2020 Pittsburgh Smart 50 Awards recognize region’s top leadership

USI is pleased to partner with Smart Business Network to announce and recognize the honorees of the Smart 50 awards for 2020. This has been an unprecedented year for Pittsburgh businesses. The events of 2020 have presented what were previously unimaginable challenges to the way we do business, the communities in which we operate and the very health of our employees. Times like these require companies to adapt, innovate and be nimble in order to grow, thrive and, in some cases, simply survive.
Never before has strong leadership been so important to businesses and the employees and communities that rely on them. Times like these requires leaders to be strong and empathetic, resolute in decision-making and to collaborate with stakeholders. Leaders have had to operate in a manner that maintains the financial health of the organization, meets their operational needs and, in some cases, ensures the very survival of the enterprise. They must do all of this while also being compassionate and attentive to the well-being of their employees.
A Herculean challenge? No doubt. But during the Smart 50 judging day, we heard directly from leaders who have the skills, experience and, yes, the  “heart,”  to face these challenges head-on. It was inspirational to hear how leaders have adapted their business models to respond to rapidly evolving, disruptive events while remaining true to the core values of their companies.
With regard to the specialty awards for Innovation, Impact and Sustainability, we heard from leaders on how their businesses embody, and their employees are committed to, the values that are essential to excelling in business. As we heard their individual stories and how their leaders are responding, we were inspired and are optimistic about the future for the businesses recognized and the Greater Pittsburgh business community.
The Smart 50 awards gala will be experienced in a virtual setting this year. We are confident that this will contribute to the legacy of  the awards and will be a truly unique and exciting event.
On behalf of USI’s Western Pennsylvania team, congratulations to each of the honorees for the well-deserved recognition of your leadership and your enterprises.
Julie L. Hayden, GBA, VBS, GBDS
Vice President, Employee Benefits Practice Leader
USI Insurance Services
Mark Susco
Property & Casualty Practice Leader
USI Pittsburgh


Leah Lizarondo
Co-founder & CEO
412 Food Rescue
Co-founder and CEO Leah Lizarondo created 412 Food Rescue as a direct response to a national food crisis; 40 percent of food is wasted, while one in seven people goes hungry.
Piloted in Pittsburgh, 412 Food Rescue redirects surplus food from 600-plus donors to more than 800 nonprofits throughout six cities. Food is transported via a network of more than 10,000 volunteer drivers who are mobilized by an app.
In March, 412 Food Rescue pivoted to help those hardest hit by the pandemic and its economic fallout. Home delivery services enabled volunteers to deliver food directly to 1,500 vulnerable households. A community takeout program financially supported local restaurants and service workers, while providing meals for people in need. Food also was delivered to school bus stops for students who depend on free and reduced lunch programs.
Charles Bitzer
ABARTA Coca-Cola Beverages
As the 10th largest Coca-Cola distributor in the U.S., spanning three states, ABARTA Coca-Cola Beverages has the strength of a large company. But under the direction of CEO Charles Bitzer and family ownership, ABARTA Coca-Cola values its employees as deeply as it values its customers. Company culture centers around working together for the good of all.
Two recent focuses have been retention and safety. With automated exit interviews that allow anonymous feedback and a video helping new hires better understand expectations, turnover has been reduced after the initial 90-day period. Safety has always been more important than production, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, management updated its policies and developed a strong communications strategy. ABARTA Coca-Cola also has accommodated and continued to pay employees who have at-risk family members.
Kinesh Doshi
Founder & CEO
Accion Labs US Inc.
Accion Labs US Inc. continues to dig deeper and make an impact under the direction of Founder and CEO Kinesh Doshi. The multinational company, which has development centers across India and the Asia Pacific region, focuses on innovation delivery life cycle through emerging technologies.
Accion has built centers of excellence surrounding leading technologies and offers complete services, such as re-engineering and designing entire applications. The company also develops intellectual property, such as its Breeze framework, and can enable innovation through direct customer collaboration. Accion’s annual Innovation Summit invites current and potential clients to openly discuss their challenges with each other and to consult with Accion’s global team.
Paul Sirney
AccroTool Inc.
AccroTool, Inc is a full-service contract manufacturer of engineered metal products used in defense, industrial, instrumentation, medical and safety equipment, and transportation applications. As a vendor, AccroTool can, when desired or needed, control the entire supply chain.
AccroTool has not only been able to sustain business during the COVID-19 crisis, it has increased its workforce. Recently, the organization has become ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) certified in order to begin partnering with local military contractors, which will create significant growth for the company.
