2018 Corporate College Smart 50 Awards

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On behalf of Corporate College and Cuyahoga Community College, I want to personally congratulate the recipients of the fifth annual Corporate College Smart 50 Awards, presented by Smart Business.
We are privileged to partner with Smart Business and present the Corporate College Smart 50 Awards in celebration of 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 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. They are passionate and focused on 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 CEO would run his or her business 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.
Robert J. Peterson, J.D., CPA
President and CEO
Corporate College, a Division of Cuyahoga Community College
[email protected]

Kevin S. Adelstein
Publisher and CEO
Cleveland Jewish Publication Co.
In just under five years, the leadership and guidance of Publisher and CEO Kevin S. Adelstein, the Cleveland Jewish Publication Co. has defied the odds in the publishing industry, separating itself from others that have failed to find a niche.
In his quest to make the CJPC a world-class organization, he has demonstrated the ability to meet every challenge while taking risks to grow the company.
From the start, Adelstein brought a youthful energy to the company. He exudes confidence, thinks outside the box and can adeptly persuade valued team members to go along for the ride. He is a visionary when it comes to his position and has a unique talent for creating partnerships and building value into those partnerships for all involved.

Photo by Roger Mastroianni

William Ayars, AIA, ACHA, MBA
Perspectus Architecture
Under the leadership of co-founder William Ayars, AIA, ACHA, MBA, Perspectus Architecture has emerged as an industry leader in the architecture, engineering and construction community through its expertise, depth and breadth of its practice, and design quality.
The firm has experienced steady fiscal growth and continues to attract, retain and develop exceptional design talent. Through a shared understanding of process and goals, Perspectus’s team connects design and innovation to embrace each client’s vision, aligning strategy, architecture and planning, while focusing on the end user.
Ayars has developed a staff that respects and admires one another and their collective work. He mentors individual talent as well as the collaborative efforts of co-workers, helping them achieve, stretch their imaginative and organizational skills, and further commit to the architectural profession.
Ken Babby
Owner and CEO
Akron RubberDucks
Ken Babby, owner and CEO of the Akron RubberDucks, is always pushing his team to find new ways to innovate, sometimes through technological advancements, other times through an office culture made to foster creativity and enthusiasm.
After each season, the front office has a two-day off-site retreat to review the past season. The full-day, multi-layered brainstorming touches on areas such as promotions, the stadium, ticketing processes, operations and the fan experience.
The openness of the off-site retreat carries into weekly meetings where the entire staff discusses sales practices and challenges, and promotion creation and implementation. From these meetings have come creative promotions and other ideas, such as new picnic, group and ticket offerings, which have helped lead to increased ticket sales.
Marcia Ballinger
Lorain County Community College
Marcia Ballinger has more than 25 years in community college leadership roles that have advanced student success, workforce and economic development, strategic planning and institutional advancement. As the fifth and first female president of Lorain County Community College, she has developed a culture of innovation, risk-taking and entrepreneurship. This culture of innovation led LCCC to earn over 11 NorthCoast 99 awards, recognizing the college as one of the top employers in the region.
In the spring of 2016, she was awarded the prestigious Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence. She is also president of the LCCC Foundation, and while serving as its vice president, grew the organization from $12 million in assets in 2004 to over $50 million today.
Todd Barnhart
Todd Barnhart has led GARDINER as president through a period of unprecedented growth and change. In 2017, he spearheaded a major transition to position the company to be independently owned, locally managed and growth-oriented by securing a partnership with Daikin, the largest HVAC manufacturer in the world. The company’s ability to retain nearly all of its clients and associates through the transition can largely be attributed to Barnhart’s leadership.
Barnhart led an effort to bring new products and services to the market to directly address client needs, as well as services that focus on leveraging technology, data and creative financing. Barnhart has brought new ideas, approaches and technologies to the business, investing in areas that enable the company to grow into new, forward-thinking markets.
Elizabeth Bartz
Founder and CEO
State and Federal Communications
Elizabeth Bartz founded State and Federal Communications in 1993, and the company has carved out a valued niche in the government relations realm. It comprises experts in compliance laws that pertain to lobbying and political contributions, as well as procurement lobbying.
State and Federal Communications retains a team of top-notch lawyers who can research these laws and communicate them effectively to clients. Talent development is also an integral part of State and Federal Communications’ culture.
