success. Open Doors Academy is the only program in Northeast Ohio that offers a continuum of support for students from middle school through high school and beyond.”
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neo_ey_TerryDavisTerry Davis
President and CEO
Our Lady of the Wayside



Nominated by: Ron Boyner, Oswald

Terry Davis will mark his 25th year with Our Lady of the Wayside in September — and his innovative drive continues as strongly today as it did back then.

When most group homes just deemed themselves as a place for developmentally disabled individuals to convalesce throughout the remainder of their lives, Davis envisioned a changing landscape. He foresaw the rising concepts of smaller, specialized homes designed to fit the needs of each individual and pioneered in that area.

His vision coincided with the shift in the governmental regulations and the changing community culture, and he adapted Our Lady of the Wayside to the new industry environment long before his competitors. While other group facilities struggle to change their structure to meet the new governmental regulations, Our Lady of the Wayside’s smaller community home model remains resilient to the new environment.

Over the course of his tenure as president and CEO, Davis not only brought the cash-strapped agency back to life, but also turned it into a financially stable organization by providing programs and services. The organization’s revenue is derived from about 20 different streams, and its services range from transportation and medical services to recreational and spiritual programs to management of third-party owned community homes.

Davis believes that the organization cannot wait for the government to decide on funding because there will always be individuals that need assistance. Staff members’ compassion for and commitment to each person makes them prouder still of the ever-growing family of the individuals supported.

Our Lady of the Wayside uses a rolling three-year strategic plan in order to meet and exceed its financial goals. The current plans covering 2015 through 2017 are expected to be met before the end of 2016. Davis and his team are still working relentlessly to drive the additional growth.
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neo_ey_SeanBrauserSean Brauser
Founder and CEO
Romeo’s Pizza and Pizzafire


Nominated by: Tim Borta, PNC

Fifteen years ago, Sean Brauser had left Johnson & Johnson and financed his first pizza shop using personal credit cards. It grew into a highly scalable franchise model and brand in a hypercompetitive market. Romeo’s Pizza has grown into a 35-unit chain, but Brauser hasn’t stopped there.

He’s launched a new concept called PIzzafire, a fast casual pizza restaurant. Romeo’s and PIzzafire now employ more than 800 people, and PIzzafire continue to create about 20 new positions with each new location.

Brauser, CEO, has overcome two difficult aspects of the pizza business: making great pizza and building a great franchise in a competitive industry. His differentiation point is a focus on high quality rather than low price, using the freshest and highest quality ingredients because he wants his customers to feel good about what they are consuming.

Even throughout the recent economic downturn, Brauser remained confident in his concept and used the recession to his advantage by expanding Romeo’s Pizza when his competition was closing stores. During this time, Brauser opened a new store every three weeks for 18 months, and by 2014, his company had grown to 35 units.

When he decided to build the PIzzafire model, he sought to create a company built on three core pillars: customers, employees and communities. Success relies on a culture that rewards customer satisfaction, he says — by taking care of employees, they will take care of customers. All employees are empowered to do right by their customers.

Brauser also believes in giving back to the community that he serves. One of his proudest moments came when he opened the downtown Cleveland PIzzafire location on Thanksgiving and served more than 400 free pizzas to the homeless. Thirty volunteers helped to serve, making it one of the most rewarding experiences of his career.
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neo_ey_ScottMcCafferty_MichaelEmichScott McCafferty
Co-founder and managing partner
Michael Emich
Co-founder and VP of Sales


Nominated by: Rosemary McEntee, Huntington Bank

Scott McCafferty had a vision to create business-to-business media company focused on providing high-value content on user’s terms while delivering measurable ROI for marketers. By taking his personal motto, “Willing to Work Harder,” and applying it as the overarching principle of the company, he developed a formula for success. The company name, WTWH Media, LLC, reinforces this motto.

WTWH Media produces 40-plus technical websites and five print publications covering electronics engineering, design engineering, fluid power, renewable energy and medical device markets.

McCafferty, co-founder and managing partner, also credits an inspired and empowered workforce for its success. He asks each employee to understand and embrace the three “WTWH Way” principles — trust the team, do your best every day and love what you do. McCafferty and Michael Emich, co-founder and VP of sales, stress to employees that if these three principles merge, achieving the company’s motto will not be laborious and will lead to successful outcomes for everyone.

The work environment of WTWH Media encourages employees to feel comfortable in a setting most conducive to their needs. This may take the form of a coffee shop setting, living room, quiet office pods, standing desks or a walking treadmill desk.

WTWH also allows employees to share financially in the success of the company. An annual bonus equal to 1 percent of sales and a 3 percent safe harbor profit-sharing plan are distributed among all employees.

In the community, WTWH supports programs to develop science, technology, engineering and math interest in students. The company will be partnering this summer with Holy Name High School to develop a student-run media company to promote STEM learning activities. The students will develop and manage an open-source website where other students from around the country can share projects and spread interest in STEM subjects.
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neo_ey_GregMalkinGreg Malkin
Young Entrepreneur Institute at University School



Nominated by: Deborah Hoover, The Burton D. Morgan Foundation

The Young Entrepreneur Institute was founded in 2005 by Greg Malkin and launched its initial activities at University School in 2006. While Malkin was a successful serial entrepreneur for more than 30 years, he realized through his volunteer work with Junior Achievement and ECity that he wanted to teach entrepreneurship to others, particularly those from low-income situations.

Malkin, director, believes that future generations’ success rests with experiencing entrepreneurship early in life, that entrepreneurship education and experience can make subjects such as math and writing more relevant to students. He also believes that the intangibles necessary to become a successful entrepreneur — perseverance, hard work, managing adversity, overcoming failure and problem-solving — directly mirror characteristics necessary for success in life.

YEI’s impact now stretches far beyond the school as well. University School serves as a test bed for new curriculum and initiatives that are then offered “open source” to schools and organizations. Every year, YEI helps empower educators in hundreds of schools and organizations and assists them to launch and expand their entrepreneurship programs.

Malkin’s leadership has won him numerous awards for his work in entrepreneurship education. The key to his success is his passion for helping others. He hired a team of people from the business world who possessed that similar fire inside themselves, knowing the passion of the employees would make YEI successful.

YEI has launched many unique initiatives designed to engage kids that are offered free to the community. The 2015 Teen Tech Tank video pitch competition drew entries from 17 high schools and more than 30,000 public votes. The five winners got the opportunity to pitch their ideas to Daymond John from “Shark Tank.” These video competitions provide an entry point for students to get exposed to entrepreneurial thinking and to gain valuable experience pitching their ideas.

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Northeast Ohio’s 2016 Smart 50 Awards celebrate area’s top executives

For the third year, Corporate College and Cuyahoga Community College announces its Smart 50 Awards, presented by Smart Business, and I want to personally congratulate the recipients.

We are privileged to partner with Smart Business and present the awards to celebrate Northeast Ohio’s top executives and in recognition of their talent to effectively build and lead innovative and “smart” organizations. All of this year’s honorees have made a difference in their organizations and in the region. Their positive impact on employment and business sustainability, and ability to generate new ideas and innovation in everyday expectations, has reinvented the Northeast Ohio landscape into one of the most up-and-coming business regions in the country.

These large, midsized and emerging companies’ leaders motivate and inspire people, and are passionate and focused in what they do. The executives we are celebrating today are able to tackle unique business challenges and continue to lead their organizations toward success. Corporate College is honored to acknowledge this year’s nominees.

Corporate College is a division of Cuyahoga Community College, a nationally recognized leader in higher education and member of the League for Innovation in the Community College. Corporate College is known for its best-in-class client solutions including training, consulting, conference and hospitality services to the business community and its strategic partners.

Since its inception in 2003, Corporate College has worked with organizations in all sectors and professionals at every level. We run our organization as a business would run theirs and understand the challenges leaders and organizations face. Clients turn to us for training solutions to meet their strategic business goals and consulting services that improve individual, team and organizational performance. Corporate College provides professional training and development tailored for today’s dynamic business environment.



neo_BobPetersonRobert J. Peterson, J.D., CPA
President and CEO
Corporate College, a Division of Cuyahoga Community College
[email protected]


Quick links:

HONOREES Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products, Tim Myers | American Brass and Manufacturing, Robert F. McConville | Anderson-DuBose Co., Warren Anderson | ASW Global, André Thornton | Blue Spark Technologies, John Gannon, | Bravo Wellness, Jim Pshock | City of Cleveland, Mayor Frank G. Jackson | CLE Clothing, Mike Kubinski | Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Evalyn Gates, Ph.D. | Cleveland State University, Ronald Berkman, Ph.D. | Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi  | Dakota Software, Reginald Shiverick | Daniels Amish Collection, Christopher Karman |EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute, Brandon Chrostowski | Evergreen Industrial Batteries, Bob Rowland | Fifth Third Bank, Jerry Kelsheimer

Fiorilli Construction, Carmen Fiorilli | Flavorseal, Chris Carroll | Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Kristin Warzocha | Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, Destination Cleveland, David Gilbert |Hyland, creator of OnBase Bill Priemer | Incept, Sam Falletta | Jakprints, Nick DeTomaso | Jarrett Logistics and PackShip USA, Michael Jarrett | Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, Jon Pinney | Laudan Properties, Kevin Weidinger | Magnus International Group, Eric Lofquist and Scott Forster, | McDonald Hopkins, Carl Grassi | Medical Mutual of Ohio, Kathy Golovan | MetroHealth System, Craig Richmond |National Interstate Insurance Co. Tony Mercurio | Northern Ohio Recovery Association, Anita Bradley | Nottingham Spirk, John Nottingham and John Spirk

Our Lady of the Wayside, Terry Davis | Pierre’s Ice Cream Co., Shelley Roth | Rock and Rock Hall of Fame and Museum, Greg Harris | Roll-Kraft, Sanjay Singh | Saint Ignatius High School, Richard Klingshirn, | Shiloh Industries, Ramzi Hermiz | Slate Rock Safety, Kimberly Wilson | So Curly, So Kinky, So Straight, Monica Green |Thompson Hine Robyn Minter Smyers | Towards Employment, Jill Rizika | The Greenhouse Tavern, Trentina, Noodle Cat, Jonathan Sawyer | University Circle Inc., Chris Ronayne | Vitamix, Loree Connors | Vocon, Debbie Donley |Western Reserve Partners David Dunstan | WhiteSpace Creative, Keeven White| YWCA Greater Cleveland, Margaret Mitchell

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Here are the 2016 Northeast Ohio Smart 50

neo_WarrenAndersonWarren Anderson
President and CEO
The Anderson-DuBose Co.

In November, Warren Anderson will celebrate his 25th year as founder and owner of The Anderson-DuBose Co. — a business that has undergone many changes. Back in 1991, Anderson, who serves as president and CEO, purchased a distribution operation from Martin Brower that serviced McDonald’s restaurants out of Solon and still maintains more than a dozen McDonald’s distribution centers in the U.S.

He had approached McDonald’s two years earlier and told the restaurant chain that he would work for free in return for the opportunity to operate a McDonald’s distribution center. If he proved himself worthy, he would get the opportunity to purchase and operate one at the end of his work. McDonald’s agreed to give Anderson the chance and he proved to be a master at running every aspect of the business. Two years later, through hard work and securing his own financing, he was able to create and open his own distribution operation.
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neo_RonBerkmanRonald M. Berkman
Cleveland State University

The board of trustees unanimously selected Ronald M. Berkman to serve as president at Cleveland State University on April 26, 2009. Berkman came to CSU from Florida International University in Miami where he served most recently as provost, executive vice president and COO. In his seventh year at CSU, Berkman has established the university as a prominent and innovative force in urban higher education. He has championed the creation of a student-centric environment to promote student success.