In addition, CEO Paul Sirney implemented Essential Hero Pay for his team members. During the height of the pandemic, he increased wages for all employee by $5 per hour as the state worked through the Red and Yellow stage.
Maureen Mulvihill
President & CEO
Actuated Medical Inc.
Maureen Mulvihill co-founded Actuated Medical Inc. with the idea that it could solve clinical needs using electronically controlled motion. However, over the past 13 years, the president and CEO has built a company that develops, manufactures and sells medical devices.
By establishing an internal startup ecosystem, Mulvihill’s team can incubate creative ideas and quickly test them. The ideas that demonstrate market potential are developed to commercial exits.
During the pandemic, AMI stood up a reusable face shield manufacturing line within seven days and started shipping out shields. The product line grew over the next four months to include reusable face shields for children, hard hats and football helmets. Mulvihill’s quick decision-making led to a 1,200 percent revenue increase over the previous year.
Brian Lesniakowski
As the technology landscape continually evolves, Brian Lesniakowski, CIO at AEC Group LLC, looks to provide an unbiased voice to help steer its customers’ technology direction. He consistently evaluates emerging technologies to keep a watch on how those technologies mesh with existing platforms used by the business’s manufacturers and solution providers.
In 2018, for example, Lesniakowski introduced AEC Group’s managed service offering. He understood that managed service solutions are not one size fits all. While some businesses need a fully managed service solution, others may only need specific elements such as monitoring and protection.
AEC Group has seen sales growth of more than 98 percent over the past five years. The expansion of the company’s security and networking solutions has been the catalyst for this growth.
Frank Janakovic
President & executive director
Alternative Community Resource Program
President and Executive Director Frank Janakovic’s enthusiasm is contagious when he talks about the work he and the Alternative Community Resource Program have done. Every day in the region, there are children who struggle with abuse, neglect and psychological and emotional disorders that keep them from living a normal, happy life. The ACRP responds to the needs of such children and their families.
Originally servicing clients in Johnstown, ACRP has expanded to 12 offices and multiple school and office locations covering Cambria, Somerset, Bedford and Blair counties, with more to come. The organization employs over 325 individuals and serves over 6,500 clients, students and families annually.
When it comes to the community, the ACRP finds a need and tries to fill it.
Jessica Gibson
President & CEO
Ariel Precision Medicine
As Ariel Precision Medicine continues to develop, scale and commercialize new products under the leadership of President and CEO Jessica Gibson, the health technology company is working to improve the world by reducing the impact of chronic digestive disease. Ariel strives to go beyond genetics, helping clinicians make more informed decisions about the treatment of complex chronic diseases.
The company can analyze and interpret how genetic variants that, in isolation would not cause disease, work in combination to drive patients’ conditions by impairing specific biological functions. Having automated that process, Ariel is now launching products into several verticals, supported by one core technological team and process. This should maximize revenue growth by delivering Ariel’s products to the widest range of customers possible.
John Thornton
Astrobotic Technology Inc.
In the space business, credibility is key. With CEO John Thornton at the helm, Astrobotic Technology Inc. has cemented itself as a credible space company.
Astrobotic is one of three companies in the U.S currently selected by NASA to fly payloads to the lunar surface, and it is dedicated to building a commercial cislunar economy.
Astrobotic’s NASA CLPS selection has enabled the company to expand its operations in Pittsburgh, with the addition of 70-plus high-skilled aerospace jobs within 10 months. Astrobotic also has acquired and renovated a new headquarters in largely underserved Manchester to house its growing staff, as well as a high bay, clean rooms and a mission control center. The employees hope a planned space museum will help build a PGH space ecosystem in Pittsburgh.
Kyle Dick
Atlantic Nitrogen
Kyle Dick, owner of Atlantic Nitrogen, is an incredible entrepreneur who has done extremely well in a male-dominated industry. She comes from a background of constructing pipelines and compressor stations and has years of experience in the heavy construction industry as a manager and entrepreneur.
Dick has found success by investing in her employees and their safety. By helping make Atlantic Nitrogen a company everyone wants to work for and that all operators enjoy working with, she can recruit quality people in an industry that often has a hard time maintaining employees.
In addition, Atlantic Nitrogen not only does nitrogen testing for the oil and gas industry, it has expanded and diversified into doing testing for construction and water authorities.
Andrew Andronas
Bluestar USA
Bluestar USA is one of the fastest-growing pipeline companies in Western Pennsylvania, securing contracts with Peoples Gas and MarkWest.