Each employee is given the opportunity to attend at least five community events per year on behalf of the company. Professional education and development is mandatory for all employees to grow their skill sets. Employees are encouraged to generate new ideas and collaborate in groups to find innovative solutions for clients.
Paul Benner and
Justin Carson
Platform Beer Co.
Paul Benner and Justin Carson built Platform Beer Co. with the mission of lifting others, from homebrewers to restaurant startups. Their partnership was a natural fit as Carson operates a beer-line cleaning business and Benner owns Cleveland Brew Shop, a popular hub for homebrewers seeking out ingredients, equipment and training. When Carson purchased Platform’s building in Cleveland’s SoLo (South of Lorain) district and the city asked him for his plans, he pushed Benner to finally open his own brewery.
Platform came to life in July 2014 with a two-pronged mission: The first point is to brew tasty beers for sale both in its tasting room and at favorite bars and/or restaurants. Second, Platform aims to create opportunity for those who wish to begin a career in the brewing industry.
Amy Bircher
President and founder
MMI Textiles Inc.
MMI Textiles Inc.’s success can be attributed to its diversified product lines and people. The company, headed by President and Founder Amy Bircher, listens to its customers to identify opportunities to make a product better. This problem-solving approach has led to the company becoming known as an innovator in its industry, giving it a reputation as a company with deep respect for customers and suppliers.
MMI Textiles is expanding its operational footprint, with plans to add 3,300 square feet of office and warehouse space to its existing 5,500 square feet. In this space, the company plans to develop a larger textile testing lab and showroom that will display finished products to give visitors a better visual of finished garments and other products.
Michael Boddy
The Anderson-DuBose Co.
Michael Boddy began his career at The Anderson-DuBose Co. in 2015 as general manager and hit the ground running, executing strategies and building a high-performing leadership team that has positioned the organization for long-term success and growth.
As COO, Boddy quickly became an integral part of the executive leadership team. He was instrumental in leading a successful distribution center expansion project in 2017 that enabled the company to grow its business by 25 percent.
The project included adding an additional 53,000 square feet of ambient storage, 12,000 square feet of cooler storage and 12,000 square feet of frozen refrigeration storage. It was accomplished with seamless customer service, while the company was operating at full capacity, and created more than 20 new permanent jobs.
Robert Lewis Bostwick
President and director
of design
Bostwick Design Partnership
Through innovations in collaborative, high-performing practice models, Bostwick Design Partnership is improving capital construction project delivery methods to achieve exceptional outcomes.
Led by President and Director of Design Robert Lewis Bostwick, the firm has steadily transformed itself into a practice nationally known for its collaboration-based processes. It achieves superior project outcomes through innovative methods of architect-led project team alignment.
The firm’s gross revenues have grown by 270 percent in the past six years and it has expanded its presence, adding offices in Erie and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in Miami.
Bostwick Design Partnership supports its staff’s career development by actively guiding young designers toward achieving their professional architectural license.
Flo Brett
Executive director
Effective Leadership Academy
The Effective Leadership Academy, a Northeast Ohio nonprofit youth leadership and soft skills development organization, was founded by Executive Director Flo Brett. Seeing a significant gap in leadership training in the educational community, she launched the ELA, developing curriculum to equip students along the middle school to college continuum with the transferrable skills they would need to be work- and citizenship-ready adults.
ELA is the only organization in Greater Cleveland that provides a standardized curriculum to young people around these skills, which is then taught in direct partnership with over 135 schools and youth-serving agencies. Year after year, internal and external evaluations show that ELA changes how students learn, grow, achieve, lead, manage themselves and others, and more.
Zack Bruell
Zack Bruell Restaurant Group
In the past decade, Chef Zack Bruell, owner of Zack Bruell Restaurant Group, has emerged as one of Cleveland’s most prolific restaurateurs. He’s leading a culinary movement that has placed Cleveland’s food scene on a national stage.
Across Northeast Ohio, a restaurant resurgence began to take shape. Bruell led the way, crafting modern atmospheres that equally welcomed a suit and tie or jeans and a T-shirt. The formula caught fire, and eight Bruell locations followed, all within the city limits of Cleveland.
His trademark style of layering powerful, yet distinctive favors defines everything he does as he reimagines classic cuisine through a contemporary lens. No single menu item is repeated among his eight current restaurants — a testament to his depth and creativity.