A record-setting freshman classes and a $500 million campus makeover, which has sparked private downtown development and community building collaborations, creating internship opportunities for students, have marked Berkman’s tenure at CSU.

Berkman, who earned his doctorate from Princeton University, has broad experience in the public policy arena. This includes his leadership of empowerment zone projects in New York City and Miami, directing the Public-Private Partnership Initiative for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and directing the National Urban Summit and Governor Bush’s Health Care Summit.

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neo_AnitaBradleyAnita Bradley
Executive director and CEO
Northern Ohio Recovery Association (NORA)

Anita Bradley was recognized by the White House in April as a “Champion of Change” for leadership in preventing prescription drug abuse and heroin use, increasing access to treatment and supporting the millions of Americans in recovery. She is the CEO of the Northern Ohio Recovery Association (NORA), which she founded in 2004.

Bradley has been in recovery from a substance abuse disorder for more than 25 years and understands how important it is to blend personal and professional knowledge to promote the possibility of recovery. She built a peer-to-peer training program offered at Cuyahoga Community College and opened the Next Step Recovery House, a residential recovery housing facility for women and children on Cleveland’s near west side.

She also recently launched the Ohio Addiction Recovery Promotion Network to respond to the opioid crisis and ensure that the voice for recovery from substance use disorders is included in Ohio planning and policy efforts.

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neo_ChrisCarrollChris Carroll

As president of Flavorseal, Chris Carroll has made it his mission to institute and reinforce three different values that define smart organizations, according to a 2009 study by the Naval Postgraduate School. These values are a clear, strategic vision communicated throughout the organization, a culture of respect for individual ideas and a careful selection of the right people to support these values.

In a company with a manufacturing plant and a front office, it can be difficult to ensure that every employee understands the direction of the business. Using simplified slogans that are repeated on T-shirts, banners and throughout employee newsletters, Carroll communicates and reinforces the company direction to all Flavorseal employees.

Quarterly state of the business meetings keep everyone informed not only of how the company is doing and the direction, but of outside influences which may affect the company’s future. Over the last few years, Carroll has carefully cultivate a management team that not only understands the vision for the future, but is as committed to it as he is.

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neo_BrandonChrostowskiBrandon E. Chrostowski
Founder, president and CEO
EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute

EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute strongly believes in second chances. By offering formerly incarcerated adults a foundation in the hospitality industry and providing a support network necessary for a successful re-entry, EDWINS is achieving considerable success.

Founded in 2007 by Brandon E. Chrostowski, president and CEO, EDWINS has had 114 graduates with 101 still employed in the restaurant industry. None has returned to prison.

In addition to teaching future business leaders a skill and to believe in themselves, EDWINS educates the public through the restaurant and strategic community engagement that successful re-entry is possible. With more than $2.5 million in philanthropic support since Nov. 1, 2013, the community sees the face of re-entry changing across the world.

Working close to 100 hours per week, Chrostowski requires his team to do whatever it takes to change the face of re-entry into society; he fights each day for those that society has thrown away.

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neo_LoreeConnorsLoree W. Connors
CFO and Treasurer

As a key member of the Vitamix executive team, Loree W. Connors, CFO and treasurer, plays a critical role in setting company strategy. Over her 11-year tenure she has initiated and successfully implemented a wide range of projects that have led to significant, measurable improvements.

Connors’ cultural initiatives included revising the company’s vision and mission statements and defining the company’s guiding principles through an appreciative inquiry approach. She tackled a series of business-critical processes that included internal control reviews, enterprise risk management, approvals for capital acquisitions and project management. And, under her financial stewardship, Vitamix has achieved a strong balance sheet with consistent healthy profitability results. In fact, total shareholder value has increased by five times over the past decade.

Beyond financial impact, Connors has a profound positive influence on the company through her leadership. She helped guide the company through a period of rapid growth and position it for global expansion. As a result, Vitamix machines are now sold in more than 140 countries.

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neo_TerryDavisTerry Davis
President and CEO
Our Lady of the Wayside

It was September 1991 and Medicaid’s certification team handed Our Lady of the Wayside 90 pages of deficiencies to be fixed in 90 days or the agency’s doors would close. At the time, 100 children and adults with developmental disabilities lived at Wayside. Their families paid out of pocket for the 24/7 services and it had become impossible to keep up with skyrocketing health care costs. The agency was more than broke: Fundraising was maxed out, families had nothing left and the board had taken on the additional debt necessary to put staff and equipment in place.
Transitioning to a Medicaid model was the only way to save the day. A call was made to Terry Davis, who was told it was all or nothing. Davis chose all and things began to turn around. Starting day one, the president and CEO worked to address every deficiency. The following Christmas Eve, the agency secured a perfect survey ultimately resulting in a check from Medicaid for $3 million.

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neo_NickDeTomasoNick DeTomaso

While some companies may avoid product line diversification, Nick DeTomaso is using it to his advantage. The CEO of Jakprints, DeTomaso believed it was rare that anyone needed to print just one thing at a time, for example, a charity event probably needs fliers, direct mail pieces, banners and T-shirts.

This diversity helps insulate the business from isolated market trends — if T-shirt sales are down, there are four other product areas to carry the weight.

Another key to success is the company’s ability to produce apparel, home goods and artwork individually, on demand and shipped directly to the customer, eliminating the need for clients to manage bulk ordering, warehousing and distribution centers.

One of the first companies in North America to purchase a million-dollar digital Heidelberg Anicolor offset press, Jakprints can produce high-quality material quickly and with little waste.

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neo_DebbieDonleyDebbie Donley
Founder and Principal

From the day she founded Vocon in 1987, Debbie Donley has taken an incredibly smart, strategic approach to building her business. Under her leadership as founder and principal, the firm took a pioneering approach to its business strategy, differentiating Vocon from other firms.

Donley is not an architect or designer — her role is to focus on the business management and development pieces of the firm, enabling its architects and designers to focus on design execution.

Part of the firm’s success is Donley’s savvy in creating a place where people actually want to work. For Donley, being a working mom was challenging. It required a careful balance between business and her personal life. Learning from her own situation, Donley prioritized flexible schedules and a family-first attitude at the firm before it was popular. The result: She successfully helped her employees find their own work/life balance.

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neo_DavidDunstanDavid Dunstan
Managing director, president
Western Reserve Partners LLC

Western Reserve Partners LLC, a boutique middle-market investment banking firm, prides itself on delivering thoughtful advice, keen market insight and superior execution for its clients. As managing director, president, David Dunstan continues to embody and instill this philosophy.

He has been instrumental in implementing new ideas to improve efficiency through open dialogue with employees as well as recognizing new and innovative technological solutions to address and assist with challenges the firm and industry may face. Dunstan has put forth tech solutions to assist with marketing challenges by piloting the firm’s calling initiative, partnered with strong encouragement for utilization of the firm’s CRM database. Both tools have assisted in establishing structure in regards to the firm’s lead generation and nurturing efforts. He has also set high expectations for accountability among colleagues and assisted with implementation of various tracking mechanisms to assure team members are achieving their individual goals, which in turn, contribute to the firm’s continued success.

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neo_SamFallettaSam Falletta
Owner and CEO

Sam Falletta has been at the center of developing and executing customer engagement strategies for companies like Ford, Honda, Microsoft and the American Red Cross. He has been responsible for more than 20 million conversations between his clients at Incept and their customers. Some of those conversations have helped companies save millions of dollars through the retention and acquisition of customers. Others have literally saved lives through blood donation recruitment.

As owner and CEO, Falletta is not afraid to take risks and proved that by leaving the traditional contact center approach behind as he developed the Incept model. Falletta encourages his employees to be the best versions of themselves by giving the company a youthful appeal with progressive policies, no dress code and community involvement.

Falletta credits a lot of his own personal and professional growth to being a member of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO network. It’s proof that Falletta intends to never stop learning.

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neo_CarmenFiorilliCarmen Fiorilli
Fiorilli Construction

Fiorilli Construction is in the midst of a five-year company growth plan and impressive results are already being seen. The company, led by Carmen Fiorilli, president, saw 200 percent growth last year and expects 30 percent growth each remaining year of the plan.

A 10-year target has also been identified and progress toward that goal is tracked every quarter. This goal, combined with a unique employee development track and commitment to operate with the values of transparency, integrity and professionalism, is driving success and continued growth. Employees are encouraged to add depth to their own expertise.

Fiorilli Construction is also beta testing proprietary software that improves the access to information for subcontractors, architects, consultants and other professionals. Coupled with Fiorilli’s commitment to an entrepreneurial operating system and the vision and values of the company, the company’s differentiation statement says there is no room for anything but a notch above performance for clients, partners and vendors.
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JohnGannon-300RJohn Gannon
Blue Spark Technologies Inc.

John Gannon, CEO of Blue Spark Technologies Inc., was thinking one day that a wireless wearable patch might be able to monitor a sick child’s temperature much like perishable goods are monitored in the supply chain. That way, parents wouldn’t have to wake the child to take his or her temperature.

Blue Spark Technologies then developed a wearable wireless thermometer called TempTraq by converging the technological advancement of smartphones, the increasing focus on home health care and the adoption of wearable electronic solutions.

Gannon leads the company to be agile — able to adapt to changing conditions — as well to see the macro trends and develop effective offerings to meet market demands. The company leverages its innovative and collaborative business and technology know-how to develop product offerings that meet and exceed these needs.

Blue Spark continues to develop clinical applications of TempTraq, working with hospitals on various implementations of the technology through trials and studies.

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neo_EvalynGatesEvalyn Gates, Ph.D.
Executive director and CEO
Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Museums aren’t just buildings full of exhibits collecting dust — and Evalyn Gates, Ph.D., executive director and CEO, is seeing to it that the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, delivers an interactive approach to real science.

Founded in 1920, the museum has undertaken a five-year, three phase, $150 million metamorphosis, which includes a transformational outreach program to improve science education for Ohio’s schoolchildren. Phase I will conclude this month and will include a new Perkins Wildlife Center and a new front entrance featuring artwork by Cleveland’s iconic artist, Viktor Schreckengost.

The goal of the Centennial Project is to reimagine the museum experience — to make science and the collections visible and accessible.

Gates works closely with educators across the region to develop innovative programs that engage students and to spark their curiosity, make learning fun and encourage youth — especially young girls — to pursue science in their academic careers and hopefully inspire the next generation of scientists.

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neo_DavidGilbertDavid E. Gilbert
President and CEO
Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Destination Cleveland,

David E. Gilbert is president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Destination Cleveland. The Sports Commission’s goal is to make Greater Cleveland the nation’s foremost destination for amateur sporting events and activities. The organization is responsible for attracting, promoting and managing major amateur athletic events and to create sporting opportunities for youth and amateur athletes.

Gilbert is also president and CEO of Destination Cleveland, the region’s convention and visitors bureau. Destination Cleveland is a private, nonprofit civic organization that generates demand for business and leisure tourism to the region to improve economic vitality. The organization’s efforts contribute to the region’s $15 billion tourism industry and support the 170,000 jobs created by 29 million visitors to the 17-county region.

Prior to his current role, Gilbert served as director of community affairs and special projects for the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland, where he was responsible for advancing Cleveland’s travel and tourism service standards and related developments.

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neo_KathyGolovanKathy Golovan
EVP and Chief health officer
Medical Mutual of Ohio

Cost and quality for various health care treatments and procedures vary widely — and Kathy Golovan realized that Medical Mutual of Ohio had an opportunity to take a step forward to help its members get the best value for their health care dollars.

Golovan, EVP and chief health officer for Medical Mutual, led the development and launch of an online health care shopping tool, My Care Compare. This enabled members to shop for the best price, provider and location for health care services and provided the ability to review satisfaction scores for physicians and quality ratings for health care facilities.