CEO Andrew Andronas, who takes pride in his Canonsburg roots, started the company after he teamed up with his COO, Gerald Bowers. Together, they have built a great pipeline construction company that employs more than 150 people locally. By upholding a family-first approach, Bluestar attracts and assembles top talent, where the team and organization work hand in hand.
Andronas also started a nonprofit called Holiday Wish, which helps local people who are unable to afford Christmas trees. The organization donates trees, then helps set them up in homes to make the holidays as special as possible.
Michael Brunner
Brunner is one of the top 100 independent advertising agencies in the country, thriving in in a volatile and evolving industry.
Over 40-plus years, CEO Michael Brunner has run his people-first business with a friendly, supportive and transparent culture. A “Let’s get to know each other on a first-name basis” meeting with Brunner is the first one scheduled for every new employee, and the numbers are shared monthly, even if those numbers are not where he’d like them to be.
The company was a Pittsburgh startup before Pittsburgh became known for startups, and Brunner developed a business where entrepreneurs rise and prosper. For example, he’s acquired several companies, including one in Atlanta, developed an in-house technology incubator and made a true long-term commitment to digital.
Nadine Tripodi
Butler Technologies Inc.
A manufacturing and technology development company with approximately 80 employees, Butler Technologies Inc. started in 1990 with two employees, including CEO Nadine Tripodi. BTI plays a key role in prototyping and designing functional printed products that are utilized in markets including industrial controls, interior automotive, medical equipment and safety.
Tripodi constantly encourages her team to be curious, to explore new and innovative technologies, and to solve problem and move forward. This enables BTI to be at the forefront of creating innovative functional print solutions, such as biometric compression garments, where printed, flexible biosensors can be incorporated into articles of clothing to monitor muscle activity.
Barry Niccolai
Executive director
Centerville Clinics
Centerville Clinics provides total health care for the entire community, under the leadership of Executive Director Barry Niccolai. The nonprofit serves 40,000 patients in Fayette, Greene and Washington counties through 12 medical, five dental and 10 behavioral health sites.
Federally Qualified Health Centers, which provide services based on a sliding-fee scale, are typically located in areas where there are not enough physicians to serve the community and/or where existing clinical providers are not accessible to underserved populations. Eighty percent of Centerville’s patients are either underinsured or on Medicaid and Medicare.
During the pandemic, Centerville was able to keep 99 percent of its 350 employees on the payroll to continue to provide services to the community.
Patrick Treado, Ph.D.
Founder & chief technology officer
Chief Technology Officer Patrick Treado, Ph.D. founded ChemImage in 1994 to develop and sustain a technology company focused on commercializing molecular chemical imaging tools for medicine and materials analysis.
Treado has fostered an environment of innovation at ChemImage. A good indicator of ChemImage’s innovation are the 218 patents issued or pending that protect its core technologies. More importantly, ChemImage products, including hardware, software and services, have been in use globally for more than 25 years.
ChemImage is full of bright, focused, mission-driven people who are committed to solving difficult problems to make the world healthier and safer. Even with the shift to a more virtual organization, ChemImage has committed to ensuring employees remain engaged and supported.
J.D. Ewing
President & CEO
COE Distributing
President and CEO J.D. Ewing has always believed that when you put your team members first, you’ll have a successful business and growth. With COVID-19, Ewing took the culture, employee engagement and transparency at COE Distributing to another level.
He decided early to retain all team members and continue providing employee benefits. He provided an additional 80 hours of COVID PTO, offered unlimited unpaid time off and paid profit-sharing from a strong first quarter. Ewing also found unique ways to bring employees close virtually, while physically being apart.
Ewing brought that same energy to customer relations by encouraging communication. He motivated his employees to create new inventory and promote work-from-home solutions, return-to-work solutions and temperature check-in solutions.
Chad Quinn
Dollar Energy Fund
Dollar Energy Fund has grown to become the largest hardship fund in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the country, operating in more than 14 states and partnering with over 45 public utility companies. The organization, led by CEO Chad Quinn, seeks to improve the quality of life for households experiencing hardships by providing utility assistance and other services that lead to self-sufficiency.
Dollar Energy Fund has been recognized as a top employee workplace, which Quinn attributes to his management team and strong benefits package. The front center staff has had no employee turnover in more than seven years.
Through partnerships and donations, Dollar Energy Fund is able to support families in need, while receiving less than 1 percent of its overall budget from government grants.