Joe Calabrese
CEO and general manager
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
Joe Calabrese, CEO and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, has succeeded in increasing GCRTA’s customer base and advancing its role in being an important component of the region’s economic development.
Under Calabrese’s leadership, GCRTA is strategically focused on outstanding customer service, maintaining a positive image and having strong financial management. His vision helped ensure that RTA plays an integral part in Cleveland’s success in travel and tourism.
He introduced creative new public transportation options, developed technology to improve safety, and established goals based on data, which helped create a culture that encourages innovation and continuous improvement.
Kevin Coyne
Founder and CEO
Canal Holdings LLC
Canal Holdings LLC is a private equity firm investing junior capital in growing businesses at the lower end of the middle market. The firm believes that people and process are the key drivers of long-term meaningful performance. It invests with management teams that have the right executive talent in place, are provided the right incentives to succeed, and can document a history of sound business decisions.
Prior to forming Canal Holdings LLC, Founder and CEO Kevin Coyne’s career evolved from lending and leadership positions in the banking industry to forming several investment companies and partnerships. Coyne is a board member for seven of Canal’s active portfolio investments, is a founder of Seton Catholic School in Hudson, and has served on several community and philanthropic boards.
Joe DiRocco
Regional president
Fifth Third Bank
Joe DiRocco, regional president at Fifth Third Bank, focuses on building a culture that centers on client experience, employee engagement and high-energy leadership to achieve results.
Since joining the bank in May 2017, DiRocco has worked to bring new customers to the bank, hire employees and engage existing employees. A collaborative leader, he believes in bringing multiple perspectives and skill sets to the table to ensure the bank is using everyone’s collective thoughts and experiences to reach its goals.
Fifth Third is also working to help the communities it serves. It has made commitments to provide lending, investments and community development in low- and moderate-income communities; and provide financial education and empowerment to high school students, adults and individuals in underserved communities.
Fred DiSanto
Chairman and CEO
Fred DiSanto is chairman and CEO of Ancora, an employee-owned financial advisory firm with nearly $7 billion in assets under management that’s focused on investment management, private wealth management, institutional strategies and retirement planning.
DiSanto is considered to be driven, successful, philanthropic and kind. He finds ways to connect his clients to form mutually beneficial opportunities, and is known as both a leader and friend to many in the business community.
His disposition and effort has helped Ancora gain recognition as one of the top places to work in Cleveland for the past three years. The company also received the Weatherhead 100 award, demarking it as a leader in the state after exemplary performances in management and growth.
Paul Elliott
President, consumer brands
As president of Consumer Brands at BrandMuscle, Paul Elliott has reshaped the future of the marketing company as a world-class, all-in-one, precision marketing tool that is revolutionizing marketing technology for some of the world’s largest brands. Elliott has scaled digital offerings and developed an entirely new product to add to BrandMuscle’s capabilities, LocationBuilder, which he recruited top talent from around the country to design.
Elliott also has significantly improved employee morale. He encourages a work hard/play hard environment and makes it easy for employees to put in extra effort to make the company great.
Under Elliott’s leadership, the digital marketing services team has increased revenue by about 130 percent per year for the last three years, with expectations to grow even more in 2018.
Sam Falletta
Under the leadership of CEO Sam Falletta, Incept has been recognized as one of the top workplaces in Northeast Ohio six times, in part by positioning the company on the forefront of employee engagement trends.
Recently, Incept was honored with top workplace, customer service and psychologically healthy workplace awards, each of which are a testament to Falletta’s success in the area of employee engagement.
Incept added 40 new clients across three divisions, more than half of which were customers of its newest division, InceptGrows, that focuses on B2B sales in small to medium-sized businesses.
Falletta added two highly strategic positions to Incept’s leadership team, chief growth officer and chief analytics officer, to institute best practices and processes, and to improve operational strategy and successful client outcomes.
Matthew P. Figgie
Clark-Reliance | Figgie Capital The Figgie Foundation
Fairmount Center for the Arts
Matthew P. Figgie is the chairman of Figgie Capital, Clark-Reliance, The Figgie Foundation and the Fairmount Center for the Arts.
Figgie considers Clark-Reliance’s special distinction to be its driven and loyal employees. These extraordinary individuals help the multidivisional manufacturing company aggressively grow products, capabilities and competencies on a global scale.