With so many people being asked to cover more of the cost for their health care, Golovan believed My Care Compare would be valuable in giving families and individuals more control to avoid higher health care expenses.

Since its debut last year, My Care Compare has been used by thousands of Medical Mutual customers and has provided them valuable assistance.

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neo_CarlGrassiCarl J. Grassi
McDonald Hopkins

Carl J. Grassi serves as corporate counsel and business adviser to a number of middle-market and growth companies. He has extensive experience assisting clients in areas of complex mergers and acquisitions, choice of entity planning, business succession planning and the financing and structuring of ESOPs, among other services. Grassi, firm president at McDonald Hopkins, also provides service with executive compensation and tax planning, the creation of family limited partnerships, the formation and use of limited liability companies and IRS controversies. He authors a small business tax tips column for a Cleveland business publication and has written other articles for national publications.

Grassi frequently speaks on business related topics for business owners, accountants and lawyers. He earned his juris doctorate degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and his bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University. He is a CPA and a member of the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, the International Lawyers Network and a Life Fellow in the American Bar Foundation.

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neo_MonicaGreenMonica D. Green
So Curly So Kinky So Straight the Salon

Monica D. Green views her success as a well-established and successful salon owner as an opportunity to develop future entrepreneurs. The owner of So Curly So Kinky So Straight the Salon hosts weekly training sessions, created a partner development program, and regularly takes her stylists to national development conference and events where they serve as workshop presenters and speakers.

At the core of Green’s team development model is her ability to home in on each of her team member’s skill sets and then empower them to “own” an element of the business.

She hosts numerous events — including the Happy to be Nappy event, an all-day free picnic in the park that draws hundreds of people. She partners with other local stylists, artists and beauty professionals to host one of the largest Natural Hair Expos in Ohio. And, throughout the year Green sponsors healthy hair forums, focus groups and training for women and men of all ethnicities and hair types to learn how to take care of their hair and health.

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GregHarris-300Greg Harris
President and CEO
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Rock ’n’ roll has always pushed boundaries and questioned the status quo so as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates its 20th anniversary, it is undergoing an innovative transformation under the leadership of Greg Harris, president and CEO. Under his direction, the Rock Hall has gained profound insight into its varied audiences – not just who they are, but what inspires and excites them as well as their expectations and attitudes.

That intelligence is at the foundation of an ambitious growth strategy and vision for a renewed and energized Rock Hall and staff. The strategic direction focuses on five key tenets: enhanced learning through exhibits, programs and outreach; a commitment to a reinvigorated, common identity; a culture of innovation; strengthened financial position; and a high-performing workforce.

Harris preaches of music’s unifying quality and takes a global outlook on the future. With a clear strategic vision and an empowered staff, the mission to engage, teach and inspire through rock ‘n’ roll continues.

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neo_RamziHermizRamzi Y. Hermiz
President and CEO
Shiloh Industries Inc.

Ramzi Y. Hermiz joined Shiloh Industries Inc. as president and CEO in 2012 with a plan to take the 60-year-old company to a new level. An auto industry veteran of 25 years, he envisioned Shiloh as a key player on the forefront of the trends transforming the global automotive landscape.

Under his leadership, Shiloh has transformed from a quiet, regional stamping company to a global innovative solutions provider with a strategic focus on designing, engineering and manufacturing lightweight technologies. Hermiz also believes in empowering his team to make decisions and understand risk with a goal to create a supportive, action-oriented culture.

Hermiz has rebranded Shiloh, last year booking contracts valued at more than $1.2 billion; expanded the company’s customer base to include BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes and Volvo; and expanded from nine North American plants to 25 operations, sales and technical centers throughout Asia, Europe and North America, which more than doubled its employee and revenue base.

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neo_FrankJacksonFrank G. Jackson
City of Cleveland

Mayor Frank G. Jackson was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 and 2013. The mayor has overseen Cleveland’s dramatic transformation over the past decade through a series of economic development projects that include the completion of the Healthline on Euclid Avenue, creation of an entertainment district on East Fourth Street, a casino at Public Square, development of a new convention center and reinvigoration of the East Bank of the Flats. His goal is to make downtown Cleveland a center of influence where people live, work and play.

Jackson says the formula for success includes the city working with the private sector, which he’s done to launch a series of new economic development projects aimed at continuing Cleveland’s reinvention, such as redevelopment of Public Square, the Opportunity Corridor and the lakefront project — which the mayor expects to create viable economic projects along the shores of Lake Erie.

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neo_MikeJarrettMichael Jarrett
Jarrett Logistics Systems and PackShip USA

Michael Jarrett has led Jarrett Logistics Systems and PackShip USA to growth though the relationships that logistics coordinators build with each client and the new solutions that are developed out of those relationships.

No distinction is made between the large corporation and the small company. Each customer receives the focus of a dedicated logistics coordinator and a customer account team to provide them with the highest level of customer service. Jarrett, the company’s president, believes in cultivating long-standing relationships between customers and coordinators. The result is new solutions that allow the company to meet immediate needs and challenges with ease.

Another example of Jarrett’s commitment to customers is the frequent visits to customer locations by the executive team, sales team, logistics team and logistics coordinators.

Jarrett has a passion to achieve, the optimism to succeed and the flexibility to make things happen. It all adds up to two exemplary organizations that continue to grow and evolve with the needs of their customers.

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neo_ChrisKarmanChristopher J. Karman
Daniel’s Amish Collection

Daniel’s Amish Collection is a manufacturer of wooden bedroom and dining furniture, selling products to furniture retailers such as Levin Furniture locally, and other dealers nationwide. Over the past 20 years, more than 75 percent of the U.S. furniture manufacturing business has gone overseas to countries like China and Vietnam. In order to be successful in this economic climate, Christopher J. Karman, the company’s president, not only had to be smart, he had to find ways to be more efficient, more creative and more customer focused than the competition.

Karman and his partner, Daniel Yoder, made a commitment to turn what had been a distribution company into a manufacturing company. The plan was to employ people in Northeast Ohio, set up a cross-country system of manufacturer’s reps and grow sales with high-quality retailers nationwide. Since that time, the company has grown its sales and now employs more than 150.

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neo_JerryKelsheimerJerry J. Kelsheimer
Regional president and CEO
Fifth Third Bank, Northeastern Ohio

Jerry J. Kelsheimer serves as regional president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank, Northeastern Ohio. In this role, he is responsible for the oversight of all Fifth Third business activity in the region, including leadership and direction of commercial banking, retail branch banking, consumer lending and wealth management/investment advisory services. He joined Fifth Third Bank in August 2010 as managing director of strategic planning. Previously, he was president of Huntington Bank’s Greater Cleveland region.

At Fifth Third Bank, Kelsheimer’s approach focuses on intentionally identifying market needs and overlaying institutional value proposition. He engages others in the formation of effective strategies, sets clear objectives and promotes a culture of support and servant leadership. He is deliberate in the application of operating rhythms and consistent in communication to the organization on a personal level. He leads his banking teams, guiding them in how Fifth Third goes to market with new and innovative ideas to benefit the customer.

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neo_RichardKlingshirnRichard G. Klingshirn
Vice president and CFO
Saint Ignatius High School

Richard G. Klingshirn brought 30 years of executive experience to Saint Ignatius High School when he returned to his alma mater as vice president and CFO in April 2013. Upon his arrival, Klingshirn first focused on improving the talent, experience and operations of the school’s finance office. This has allowed him to increase the effectiveness of the entire finance function through increased controls, efficient work flows enabled through technology and a strong focus on quality and customer service.

In implementing changes throughout the finance function, Klingshirn introduced a set of guiding principles that at their core emphasize the importance of the college preparatory education in the Catholic/Jesuit tradition for the 1,500 young men who attend the school. He also recognized the tremendous sacrifices that parents make to send their sons to Saint Ignatius and acknowledged the gifts from so many generous benefactors of the school.

These principles highlight the importance of the stewardship mindset that Klingshirn believes is at the heart of the school’s finance function.

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neo_MikeKubinskiMike Kubinski
Founder, owner and designer
CLE Clothing Co.

Mike Kubinski, founder, owner and designer, along with Jeff Rees started CLE Clothing Co. in 2008 as a hobby and a creative outlet. Now, the thriving business can’t keep its logo hoodies on the shelf.

CLE Clothing’s flagship store is on the corner of East Fourth Street and Euclid Avenue. The company’s motto, “Spreading Cleveland Pride One T-shirt At A Time!” aligns with its other unique Cleveland gifts, such as paper goods, stickers, buttons and glassware.

CLE Clothing’s strategy since the beginning has been to be local in every way possible. T-shirts are printed by local screen-printing companies, paper goods are printed in Cleveland, stickers and buttons are created by a company in Medina and the glassware is produced by Libbey® in Toledo.

Since the company’s founding as an online business, it’s grown to three locations, including University Circle and the Waterloo Arts District.

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neo_EricLofquistEric Lofquist
Owner, president and CEO





neo_ScottForsterScott Forster
Owner, vice president and COO
Magnus International Group

Eric Lofquist, owner, president and CEO and Scott Forster, owner, vice president and COO, run the award-winning Magnus International Group by developing and manufacturing one-of-a-kind products ranging from natural animal feed ingredients, natural industrial and consumer waxes, customized fatty acids for paints and coatings, biodiesel fuel feedstocks to other specialty chemicals.

But what the company produces is not the whole story. Magnus and its companies are undertaking groundbreaking partnerships with some of the world’s best food industry, animal nutrition and consumer products organizations.

Magnus thrives on constant innovation. Known for its niche processing ability, the company is also equipped to take on smaller-scale, customized projects that other manufacturers can’t. With a can-do mindset, Magnus leaders prospect for opportunities to provide solutions that address individual customer requirements.

Additionally, Lofquist, CEO and president and Forster, COO and vice president, have established unique client profit-sharing models that are mutually beneficial. Magnus’ agile production facilities allow quick responses to unanticipated opportunities and short uptime on new processes and products.

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neo_RobertMcConvilleRobert F. McConville
The American Brass Manufacturing Co.

Founded in 1894, The American Brass Manufacturing Co. is one of the oldest family-owned companies in Cleveland. Operated by the fourth and fifth generations of the Arth-McConville family, the company has persevered through World War I, the Great Depression, World War II and several economic downturns.

American Brass supplies faucets and parts with a reputation for quality and reliability to builders and plumbing supply houses. The conscientious and enterprising business practices started by the founding generation have been passed down and remain the core principles evident in the company today.

American Brass, lead by President Robert F. McConville, is the parent company of Empire Brass Co., a leading supplier of faucets to the manufactured housing and recreational vehicle industries, which was acquired in the 1930s.

Building on the experience acquired throughout the years, American Brass strives to bring a stream of new products to the market to meet and exceed the specialized needs of customers.

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neo_TonyMercurioTony J. Mercurio
President and CEO
National Interstate Insurance

Tony J. Mercurio often describes National Interstate Insurance as a speedboat when it comes to launching new products and programs in targeted niches. In many cases, a new product can be brought to market in as little as 90 days, which is much faster than most insurance companies. There are two leadership groups that are an integral part of this process.

The first is the operating committee, which meets weekly and includes the top 10 officers responsible for all of the company’s functional departments. The second group is the senior product committee including all of Mercurio’s direct reports that manage products.

While new products, services and solutions are typically surfaced through one of these groups, all employees are strongly encouraged to present their ideas as well. As president and CEO, the secret to Mercurio’s success in these functions is his ability to articulate a vision and inspire the team to develop healthy win-win partnerships that benefit the company and its customers.

