2018 Central Ohio Smart 50 awards

On behalf of Hylant Columbus, I want to thank Smart Business for the opportunity to be a partner for the Smart 50 Awards.
I’m thrilled to be part of such a wonderful celebration of Columbus’ smart leaders. This year’s honorees are true leaders who strive to motivate, lead and inspire not only the individuals of their organizations, but individuals and businesses throughout Columbus. Each of the honorees has made a difference in their organization and has helped to strengthen the business community of Columbus.
As I learn more about each of this year’s honorees I am humbled and impressed by the level of engagement each leader has with their organization. No two leaders are the same — they do share some common traits, such as their passion for the people they lead and the businesses they run. They inspire and motivate the people around them and they understand what it takes to be successful. With talent like this it’s no wonder Columbus continues to grow and thrive.
Hylant is proud to recognize and congratulate all of this year’s honorees — the passion and commitment you have for your organization and the community positively impacts our entire community.
When founding our company more than 80 years ago, Edward P. Hylant made a promise to treat our clients and employees like family — with honesty, respect and trust. Today, we are among the largest privately held, full-service insurance brokerage firms in the U.S. and a nine-consecutive-year winner of Best Places to Work in Insurance. We offer business insurance, personal insurance and employee benefits services to protect the people and things you care about most.
Chris Godley
Hylant Columbus 
(614) 932-1200

Quick links:
Tom Allenstein, MedFlight of Ohio | Dee Anders, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio | Curt Anderson, The MacIntosh Company | John Barker, Ohio Restaurant Association | Monte Black, MPW Industrial Services | Kimberly A. Blackwell, PMM Agency | Margie Brickner, Reliant Capital Solutions LLC | Todd Cameron, The Shipyard | Peter Coratola, Ease Logistics Services LLC | the Rev. Larry A. Crowell, Lutheran Social Services | Toni Cunningham, Per Scholas | Tom DiMarco, Salo Inc., dba Interim HealthCare | Chris Doody, Piada Italian Street Food | Tom Feeney, Safelite Group | Alex Frommeyer, Beam Dental | Sylvia A. Garrett, Sylvia A. Garrett Insurance & Financial Services Agency LLC | Chuck Gehring, LifeCare Alliance | Girish Gowda, Alten-Cresttek | Matt Habash, Mid-Ohio Foodbank | Asim Haque, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio | Josh Harrison, Improving – Columbus | Fran Horowitz, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. | Chris Jones, Iron Pony Motorsports Group | Joe Kahn, Condado Tacos | Dr. Christina Kulesa, Northstar Family Dental | Ravi Kunduru, Ventech Solutions Inc. | Mikez Landrum, Crawford Hoying LivingPatrick Lockwood-Taylor, The Oneida Group | Rick Malir, City Barbeque | Patrick Maynard, Franklin Management Resources, I am Boundless | Ruth Milligan, Articulation | Sherm Moreland, DesignGroup | Michael Morgan, Updox | Neil Mortine, Fahlgren Mortine | Ohm Patel, The Witness Group | Robyn Pollina, Palmer Donavin | Dan Rogovin, U.S. Bridge | Dr. Eric Schertel, MedVet | Hiten Shah, MES Inc. | Robert A. Smith, Capitol Waste and Recycling Services LLC | Tim Smith, Orthopedic ONE | Jeff Sopp, Kensington Hill Partners | Charleta B. Tavares, PrimaryOne Health | Alex Timm, Root Insurance | Scott Thompson, Thompson ConcreteSheila Trautner, Taste Hospitality Group | Andrew M. Vennemeyer, Quandel Construction Group | Ryan Vesler, HOMAGE | Matt Wald, Columbus Collaboratory | Jason Walker, Smart Harbor

Honorees listed in alphabetical order by last name

Tom Allenstein
President and CEO
MedFlight of Ohio
Tom Allenstein has been blessed to work with a great leadership team to transform MedFlight of Ohio into an adaptable company able to withstand the challenges of not just medical transport, but also health care in general.
Three years ago, when Allenstein stepped into the CEO role after serving as COO for a decade, the company faced a multimillion dollar negative bottom line. By working smarter, adapting its processes and adding innovative new ways of doing things, the MedFlight team was able to right the ship and end up with a positive bottom line.
MedFlight changed its supply management system to include an automated dispensing machine and electronic inventory capabilities, started carrying less inventory and contracted medical communication/dispatching services to other medical transportation companies.
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Dee Anders
CEO and executive director
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio owns and operates the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House. Last year, more than 6,000 volunteers gave over 86,000 hours of free labor. RMHC has grown funding significantly since Dee Anders became CEO and executive director, more than doubling its annual revenue.
Anders’ ability to connect people to the organization’s mission and inspire donations is unparalleled. She completed a $9 million capital campaign in 11 months, including a $1 million gift from a donor who’d never supported the charity before. Anders has a knack for convincing people and corporations that RMHC is worthy of their giving. Her philosophy to “never say no,” no matter how large or small the gift, has helped build a reputation as a good partner.
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Curt Anderson
President and CFO
The MacIntosh Company
Curt Anderson’s talents at The MacIntosh Company have been recognized as he progressed from CFO to president. The for-profit company operates seven senior care communities and a home health agency, but it has grown to occupy a customer service niche closer to nonprofit retirement communities that typically maintain higher staff-to-resident ratios.
Anderson leads a team that ensures the residents, patients and their families achieve the best outcomes possible. He works with senior management to develop, plan and execute short-term and strategic goals. Anderson also served in the U.S. Marines for seven years, where he became fluent in Arabic. Wanting to give back, in 2008, Anderson and a few friends founded Central Ohio American Charities, which supports those who’ve been injured in the military.