Figgie Capital is a diversified financial and investment entity, and The Figgie Foundation focuses on serving the arts, children, education, historical preservation and the medical community. The Fairmount Center for the Arts fosters a love for the arts in a noncompetitive environment.
Figgie’s passion for running productive and impactful organizations is evident by the people he affects, his position as an industry leader and his ability to share knowledge.
Matt Fish
Melt Bar and Grilled
Matt Fish, president of Melt Bar and Grilled, has transformed the grilled cheese sandwich into a new product category: gourmet grilled cheese. Being first-out-of-the-box has enabled Melt the freedom to experiment, tweak and perfect its concept so as to retain its position as the product category leader.
The desire for improvement both from a product and bottom line standpoint has led to ongoing evaluation of the restaurant group’s expansion. Growth had been limited to one full service restaurant per year to ensure that quality standards are maintained.
In 2017, a decision to expand at a faster pace was based on Melt’s popularity and the availability of an increasing number of opportunities. This resulted in the opening of four new Melt Bar and Grilled locations.
Lori Franklin
OverDrive Inc.
Lori Franklin, COO of OverDrive Inc., a content distribution service, has led the organization through revenue and employee growth, building expansion, talent management and development, and giving back to the community.
She has focused team efforts on sustainability and positive impact through improved processes and organizational structures, team collaboration, and finding, supporting and encouraging smart, passionate team members within an ethical, thriving culture that values integrity and dedicated work.
Franklin has helped create a strong commitment to employee professional growth and job satisfaction through a variety of workshops, book studies, mentoring and wellness programs, career and leadership guide development, and annual engagement surveys.
Grace Gallucci
Executive director
Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency
Under Executive Director Grace Gallucci’s leadership, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency has become an organization that wields great influence and responsibility for transportation within Northeast Ohio, and a national example of best transportation practices.
As NOACA’s first female executive director, Gallucci is taking creative and collaborative steps to make the organization a major force in the transportation field. She is responsible for transportation planning and resource allocation of more than $15.8 billion over the next 20 years in the Northeast Ohio region.
Gallucci has championed NOACA’s transportation asset management program to help communities in Northeast Ohio better prioritize funding decisions, meaning more assets will be preserved in a state of good repair with the available funding.
Alan Gillmore IV
Gillmore Security Systems
Alan Gillmore IV joined the family business, Gillmore Security Systems, a residential and commercial security provider, in 2002, working his way up to president and partner of the company.
Recently, Gillmore Security made its fifth acquisition in 2017, acquiring Buckeye Electronics & Security Technology. These Ohio-based fold-in acquisitions are helping Gillmore Security attain critical mass in geographies crucial to the continued expansion of the organization.
In addition to bringing over much of the personnel from the acquired companies, Gillmore Security has doubled its sales force and increased its internal office support personnel as it gears up for more growth in the future. These acquisitions will further enable Gillmore Security to expand its existing footprint as well as grow into several new territories in Northeast Ohio.
Eric S. Gordon
Cleveland Metropolitan School District
Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric S. Gordon is one of the chief architects of The Plan for Transforming Cleveland’s Schools, which has positioned Cleveland’s public schools to become the modern school district it must be for the benefit of every child in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Plan changed Ohio law for Cleveland only. It transferred greater authority to schools to manage their curriculum, staff and resources, and led to an expanding portfolio of quality school choices, improving test scores and graduation rates, and a complete redesign of public engagement.
Back to School rallies now draw thousands of parents, and community meetings on the district master facilities plan also numbered in the thousands as citizens demonstrated an increased sense of ownership of their public schools under Gordon’s leadership.
Annemarie M. Grassi, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Open Doors Academy
Open Doors Academy started as project to help improve the impact of a struggling drop in ministry program, serving approximately 20 kids a year in an after-school setting. It became a comprehensive youth development system for navigating young people out of generational poverty, serving approximately 600 students year-round and an additional 1,300 parents and family members through expanded services.
ODA, led by Founder and CEO Annemarie M. Grassi, Ph.D. has repeatedly produced strong outcomes over the years, including 100 percent high school graduation rates among its high school seniors who completed a minimum of three years of middle school programming.
In addition, ODA graduates’ average salary upon post-secondary graduation is $49,768, which exceed their parents’ average income of $33,000 for a family of four.