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neo_RobynMinterSmyersRobyn Minter Smyers
Partner-in-charge, Cleveland
Thompson Hine LLP

Robyn Minter Smyers is a passionate champion for diversity and inclusion, as well as a dynamic and involved community leader. As partner-in-charge of Thompson Hine LLP’s Cleveland office, she strives to make meaningful changes that lead to tangible results and is determined to lead the office toward becoming known as the most innovative and responsive law firm in the market.

An integral part of this is the implementation of the firm’s SmartPaTH program, which combines legal project management, value-based pricing, flexible staffing and process efficiency to better serve clients. The SmartPaTH program has distinguished Thompson Hine for its willingness to embrace innovative strategies that maximize value to clients.

Beyond this, she is an advocate for the firm’s clients and partners, proactively helping companies develop their own diversity programs. She also serves on several community boards, including The George Gund Foundation, The Sherwick Fund, The City Club of Cleveland, The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.

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neo_MargaretMitchellMargaret Mitchell
President and CEO
YWCA Greater Cleveland

Margaret Mitchell is a relational leader who anticipates trends and has a proven track record of creating competitive breakthrough strategies. She communicates complex issues with vision and purpose through her core values. As president and CEO at YWCA Greater Cleveland, Mitchell is a consistent top performer who pursues growth with energy and drive.

She joined YWCA Greater Cleveland in May 2011 by unanimous vote of the board of directors. She was recruited to the YWCA as a change agent to energize the strategic vision and elevate organizational relevance and reputation. Under her leadership, the organization has transformed its traditional preschool into an unduplicated trauma-informed therapeutic model serving homeless families with children ages 3 to 5.

She leads a community-level collective impact collaborative to prevent and end youth homelessness in Greater Cleveland and put the organization on track to financial health, reversing decades of deficit funding.

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neo_TimMyersTim Myers
Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products

It’s not by luck that Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products has become the world’s leading manufacturer of aluminum truck wheels.

Tim Myers, president, has leveraged the technological skill set and hardworking culture of Northeast Ohio to propel AWTP into that position. The company’s 14 facilities in nine countries including sites in Cleveland and Barberton employ more than 1,700 employees.

Under Myers’ leadership, AWTP has experienced significant growth, led by innovation in products and processes. In 2009, the company created a revolutionary machining technology that led to a lightweight wheel called LvL ONE®. AWTP then launched an even lighter wheel called Ultra ONE™, which uses a proprietary Alcoa alloy called MagnaForce™.

In 2015, 93 percent of all AWTP revenue was generated from products like LvL ONE®, Dura-Bright® and Ultra ONE™ with MagnaForce™.

The company is also built for sustainability and longevity with career succession planning based on an engaged workforce, world class product and technology and a strong customer base.

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neo_JohnNottinghamJohn Nottingham





neo_JohnSpirkJohn Spirk
Nottingham Spirk

In 1972, John Nottingham and John Spirk, both newly graduated with industrial design degrees, decided to pass on high-profile company jobs to launch their own business. What started in a mustard yellow carriage house now generates billions of dollars in revenue for client companies.

Nottingham Spirk develops products for companies and owns more than 900 patents including the Crest SpinBrush, Swiffer SweeperVac, Phillips Eclipse MRI scanner, Scott’s Snap Lawn Spreader and the Sherwin Williams Dutch Boy Twist & Pour paint can.

They apply a vertical innovation approach at their 60,000-square-foot facility, the former First Church of Christ, Scientist in Cleveland’s University Circle. The site includes an engineering lab, where prototypes of new products are built and tested. The firm has an in-house marketing team, so it can take its designs all the way from initial doodles to the store shelf. Co-presidents Nottingham and Spirk keep the organization flat and organic to drive consistent communication throughout.

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neo_JonPinneyJon J. Pinney
Managing Partner
Kohrman Jackson & Krantz LLP

Jon J. Pinney is the managing partner at Kohrman Jackson & Krantz LLP. His firm has done extensive work to bring the Republican National Convention to Cleveland this year. He also serves as counselor to high net-worth families, including some of Cleveland’s leading philanthropic families. His practice includes estate and wealth planning and related tax matters for high net-worth individuals and families. He structures complex and sophisticated trust vehicles to provide asset protection and succession planning.

Pinney, a member of the firm’s executive committee, has a wide range of experience in the structuring, financing, development and construction of commercial and retail acquisitions and sales and leases of office buildings, apartments and residential projects. In addition to being admitted to practice before all of Ohio’s courts, Pinney is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for both the Northern and Southern districts in Ohio, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Super Lawyers Magazine has consistently named him a Rising Star.

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neo_BillPriemerBill Priemer
Hyland, creator of OnBase

As CEO at Hyland, creator of OnBase, Bill Priemer is responsible for ensuring that Hyland remains a great company for all of its stakeholders — customers, partners, employees, shareholders and the community. In service of this mission, Priemer is focused on driving Hyland to become the global leader in information and process management solutions.

Under Priemer’s leadership, Hyland attempts to go beyond thinking about potential solutions that its software can provide. Instead, the goal is to accomplish innovation by executing on great ideas. The company typically reinvests more than 15 percent of its revenue annually into the research and development of OnBase, which is Hyland’s enterprise content management solution. The goal is to help customers realize the long-term value of their ECM technology investment.

Priemer says Hyland is constantly innovating to keep OnBase on the minds and in the hands of those who use it every day.

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neo_JimPshockJim Pshock
Founder and CEO
Bravo Wellness

Treating wellness as a business solution and not just a morale booster has given Bravo Wellness a powerful platform to help organizations in highly competitive industries.

Through the leadership of Jim Pshock, founder and CEO, Bravo has been able to help employers create a sustainable wellness program that takes incentives and reinvests them to pay for valuable interventions like high-risk coaching. This only creates a wellness plan focused on driving down health risks but it creates a sustainable funding source for benefits, a major value for companies operating on small margins.

Being on the forefront of national policies allows Pshock to educate his staff and clients on the most up-to-date compliance regulations for wellness incentive programs.

Management is governed by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Character, integrity and respect are evidenced daily by employees, both to each other and to constituents.

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neo_JoePulizziJoe Pulizzi
Content Marketing Institute

As the “godfather” of content marketing, Joe Pulizzi speaks around the world advancing the practice of content marketing. Over the last nine years, he has transformed Content Marketing Institute into the leading content marketing education and training organization in the world.

Pulizzi created and built Content Marketing World, which today celebrates its sixth year and is the largest industry event of its kind on the planet. Every year, CMWorld brings thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to Cleveland. In 2016, CMWorld expects to host more than 4,000 people from 50 countries. In the past, it has featured keynote speakers such as Kevin Spacey, William Shatner, John Cleese and Nick Offerman. CMWorld is the largest recurring corporate event in Cleveland, bringing roughly $4 million in revenue to the city.

Additionally, Pulizzi has shepherded CMI’s growth. Over the past two years he has nearly doubled both his revenue and staff.

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neo_CraigRichmondCraig Richmond
Senior Vice President and CFO
The MetroHealth System

When Craig Richmond came to The MetroHealth System in 2010, the organization was just recovering financially, and there were still community concerns about MetroHealth’s future. Today, finances have improved yearly and morale is high, much to the credit of the programs he implemented to ensure financial security.

A fearless change agent, Richmond, senior vice president and CFO, is adept at identifying problems and drilling down to get the facts and then innovating for continuous improvement. Though it may be considered untraditional for a CFO, he has spent time in the operating room observing cases such as a hip replacement and open-heart surgery. This allows him to fully understand various job needs so he can be an informed advocate in support of the appropriate resources for effective job performance.

Richmond continually keeps abreast of developments as health systems move toward value-based reimbursement, believing it is especially important for the CFO to be conversant with the clinical side.

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neo_JillRizikaJill Rizika
Executive Director
Towards Employment

Since becoming executive director at Towards Employment, Jill Rizika has helped more than 20,000 people overcome barriers to employment and embark on life-changing career paths. She guides a delivery system of 1,500 supportive services (transportation, tools, uniforms); 1,300 legal services (consumer and criminal); and 1,500 retention/advancement services (career coaching, training) by emphasizing outcomes, measurements and evaluations in order to ensure impact. Each year, Towards Employment connects more than 500 low-income individuals — 50 percent of which have criminal backgrounds — with good jobs.

In 2010, Rizika led the adoption of a career pathway model to support individuals into an entry-level job, then onto a pathway job, ultimately leading to sustainable employment. Toward Employment’s board, community partners and staff are fully invested in this “theory of change” model largely because of Rizika’s collaborative and knowledgeable leadership. This vision has ensured that Towards Employment has continued to increase the number of individuals served while decreasing per placement cost.

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neo_ChrisRonayneChris Ronayne
University Circle Inc.

Chris Ronayne is the personification of a big-picture thinker, a tireless advocate of Cleveland and University Circle Inc. Since he was named president in 2005, the organization — and area — has undergone dramatic, dynamic and exciting transformation.

Ronayne converted UCI into a community service corporation, which UCI defines as a national model to deliver services without tax dollars — using philanthropic dollars for maximum impact in the community. Examples include park management on Wade Oval, outdoor community events, and clean/safe services via UCI’s ambassador program.

Beyond this, Ronayne had a vision to turn lifeless parking lots into mixed-use development and return residents and small businesses to the neighborhood. Today, former empty lots along Hazel Road and Euclid Avenue now boast luxury housing, bars, restaurants, clothing stores, a grocery store a yoga studio and even a bowling alley. This building trend will continue into the future with forthcoming projects Centric and One University Circle.

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neo_ShelleyRothShelley Roth
Pierre’s Ice Cream Co.

Shelley Roth is president of Pierre’s Ice Cream Co., an 84-year-old regional ice cream manufacturer and distributor. She returned to Cleveland from New York City in 1979 to assist her father with the family business. Her first assignment was in marketing; setting the direction for the company to expand its distribution beyond Cleveland, and expand its product assortment. In 1984, Roth assumed the position of vice president with responsibility for sales, marketing, finance and new product development.
In 1991, she became president.
Roth has been active in numerous community organizations and supports the revitalization of Cleveland’s neighborhoods in many ways. She is a graduate of Leadership Cleveland and serves on the boards of the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation and the International Ice Cream Association. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and lives in Shaker Heights with her husband of more than 33 years.

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neo_BobRowlandBob Rowland
Evergreen Industrial Batteries

In a little more than five years, Evergreen Industrial Batteries grew from two people working at home to a company of 19 people in a 28,000-square-foot building with revenue in the millions of dollars.

Led by Bob Rowland, president, Evergreen has become one of America’s leading suppliers of reconditioned forklift batteries. With more than 35 years of experience in the leasing industry, Rowland brings depth, a network of contacts and a vision to Evergreen to serve the material handling industry in unprecedented ways.

He accomplishes this through a three-point strategy. First, the company reconditions forklift batteries to provide 80 percent of their original capacity at 50 percent of the original cost.

Secondly, Evergreen distributes a portion of the gains back to the suppliers, paying as much as three times more than the next bidder. Lastly, because of Evergreen’s ability to recondition the batteries, it creates an inventory and leases the batteries to end users.

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neo_JohathanSawyerJonathon Sawyer
Chef and Owner
Trentina, Noodlecat, The Greenhouse Tavern

Chef Jonathon Sawyer and his wife Amelia opened The Greenhouse Tavern in 2009, when Cleveland was in the midst of the recession. The Sawyers made it their mission to help revitalize Cleveland’s economy and create a restaurant scene rivaling any bigger city.

In 2010, Sawyer was honored as a recipient of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef award. In 2015, he was named James Beard Award’s Best Chef: Great Lakes.

He has become a national celebrity, making national television appearances on “Iron Chef America,” “Dinner Impossible,” “Unique Eats” and “Best Thing I Ever Ate.”