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John Barker
President and CEO
Ohio Restaurant Association
The Ohio Restaurant Association helps Ohio restaurant and food service professionals succeed in a competitive and rapidly changing marketplace. After nearly 100 years, the ORA updated its approach to business, evolving from an old-fashioned association to a more contemporary consulting group.
John Barker, who joined the ORA in 2016, hired and organized staff, a group of board members and experts to execute a brand transformation.
The ORA also focused on step change in a number of critical areas, including its total value proposition for nearly 2,000 members representing more than 6,500 locations. It has re-imagined its restaurant trade show, and added an industry awards ceremony, white papers, a legal center, vendor and sponsorship programs, created a blog and set up new restaurant alliances.
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Monte Black
Chairman and CEO
MPW Industrial Services
MPW Industrial Services is one of the few industrial cleaning companies that has retained its original management and built a true success story with an entrepreneurial commitment to customer service, cutting-edge product innovation and development, and hard work.
Under the direction of Monte Black, MPW went from a $5,000 loan and a three-man truck washing business in 1972 to a multifaceted corporation that spans 70 locations, several hundred million dollars in annual revenue and over 3,000 employees. This growth has mostly come organically.
MPW constantly looks to develop new product and service offerings inside and outside its current business. Today, it has four divisions — industrial water services, industrial cleaning, facility and environmental management, and engineering and fabrication services — with multiple offerings within each of those verticals.
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Kimberly A. Blackwell
PMM Agency
When a brand’s credibility can be drastically disrupted by a single tweet or casual conversation, Kimberly A. Blackwell recognizes that to thrive in today’s competitive landscape, business leaders and their teams must be all things brand. Her company, PMM Agency, has earned a reputation as a trusted brand manager for global corporations and government agencies.
PMM has steadily grown and evolved into several business divisions, including PMM Productions, PMM Promotions, PMM Media and PMM Elite. PMM also has expanded its business in the Southeast region.
Blackwell is known for her industry IQ, networks, relationship currency, governance, client focus and authenticity. But her soft-skill mix of being approachable, communicative and relentless in her work ethic are what set her apart as an effective CEO.
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Margie Brickner
President and CEO
Reliant Capital Solutions LLC
After working in the industry for 25 years, Margie Brickner decided to start her own accounts receivable management firm. She built Reliant Capital Solutions LLC with the vision of creating the nation’s leading provider of collection services.
With locations across Ohio and New York, and more than 300 employees, Brickner has steered Reliant through a series of growth spurts. The company also has expanded the services it offers in student loan debt recovery. It is known for helping borrowers find solutions to alleviate their financial burden, which makes colleges across the country want to work with Reliant.
Brickner also has worked diligently to cultivate a culture of customer service, ownership, integrity, creativity and excellence. Many of Reliant’s employees have been with the company since its inception.
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Todd Cameron
The Shipyard
Today, consumers control messaging. With the speed of technology, marketers face many obstacles. The Shipyard and Todd Cameron do more than create strategy, they change a brand’s thought process. Data scientists, analysts, account strategists and planners work together to develop brand platforms, derive insights and inform creativity.
Take one case study: Scotts Miracle-Gro. When it was announced that the 2015 Women’s Soccer World Cup would be played on turf, it made sense to team up with Abby Wambach to extoll the benefits of real grass. With the hashtag, #keepitreal, The Shipyard created a content-based conversation of soccer heroes and hopefuls on Tumblr. Through a mix of targeted paid native distribution and social media, the campaign had over 1.5 million video views, with over 30 percent being earned.
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Peter Coratola
Founder and president
Ease Logistics Services LLC
In 2014, Peter Coratola put his talent, experience and passion to work. He gathered the beginnings of a team — people (along with three phones and three computers) who shared his vision for Ease Logistics Services LLC’s potential to improve the status quo.
With strong customer service, Ease grew to more than 30 employees and, in 2017, moved to a new office in Dublin with nearly 10 times the space. Ease has maintained an 85 percent retention rate and more than quadrupled revenue over its first three years.
Because the company doesn’t own trucks or trailers, Ease’s biggest investment is people and technology. For example, in its second year, Ease purchased a new transportation management system, McLeod, which is considered one of the field’s top software programs.
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the Rev. Larry A. Crowell
President and CEO
Lutheran Social Services
When the Rev. Larry A. Crowell joined Lutheran Social Services in 2011, he brought strategic planning experience. Under his leadership, LSS went through an intensive planning process and is currently working on implementing a long-range plan. The strategic plan has focused the organization and netted both short-term gains and clarity on long-term needs.
Crowell spearheaded the diversification of funding sources by encouraging programs to seek multiple sources of revenue.
Crowell and LSS also are using technology as an innovation and business tool. In 2018, LSS, the largest food pantry system in Ohio, will transition from traditional storefront pantries to an all-new online ordering and mobile food distribution system. LSS will be the first hunger relief provider locally to offer online ordering.
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Toni Cunningham
Managing director
Per Scholas
For more than 20 years, Per Scholas has helped over 7,000 people across six U.S. cities launch successful careers in technology. The nonprofit’s Columbus site, founded in 2012, has graduated more than 370 individuals.
Toni Cunningham, who became managing director in 2016, has significantly elevated the visibility of Per Scholas in Central Ohio. She has developed strong partnerships like the one with Franklin University, convened an advisory board and broadened the organization’s funding streams.
In addition to adding a new tech training track that includes the ability to obtain two industry credentials, Cunningham expanded the program’s soft skills training. These changes have increased demand for Per Scholas’ training and attracted more employers. The job placement rate for graduates is now 86 percent — the highest it’s ever been.
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Tom DiMarco
Salo Inc., dba Interim HealthCare
Tom DiMarco, who runs Salo Inc., is a true leader. He has surrounded himself with an excellent team, which he allows to be innovative and entrepreneurial.