Douglas Grossman
Douglas Grossman is CEO of Q-Lab, a manufacturer of scientific chambers for testing the long-term durability of paints and plastics that are exposed to sunlight and corrosion. The company has achieved market dominance because of his rigorous application of a business philosophy totally at odds with prevailing business culture: old-fashioned Midwestern values.
Q-Lab salespeople are trained to always recommend what’s best for customers, even if it’s not what’s best for Q-Lab, and the company sets prices relatively low so that customers always know that they’ve gotten a lot for their money.
The company’s parts and repair prices are set to give reasonable margins, and every Q-Lab tester is designed so that the customer can repair it. To that end, its online RepairPedia system helps customers troubleshoot their testers.
Teresa Hack
President and COO
Channel Products
Under the leadership of President and COO Teresa Hack, Channel Products’ revenue has doubled, its profitability has quadrupled, and this spring it will move from its original corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Chesterland to a state-of-the-art facility in Solon.
The company’s entrepreneurial culture is based on high levels of individual and corporate performance, as well as charitable service. This culture — a hallmark of Hack’s leadership — is rooted in values that govern and guide decision-making processes. Hiring, equipping, empowering and developing intelligent human capital is key to Channel Products’ continual success.
That success is evident on a global scale. Within the past two years, Channel Products has expanded its manufacturing and distribution capabilities to Asia and Europe, all the while maintaining its base of U.S. customers.
Dan Harsh
Concept Services Ltd.
As president at Concept Services Ltd., Dan Harsh is focused on making lead management and lead generation a less onerous process for its clients. The company was founded on the principle that new business development and lead management needs to be managed separately and independently from any other part of a company’s sales organization.
During the past 12 months, Concept’s primary focus has been to increase both customer and employee retention. This was accomplished by addressing three areas: technology, infrastructure and the employee benefits package. The company is also consolidating its physical operation, going from three facilities to one, a new 26,000-square-foot headquarters.
Under Harsh’s leadership, Concept is committed to constantly challenge itself to provide better service to both customers and employees.
Matt Kaulig
LeafFilter Gutter Protection
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.
LeafFilter is a system that installs on a homeowner’s existing gutters, preventing leaves and other debris from entering and clogging gutters and downspouts. The product was created to help end the continuous chore of gutter cleaning, keeping homeowners safe and off the ladder, and protecting homes from expensive water-related damages caused by clogged gutters.
Kaulig’s entrepreneurial spirit as CEO, his strategic direction and his unique business philosophy led LeafFilter to success. His ability to be an independent thinker helped LeafFilter through the recession and on to even greater achievements.
Jack L. Moore Jr.
President and CEO
West Roofing Systems Inc.
When Jack L. Moore Jr. became president and CEO of West Roofing Systems Inc. in 2014, he had a vision of bringing the company to the forefront of more than just the roofing industry. Moore wanted to have an impact on the entire business world by utilizing the latest technology, hiring the right people, and performing in a way that is innovative, impactful and sustainable for long-term success.
West Roofing is a family-based organization with an eye toward a corporate mentality that celebrates the best of both worlds. Every employee is treated as an individual while the internal organization is going through unprecedented, company-wide corporatization. The company has built long-lasting partnerships with businesses such as Playhouse Square, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Parma City School District, among others.
Michael LaMarca
Owner and CEO
Master Pizza Franchise Group LLC
Michael LaMarca and his family purchased Master Pizza Franchise Group LLC in 2001 from its founder and original owner, Ken Petti. Pizza has been LaMarca’s passion since he was 15 and went to work at Gina’s Pizza in his hometown of Strongsville.
LaMarca, Master Pizza’s owner and CEO, believes that while it’s wise to stick to traditions and do what you do best, to succeed in this business today, you should be willing to expand your boundaries. Customer tastes vary so widely that Master Pizza currently has 22 specialty pizzas on its menu.
LaMarca’s passion for pizza has taken him around the world as a contestant in pizza contests and as a demonstrator of pizza-making techniques. He is the current captain of the 60-member U.S. Pizza Team.
David Levine
Ring Beams
David Levine and Michael Recker first met at a Baltimore Orioles game in 1992. Their friendship lasted through moves, wives and kids, and eventually turned into a business partnership. In 2006, both men went in search of a solution to a common problem: how to easily light a closet. With no solution on the market, they decided to build it for themselves.