Henry Duckstein
Duckstein Restoration
Henry Duckstein grew up in the restoration business learning the tricks of the trade from his father, who started Duckstein Restoration in 1971. In 2005, Duckstein purchased the company and started a new legacy.
By assembling a strong team of experienced, hard-working employees, Duckstein has molded Duckstein Restoration into one of the largest and most successful restoration companies in Western Pennsylvania, servicing more than 1,000 customers every year. A hands-on owner, Duckstein is often in the field, helping homeowners and businesses restore their lives back to normal.
The business is known for its efficiency, professionalism, quality of work and quick response time. Duckstein Restoration offers a turnkey operation, in which the in-house staff coordinates every aspect of the process.
Steve Malnight
President & CEO
Duquesne Light Co.
In early 2019, President and CEO Steve Malnight brought his exceptional leadership skills to Duquesne Light Co. He has since been committed to finding new ways to increase the company’s impact in the communities it serves.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Malnight created an incident command team focused on employee safety. DLC has allowed more than 1,000 employees to work from home, and the approximately 500 essential workers in the field practice social distancing and wear masks whenever appropriate. DLC has also supported vulnerable members of the community through donations and service programs, while discontinuing service shutoffs and waiving late fees.
This year has presented many unique challenges for organizations, and Malnight has made a concerted effort to take swift and effective action to address them.
Michael Wagner
Co-founder & CEO
Edge Case Research Inc.
Michael Wagner is CEO of Edge Case Research, a company he founded with Philip Koopman to make autonomy safer. Wagner’s experience with autonomous vehicles began nearly 20 years ago at Carnegie Mellon University. He built lunar rovers for Red Whittaker, autonomous scientific robots that explored Antarctica, and self-driving technology for tackling harsh off-road terrain.
Ten years ago, Wagner and Koopman began researching techniques to design and verify autonomous systems. Today, Wagner applies this experience at Edge Case Research, with the goal of providing validation technology for autonomy across a range of industries, including self-driving cars, materials handling and robotic work cells. The company’s product, Hologram ,complements traditional simulation and road testing of perception systems.
Michael Johnson
President & CEO
Elite Transit Solutions LLC
After experiencing the complexities of transportation logistics at other companies, President and CEO Michael Johnson founded Elite Transit Solutions LLC in 2013 to focus on creating innovative solutions for managing consumer packaged goods and food industry freight. His straightforward premise was that information can manage chaos, and he created an in-house team to build the best technology from the inside out.
Today, Elite is a nationally recognized third-party logistics leader in revolutionizing the freight management logistics industry with several different groundbreaking software solutions. Of the approximately 16,000-plus brokers in the industry, less than a dozen companies own and develop their own software. This, in turn, has led to a 463 percent three-year growth rate at Elite.
Joe Altieri
FlexScreen LLC
During his 20-plus years in the window industry, President Joe Altieri recognized the inherent problems with traditional window screens and dealt with constant customer frustrations. To find a better way, he set up shop in his garage and got to work. After years of trial and error, FlexScreen LLC, the world’s first and only flexible window screen, was born.
Since its introduction, FlexScreen has garnered international attention and earned multiple awards. Every day, more window manufacturers and dealers make FlexScreen standard on some or all of their products, and the company has grown to five manufacturing plants over the past five years.
Most recently, Shark Tank producers found the product on social media and reached out. In January 2020, FlexScreen appeared on Shark Tank, where three Sharks made offers, and Lori Greiner hooked the deal.
Jason Wilburn
FOERSTER Instruments
FOERSTER Instruments is the North American subsidiary of the FOERSTER Group. Headquartered in Germany, FOERSTER Group designs and builds nondestructive testing instrumentation and machinery for the international industrial market.
The Pittsburgh company has sought to build organizational sustainability by striving to be a high-energy organization. It wants to maintain and generate organizational energy without external stimulants. In President Jason Wilburn’s experience, creating high energy involves focusing on three key areas: organizational purpose, building and aligning your team and investing in the people. That’s what he has sought to do by instilling purpose, following ground rules and having employees hold each other accountable.
Jake Loosararian
Gecko Robotics
CEO Jake Loosararian spent three years bootstrapping Gecko Robotics after he built his first wall-climbing robot for inspecting industrial infrastructure. Then, in 2015, a large energy company wanted to acquire the startup he founded. Although he only had $300 to his name, Loosararian turned down the offer and instead accepted a chance to go through the prestigious startup accelerator Y Combinator in California.