DiMarco comes to the office early and is often late to leave. He has worked his way through the company and truly understands every facet of the business. Salo manages a regional network of Interim HealthCare offices in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia. It currently has 35 locations. The network provides a variety of health care personnel to support the health care needs of people at home, as well as in traditional health care facilities.
DiMarco and his wife, Ann, also are known for their community support, especially by volunteering with and donating to charities that involve children.
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Chris Doody
Founder and CEO
Piada Italian Street Food
After working as a chef in his mother’s restaurant, Chris Doody and his brother opened Bravo Cucina Italiana in 1992. Together, they built the Bravo Brio Group into a national chain before Doody sold it in order to enter the fast casual space.
In just seven years, Doody built a national chain, Piada Italian Street Food, that continues to grow and evolve, yet never loses its focus on hospitality. For example, every Piada location is run by a chef who personally greets customers. As of March 2018, Piada had 42 locations in seven states.
Recently, Piada overhauled its menu and ordering process. It is providing more gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. Piada also launched an innovative partner incentive and profit-sharing program, which has lowered management turnover.
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Tom Feeney
President and CEO
Safelite Group
In 2008, Tom Feeney declared Safelite Group a people-first organization. He put associates at the forefront, and a true focus on people created stronger associate performance and significant growth in customer sales and loyalty.
Feeney also makes himself available and personally answers all questions submitted by associates through his “Ask Tom” platform. He’s known to make personal phone calls, send letters and make appearances to provide recognition.
In 2016, Safelite spearheaded technology capital investments of over $41 million and focused on its innovation lab, a technology business incubator. Two recent technology advances are an Alexa skill, which offers consumers several ways to begin the process of getting service, and an enhancement to informing customers of their technician’s arrival through an Uber-like text message experience.
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Alex Frommeyer
Founder and CEO
Beam Dental
Alex Frommeyer created Beam Dental, a dental benefits company with a unique approach. It incorporates dental hygiene behavior into policy pricing, while delivering world-class support and service. For example, Beam offers a subscription dental care service designed to improve overall oral health by delivering everything members need for great oral care every six months.
Frommeyer made technology the center of everything, like leveraging smart technology to create the sonic-powered Beam Brush that tracks and rewards you as you brush your teeth more consistently. He encourages his employees to handle every new challenge by asking: “How can technology address this?” Because the company was founded as a technology company that later launched dental benefits, Beam takes an “outside-in” view as it builds the product from the ground up.
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Sylvia A. Garrett
President and CEO
Sylvia A. Garrett Insurance & Financial Services Agency LLC
A crowded marketplace has required Sylvia A. Garrett to be creative in how the Sylvia A. Garrett Insurance & Financial Services Agency LLC hires, trains and inspires employees. Over the course of six years, the agency’s direct written premiums doubled and the households it serves grew from 2,000 to over 3,500. Garrett also diversified her business portfolio. In spite of 10 to 30 percent workforce turnover, SAG LLC has grown 7 to 10 percent, year-over-year, in direct written premiums. Garrett attributes this to a strong infrastructure that constantly reminds the team of the mission and how it applies to exceptional customer service.
SAG LLC also has contributed a minimum of 10 percent of its resources to the community, supporting nonprofits and various women- and youth-focused initiatives.
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Chuck Gehring
President and CEO
LifeCare Alliance
Under Chuck Gehring’s direction, LifeCare Alliance provides a comprehensive array of health and nutrition services to older adults and medically challenged or homebound residents of Central Ohio. It serves more than 16,000 clients each year, including delivering 5,000 meals a day in five counties.
In 2016, the organization delivered groceries to 700 households and operated more than 40 community dining centers. It also supported its clients’ health through the Columbus Cancer Clinic, community wellness centers and its Help-At-Home program.
LifeCare is one of the few nonprofits that still accepts clients without waiting lists. Recently, LifeCare Alliance focused on increasing revenue from fundraising and social entrepreneurship, and promoting its endowment. It continues to merge with other programs, which eliminates or reduces costs and redundancy of services.
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Girish Gowda
Girish Gowda, who has over 20 years of automotive engineering experience, started Cresttek in 2014 with two employees. He secured a services agreement with Honda R&D, The Ohio State University and several tier 1 suppliers within the first year. Cresttek has grown to more than 200 employees with two technical centers in the U.S., one in Mexico and another in India.
At the forefront of connected and autonomous vehicle systems, Gowda recognizes the importance of public/private partnerships.
Cresttek develops engineering services in vehicle crash simulation, embedded systems and product life cycle management. It also collaborated with Michael Baker International to be awarded the project management of the NW 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, Ohio’s first road with smart infrastructure, including dedicated short-range communications on 32 intersections and 1,200 vehicles.
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Matt Habash
President and CEO
Mid-Ohio Foodbank
Since 1984, Matt Habash has driven the Mid-Ohio Foodbank to better serve hungry neighbors, find new, efficient methods to obtain and distribute food, and address the underlying causes of food insecurity. The food bank provides 70 million pounds of food a year — enough for 155,000 meals a day.
The organization has learned to move high volumes of perishable foods quickly, while maintaining efficiency. Today, about 68 percent of distributed food is fruits, vegetables, meat, bread, eggs and dairy, up from 40 percent five years ago.
In addition, the lack of a sustainable wage is a leading cause of food insecurity. To walk the walk, three years ago, the food bank raised its wages to $15 an hour, which impacted 34 positions. While salary expense increased, lower turnover costs more than made up for it.
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Asim Haque
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
At the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Asim Haque is a role model for how to effectively build and lead an organization. He has served on the major state agency since 2013.
In March 2017, Haque announced a PUCO initiative, PowerForward, that seeks to improve the customer experience by integrating new smart grid technologies across Ohio’s electric grid. Perhaps the most well-known smart grid technologies are digital meters, which communicate with customers and utilities in real time and collect data about energy usage.