Levine and Recker launched Mr. Beams in 2006 to market battery-operated, motion-detecting LED lights that were easy to install in closets or other areas around the house where wireless lighting was needed. Since then, the company, led by Levine as president, has become a featured brand in major retail outlets and has doubled its number of employees.
Jamie Lynch
Regional President
Northeast Ohio
Chemical Bank
Jamie Lynch has more than 24 years of commercial banking experience. He held senior commercial banking positions at Citizens Bank, Sky Bank, Fifth Third Bank and KeyBank before taking his current role as Northeast Ohio regional president at Chemical Bank.
Lynch is an active participant in various charitable and community activities, including Cleveland Clinic Children’s, University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Inner City Tennis Clinics, Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Adoption Network Cleveland and Vocational Guidance Services.
Under Lynch’s guidance, Chemical Bank has teamed up with charitable organizations such as the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio and participated in opportunities with Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland and the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation, just to name a few.
Tony Mercurio
President and CEO
National Interstate Insurance
Tony Mercurio believes that the work being done today at National Interstate Insurance is not for tomorrow. Rather, it’s for the next five, 10 or 20 years. In addition to literally building for the future with a physical building, National Interstate partners with local colleges and universities to further develop insurance and risk management programs.
Specifically, the company partners with Kent State University’s insurance studies program, the University of Akron and the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges. National Interstate offers scholarship funds and program support to students interested in risk management and insurance.
Mercurio’s relationship-building mentality as president and CEO has led to mutually beneficial partnerships, paving the way for growth and success. His goal is a business built around its customers and powered by a talented and engaged workforce.
August A. Napoli Jr.
President and CEO
United Way of Greater Cleveland
Under the leadership of August A. Napoli Jr., United Way of Greater Cleveland is transforming itself from an already successful philanthropic organization into a problem-solving powerhouse that serves as Northeast Ohio’s most effective convener of thought, action and resources in the battle against poverty.
Napoli’s visionary strategic plan as president and CEO has set the organization on a course of innovation that embraces a data-driven approach to better identify and explain the root causes of Northeast Ohio’s most pressing issues surrounding health, education, economic stability and basic needs.
His plan includes the most comprehensive information base and infrastructure to date, enabling teams to devise more effective tactics for achieving established goals. This transformation is driven by a workplace culture that places the highest value on collaboration, candor, boldness and accountability.
Jennifer Neundorfer
Co-founder, CFO and COO
Flashstarts Inc.
When Jennifer Neundorfer started Flashstarts Inc. five years ago, her goal was to prove that a new model for building investible, high-growth technology companies could work in Cleveland. In early pitches, people looked at her askance. She was new to Cleveland and the people she encountered were unfamiliar with the accelerator model. They were also unsure if startups could succeed in Cleveland. Five years later, the value of her model has been proven.
Neundorfer, co-founder, CFO and COO at Flashstarts, is confident that individuals looking to start a business will be referred to Flashstarts for early input and investment. The firm has begun to leverage its track record to raise its profile and increase its impact. Neundorfer’s primary focus has been to evangelize the benefits of a strong startup ecosystem.
Elizabeth Newman
President and CEO
The Centers for Families and Children and Circle Health Services
Elizabeth Newman is a focused and dynamic change maker who believes that every Northeast Ohio resident can lead a healthy and successful life.
The Centers for Families and Children and Circle Health Services improve the lives of those they serve through integrated behavioral health, primary care, early learning and workforce services. At the start of 2017, The Centers launched an aggressive strategic plan that included focusing its own mission and service portfolio, actively seeking M&A opportunities to grow and striving for innovation and continued quality improvement.
Newman, who serves as president and CEO, along with her team, are turning traditional service delivery on its head. The organization has developed a fully integrated health care model with wraparound support services to best serve the complex and varied needs of Northeast Ohioans.
Grafton J. Nunes
President and CEO
Cleveland Institute of Art
As the president and CEO of the Cleveland Institute of Art since 2010, Grafton J. Nunes has built upon CIA’s 136-year legacy to ensure that the private, dedicated college of art and design meets the needs of its students while preparing them for the ever-changing needs of the marketplace. He has achieved this by implementing forward-looking strategies in academics, campus and facilities, and fiscal responsibility.