Today, the proud Clevelander has helped put Cleveland on the national “foodie” map and opened additional restaurants that expand his growing food empire: Northern Italian restaurant Trentina, ramen mash-up Noodlecat, Tavern Vinegar Co. and stadium spots Sawyer’s Street Frites, Sausage & Peppers and SeeSaw Pretzel Shoppe.

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neo_RegShiverickReginald Shiverick
Dakota Software

Reginald Shiverick has had a long-standing interest in environmental issues. Under his vision and 25-year leadership as president, Dakota Software has become an industry leader for environmental management software.

This passion is what drives Shiverick to work closely with the development department on any new technology concepts that may arise. He is the co-inventor and patent holder of parametric filtering, a technology that uses interactive dashboard reports to offer users “on-the-fly” analysis of data points while providing unique insights and performance comparisons.

Dakota Software has seen steady revenue growth rate since its founding in 1988, with impressive patterns since 2010. The company experienced 15 percent revenue growth in 2012, 18 percent in 2013 and 26 percent in 2014.

In 2014, global shifts to mobile devices prompted the company to launch more robust mobile offerings, which allow users to interact with information through a mobile-optimized portal. This product provides greater convenience and efficient communication across complicated organizations.

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SanjaySingh-300-2Sanjay Singh
President and CEO

Customers see Roll-Kraft, a designer and manufacturer of rolled tooling for welded tube and pipe producers, as a problem-solving shop. The “problems” may include designing tooling for a custom application or providing training to a mill operator on how to run tooling in the most efficient manner.

To earn the reputation as a problem-solver, the company, led by Sanjay Singh, president and CEO, lives and breathes its top three core competencies: on-time delivery, first-time successful performance of the tooling and live support when customers call the company. The company also has a team of technical service associates who solve tooling issues on the customer’s plant floor.

Roll-Kraft also has developed its own custom ERP system that maximizes focus and efficiencies that for the most part benefit the customer. A state-of-the art CRM system and an integrated engineering design application are utilized as well as software called Automation Anywhere to automate repetitive steps across many applications.

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neo_AndreThorntonAndré Thornton
President and CEO
ASW Global LLC

André Thornton acquired ASW Global LLC in January 2007 after the company merged with Cleveland-based GPI Procurement Services. As president and CEO, Thornton sets the direction of the company and directs operational aspects so that they follow the strategic plans and policies of the organization. Thornton has 20 years of experience in entrepreneurial ventures. As one of the principals in Apple Partners, he led a highly successful restaurant management group that was sold to Applebee’s International.

He also founded a successful consulting and sports management company and continues to speak nationally on executive leadership, organizational change and diversity; having engagements in excess of 1,000 groups and businesses. Thornton played professional baseball for 21 years and was an honored recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award in 1979, which goes to the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and team contribution. He was inducted into the Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame.

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neo_KristinWarzochaKristin Warzocha
President and CEO
Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Kristin Warzocha is president and CEO for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Northeast Ohio’s largest hunger relief organization. The Food Bank relies on community support to fulfill its mission of ensuring that everyone in the community has the food they need every day. She champions the organization’s mission and directs the Food Bank’s efforts to provide nutritious food and support to more than 700 member agencies and programs that serve Northeast Ohioans in six counties.

Warzocha has been with the Food Bank since 2000 in a variety of roles, all related to engaging the community in the organization’s work. She managed a capital campaign that raised more than $10 million to construct a new state-of-the-art community food distribution center and was a member of the management team that helped facilitate the mergers of the Food Bank with Food Rescue of Northeast Ohio in 2001 and with the Greater Cleveland Committee on Hunger in 2003.

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neo_KevinWeidingerKevin R. Weidinger
President and CEO
Laudan Properties LLC

A case of finding a need and filling it led to the formation of Laudan Properties LLC, a multiple winner of fast growth awards.

Kevin R. Weidinger, president and CEO, had just returned from helping his half-brother’s business, which repaired bank-owned foreclosed properties in Detroit. Weidinger realized that the banks were struggling to find honest, reliable and timely contractors to perform work on residential homes they now owned. Under the previous system, a bank would have to locate a contractor that could do the work and obtain proof that the work was done correctly so the home could proceed through the foreclosure cycle.

Laudan Properties recruits, trains and inspires professional contractors that could specifically perform high-quality inspection and home preservation services in a short timeframe. Banks, servicers and investors were enthusiastic about Laudan’s services, including the ability to scale into geographies where they had specific needs.

Laudan also invests heavily in IT infrastructure and uses fortified security protocols to protect client data.

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neo_KeevenWhiteKeeven White
President and CEO
WhiteSpace Creative

Under President and CEO Keeven White’s leadership, WhiteSpace Creative has built a flexible, consistently growing company that is responsive to the unique creative requirements of each client.

The firm operates under a team structure rather than relying on individual departments. As a result, his staff is grouped into client-centric teams that perform like mini agencies. Each team consists of a unique blend of strategists, designers, programmers and writers that concentrate on a defined client group. The structure greatly benefits the WhiteSpace client base because clients consistently work directly with a dedicated-yet-agile team that has intimate knowledge of each client’s business.

White’s creative internal structure has allowed the firm to better serve as a creative partner to a variety of clients in diverse industries, including the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series, Kent State Athletics, Hartville Pet Insurance Group, and Sequoia Wellness.

Additionally, he looks at growth through acquisitions, and over the past few years has merged several complementary firms into Whitespace.

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neo_KimWilsonKimberly Wilson
President and CEO
Slate Rock Safety LLC

Under the leadership of President and CEO Kimberly Wilson, Slate Rock Safety LLC has evolved from its founding in 2007 as a small distributor that relied on manufacturers to drop-ship products to a solutions-based distributor driven by innovative technology.

Slate Rock Safety today is comprised of five distinct business units and is considered a competitive force in the flame resistant apparel industry.

Wilson’s abilities to develop strong relationships with her team, customers and manufacturers and her strategic thinking have resulted in double-digit percentage annual sales growth for eight straight years accompanied by triple-digit growth in net revenue in both 2013 and 2014 and double-digit growth in net revenue in 2015.

Slate Rock Safety has been recognized by Inc. as one of America’s Fastest Growing Companies for four consecutive years, has been a Weatherhead 100 company for three consecutive years and was a regional finalist for EY Entrepreneur of The YearTM 2015 Award.

2015 Cascade Capital Corp. Business Growth Awards

Recognizing 45 outstanding companies that fortify the strength of our regional economy

Introduction by Robert Filipiak, executive director, Cascade Capital Corp.

It is with great pleasure that I congratulate the 45 Cascade Capital Corp. Business Growth Award winners for 2015.

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 sales of companies’ goods and services to other parts of the state, across the nation and even internationally, enrich 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 Corp. are to provide meaningful financing assistance to small and midsized 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 U.S. Small Business Administration 504 Loan Program. The SBA 504 assists growing small to midsized companies in purchasing new operating facilities, equipment and even other businesses. In combination with traditional bank financing, Cascade Capital delivers 90 percent financing for major fixed asset purchases. Twenty-year fixed interest rates are available for building purchases with recent rates under 5 percent.

Cascade Capital’s Ohio 166 Loan Program continues to offer perhaps the most competitive fixed interest rate available for business borrowers — as low as 3 percent with loan terms up to 15 years.

A number of 2015 Business Growth Award winners have received funding in the past from Cascade Capital through both its SBA 504 and Ohio 166 loan programs.

Over the course of the past five years, Cascade Capital has committed over $900,000 of its own financial resources toward economic development initiatives in Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties with the hope that these funds will lead to positive sales and/or employee growth for a new wave of up and coming firms.

Congratulations to all of Cascade Capital Corp.’s 2015 Business Growth Award winners on a job well done. Thank you too for your continuing role in supporting and revitalizing our local and regional economy through your sustained growth and investment.

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



Sam Faletta
President and CEO

Sam Falletta wants to help his employees become the best version of themselves that they can be. An intense focus on this purpose has helped Incept, a conversational marketing firm that specializes in developing and strengthening relationships with current and potential customers, to win a number of awards for its culture and strong employee engagement.

Part of being an entrepreneur is building an organization and a team that can get excited about what your company does and feel like it’s a valuable part of making it happen. Falletta, who serves as president and CEO, engages employees by focusing on the most important aspects of becoming an organizationally healthy workplace — direction, execution and connection.

By ensuring employees have emotionally bought into what the company is trying to achieve and continuing to build a culture that is focused on performance, he has fostered an environment where employees believe they are working toward something meaningful. That leads to happy employees and happy employees lead to happy customers.

The commitment to people has led to great success. Incept has added more than 50 jobs to the local economy in the last five years while increasing revenue more than 87 percent. And 91 percent of customers have rated Incept as a satisfactory partner and would recommend the company to someone else who needs similar services.

Falletta’s role as a leader stretches beyond the walls of Incept’s offices. He serves as an instructor of marketing at the University of Akron where he has taught Creating Brand YOU, a one-credit marketing course where students engage in a step-by-step process to develop and grow their personal online brand using social media tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

The course is extremely relatable to the business world and Falletta takes a similar approach with his students. His goal is to help them develop into the best versions of themselves.
In 2013, Falletta partnered with the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing to develop the first-ever student-run social media agency, Kanga Communications. The agency enables university students to gain immeasurable real-world experience, practical skills and numerous networking opportunities before they even enter the workforce.

“Many professionals become engaged with our students on an on-and-off basis, but Sam is different,” says Vanja Djuric, director of analytics at the University of Akron. “No matter how tense the times are that his company is going through, Sam makes sure to consistently show support to our students by always making himself available. Our students are extremely lucky to have a business professional as determined and passionate as Sam.”

Fostering strong leaders is indeed a calling for Falletta. Philanthropy serves as a great vehicle to give employees at Incept who have charitable causes that are close to their hearts an opportunity to both support those organizations and grow as leaders through the effort.

Falletta cites a study by the Harvard Business Review that found that the single greatest advantage in the modern economy is a happy and engaged workforce. Happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome and no business is impacted more by this than those involved in customer engagement.

It makes for a perfect fit for Falletta and his team at Incept.




Steve Marks
Co-founder and co-CEO
Main Street Gourmet LLC

Harvey Nelson
Co-founder and co-CEO
Main Street Gourmet LLC

Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson have used innovative concepts to grow Main Street Gourmet LLC from a small, retail coffee and muffin shop that started in downtown Akron in 1987 to an industry leader in the production of custom baked goods.

From being one of the first bakeries to offer all-natural muffins in the 1980s to fat free muffins in the early 1990s and its most significant decision to concentrate efforts on the development of frozen custom bakery products for national and regional food operators, the company has been a leader in its field for years.

But beyond the financial success, Main Street Gourmet believes very strongly in philanthropy. Over the past 28 years, many have benefitted from the company’s generous contributions to foster a better quality of life for local citizens. Under the leadership of Marks and Nelson, who serve as co-founders and co-CEOs, employees regularly and selflessly donate their time and effort to a number of worthy endeavors.

Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank
Main Street Gourmet is a continuous donor of “off-spec” products to the food bank with donations being used to help feed the homeless and others who are less fortunate. As part of the company’s Nothing Goes to Waste campaign, Main Street Gourmet also holds several No Muffin Left Behind sales at the food bank throughout the year.

These promotions offer not-to-customer standard, yet still edible product to the public with monetary proceeds and any unsold product going to the food bank’s cause. In combined dollars raised and food products donated, the Nothing Goes to Waste campaign has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

Akron General Medical Center
In 1992, Main Street Gourmet in conjunction with Akron General’s Women’s Health and Cancer Center started a charitable program called Muffins for Mammograms. The annual weeklong effort raises money for women who can’t afford mammograms. It also includes the distribution of life-saving breast health information to raise community awareness.