For the last year, PUCO has hosted more than 150 national and state energy experts to help shape this discussion. With a comprehensive grid modernization policy in place, Ohio’s utilities will be able to provide advanced services, bringing more value and options to customers.
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Josh Harrison
Improving – Columbus
Josh Harrison is a passionate technologist and business leader at Improving – Columbus, a software development consulting firm.
While most firms focus on maximizing shareholder value, Improving has adopted a larger ecosystem of relationships that includes shareholders, employees, customers, vendors, nonprofits, community groups and the environment. Improving identifies, measures and evaluates impact for each type of partner, resulting in a stakeholder scorecard report. At any time, Improving can monitor how successful it is at creating value for a given stakeholder.
Short-term, obsessive attention on profit can distract from long-term operational success. Specifically, for Improving, the stakeholder approach to value creation has led to impressive financial results. The organization has grown revenues from $2.2 million in 2012 to $6 million by the end of 2017.
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Fran Horowitz
Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
Changing the culture of a global company is an immense undertaking, but Fran Horowitz is working to do just that. Her vision, focus and tenacity have been critical as well as her passion for philanthropy.
Horowitz stepped up to lead Abercrombie & Fitch Co. in 2017. Prior to that, she served as president and chief merchandising officer, and president of A&F’s Hollister Co. Horowitz’s merchandising skills and her leadership inspired associates to focus on an intense understanding and commitment to customers, which ignited a turnaround at the Hollister brand.
Today, to win back shoppers, A&F is investing in its online business and closing underperforming stores. It has hired designers from top brands to keep its trends fresh and is selling fewer of its once popular logo-centric designs.
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Chris Jones
President and CEO
Iron Pony Motorsports Group
In 1975, Chris Jones took over his father’s failing motorcycle and auto parts business. Jones conceptualized and launched the world’s largest powersports superstore, taking the Iron Pony Motorsports Group from the edge of bankruptcy to industry leader and innovator.
Iron Pony was one of the first powersports retailer/dealerships to embrace all channels of selling — brick-and-mortar, mail order and e-commerce through two websites, Amazon and eBay. Today, the company sells in 48 states, Canada and Puerto Rico, with a staff of 145.
Jones also endured a business partnership that nearly stripped him from his own company, launched one of the first independent motorcycle training schools, Iron Pony Riding Academy, and was one of the first in the U.S. to embrace the motorcycle rental franchise EagleRider.
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Joe Kahn
Founder and CEO
Condado Tacos
After Joe Kahn co-created Barrio in Cleveland, he decided to take the concept to Columbus as Condado Tacos. Creating a place he would want to go day after day, Kahn often can be found helping out at one of the five locations. He’s dedicated to maintaining Condado Tacos’ “good vibes” culture.
In addition, no food sits on the shelves for more than 48 hours, and new, sometimes wild, recipes are rolled out only once they’ve been perfected. The brand added catering in 2017 and is testing a walk-up model. In 2018, it will debut online ordering, an app and a grab & go breakfast taco concept.
Condado Tacos expects to open seven new locations in 2018, with each new restaurant reflecting its community, down to the Day of the Dead-inspired art.
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Dr. Christina Kulesa
Owner and dentist
Northstar Family Dental
As a young associate dentist, it didn’t sit well with Dr. Christina Kulesa that patients often associated a dental visit with fear and pain. When she decided to open her own practice in 2010, even with a toddler and infant at home, she worked tirelessly, executing her vision — providing unsurpassed care in a spa-like environment.
Today, Northstar Family Dental has over 20 employees, an all-female team. Kulesa’s vision has been met with such a large patient following that she opened a second location in 2018.
Success didn’t come without its challenges, though. Kulesa had to learn how to balance family and a demanding work life, conquer the trials and tribulations of building and managing a staff, and to relinquish some responsibilities to focus on the big picture.
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Ravi Kunduru
President and CEO
Ventech Solutions Inc.
When Ravi Kunduru was a student at an Indian college in 1993, he started a book publishing company, Balaji Publications. He later created Master Minds Inc., a desktop publishing, computer sales and support company.
Ventech Solutions Inc., Master Minds’ successor, was founded in 2002 in Columbus. It had the same team, but a greater vision. Today, the IT services and software company’s six offices specialize in system integration and consulting services for the public sector and government.
Recently, Ventech Solutions won several high-profile projects, including a $410 million contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Its revenue grew 11-fold in two years, passing $100 million in 2016.
The company also has been named a “best place to work” for its fun, team-centric environment.
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Mikez Landrum
Crawford Hoying Living
In 2013, Crawford Hoying, which had evolved into a full-service real estate and property management organization, rebranded into several subsidiary companies to better reflect the full scope of the organization. Among other changes, Crawford Communities became Crawford Hoying Living.
Mike Landrum, who joined Crawford Hoying in 2005, has led Crawford Hoying Living since 2015 and serves as president. He manages the residential management portfolio and operations team, and oversees day-to-day maintenance and capital projects for the entire Crawford Hoying residential portfolio. Landrum has also managed the support businesses owned and operated by Crawford Hoying.
One of the firm’s latest projects is Bridge Park. This mixed-use project helped transform more than 25 acres of historic Dublin so people can live, work, shop and eat in a single location.
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Patrick Lockwood-Taylor
The Oneida Group
Since May 2016, Patrick Lockwood-Taylor has successfully united the iconic brands — Oneida and Anchor Hocking — under one vision and mission. He is committed to ensuring the long-term success of The Oneida Group, while staying true to his passion for building brands, culture and communities.