Today, Gecko Robotics employs more than 100 people at three offices, including a Houston, Texas, office that provides a local operations team for the oil and gas industry. Gecko Robotics operates its robots as a service for 80 customers, some of which are household names. The company believes that it will double in size in 2020.
William C. Polacek
President & CEO
JWF Industries
JWF Industries designs, manufactures and integrates metal-centric products for the defense, energy and commercial industries. The business has grown with the right people, the right processes, the right markets and the right customers.
Strategy is the company’s mission, and it’s paid off. The company, led by President and CEO William C. Polacek, now employs over 400 local residents. Polacek is willing to listen to new ideas and ways to enhance the culture, products, services and employees. For example, a grapevine hotline provides employees a direct line of communication to Polacek, who personally responds to all voice messages. He also believes in training and career development, while emphasizing safety and quality as top priorities. One location of JWF Industries, in Woodvale, recently completed three years with no reportable injury.
Kristy Knichel
Knichel Logistics
Since CEO Kristy Knichel has taken the reins of her family business, she has led the nonasset based third-party logistics provider to significant growth.
Beyond her ability to grow the business in an extremely competitive field, she is a role model and inspiration, especially to women. She has created a culture and environment in which women not only feel comfortable but also one in which they can succeed. Approximately two-thirds of Knichel’s employees are women, including the director of truckload, intermodal operations manager and director of pricing. These positions were filled with the coaching, mentoring and support of Knichel who takes her responsibilities as business owner, leader, mentor and servant seriously.
Carey Harris
Literacy Pittsburgh
Carey Harris joined Literacy Pittsburgh as CEO in 2018, marking the first leadership change in 34 years. She’s built on the agency’s strong foundation and rich history to bring forth an ambitious agenda to improve workforce partnerships, expand career services, enhance curricula and invest in a new data system to track and measure progress in real-time.
Several months into her tenure, Harris formed a transition team of community stakeholders that ultimately led to a new initiative. She also revamped the staff structure and added monthly senior leadership team meetings. When developing a new strategic plan, Harris held listening sessions. That commitment to communication and transparency also served her well during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vivek Gupta
President & CEO
Mastech Digital
President and CEO Vivek Gupta just finished an extensive program to transform Mastech Digital into a digital technologies focused company. In the process, he led the acquisition of a highly specialized and reputable data and analytics company, giving birth to a new business unit and earning a thumbs up from the markets.
But when everything seemed to be in place, COVID-19 arrived. So, Gupta led the company’s realignment to suit the new business normal. That resulted in the birth of Mastech Digital’s remote staffing offering, MAS-REMOTE.
Overall, Mastech Digital outperformed the analysts’ predictions on most financial parameters — while in the middle of the pandemic — and Gupta ably led the company through the crisis, taking prudent measures early and decisively to contain costs and increase value for all stakeholders.
Christopher Shay
President & CEO
McGuire Memorial
McGuire Memorial is committed to providing comprehensive services to people with intellectual and physical disabilities that may include complex medical conditions.
Under the leadership of President and CEO Christopher Shay, the organization’s residential program serves those with the most complex, profound disabilities. A 180-day private school is utilized by children with multiple and/or profound disabilities and includes a preschool and autistic program. McGuire Memorial also meets the needs of adults with disabilities through adult day programs, and its Community Home Program offers private residential living within a safe and supportive environment for individuals with mild to severe disabilities.
Sister Linda Yankoski
President & CEO
Holy Family Institute Nazareth Prep
Six years ago, President and CEO Sister Linda Yankoski and the Holy Family Institute board developed her vision for a school that would prepare diverse young people for 21st-century careers. Nazareth Prep is a progressive, independent school with a unique focus on career readiness for all youth, regardless of race or socio-economic condition.
Nazareth Prep measures success by student achievement. The Class of 2018-2019 included 36 graduates — a 94 percent graduation rate — where 26 went on to college, three into careers, five on to apprenticeships and two on to trade schools.
Nazareth Prep is on track to achieve one of its primary goals, 300 students by the 2022-2023 school year. To accommodate this growth, the school is embarking on a strategic fundraising effort.
Josh Pickus
Net Health
Like many companies, Net Health faced unanticipated challenges in 2020. What’s unique about Josh Pickus’ situation is that he was installed as CEO in January. In collaboration with a private equity board, he and the leadership team developed a roadmap for growth. Then, the pandemic required a sharp pivot in attention and resources — something Pickus navigated with acumen and aplomb.