As president and CEO, Nunes has presided over curriculum changes that have refocused the educational mission on the 15 programs of study in art and design most in demand by today’s students and the evolving marketplace. In 2015, Nunes completed a six-year, $75 million capital campaign and campus unification project that consolidated operations under one roof in the George Gund building on Euclid Avenue.
Fred Ode
Founder and CEO
Foundation Software Inc.
When Fred Ode started Foundation Software Inc. in 1985, he did so as a one-man operation with very limited programming experience. With only his drive for success and a passion for programming behind him, he dug in and took the first step — and then the next — until he had developed a complete program to fit the needs of the construction industry.
The first employee he hired in those early days is still with the company today.
As founder and CEO, Ode focuses on leading a smart organization. He recognized the accounting complexities that exist in the construction industry, where contractors employ crews that often work in several tax districts in the same day, and developed an accounting program to address the concern. It all began with that first step.
Jake Orville
General manager
Cleveland HeartLab, CardioMetabolic & Endo franchise at Quest Diagnostics
Jake Orville’s vision, dedication and unwavering leadership at Cleveland HeartLab played a crucial role in its successful sale/merger with the top strategic player in the laboratory market — Quest Diagnostics. The approach and capabilities that CHL brought to the cardiovascular diagnostics lab services marketplace have benefited all associated with the company.
Orville created a strategy that brought novel life-saving technologies to market. He also secured an important partnership with the Cleveland Clinic that allowed CHL to gain early access to key innovations. He chose to focus the company only on technologies that met three key criteria: scientifically proven, medically relevant and commercially viable. It propelled CHL to become innovation leaders within a crowded space. Orville is now general manager for the CHL CardioMetabolic & Endo franchise.
Bill Priemer
President and CEO
Since joining Hyland in 1997 and accepting the role of president and CEO in January 2013, Bill Priemer has led the award-winning software content solutions provider to new heights. Under his leadership, Hyland achieved record levels of revenue and profit in 2017.
Total revenue grew 27 percent, and EBITDA grew 31 percent.
One of Priemer’s top priorities is continuously expanding and evolving Hyland’s product portfolio each year based on extensive research and customer feedback. Over the past few years, Hyland has placed an emphasis on modernizing its platform utilizing cutting-edge development paradigms, cloud computing practices and user interface designs. With intuitive software and exceptional customer service from the point of discovery and implementation, Hyland continues to empower efficiency and agility so customers can grow and innovate with confidence.
Jim Pshock
Founder and CEO
Bravo Wellness
Regardless of the role an individual has at Bravo Wellness, Founder and CEO Jim Pshock believes each employee has an integral part in delivering thoughtful and creative solutions. To that end, Bravo is developing an internal consulting framework for the whole company. Each department will use this framework to train and equip wellness experts within all functional areas of the company and challenge existing models of how Bravo delivers solutions.
As the wellness industry rapidly evolves, the focus for Bravo has become attracting the best minds to the company and fostering new solutions for reducing modifiable health risks and inspiring personal improvement. In the race to help cultures inspire behavior change, Pshock believes it’s the best ideas that win the day. Those ideas come from the best-trained and empowered people.
LaRese Purnell, MBA
Managing partner
CLE Consulting Firm
LaRese Purnell is a family man who proudly professes God as the head of his household. He is the proud father of two wonderful children being nurtured as wealth builders of their own generation. After graduating from Warrensville Heights High School, Purnell attended the University of Toledo and earned a bachelor’s degree in professional sales and marketing, as well as an MBA in Finance. Purnell currently serves as managing partner at CLE Consulting Firm.
CLE stands for Creating Leading Enterprises and is an accounting and professional services consulting firm. Purnell is an accomplished financial expert and author of the book, “Financial Foundations.” But underneath the starched collars and the power ties, he is a philanthropic man beseeching the community at large to break free from its financial bondage.
Jason Sauey
Flambeau Inc.
The contrarian views Jason Sauey formed throughout his life helped him as CEO at Flambeau Inc., a progressive manufacturer of plastic blow molded products and components. Sauey resisted the trend to manufacture parts in China. Instead, he invested in facilities in the U.S. and Mexico.
The positive results in terms of sales, employment, profits and reinvestment have been significant. Sauey invested $2 million in a machine that turns hard plastic raw material into one of Flambeau’s best-selling products, cases for art supplies.
This and other productivity improvements have more than doubled the revenues of the company’s Middlefield plant with a slight growth in employment. The company started by manufacturing fishing lures for professional and amateur fishermen and has grown to make products for a wide range of markets.