Every October during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, muffins, cookies and brownies are baked, packaged and distributed along with breast cancer information by Main Street Gourmet and employees at Akron General.

This volunteer effort has raised more than $250,000 and has allowed hundreds of women who otherwise could not have afforded mammograms to be screened for breast cancer. The program has received national recognition from the National Breast Cancer Board and the Ohio Department of Health.

Entrepreneurs EDGE
The Entrepreneurs EDGE promotes an annual outing at Progressive Field in Cleveland where mentors from Northeast Ohio companies are partnered for the day with local inner-city students who are studying business practices and procedures.
A group of Main Street Gourmet employees regularly volunteer to act as role models for the students during the outings, answer questions, offer advice and display positive examples of good business etiquette.

International Institute of Akron
This is a nonprofit organization with a stated mission of helping to integrate people into society. Including seven employees hired since 2011, more than 20 percent of Main Street Gourmet’s workforce is comprised of people who have legally immigrated, often as refugees, to the U.S. The company is proud of its outreach to help these people at a low point in life, offering them an opportunity to achieve and live the American dream for themselves and their families.



Christopher J. Karman
Daniel’s Amish Collection

It was 2003 and Christopher J. Karman and his brother had just quit working for a Fortune 500 company to buy a small Amish furniture maker. At the time, the company was known as Country Curios, had 12 employees and manufactured handcrafted curios, or glass display cases.

The product quality was excellent, but the business itself was a small player in a declining industry. People simply weren’t buying glass display cases for their collectibles like previous generations had done.

The challenge for Karman and his brother was they had highly skilled workers who made beautiful furniture working in a market that was dying. They could have simply gone out and searched for more curio outlets, but the potential gain hardly seemed worth the effort that would be required.

Karman, the company’s president, decided to go in a different direction. He wanted to broaden product selection, go after high-quality retailers and take the company national. While Amish furniture is well-known in Ohio, his goal was to introduce it to the rest of the country — markets that had no real experience with it.

The first thing he did was change the company’s name from Country Curio to Amish Mills and ultimately to Daniel’s Amish Collection. Karman wanted the name to immediately show people that the company was all about high-quality, Amish handcrafted furniture. So he sat down with craftsmen and designed new furniture, focusing on bedroom and dining room furniture.

The next step was to put together a nationwide system of sales representatives to sell his product under the brand name of Daniel’s Amish Collection.

The product caught on and the brand can be found in major retailers such as Levin Furniture and Berkshire Hathaway’s Nebraska Furniture Mart, the largest furniture store in the world. The workforce has grown from 12 employees in 2003 to roughly 150 employees today, and sales have grown 213 percent over the last five years.

Daniel’s Amish now operates two factories. One is a large 120,000-square-foot building where bedroom furniture is manufactured. The other is a table and chair manufacturing facility in Mount Eaton. The company has also purchased a 25-acre plot that will one day house a new headquarters and factory to handle future growth.

Unlike so many businesses that struggled when the recession hit in 2008, Daniel’s Amish got some good out of the downturn. Because so many companies have gone out of business the past few years, Karman was able to purchase a lot of good, used equipment for pennies on the dollar. While it’s obviously unfortunate that these businesses were lost, it did provide the means to help Daniel’s Amish be more productive and ultimately grow its workforce, which has been good for the Ohio economy.

Innovation is encouraged at every level at Daniel’s Amish Collection and the company operates with a nimble mindset. If someone has an idea about how to do it better, Karman wants to hear about it and in most cases, incorporates it into the company.

If an employee submits a new design idea and that idea ends up in the catalog, the employee gets 100 percent of the money from the first item sold as a bonus. Programs like this have created a strong sense of family and personal pride for the team at Daniel’s Amish Collection.

Highest Sales Growth: Manufacturing

akr_bga_KeithKroppAscot Valley Foods LLC
Keith A. Kropp, CEO

When Keith A. Kropp bought Ascot Valley Foods LLC in 2004, he operated in a small building on Maple Street in Akron. Since those humble beginnings, Kropp, CEO, has taken the business to new heights and the sales figures have come along for the ride.

Sales have jumped 650 percent in the past five years and are projected to continue growing at record rates. At the same time, employment has grown from 10 employees in 2010 to 35 in 2015.

Historically, Ascot Valley Foods was known simply as a frozen food appetizer company. But over the last couple years, it expanded its capabilities to offer prepared meals as well. On top of Akron’s famous sauerkraut balls, Ascot Valley Foods now produces pizzas, burritos and trayed meals, and has also entered the shelf-stable food market by launching a falafel for one of its major customers.

In November 2014, Ascot Valley Foods moved into a brand new state-of-the-art production facility that tripled its capacity and greatly expanded its production space, going from a 6,000-square-foot facility to one that measures 25,000 square feet.

Sales are expected to double in 2016 and the plan is to add another shift of production, which in turn will create many additional job opportunities.

With growth comes even greater opportunity to give back to the community. Ascot Valley Foods supports the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank as well as a number of other charities in the Akron-Canton area.

Greatest Employee Growth: Manufacturing

akr_bga_JosephZenoACS Industries Inc.
Joe Zeno, president and CEO

The past few years have presented a number of challenges for Joe Zeno and his team at ACS Industries Inc.

The attachment solutions provider has faced declining markets both in the dealer and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) markets. A growing employment crisis in the company’s local business sector has only added to the difficulties.

Despite the hard times, there is reason for optimism at ACS and Zeno, president and CEO, is a big reason why.
In response to the situation with the dealer and OEM markets, ACS has focused on building a core three-dealer group to support Patriot, the company’s new loader attachment line, and stock products for quick delivery.

Zeno is looking to increase market share in large engineered products and increase ACS’s presence in the steel mills. He is also keeping a close eye on the military in case it presents any strong opportunities.

On the personnel side, Zeno faced a crucial period last June when he lost a number of key employees from his factory workforce. In the changing economy, a growing number of businesses began “pirating” good people to staff their companies.

In response, Zeno evaluated employee classifications and upgraded current staff to compete where the market was headed. As a result, he was able to replace lost staff with highly qualified employees and hire 12 new employees into key positions.

ACS also changed its approach to dealer development and sales coverage by using business development specialists who do not travel and can thus telemarket to the dealer base.

Best Overall Success Story: Manufacturing


Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc.
Darlene Swiatkowski, CEO; Joseph Swiatkowski, president; Michael Swiatkowski, vice president

Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc. continues to thrive under the leadership of the Swiatkowski family, increasing sales by 67 percent over the past five years.

The snack food company has boosted its staff from 40 employees to more than 70 workers in 2015, expanded its facility, improved production and built on its established brands.

Led by CEO Darlene Swiatkowski, President Joseph Swiatkowski and Vice President Michael Swiatkowski, Hickory Harvest also added several key management positions to provide the experience needed to continue double-digit growth year over year. The plan is to add another 30 employees over the next five years.

In 2013, Hickory Harvest expanded its 30,000-square-foot facility by 17,000 square feet to add the necessary office, production and warehouse space to support the growing business.

The company also invested in capital equipment by adding two new form and seal packaging machines and another nut roaster, all of which increased production capability by 50 percent. In addition, a panning machine was installed for new product lines that are toffee-coated and chocolate- and yogurt-covered to complement the nut and snack products.

Hickory Harvest continues to partner with customers through private label programs leveraging its quality products with strong store brand recognition. Private label sales continue to grow with the overall business, maintaining a healthy 35 percent of overall sales in private label business.

Company leaders will continue looking for better processes and equipment that can improve efficiencies and support future growth.


Highest Sales Growth: Technology


Area 51 Data Solutions
Marling Engle, CEO and partner; Craig Sutphin, COO and partner

Marling Engle and Craig Sutphin have a lot to be happy about at Area 51 Data Solutions. The IT managed services and cloud solutions provider has grown sales 267 percent since 2010 and is poised to grow even more in the years ahead.

The company has purchased a new office building to help with its current expansion efforts and provide better reach into the North Canton and south territories. There are also plans to open a satellite office in either Independence or Brecksville in the near future to better serve clients in the Greater Cleveland and Mentor areas.

Engle, CEO and partner, and Sutphin, COO and partner, have lead Area 51 to achieve significant growth. But a strong culture ensures that even when the times turn tough, employees keep a positive attitude and continue working hard to serve their customers.

Engle and Sutphin have instilled a “work hard, play hard” approach, providing a number of extracurricular activities that allow staff to get to know each other on a personal level and when necessary, blow off some steam.

When it’s time to get back to work, Area 51 takes a hands-on approach with clients and aims to be an IT partner that always has the best interests of the clients in mind. These efforts, particularly in disaster recovery and business continuity situations, have helped the company continue to grow, but have also provided a boost to the local economy.

 Greatest Employee Growth: Technology


Expand Interactive
Eric Harsh, CEO; Will Holland, president

It wasn’t exactly the best of times when Expand Interactive opened its doors for business in 2008.

The global recession was just beginning, making the thought of opening a new business seem even more daunting than usual. But that didn’t stop CEO Eric Harsh and President Will Holland from building a business that has transformed how learning is done.

The result is a business that has grown sales 116 percent since 2010. Even more impressively, the company has grown its personnel by 225 percent over the same period. In 2014, Expand doubled its design team, tripled its development team and added a project manager and marketing manager.

When the company was founded, the mission was to rid the world of boring, ineffective training. Expand started as an e-learning content company and over time realized clients needed a platform to host, share and measure the content.

Expand has shifted away from operating as a traditional e-learning company to one focused on impact with e-learning used as a means to improve organizational performance. The company builds “beautiful, fun and effective” e-learning courses, but has also developed its own software platform to support its philosophy of continuous evolution.

ExpandShare is a knowledge-sharing platform that allows content to be shared with individual users or groups and then tracked and measured to determine training and effectiveness. The company aligns its metrics with each client’s unique key performance indicators so it can demonstrate how training impacts business performance.

 Best Overall Success Story: Technology

akr_bga_SuranjanShomeEpiphany Management Group
Suranjan Shome, president and CEO

Suranjan Shome, president and CEO, has built Epiphany Management Group from the ground up. He took a business that eight years ago had no employees, besides himself, and no customers and has grown it to more than 100 employees in four states. Since 2010, sales have increased 153 percent.

Epiphany was launched in 2007 with the objective of transforming K-12 education through partnerships with progressive school leaders and industry innovators. The company has worked in all areas of managing and improving technology in the classroom and has created collaborative solutions that improve efficiencies and reduce costs.

Under Shome’s leadership, Epiphany has not been afraid to adapt its path to success. In 2011, the company made a significant investment in organizational restructuring, processes and systems automation that resulted in steadily increasing revenue and consistent growth. That growth has been financed organically without any contribution from external sources.

One of the keys to Epiphany’s success is the implementation of a copyrighted strategic planning process that is utilized in every facet of the organization. It has resulted in clarity of direction, message and purpose for the organization and consequently, its employees. The process creates alignment between employee goals and organizational direction and has helped inspire employees to realize a near-perfect customer satisfaction and customer retention outcome.

In addition, a multilevel director and management hierarchy has been implemented to allow autonomous decision-making and improved communication.

 Highest Sales Growth – Emerging: Service

akr_bga_TiaRamlowGreat Work! Employment Services
Tia Ramlow, president

Tia Ramlow had not faced many significant challenges through the first 15 years of Great Work! Employment Services. But when the global recession hit in 2008, her business slipped into “a chasm that was so deep, at times, it was paralyzing.”

As an employment agency, Ramlow’s industry was one of the first affected by the recession and the recovery didn’t really begin until 2011. Flexible staffing was the first to go when the economy began its downward spiral and as the recession deepened, companies had internal layoffs that often went three rounds deep.