Lockwood-Taylor knew his new role would be a challenge, but he was drawn to the company’s quality products and history of community ties, particularly the role the Anchor Hocking manufacturing plant plays in Lancaster. When he joined the company, it was in the middle of a turnaround following a series of challenges, including a pre-packaged bankruptcy in 2015 and corporate reorganization.
Lockwood-Taylor has made a career out of building brands. Prior to The Oneida Group, he grew various product categories for Procter & Gamble.
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Rick Malir
Founder and CEO
City Barbeque
Since 1999, Rick Malir has lead City Barbeque from one Central Ohio location to 35 restaurants — soon to be 43 — across seven states. City Barbeque’s success is derived largely from the culture Malir has created and nourished. The company requires new employees to unlearn habits absorbed from the typical corporate workplace. Corporate values, such as “improve a little every day,” are practiced rather than paid lip service.
Collectively, the restaurants also partner with thousands of local nonprofits to give back about 10 percent of pre-tax profits every year. The only reason the restaurants have freezers is to freeze surplus food for local food pantries; City Barbeque donated more than 25,000 pounds of food over the last three years. City Barbeque also recently launched an employee assistance fund.
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Patrick Maynard, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Franklin Management Resources
I am Boundless
As of July 1, 2017, the Franklin County Residential Services split into two nonprofits: I Am Boundless focuses on the day-to-day program operations and services, while Franklin Management Services handles administrative business operations, including fiscal services, property acquisition, leasing, etc.
Over the past 30 years, I Am Boundless has helped create close-to-normal living environments and provided supportive services for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. It serves over 2,200 children and adults.
President and CEO Patrick Maynard, who has been with the organization three years, helped it go from a successful, but stagnant revenue of $28 million a year to a leading-edge provider with sustainable operations of over $60 million. The organization also recently entered into a partnership to take over the Harding Hospital site.
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Ruth Milligan
After hosting the first TEDxColumbus event in 2009, Ruth Milligan reflected on the eight speakers. Most delivered successful, memorable performances. A few did not.
As a former speechwriter and press secretary and current PR consultant, Milligan saw a need to help speakers deliver a consequential talk — whether it’s a quarterly staff briefing, leadership summit, keynote or event revealing a research discovery. She founded Articulation, narrowing her PR firm’s practice to coaching and training inside executive communication, structured thought, storytelling and public speaking.
Nine years later, Articulation has coached and trained nearly 400 speakers, including leaders of Fortune 100 companies. In each of the last two years, Articulation achieved more than 35 percent growth and in 2018, Milligan expects revenues to nearly double.
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Sherm Moreland
DesignGroup is responsible for developing some of the most recognized projects in town for the Columbus Museum of Art, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Columbus Metropolitan Library, and Columbus City Schools. However, the architecture and planning firm also has completed projects in 23 states and served more than 450 clients.
DesignGroup, under the direction of CEO Sherm Moreland, is recognized for its bold, contemporary design and focus on visitor engagement. It is deeply involved in the community through the Greater Columbus Arts Council, Columbus 2020 and the Knowlton School of Architecture, as well as The Center for Architecture and Design and its Design Week and Camp Architecture.
The company also prides itself on creating sustainable architecture, green design and energy efficiency. All of DesignGroup’s designers are LEED Accredited Professionals.
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Michael Morgan
When Michael Morgan joined Updox in 2012, two years after it started, it had aligned with a few electronic health record partners, offering paperless faxing and secure messaging.
Under Morgan’s leadership, Updox expanded to eight solutions, which streamline health care communications to drive revenue, lower costs and improve care. He was instrumental in Updox’s expansion into new markets and sharing the value of the network with nontraditional organizations like long-term and post-acute care facilities or the health care supply chain.
Today, the Updox network serves more than 300,000 users, 56 providers and 72 million patients, which is more than 20 percent of the U.S. population. Updox has integrated with over 90 electronic health records partners and been an Inc. 5000 fastest growing company the past three years.
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Neil Mortine
Fahlgren Mortine
Neil Mortine helped Fahlgren Mortine go from a $12 million local agency to $30 million nationally recognized marketing and communications firm. He did it by integrating disciplines and removing silos, solidifying client relationships, and investing in technology, new markets and business development.
Mortine frequently says, “the best culture leads to the best people, and the best people lead to the best clients.” So, he works to foster a collegial, collaborative environment. In 2017, the agency achieved a record net promoter score of 68 and the highest score (8.8/10) on its client satisfaction survey.
Due to its financial growth, client successes and reputation as a great place to work, Fahlgren Mortine was acquired by Eastport Holdings in February. It’s the largest firm and most integrated shop among Eastport’s 17 agency holdings.
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Ohm Patel
The Witness Group
The Witness Group, which is the product of a merger between Alliance Hospitality and KB Hotel Group, has three solutions that offer investors and hotel brands a holistic partner for funding, building and managing the perfect stay — Witness Investment, Witness Construction and Witness Management.
The Witness Group has more than $400 million in assets under management and development, which equals more than 2,500 hotel rooms. It manages and operates 29 hotels, with more in the pipeline. Beyond in-house management and in-house development, The Witness Group helps investors who are looking to get involved in hotel real estate.
Passionate about hospitality, real estate development and management, Ohm Patel’s leadership catapulted two entrepreneurial management companies into The Witness Group, where he continues to execute his vision.
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Robyn Pollina
Palmer Donavin
Pollina has a leadership style that puts others at ease, and coupled with her intellect and work ethic, she has built an enthusiastic following among her peers and staff at Palmer Donavin. She has been with the company since 1995 and became CFO in 2000.
Pollina guided the organization through the transition to become 100 percent employee owned in 2007 and led two subsequent acquisitions as the company grew from 225 to 480 employees. She supervises a staff of five direct and 26 indirect reports, and mentors interns, new employees and participants of the company’s Emerging Leaders development program. Pollina was nominated twice for the Central Ohio CFO of the Year award and is treasurer of the nonprofit Rebuilding Together Central Ohio.