Pickus endorsed a rapid expansion of Net Health products that brought secure telehealth capabilities to health care providers in 14,000 facilities, something that remains critical for the continuity of patient care in 2020. He also capitalized on the work-from-home experience to examine Net Health’s ability to succeed with a remote workforce. He then led the rollout of a Work From Anywhere policy that will carry Net Health into the future.
William Golden
Founder, chairman & CEO
Noveome Biotherapeutics Inc.
Noveome Biotherapeutics Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, is developing next-generation biologics for the promotion and restoration of cellular integrity of inflamed or damaged tissues. While Noveome is focused on ophthalmic conditions of the cornea, retina and optic nerve, it recently expanded into severe systemic inflammatory responses such as the cytokine storm seen in COVID-19.
William Golden, founder, chairman and CEO, has been the architect of the company’s infrastructure since its 2002 inception. He has guided Noveome through multiple clinical trials and enabled the company to attain significant investment milestones.
Noveome isn’t the only experience Golden has building a successful life sciences company. He was a co-founder, seed investor and director of Stentor Inc.
Colin Huwyler
Optimus Technologies
As a college freshman with an hour commute and a desire to cut his carbon footprint, Colin Huwyler converted his 1998 VW to operate on vegetable oil. In doing so, he also found his lifelong passion. Today he is CEO of Optimus Technologies, an EPA-compliant automotive biofuel technology company that assists the commercial market. Optimus’ patented Vector System technology with software tracking can convert existing trucks to biodiesel. Optimus also has a fuel partner program that provides answers to refueling questions.
After implementing pilot programs, allowing fleets to install and use the Vector for one year while amassing data, many of Optimus’ customers are returning to ask for expanded services. Optimus, in turn, has doubled its employee count, expanded its office and warehouse footprint.
Gordon Vanscoy
Chairman & CEO
PANTHERx Rare | RareMed Solutions
In 2011, out of essentially a garage, Gordon Vanscoy and three of his former students embarked on a quest to reinvent specialty, revolutionize pharmacy and redefine care. With a surge in FDA orphan drug approvals and developments in science to help people suffering from rare disease, Vanscoy’s innovative and strategic vision has resulted in PANTHERx Rare, the nation’s frontrunner in rare disease pharmacy.
In 2018, under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Vanscoy, PANTHERx’s offspring company, RareMed Solutions, opened its doors as a national pharmacy patient service provider strictly focused on orphan and precision medicines. RareMed provides health care professional education, nursing support and financial assistance programs for the benefit of rare disease patients. Only two years old, RareMed has grown rapidly.
Jonathan Halpern
Pineapple Payments
Over a little more than two years, Pineapple Payments made nine strategic acquisitions, transforming it from a homegrown startup to a premier payments technology company that has facilitated over $6 billion worth of transactions. Today, Pineapple Payments provides payment processing, proprietary technology and omni-channel payment acceptance solutions to over 25,000 merchants.
The same omni-channel approach Pineapple takes to its payments solutions is reflected in President Jonathan Halpern’s leadership. Halpern’s commitment to fulfilling Pineapple’s vision — to make commerce easy and accessible in a variety of different markets — is grounded in the value of collaboration. That collaboration takes form through strategic acquisitions, as well as organic growth drummed up by Pineapple’s diverse base of partners and resellers.
Jaime Irick
PPG vice president, architectural coatings, U.S. and Canada PPG
Jaime Irick took the helm of PPG’s architectural coatings, United States and Canada business, which employs 6,000 people, in 2019. And Irick, vice president, architectural coatings, U.S. and Canada, is already making a measurable difference in AC USCA’s people development, processes and profitability.
In addition to driving more frequent, transparent employee communication through his weekly podcast, Irick has been spearheading companywide conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion. He has developed one of the most diverse leadership teams within the organization.
As a customer-centric problem solver and someone willing to take on a challenge, Irick and his team also have found a number of ways to stay nimble and evolve PPG’s business models.
Jorgen Pedersen
President & CEO
RE2 Robotics
President and CEO Jorgen Pedersen founded RE2 Robotics in 2001 as a Carnegie Mellon University spinout. Pedersen, a founding member of CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center, created the business to develop robotic technologies to keep humans out of harm’s way and ultimately save lives. The biggest impact on RE2’s success has been Pedersen’s leadership in establishing a culture centered on employees.
RE2 also has evolved from a pure defense contractor to a commercial robotics powerhouse, developing mobile robotic arms for the aviation, medical and energy markets. To support growth into new industries, RE2 had the challenge of hiring engineers and scientists in a number of areas. Pedersen took the lead in sourcing these positions, and RE2 was able to grow by 50 percent in 2020, in spite of COVID-19.