When inventory was finally depleted and companies had to turn the machines back on, they called back internal employees first. It wasn’t until then that the employment industry began to show signs of life again.

Hard decisions had to be made during these times, but Ramlow, the company’s president, worked strategically to limit the impact on staff and field employees. Retirement accounts were changed from a 401(k) with high administration costs to a simple IRA retirement program. Ramlow increased employer contributions when most companies suspended theirs and maintained health insurance even though premiums were increasing.

Great Work! invested in management training and business practices to be prepared to succeed when the economy began to bounce back. As a result, the company has expanded organically the past four years. It has a strong internal management team, a new office and an 83 percent growth rate in sales over the past five years.

Highest Sales Growth – Established: Service

akr_bga_WilliamLeppoakr_bga_DanielHarshLeppo Group Inc.
William “Glenn” Leppo, CEO

Leppo Group Inc. is a different company today than it was just a few years ago. This evolution is a key reason why the business has been able to grow sales by 142 percent since 2010.
Instead of ownership making all the decisions on strategy and execution, this family business now has a leadership team of two family members and four non-family members that set the strategic direction.

A business operations team of about 10 members, none of whom are family, lead the teams that ultimately implement the strategies and run the stores. Day-to-day operations for the main operating company are handled by non-family members, including the president and two vice presidents. Family members still play a role in setting strategy, but a smooth transition has been made to have non-family members running the business every day.

Trust is a critical piece in sustaining this type of culture, says William “Glenn” Leppo, the equipment provider’s CEO. Leppo trusts co-workers to get their work done in accordance with the foundational values that the company was built upon. He expects decisions to be made with the best interests of the customer, co-workers, vendors and owners in mind.

Sustainability is another philosophy Leppo lives by. This includes stability for employees, people development and an effort to make transitions smooth when they become necessary.
The result is a company that continues to grow and reward employees for their contribution to the organization’s success.

Greatest Employee Growth – Emerging: Service

akr_bga_DanielHarshConcept Services Ltd.
Daniel D. Harsh, owner and president

Concept Services Ltd. has had great success helping companies identify potential customers with a need for their products or services. Led by Daniel D. Harsh, owner and president, Concept Services has averaged 40 percent growth per year for the past four years on the sales side.

On the employment side, the company has grown from 17 employees in 2010 to 73 employees in 2014, which represents a 329 percent boost in personnel. Concept Services is built on a core philosophy of concept, process and discipline, which is the driving factor behind the company’s growth.

The “concept” is that companies need to separate prospecting and new business development from any other part of the sales operation. Prospecting for new business is a full-time function and is as important as any part of a company’s sales efforts.

The next step is “process,” which focuses on strategy. Years of research on effective cold calling and prospecting across multiple industries has shed light on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to finding qualified prospects and customers.

The “discipline” part is believed to be the most important piece at Concept Services, a promise to hold each other accountable to deliver the results that customers expect.

The result is tremendous growth with strong employment opportunities for both new and existing employees. The company expects to exceed 100 employees this year and will fill managerial and supervisory positions from within, providing a means for advancement. Along with an extensive training program for new employees, there is a clear path to success.

Greatest Employee Growth – Established – Service

akr_bga_VirginiaAlbaneseFedEx Custom Critical
Virginia Albanese, president and CEO

Virginia Albanese, president and CEO, is very proud of the team she has assembled at FedEx Custom Critical, a team that has grown at a steady clip in recent years. Overall, the workforce has expanded from 583 employees in 2010 to 748 employees in 2014.

The company’s FedEx Truckload Brokerage subsidiary has grown its workforce by more than 270 percent in the last five years.

The company is based in Green and is one of North America’s largest providers of expedited shipments. It offers customized solutions for its customers and specializes in expedited freight shipping and solutions for transporting sensitive shipments, from temperature control to increased security.

The hard work that employees give to their jobs comes in tandem with a strong commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy. Team members take this responsibility to heart and believe the ability to support the community in which they live and work plays a vital role in operating the business.

The company has had a significant impact in the Akron area, volunteering at more than 10 organizations in the community and donating an average of more than $140,000 per year.

Albanese serves on a number of boards in Northeast Ohio, including Akron Children’s Hospital, the Akron Community Foundation and Kent State University.

Team members happily volunteer their time at events for these organizations and many others, and this drive to support communities is contagious. FedEx Custom Critical employees average nearly 1,000 volunteer hours every year and serve as a testament to Albanese’s “walking the walk” philosophy.

 Best Overall Success Story: Service

akr_bga_EricGrafRitzman Pharmacies Inc.
Eric Graf, CEO

When Ritzman Pharmacies Inc. doubled its store count from 10 to 20 and purchased the in-store pharmacies at Buehler’s Fresh Foods, it did more than just increase its annual revenue.

The moves enhanced Ritzman’s buying power, enabling the company to negotiate better pricing and rebates from their pharmaceutical wholesalers.
In addition, the company was better able to spread its corporate overhead over twice the amount of stores while maintaining a greater range of pharmacy services to its local customer base.

The company grew again in 2013 with the purchase of five Mast Pharmacy stores and today has 25 stores located across nine counties. Ritzman has proven that growth through strategic acquisition can result in a stronger, more dynamic retail pharmacy operation with enhanced revenue and improved profitability.

Overall, in the past five years, Ritzman has grown sales by 135 percent and employees by 93 percent, going from 60 employees in 2010 to 116 employees in 2014.

Led by CEO Eric Graf, Ritzman continued to invest in both infrastructure and management in 2014 by hiring an experienced COO and 10 upper-level managers. The company also invested in KloudScript Special Pharmacy, which provides operational systems and training to independent retail pharmacies for delivering specialty high-cost pharmaceuticals.

In 2015, Ritzman is undertaking new initiatives to elevate the customer’s store experience by installing a new pharmacy system and new pharmacy delivery products. The company is also pursuing strategic joint ventures with local health providers.


Honor Roll



ACS Industries Inc.
Joe Zeno

ACS Industries Inc. bounced back strong in 2014 as the construction equipment manufacturer continued to recover from a period of economic uncertainty. ACS developed a yard loader bucket that revolutionized the material handling of aggregate at quarry sites in the U.S. The company also developed a plan to have a single source of contact at ACS call on all its steel mill customers across the nation.

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AlphaMicron Inc.
Bahman Taheri

Cutting-edge eyewear developed in Northeast Ohio by AlphaMicron Inc. could someday be standard equipment for every U.S. solider. The Kent-based company, which has grown from 21 employees in 2010 to 50 in 2014, has developed the world’s only liquid crystal film that provides electronic tint on demand. The technology is expected to fundamentally alter the function of eyewear in the tactical, sport and even luxury markets.

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Ascot Valley Foods LLC
Keith A. Kropp

Ascot Valley Foods LLC prides itself on being active in the community and is a proud donor of food to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Its transition from frozen appetizer company to a business that also offers prepared meals has led to a stronger business, with sales growing 2.5 times from 2012 to 2014. In 2014, the company built a state-of-the-art production facility.

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Daniel’s Amish Collection
Christopher J. Karman

The craftsmen at Daniel’s Amish Collection are gifted and always willing to try new things to make a high-quality product in as efficient a manner as possible. Sales are up 213 percent since 2010 as the company has found ways to continue growing while many other businesses struggle to recover from the recession. The company’s leadership does not micromanage, empowering employees to be part of the success.

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Main Street Gourmet LLC
Steve Marks and Harvey Nelson

Customers that are finicky about their ingredients, demand differentiation and often want a product that is difficult to produce have a dedicated servant in Main Street Gourmet LLC. Sales have grown 40 percent in the past five years and the company’s co-founders have instilled a culture that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit to help achieve this ambitious goal. The result is an environment where employees enjoy their work.

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Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc.
Darlene, Joseph and Michael Swiatkowski

Growth has been strong in recent years at Ohio Hickory Harvest Brand Products Inc. The company went from 40 employees in 2010 to more than 70 employees in 2015, and recently added several key management positions. Sales have increased 67 percent in the last five years and Ohio Hickory Harvest hopes to continue the trend by adding more equipment to continue to improve efficiencies.

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Area 51 Data Solutions
Marling Engle and Craig Sutphin

Area 51 Data Solutions is an IT managed services and cloud solutions provider specializing in proactive and preventative IT support for small to midsized businesses. Sales have increased 267 percent over the past five years, generating more jobs and tax revenue for the local economy. Area 51 has also helped keep area businesses open and functioning through its disaster recovery and business continuity efforts.

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AtNetPlus Inc.
Jay Mellon and Jim Laber

AtNetPlus Inc. is locally owned and operated and continues to grow both its revenue, which has increased by 72 percent over the past five years, and its office space. By adding high-paying technology jobs, the IT company attracts and retains young professionals to Northeast Ohio. AtNetPlus continues to educate and inform area business leaders through community partnerships and in-house seminars.

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Epiphany Management Group
Suranjan Shome

As an exclusive provider of technology managed services for K-12 organizations, Epiphany Management Group has grown from six to nearly 100 full-time employees and has seen its revenue rise by 153 percent since 2010. The company can trace much of its success to a copyrighted strategic planning process that is utilized in every facet of the organization.

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Etactics Inc.
Michael Teutsch

Etactics Inc. was established in June 1999 to provide a cost-effective service that enhances the accuracy and delivery of time-sensitive documents, especially invoices. These services are geared to improve cash flow for clients. The company has grown from 31 employees in 2010 to 49 in 2014 and continues to add new products and services where an opportunity is found to add value to clients.

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Expand Interactive
Eric Harsh and Will Holland

When Expand Interactive was founded, its mission was to rid the world of boring, ineffective training. The company has established itself as a market leader by shifting away from operating as a traditional e-learning company to one focused on impact, using e-learning as a means to improve organizational performance. The result is revenue growth of 116 percent over the past five years.

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Marling Engle

Since 2006, Metisentry has been empowering businesses to create efficiency through technology to achieve success. The company builds, manages and integrates business software and data center systems through Web, mobile and cloud platforms to manage workflow and change the way people do business. Since 2010, revenue has grown by 120 percent.

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Americas International Inc.
Wayne Stair

Americas International Inc.’s mission is to increase favorable brand awareness and expand sales by delivering quality products to customers on time and in a cost-effective manner. By working as an extension of its supplier’s sales and marketing team, the company achieves results consistent with its corporate strategic objectives. Growth has been steady since 2010, rising 34 percent during that time.

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Band of Brothers Restoration LLC
Geno Conley and Don Meyer

Band of Brothers Restoration LLC is a combat veteran owned and operated company that provides commercial and residential construction and restoration services both locally and nationally. Its team is also skilled at new installation for interior and exterior needs. The company is young, growing from two employees in 2013 to 15 employees in 2014, but leadership is confident it has a plan to both be successful and change lives in the process.

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Robert Littman, CPA, MT

SS&G is now BDO, but the company has not changed its belief in the passion and capability of local businesses. BDO specializes in financial services for restaurants and focuses on their very specific and unique accounting needs. The firm also has a nationally recognized practice focusing on independent pharmacies. The Northeast Ohio office of BDO is the 10th largest BDO office in the U.S.

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Catastrophe Management Solutions LLC
Curtis F. Pilot

Catastrophe Management Solutions LLC provides additional call center staffing for large insurance carriers during major catastrophes. The company differentiates itself from its competitors through the strength of its values and extensive industry experience and exceptional employee relations and training, among other attributes. CMS has experienced 456 percent sales growth over the past five years along with a 412 percent staffing increase.