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Dan Rogovin
U.S. Bridge
With over 80 years in the bridge construction industry, U.S. Bridge’s expertise and attention to detail is displayed with every completed project. Dan Rogovin and his team operate so well because of five basic pillars: integrity, respect, personal accountability, teamwork and service.
For decades, the Rogovin family has been creating a strong team and culture that equips employees with resources and experience.
U.S. Bridge can fabricate and ship to location, and with thousands of bridges constructed, U.S. Bridge is a trusted partner for state departments of transportation. The company continues to innovate and lead the industry. Recently, U.S. Bridge reunited families and restored economic operations to devastated areas of Puerto Rico. U.S. Bridge constructed four bridges, including walkways and vehicle bridges, to reconnect affected communities.
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Dr. Eric Schertel
President and CEO
Dr. Eric Schertel has lead MedVet through perhaps the fastest expansion of veterinary hospital locations in the nation. The company has grown from a couple hospitals in Ohio to over 25 hospitals in 10 states. The revenue and employee count also have increased significantly the past few years, more than doubling, as MedVet follows its mission of leading specialty health care for pets.
When MedVet enters a new market, it typically takes over an existing hospital and expands its services to include oncology, radiology, etc. It makes sure each location follows a set of core values: teamwork, leadership and compassion. These values define the company’s behavior with its referral partners, the patients it treats, the families who entrust those patients to MedVet and fellow team members.
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Hiten Shah
President and CEO
MES Inc.
It’s not possible for all businesses to have boots on the ground in China, India or Vietnam identifying and verifying inferior quality, preferably in real time. To address this, Hiten Shah developed the MESH-Quality® application, which has been a game changer for MES Inc. and its customers.
MES engineers log into the app whenever they visit a factory, office, warehouse or inspection site. They record pictures or videos of the parts and annotate issues. When a problem is reported, the system generates an email to all members of the quality group in that country, as well as quality team members in Ohio and Mexico.
The app, which continues to evolve, makes it possible to collect, report and resolve thousands of quality issues. It also demonstrates Shah’s ability to develop innovative solutions.
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Robert A. Smith
Capitol Waste and Recycling Services LLC
Robert A. Smith founded Capitol Waste and Recycling Services LLC in 2009 with no customers. He has grown the company to 135 employees in Columbus, Lancaster, Cambridge, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serving the commercial and industrial markets for solid waste and recycling, as well as the oil and gas industry.
Capitol’s customers appreciate the simple, transparent invoices, limited fees and that every call is answered by a live person, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Smith has always believed the strength of the organization can be measured by its team. For example, the Columbus driving force boasts an average of over 17 years driving experience per driver.
To continue to provide capital for continued acquisitions and equipment, Smith has secured private investments, including a private equity partner.
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Tim Smith
Orthopedic ONE
It isn’t easy to keep 60 physicians happy, but Tim Smith does it. Smith started with Orthopedic and Trauma Surgeons Inc. and continued on as CEO through its merger with Columbus Orthopaedic Group in 2013.
Today, Orthopedic ONE is the largest orthopedic group in the state with 60 physicians, over 100 physical and occupational therapists and 600 associates.
The merger of two large organizations comes with a litany of challenges, but Smith and his team created a culture that is vibrant and healthy. Any obstacle was overcome with diplomacy and common sense.
Smith surrounds himself with talented people, who he empowers to help him succeed in his role. He is thoughtful and deliberate with his decision-making and leads by listening and helping others form consensus.
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Jeff Sopp
Kensington Hill Partners
Serial entrepreneur Jeff Sopp is very involved in peer groups and corporate and nonprofit boards. Currently, Sopp leads Kensington Hill Partners, a human capital recruiting boutique firm comprised of entrepreneurs. He is also the chairman of the board of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, a role he will step down from at the end of 2018.
Sopp founded Kensington Hill shortly after selling Expesite, a nationally recognized project and program management software company, to Accruent in 2013. Sopp still serves on the Accruent board.
Before the sale, beyond the day-to-day operations, Sopp helped expand Expesite’s international client base. With offices in Columbus, Toronto and Hong Kong, Expesite served clients in over 82 countries and was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies from 2007-2012.
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Charleta B. Tavares
PrimaryOne Health
PrimaryOne Health has gone through significant changes over its more than 40 years. The city established Columbus Neighborhood Health Center Inc. in 1997. This new nonprofit brought the seven independent health centers under one umbrella, creating a primary health care system and ensuring federal funding continued to flow.
Today, the organization operates 10 locations in medically underserved areas of Columbus, Franklin and Pickaway counties, helping improve the health status of families. In 2015, it was rebranded as PrimaryOne Health.
Charleta B. Tavares became CEO in February 2015. She is also assistant minority leader in the Ohio Senate, representing the 15th District. Throughout her career, Tavares has been a local, state and nationally recognized health, human services, cultural competence and health equity advocate and policymaker.
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Alex Timm
Co-founder and CEO
Root Insurance
Alex Timm had the idea of making insurance fairer at age 15. When working at his first insurance company, he discovered how to leverage technology to automate an inefficient actuarial process.
After gaining experience in different areas of the industry, Timm, 27, co-founded Root Insurance in 2016. It’s the nation’s first mobile-only insurance company and the first to use telematics and machine learning to offer rates based primarily on individual driving ability, rather than demographics. Users download an app and take a two- to three-week test drive. The app collects data from phone sensors and uploads it to be analyzed by machine learning algorithms. Good drivers can save significantly on their rates.
Root has grown to more than 80 employees and has expanded insurance coverage to 13 states.