Stephen Ritchey
Ritchey Metals Co. Inc.
Ritchey Metals Co. Inc. has grown to more than 110 employees, including many with 20 or more years of service. The company supplies zinc, aluminum and non-ferrous alloys across the die-casting, electroplating and steel coating industries.
Ritchey Metal’s long-term success requires not only holding fast to rigid quality manufacturing standards but also remaining flexible to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace. The business team follows a foundational principle of fanatical customer service, with products that meet or exceed customer expectations.
While the business follows a philosophy of lean manufacturing, under the leadership of President and CFO Stephen Ritchey, lean does not mean lacking. For example, investing in a fleet of tractor trailers has allowed Ritchey Metals the freedom to transport an order and stay on schedule.
Ben Wilson
Founder & CEO
Rivers Agile
CEO Ben Wilson founded Rivers Agile in 2008. Since then, he has grown his company into a recognizable force in Pittsburgh, providing a range of solutions, from product design to QA testing and training, to software development. Wilson is still as passionate as he was day one and feels lucky to work alongside a talented team of developers, testers, strategists and innovators.
Maturing into an end-to-end software solutions provider, Rivers Agile has focused on web and mobile solutions. The company, which has oil and gas industry experience, has recently focused on health care, law and working with entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into reality. In doing so, Wilson opened an expansion office in downtown Pittsburgh to accommodate rapid growth and leverage the region’s diverse high-technology talent pool.
Benjamin Schmidt, Ph.D.
Co-founder & president
Discussions about roads, including identifying distresses like potholes and alligator cracking, has typically been done manually, over many months, with very subjective results. RoadBotics has automated road network inspections to generate actionable data. This smarter process provides detailed maps, unbiased ratings and practical tools that have saved time and taxpayer dollars for hundreds of communities across the country and around the world.
RoadBotics, which was spun out of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in 2016, is under the direction of Co-founder and President Benjamin Schmidt, Ph.D. The company has raised millions in venture capital investment to date. Its leadership envisions applying its technology to improve not only the world’s roads but also the critical infrastructure that impacts people’s lives every day.
Brian Cullen
SingleSource Property Solutions LLC
SingleSource Property Solutions LLC, a nationwide service provider to many of the largest loan origination and servicing entities, has focused on organic growth throughout its 20 years. The company, under the direction of CEO Brian Cullen, has always added new products and services catered to its broad customer base.
This year, SingleSource expanded into a new product line through the addition of a subsidiary company based in Utah, called Resolute Diligence Solutions. Resolute is just the most recent example of SingleSource’s commitment to revenue growth, expansion and diversification. This strategy has enabled SingleSource to survive real estate market crashes and the recent pandemic. SingleSource believes in constant improvement as it continues to expand its technology, service offerings and people development for the future.
Richard Troiano
Chief technology officer
Somerset Coal
Chief Technology Officer Richard Troiano helped found Somerset Coal with the idea of making the coal industry cleaner. On a Department of Energy project, he’d gained experience dealing with very small particles of coal, taking solid coal and turning it into a liquid fuel. This became the basis for Somerset’s technology, which recovers small particles of coal and helps turn waste into product.
Somerset has successfully partnered with some of the best companies in the industry, which are putting the business’s patented coal refining system to work.
Troiano has more than 30 years of experience in the science, technology and data communications sectors. One of the founders of Cisco Systems, he also has been the CEO of a biosensor manufacturer and consulted with companies such as AT&T and Pfizer.
Ray Nell Jones
Founder & CEO
The Alignment Chapter Corp.
The Alignment Chapter Corp. Founder and CEO Ray Nell Jones has created a place for single mothers to feel comfortable and unashamed. As someone who became a single mother at age 19, struggling with her finances and escaping domestic violence, she truly understands. When Jones discovered extreme couponing, she began giving away her stockpile to mothers in her community. Eventually, she started a nonprofit to become the hero she didn’t have.
The Alignment Chapter seeks to decrease the poverty and child neglect rates of low-income mothers. The organization helps single mothers stay aligned with their financial obligations by providing them with a bag of household necessities. Single mothers also can benefit from mentoring, financial webinars and programs that provide coping strategies for issues like stereotypes and bias.
Wendy Pardee, Ph.D.
The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh
At The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, kids and families come first. This also shines through when speaking with Wendy Pardee, Ph.D., CEO of The Children’s Institute since 2017. Her enthusiasm for the organization’s mission is evident and her leadership style and personality are a perfect match for a place that has fun as a core value.