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Cohen & Co. Ltd.
J. Michael Kolk

Finding and retaining quality staff is not always easy, yet it is critical to the growth and success at Cohen & Co. Ltd. The accounting firm has a unique and robust internship program that cultivates top talent to help ensure its continued growth as a leader in the local economy. The program’s real-world approach centers around treating interns as staff members and the internship program yielded 20 new staff hires in 2014.

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Concept Services Ltd.
Daniel D. Harsh

Concept Services Ltd. has averaged 40 percent growth per year for the last four years and is on track to do it again in 2015. One of the company’s most significant achievements is its ability to hire employees with no experience, and sometimes no college education, and turn them into professional business development managers. Concept Services has excelled in this area and become an integral staff extension for its clients.

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Cooper Brothers Trucking
Tim Cooper

Cooper Brothers Trucking handles freight that travels back and forth between the U.S. and Canada, as well as inter-Canada shipments. It’s an area many companies don’t want to work in, but Cooper has established itself around servicing the border. The company, which has grown revenue by 277 percent over the past five years, uses its expertise to reduce wait time and reduce the cost of cross-border shipping to customers.

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County Fire Protection Inc.
John Lubinski

County Fire Protection Inc. celebrated its 15th year in 2014 and continues to emphasize its core values, setting it apart from the competition. The core values are integrity and honesty, hard work, service-oriented, dedication and teamwork. Sales are up 102 percent over the past five years and staffing is up 60 percent. In 2015, County Fire Protection enhanced its recruiting efforts by securing a new accounts sales manager to help define its B2B services.

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EnviroScience Inc.
Martin Hilovsky

EnviroScience Inc. has grown considerably over the past five years, more than doubling both its staff and revenues. The ecological and natural resource consulting firm has placed an emphasis on hiring highly motivated people and encouraging them to pursue their interests and talents, as well as innovative business opportunities that fall outside of the company’s core services.

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Evolve Creative Group
Todd Bertsch

Evolve Creative Group has quickly become one of the top companies in the Web design industry throughout Northeast Ohio. With a strictly defined Web design process and a passion statement in place of a mission statement, Evolve has set itself apart from its competitors. Evolve continues to increase sales by more than 100 percent every year.

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FedEx Custom Critical
Virginia Albanese

FedEx Custom Critical continues to grow as a company. The expedited shipment provider had 748 employees in 2014, up from 583 in 2010. The strength of the team has allowed strong philanthropic support with employees averaging nearly 1,000 volunteer hours every year. Team members help organizations from across the region do their part to make it a better place to live.

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Great Lakes Fasteners Inc.
Kevin R. Weidinger

Since 1958, Great Lakes Fasteners Inc. has been servicing Midwestern manufacturers by using its innovative problem-solving skills to support a comprehensive portfolio of high-quality fastener products. Sales are up 107 percent since 2010 and staffing is up 150 percent. In particular, the company’s packaging division is driving value and opportunity by helping customers streamline their supply chain and improve production-line efficiency.

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Great Work! Employment Services
Tia Ramlow

Tia Ramlow has made a conscious effort to buy from local suppliers whenever possible at Great Work! Employment Services. As the company’s president, she also supports the local economy by providing health care for all her staff through locally based SummaCare. Great Work!, which has seen sales rise by 83 percent since 2010, makes contributions of both money and volunteer time to many local nonprofits and also supports local business groups and chambers.

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Huntington Bank
William C. Shivers

Huntington Bank is a regional bank holding company headquartered in Columbus with a network of more than 700 branches and almost 1,500 ATMs across six Midwestern states. Founded in 1866, the bank and its affiliates provide consumer, small business, commercial, treasury management, wealth management, brokerage, trust and insurance services.

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Sam Falletta

Sales are up 87 percent over the past five years at Incept. One of the keys to the conversational marketing firm’s success is its ability to engage employees to focus on the most important aspects of becoming an organizationally healthy workplace. Employees buy into the company’s goals and gain satisfaction in helping Incept to meet those goals.

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J. Rayl Transport
Jeremy Rayl

In the past five years, J. Rayl Transport has built its own compressed natural gas station at its Akron headquarters. It has also strengthened its fleet of natural gas units to include 100 tractors, giving J. Rayl one of the largest natural gas fleets in the U.S. The logistics company has expanded its offices and terminals to Euclid, Dallas and Houston and bolstered its presence in Columbus, Indiana and Virginia with new offices and terminals. The company is up to 350 employees and will be at 300 tractors by the end of 2015.

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Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc.
W. Michael Jarrett

Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc. has grown at an average rate of 14 percent over the past 10 years and will continue at this pace through 2015. The company has launched new marketing initiatives to assist with the company’s continual sales growth. The goal is to use a direct mail campaign to get the Jarrett brand in front of more decision-makers in the supply chain industry throughout the U.S.

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Laudan Properties
Kevin R. Weidinger

The business model for Laudan Properties was developed in a strategy session at a local Bob Evans restaurant and the growth has been torrid ever since. From 2010 to 2014, the inspection, property preservation and remodeling company has grown by 2,550 percent. The Laudan team works closely with investors, banks, servicers and real estate professionals to manage and maintain their portfolio of residential assets.

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Lead to Conversion LLC
Sean Bolton

Every employee at Lead to Conversion LLC is afforded the opportunity to grow beyond their current role at the digital marketing agency. LTC has built working partnerships with local businesses such as Matco Tools, Copperloy and Lincoln Electric. Some clients have seen website traffic increase by more than 1,000 percent and the firm itself has grown sales by 426 percent since 2010.

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Leppo Group Inc.
William “Glenn” Leppo

CEO William “Glenn” Leppo uses trust to lead and inspire his team at Leppo Group Inc. He trusts his co-workers to get the job done in accordance with the equipment provider’s values just as customers trust Leppo Group to take care of their equipment needs. Leppo has grown sales by 142 percent since 2010 and the continuation of that growth is supported by regular dialogue with employees about performance.

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National Interstate Insurance Co.
Dave Michelson

National Interstate Insurance Co. has enjoyed significant growth over the past five years in both sales and employees. Sales are up 57 percent during that time and the staff has grown from 494 employees in 2010 to 634 in 2014. From a product perspective, National Interstate continues to expand its portfolio by branching into new markets where its expertise can be leveraged.

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Oswald Cos.
Paul N. Catania

As an employee-owned company, Oswald Cos. takes its core values of professionalism, integrity, resourcefulness and commitment to community very seriously. Senior Vice President Paul N. Catania has led the way on making community philanthropy a top priority at the insurance brokerage firm, which has grown sales by 194 percent since 2010. Oswald also has a dedicated nonprofit practice that serves more than 250 Ohio-based not-for-profit clients.

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PackShip USA
W. Michael Jarrett

PackShip USA, an affiliated company of Jarrett Logistics Systems Inc., is a high-tech logistics company providing custom solutions in packaging, shipping and business-related services to the retail and commercial markets. The company has been rebranded to include five divisions: PackShip Store, PackShip Logistics, PackShip Furniture Direct, PackShip Warehouse & Fulfillment and PackShip Custom Solutions. Sales growth for the whole company is up 77 percent since 2010.

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Peoples Services Inc.
Douglas Sibila

Since 2010, Peoples Services Inc. has increased sales by more than 125 percent while improving the profit margin. This was done through acquisitions of other logistics companies and expanding business with both new and existing customers. PSI more than doubled the number of facilities and expanded into another state creating a multiple market distribution company located in six states.

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Performance Administration Corp.
Rick Knight

The 2008 recession hit most businesses quite hard and Performance Administration Corp. was no exception as it lost half of its clients. The company offers personalized maintenance program administration for franchise dealerships, dealer groups and service contract companies nationwide. But Rick Knight, the company’s founder and president, went to competitors and offered to add his method to their businesses. By working together, the company has grown sales by 171 percent since 2010.

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Premier Bank & Trust
Rick L. Hull

Premier Bank & Trust has made philanthropy part of its culture. Each quarter, every employee is granted eight hours of paid time off to volunteer with organizations of their choice. It adds up to 568 hours per quarter and 2,272 hours per year of community support. It’s certainly a key factor in the company’s success, but beyond that, in the words of company leadership, “it is simply the right thing to do.”

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QualCare LLC, dba Home Instead Senior Care
Therese Glorioso, RN, BSN

One of the biggest challenges faced at QualCare LLC, dba Home Instead Senior Care, which has added 29 employees since 2010, is the recruitment and ability to retain the best employees at the company. The senior industry is known for facing daily staffing shortages of nursing assistants and caregivers. The solution at QualCare has been to recruit senior citizens as employees.

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Ritzman Pharmacies Inc.
Eric Graf

Ritzman Pharmacies Inc. has recently undertaken new initiatives to elevate its customers’ store experience by installing a new pharmacy system and new pharmacy delivery products. Ritzman, which has seen sales grow by 135 percent since 2010, is also pursuing strategic joint ventures with local health providers to enhance pharmaceutical delivery throughout the area.

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Romeo’s Pizza Franchise Corp.
Ryan Rose

In January 2015, Ryan Rose, a franchisee and private sector C-level executive, assumed the role of president and CEO for Romeo’s Pizza Franchise Corp. Rose brings a passion for the brand and spent his first 90 days analyzing the company’s footprint and understanding key performance indicators for Romeo’s, which has grown sales by 165 percent and staffing by 200 percent since 2010.

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Sequoia Financial Group
Tom Haught

A three-tiered strategic plan has been employed at Sequoia Financial Group to work toward increasing revenue by 100 percent over the next five years. The company believes the infrastructure that has been built and invested in, along with its business development strategy and service model will allow new advisers to plug into its model and increase overall growth and firm profitability.

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TRIAD/Next Level
Rick Krochka

TRIAD/Next Level has always believed in providing pro bono services to organizations that serve its community and contributing free creative services and helping to stretch the marketing budgets of these nonprofit groups that make a difference. The company’s granting efforts were rebranded in 2010 and the result is a program that has been able to do even more great work for those who need it.

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WhiteSpace Creative
Keeven White

Founded in 1994, WhiteSpace Creative is a marketing communications agency that helps businesses and organizations motivate others into action. Adapting to new opportunities and challenges has helped the company evolve into a team structure. These reconstructed teams allow for the sharing of resources and knowledge that fits the needs of its clients.

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John Bernatovicz

Willory has assembled a group of energetic, devoted individuals to become one of the leading HR and payroll staffing firms in the nation, driving top talents to its clients every day. John Bernatovicz, the firm’s founder and president, launched Willory in 2010. He has led its growth from a single employee to 68 in 2014.

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2015 Evolution of Manufacturing


Education and industry make an unbeatable combination for progress

On behalf of our board of trustees, President Alex Johnson, faculty and staff, I would like to welcome you to Cuyahoga Community College and the 2015 Evolution of Manufacturing.

Workforce and economic development form the core of our work at Tri-C. The purpose of that work is advancing manufacturing in Northeast Ohio. It is part of our culture and our community. It informs the way we work and why we take pride in what we do.

Tri-C’s Workforce and Economic Development Division (WEDD) invests in state-of-the-art facilities and skill development for future generations of manufacturing professionals, and we are committed to leading the way in meeting the talent needs of manufacturing companies in Northeast Ohio. As part of Tri-C’s commitment to manufacturing, members of our team work with highly trained faculty and industry experts to develop specialized programs that provide future manufacturing professionals with the skills they need for a promising career.

Whether additive or subtractive, Tri-C offers flexible, in-demand training that meets the needs of industry. But we can’t do it alone. We believe the best way to advance manufacturing is through strategic partnerships. Whether old friends or new ones, we are pleased so many have chosen to partner with Tri-C, and we congratulate each of the honorees on their accomplishments.

neo_ev_WilliamGaryWilliam H. Gary Sr.
executive vice president
Cuyahoga Community College Workforce and Economic Development Division (WEDD)