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Scott Thompson
Thompson Concrete
Approaching its 30th anniversary, Thompson Concrete started in Scott Thompson’s backyard. Today, it not only offers a variety of concrete products and solutions, but also has built a strong culture. The company gives to churches in the Lancaster area and sends crews to Haiti annually to help build schools, churches, food halls and more.
Thompson has high standards for himself and his crews, but he treats each employee as if they were a member of his family.
Thompson Concrete has experienced an increase in revenue (upwards of 10 percent annually) and employees (from 180 in 2015 to more than 240) the last few years. In 2018, Thompson Concrete restructured the organization and expanded into new markets including development, townhomes/family homes, concrete pumping and inferno concrete.
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Sheila Trautner
President and CEO
Taste Hospitality Group
Sheila Trautner has six successful businesses under her helm at Taste Hospitality Group: Mezzo Restaurant & Bar, Creekside Conference & Event Center, Wine on High, Hubbard Bar and Grille, THG Catering & Events, and management of the dining and events facility at The Golf Club at Little Turtle.
Trautner is as focused on operations as the bottom line. Taste Hospitality Group has become a leader in private events, with more than 140 employees in three cities.
Over the years, Trautner has filled nearly every role in each business, from selecting carpeting to considering the best fit with neighboring businesses to locking up at night. This has allowed her to understand the organization from top to bottom and appreciate the need to invest in others.
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Andrew M. Vennemeyer
Quandel Construction Group
Quandel Construction Group has enhanced its competitiveness as a commercial construction company in the Central Ohio market. Five years ago, when Andrew M. Vennemeyer came to Quandel’s Columbus office, nearly 70 percent of the company’s revenue came from the education market. Today, more than 85 percent of its revenue comes from private sector health care, industrial and corporate clients.
In addition, Quandel expanded its service offerings, such as serving as an owner’s representative. The team also develops and manages sophisticated structural and building system coordination models to help resolve design conflicts before construction starts.
To encourage continuing education, Vennemeyer established a $25,000 fund in the company’s annual operating budget. He also helped develop an internal training program, which is taught monthly by Quandel employees for staff across all offices.
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Ryan Vesler
CEO and founder
Founded in 2007 by Ryan Vesler, HOMAGE turns back the clock with shout-outs to eclectic moments and personalities in sports, music and popular culture. From Billie Jean King and equality for women to Larry Bird’s blonde mustache, the company takes the memories and passion that people are nostalgic for and makes them a reality again by infusing them into clothing.
HOMAGE started in Vesler’s parent’s home before moving into a 20-by-20 room where everyone did everything. Today, the brand has six retail locations. It is constantly adding new people, but still has the same forethought that Vesler started with. He makes sure his employees try to do right by the customer at all times.
HOMAGE also gives back to the community by supporting charitable causes when it can.
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Matt Wald
President and CEO
Columbus Collaboratory
The Columbus Collaboratory is innovative and distinct, beginning with its business model, member companies and proven leadership.
Established in 2014, the company was founded by AEP, Battelle, Cardinal Health, Huntington, L Brands, Nationwide and OhioHealth to solve complex and common challenges in advanced analytics and cybersecurity.
Matt Wald’s leadership and experience is pivotal in the Columbus Collaboratory’s success and growth. In engaging more deeply in product development and commercialization, Wald has taken the company toward profitability and sustainability.
Recent, real-life technological innovations include an evolving set of security analytics applications running within customers’ security practices and wait time prediction models that improve customer experience.
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Jason Walker
Managing partner
Smart Harbor
Jason Walker is focused on two goals: helping independent insurance agents realize growth using digital technologies, and enabling carriers to develop deeper partnerships and greater insights into the performance of their agent distribution channels.
Smart Harbor helps insurance agents not only compete, but win, in the digital world, using the right combination of web, CRM, SEO, social media, and data and analytics. The company serves more than 1,300 independent agencies that represent over 100 carriers.
Walker oversees the strategy, development and delivery of the company’s technology solutions and analytics platforms. He brings significant insurance and business-to-business technology marketing experience to his role.
Walker is also an advisory council member for the Insurance Digital Revolution, an organization focused on advancing digital technology adoption among independent insurance agents.
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Sponsor notes

Since the founding of our family-owned business more than 80 years ago, we made a promise to make you our top priority. To deliver on that promise, we remind ourselves daily to be here when you need us, to come to you with things that matter to you, and to go above and beyond to protect you and the things you care about most.
Being a leader goes beyond traditional leadership traits — our core values guide the way we think, work and act with our clients, within our communities and with each other. By putting these ideals into practice every day, we uphold our company’s commitment to help people live safer, more secure lives.
Leaders need to understand and operate with:
Honesty. We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards by conducting our business with honesty, transparency and consistency in communications, behaviors and relationships. Being honest with ourselves and others builds trust. It allows people the assurance to work with us and strengthens our relationships, which are key to our success and the success of our clients.
Respect. We embrace each individual’s unique talents and honor diverse backgrounds, experiences, work styles and approaches to ideas. In other words, we treat people the way we’d like to be treated, showing them respect and earning it back along the way.
Empathy. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes promotes a positive, optimistic and productive environment. It lets people know that you understand them and the challenges they face.
What makes a “smart” leader, or a leader “smart”? Social scientists, psychologists and historians have been studying this for a long time.
Fortunately for us here at U.S. Bank, identifying and developing “smart” leaders isn’t a challenge. We have an abundance of them — at all levels of the organization. U.S. Bank has clearly defined core values, and our leaders live these values each and every day, in every interaction, big or small.
For our leaders, the core values aren’t just words on a page meant to rally or inspire — they’re a way of life; a way of living. “Smart” leaders believe in doing the right thing. They act ethically, honestly and with integrity. They believe in fairness, respect and accountability and they know that trust is precious: It must be earned and nurtured, and never assumed nor neglected.