Recently, Pardee and her team led efforts to implement telehealth offerings for physical health patients and behavioral health clients, and online continuity of instruction for students within The Day School, which serves nearly 200 students from more than 60 school districts. Pardee and her team also have been working to expand programs into a robust array of virtual options for educational services, including Applied Behavior Analysis services for children with autism, and more.
Sharise Nance
Co-Owner & founder
Vitamin C Healing | HandinHand Counseling Services LLC
Sharice Nance founded Vitamin C Healing to focus on the healing of the whole person, due to her personal experiences with compassion fatigue and burnout in the mental health profession. In just four years, Vitamin C Healing has evolved from creating literature to broadening its approach to include live and virtual workshops, webinars and online courses.
She also founded HandinHand Counseling Services LLC to provide individual, family and couples mental health counseling in an outpatient setting. The practice, co-owned and founded by Sharise Nance, specializes in working with individuals struggling with complex trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. HandinHand has grown from a part-time private counseling practice to employing four mental health therapists and providing mental health services to more 1,000 consumers in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
Bill Ward Jr.
Ward Transport & Logistics Corp.
Ward Transport & Logistics is a success story that continues to evolve in its fourth chapter of Ward family ownership. From one used truck in 1931 to a fleet of over 700 trucks and 1,400 employees in 2020, the Ward family has sustained its legacy as a family-owned business through engaged leadership and a customer focus.
As a United States Naval Academy graduate and Naval officer, Bill Ward Jr. brings leadership experience and a new vision to his role as president. He has developed a mission statement and a core set of cultural values, while making leadership changes across the organization to facilitate a focus on the future. Ward also helped streamline the procedures, processes and tools that were being used at different facilities to create a consistent client experience.
Mandy Zalich
Westmoreland Community Action
Westmoreland Community Action has made Westmoreland County a better place through housing services, emergency assistance, mental health programs, employment programs, child development and more that have helped thousands of the county’s disadvantaged residents. CEO Mandy Zalich leads a tremendous staff that truly cares about the work they do.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the organization expanded to include more telehealth services. It’s continuing to expand its mental health and drug addiction prevention/treatment programs and services, and also held several virtual programs throughout the summer.
WCA, which has been serving low-income individuals and families since 1980, looks to continue to do great work helping Westmoreland’s poverty-stricken individuals by teaching people to be self-sufficient.
Nicol Molinaro
President & CEO
Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh
For more than 45 years, Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh has helped women and their children escape abusive relationships and build new lives. WCS supports more than 8,000 individuals each year.
Given the current social climate and isolation from COVID-19, intimate partner violence has risen at alarming rates. WCS continues to expand its service offering and support to meet the needs of all survivors in the area.
President and CEO Nicole Molinaro’s leadership has been integral to the nonprofit’s growth. She has led and expanded programs focused on intimate partner violence survivors, including immigrants and refugees with various safety concerns, as well as strengthening the center’s services for those in violent situations and their children. WCS also has expanded and renovated its facility to modernize the shelter and provide more capacity.
Deborah Acklin
President & CEO
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, WQED was in danger of going off the air. However, WQED persevered, led by forward-thinking boards, new management and a staff dedicated to noncommercial public media.
That focus was critical after the steel industry collapse, as WQED showcased the burgeoning technology and innovation community, the millennial generation and necessary civic solutions. Producer Rick Sebak’s documentaries increased community pride and raised awareness of a new Pittsburgh. Program Director and foodie Chris Fennimore’s cooking shows welcomed neighbors into the studio to share recipes and family heritage.
As WQED moves into a more financially stable future under the leadership of President and CEO Deborah Acklin, the region’s only community-owned multiplatform public media is refocusing on innovation.

United Way Portraits

Angela Reynolds
YWCA Greater Pittsburgh
YWCA Greater Pittsburgh is focusing on increased advocacy for race and gender equity under the leadership of CEO Angela Reynolds.
The new plans can be broken down into three main areas. First, YWCA’s Center for Race & Gender Equity will alter its advocacy agenda and racial justice training program by publishing regular Issue Action Plans that highlight the need to address relevant, timely racial and gender issues while sharing lived experiences. The advocacy agenda will also propose policy changes to address systemic racism and gender inequality.
Second, the YWCA will apply a racial justice lens to its own programming to try to eliminate challenges faced by women, notably women of color. Third, the organization wants to make its programming more accessible for children and young adults through its Resource Center.