Brian F. Smith
Banyan Technology Inc.
Brian F. Smith took over as CEO for Banyan Technology in May 2016. Banyan is a freight management software company that provides shippers, third-party logistics companies and carriers with access to live data for rating, booking and managing shipments.
While this technology has revolutionized the shipping and freight management industry, the company’s initial growth was organic and primarily through word of mouth, via Banyan’s satisfied customers. Smith’s appointment kicked off a whole new era for Banyan.
With Smith leading the charge, the past two years have produced very strong growth for the company; expanding technology for live connectivity that helps shippers, brokers and 3PLs boost efficiency, deliver permanent reductions in shipping costs, and gives them the power to access data in real time and make their own educated decisions for shipments.
Michael Sprenger
Sprenger Health Care Systems
At the forefront of Sprenger Health Care Systems’ innovation and growth from a single facility to more than 30 distinct entities is Michael Sprenger, COO and third-generation owner. Sprenger’s belief in building a legacy through integrity, collaboration and offering a high caliber of personalized care has propelled enduring success.
Since becoming COO in 2012, he has driven Sprenger Health Care Systems’ mission to anticipate and exceed customer expectations by cultivating the empowerment of his employees, and developing and executing a clear business model for strategic growth. In addition to expanding the suite of services that Sprenger Health Care Systems provides, Sprenger recognizes the importance of sustainability.
He routinely initiates and oversees the modernizing of existing properties and implementing research-based innovations to improve patient care practices.
Edward H. Taylor
Founder and visionary
Technical Assurance Inc.
Technical Assurance Inc. Founder and Visionary Edward H. Taylor combines a paternalistic leadership style with a focused drive for success. This unique combination is complemented by Taylor’s depth of experience, his strong communication skills and his visionary strategic thinking within the heavily engineering-focused building enclosure consulting market in which the company operates. Lifelong relationships define his family life, his community involvement and his willingness to share his industry experience.
In addition to national speaking engagements, the company established the Building Performance Symposium, a thought leadership series that includes a mix of in-person and web-based events hosted by Technical Assurance and strategically selected partners. The work that Taylor does fuels his passion for sustainability, which in his case, focuses on making things last longer.

Steven Vitale
Midwest Industrial Supply Inc.
Steven Vitale’s strong leadership at Midwest Industrial Supply Inc. is reflected by the company’s soaring revenues, which have reached a total growth rate of 317 percent over the course of his 17 years at the company. That equates to an 18 percent compounded annual growth rate.
Midwest is an international provider of dust control, soil stabilization and rail anti-icing/deicing solutions. Vitale has spent time in virtually every position in the company on his way up the ladder, becoming president in 2010.
Vitale has plenty of achievements to his name since then, including a joint venture he engineered and managed as president that grew from zero revenue to a multi-million dollar entity in just three years, greatly impacting Midwest’s revenue and advancing the company’s position in a core market.
Brian M. Zimmerman
Cleveland Metroparks
Led by CEO Brian M. Zimmerman, Cleveland Metroparks was ranked among the best parks in the nation in 2016 when it was honored with the National Gold Medal Award for excellence in parks and recreation management by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. Under Zimmerman, the park district has played an instrumental role in the revitalization of Cleveland, and has acquired the most land since the 1960s.
With nearly 1,500 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees, more than 23,000 acres, 18 park reservations, eight golf courses and a nationally acclaimed zoo, Zimmerman’s leadership inspires his staff to serve the community at the highest level. Evidenced by approximately 18.5 million recreational visits in 2017, the park district continues to enhance the quality of life for Northeast Ohioans.
Thomas C. Zucker
Thomas C. Zucker is president of EdgePoint, a leading M&A advisory firm that specializes in middle-market mergers, acquisitions, management buyouts and corporate divestitures for businesses and owners. Zucker focuses on overseeing the firm’s day-to-day management and executing on strategic initiatives.
Zucker assists business owners in completing transition events, acquisitions and recapitalizations.
His diverse experience ranges from executing corporate divestitures for General Electric to assisting small, closely held businesses in executing family ownership transitions.
EdgePoint has completed more than 20 transactions in the past 18 months. Prior to founding EdgePoint, Zucker had more than nine years of financial and transactional experience at EY and Arthur Andersen.