“Smart” leaders know that if you stay in one place, you’re falling behind. They value innovation and strategy, and long-term forward movement, versus short-term quick wins. They focus both on continuous improvement paired with growth, and they know that bigger isn’t always better. Better is better, and better comes with anticipation of, and an eye to the future.
With 74,000 employees, U.S. Bank is a mosaic of backgrounds, cultures, skills, experiences and perspectives. Every employee has a story, a place and an opportunity to have an impact. “Smart” leaders encourage authenticity and know that by embracing differences and removing barriers we become a stronger, more sustainable organization, which enables us to be one U.S. Bank to our customers, communities, shareholders and each other.
What makes a leader “smart”? At U.S. Bank we believe that a commitment to doing the right thing, staying a step ahead and drawing strength from diversity is a good foundation.
Clark Schaefer Hackett is a top 100 CPA and advisory firm, and our passion is delivering results through remarkable relationships. We believe better relation­ships produce better results, and we train our staff to cre­ate remarkable, results-oriented relationships with clients and each other.
Our firm’s mission is to better the lives of our clients, people and communities. While it is one mission, each of the three components are important to our success. We better lives by helping clients achieve and sustain high financial per­formance, and by maximizing career opportunities for our associates.
Bettering the communities where we live and work is equally important. We create opportunities for staff and shareholders to make a difference in their communities each year. Beyond firm-sponsored charita­ble events, each CSH associate is given eight hours of paid volunteer time off annually so they can contribute to a cause they are passionate about.
As CSH strives to grow and innovate, we recognize the critical need to develop “smart”, talented leaders. These individuals will guide our organization into the future, so we actively work to provide opportunities for professional advancement and increase the diversity of our firm’s leadership.
CSH is proud to support events like the Smart 50 Awards — which recognizes leaders who are making positive changes to the business landscape.
In business for 23 years, Blue Technologies has built a strong executive team to lead and grow our organization under the team philosophy “Commitment to Excellence — EVERY DAY.” In pursuit of this high level of excellence, these “smart” leaders have shown three key traits critical to Blue’s ongoing success.
We’ve found that the best leaders are:
INSPIRED. While “what we do” is vital at Blue, it has never been as important as “why we do it.” That’s why we believe one of the most important qualities in a successful leader is to be inspired. We’ve built a team of like-minded individuals who are inspired to live up to the “Commitment to Excellence — EVERY DAY” in both their personal and professional lives.
COMMUNICATIVE. Additionally, we’ve found that excellent leaders are also excellent communicators. Blue’s leaders work to translate their visions clearly, so that our team is always working toward the same goals. With mutual end-goals in mind, and a sense of trust and openness to communicate ideas and problems, our staff is able to be more productive and positive throughout the workday.
DISCIPLINED. Lastly, the difference between good and great leaders often comes down to self-discipline. A great leader is highly motivated to do what it takes to get the job done right, without excuses or procrastination. At Blue, our leaders are focused on success, strive for continuous improvement and lead by example — setting standards by which the rest of the organization is held.
Belle Communications is proud to be the PR partner for the Smart 50 Awards and to help smart Central Ohio leaders get recognized for their innovation, impact and sustainability. “Smart” leadership is something we strive for at every level of our organization and see happening every day at our clients’ companies. Here are three traits that a “smart” leader embodies:
Visionary. One of a leader’s most important responsibilities is to define and communicate the vision for the organization. Not long after founding Belle Communications, CEO Kate Finley established our company purpose: “to empower meaningful work and thriving relationships.” This has become the guiding light for every business decision and helps everyone on our team understand our “why” and where we’re headed.
Empowers Others. A “smart” leader cultivates an environment where everyone on the team can thrive. It starts with hiring employees who are the right fit for the organization’s culture and needs, and continues with providing opportunities for each member of the team to lead and contribute in a way that is meaningful to him or her. The leadership team at Belle is relentless about protecting our culture to ensure a positive, collaborative environment that encourages big thinking and drives results.
Passionate. Passion is the motivating factor for great leaders and inspires those around them. Setbacks and mistakes happen in every organization, but a “smart” leader has the tenacity and drive to push through them. In order to thrive at Belle Communications, we continue to stretch ourselves, take risks and try new things. Comfort kills creativity and — it’s boring.
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants is an independent, privately held restaurant group known for developing compelling dining concepts, offering outstanding cuisine complemented by genuine hospitality. Founded by entrepreneur Cameron Mitchell in 1993, CMR operates 32 award-winning restaurants under 15 different concepts, including the nationally-acclaimed Ocean Prime brand and Cameron Mitchell Premier Events, a premier caterer in Central Ohio, which operates five exclusive event venues in Columbus.
After 25 years in business, CMR believes the following traits have been instrumental in the success of their organization:
Culture. CMR cultivates an associate-first culture that is unparalleled in the restaurant business. Cameron’s philosophy is, “If we take care of our people, our people will take care of our guests, and our guests will take care of our company.” This philosophy is deeply embedded in every level of the company and inspires its associates to radiate a genuine hospitality that guests can feel and appreciate.
Quality and Innovation. For 25 years, CMR has introduced Central Ohio to new culinary experiences. CMR is committed to offering cuisine prepared with high-quality, fresh ingredients across its restaurants. The company’s chefs work diligently to create menus that are filled with great-tasting, innovative dishes. A testament to the innovation CMR brings to the restaurant industry came when the company received a coveted invitation to serve dinner at the James Beard House in December 2017.
Community. Cameron was raised in Columbus and started his company at his mother’s dining room table. Now that he has become a successful restauranteur, he is committed to giving back to the hospitality industry and the community. Mitchell is the largest alumni donor to the Culinary Institute of America and, as a Columbus State Community College Foundation board member, is a leading contributor to the expansion of the school’s top-rated hospitality management and culinary arts program.
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