The Pittsburgh Smart 50 Awards recognize the top executives of the smartest companies in the Greater Pittsburgh region for their ability to effectively build and lead successful organizations. Here’s who we honored this year:
Honorees listed in alphabetical order by company
Ameesh Kapoor is head of engineering for 412 Food Rescue’s innovative and essential tech platform, Food Rescue Hero. The leadership team is highly collaborative and works with trust in each person’s strengths, insights and skillset.
The tech platform and app are disrupting a food assistance system that hasn’t been meaningfully updated in decades. Through the app, volunteer drivers are alerted when surplus food is available at a restaurant, grocery store, catered event, cafeteria, etc. When volunteers accept the rescue, (typically within 10 minutes), the app guides them to the pick-up location, provides directions for how to pick up the food and navigates to the delivery location. Many rescues are completed within one hour, and food that would otherwise go to waste can be consumed the same day.
As a family-owned business, ABARTA Coca-Cola Beverages is committed to putting people first and serving its customers at the highest level, with excellence and integrity. It considers its employees to be an extension of this time-honored, deeply held commitment.
The company lives by six core values that define it and distinguish ABARTA Coca-Cola beverages from all other companies — integrity in all matters, respect for people, contributing to the success of its customers, risk-taking, innovation and learning, long-term perspective and commitment to safe living.
Led by CEO Charlie Bitzer, the company takes pride in partnering with and supporting its communities. ABARTA Coca-Cola has 14 distribution centers across its territory in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Each location shows dedication to local events and organizations.
Accion Labs is an innovative engineering firm that uses emerging technologies, a range of accelerators and a field-tested gated innovation delivery process to create transformational software. Kinesh Doshi, founder and CEO of Accion Labs, fosters innovation through collaboration and continuous learning, key principles that have been the cornerstones of Accion’s success. Over the past year, the team has taken several steps to strengthen these ideals throughout the organization.
First, to drive collaboration, Doshi has revamped his role to allow more time to engage directly with key stakeholders, including clients and employees. By removing day-to-day tasks, he is spending more time building communication through regular checkpoints with clients and employees. These sessions are key drivers to solutions for project issues, organizational improvements and learning opportunities for the entire company.
Aliner is growing sustainably and steadily to support both the climate and its community.
For nearly 40 years, Aliner, led by President and CEO Brett Randall, has produced top-quality towable camping trailers. While being on the forefront of engineering designs has always been its specialty, it is proud to say that its dedicated team members, workplace satisfaction and high retention rates have led to a year-over-year revenue growth of nearly 120 percent.
After countless hours of strategizing, it has rolled out its highest sustainable product yet — the Evolution. Each unit uses over 350 square feet of repurposed materials, keeping them from a landfill. Every 164 built equals the equivalent of 57,400 square feet, or nearly the size of a professional football field, of upcycled materials.
Moreover, all of its products have zero emissions and zero carbon footprint.
Established in 1981, Aquatech International is a global leader in water purification technology for industrial and infrastructure markets, with a focus on desalination, water recycle and reuse and zero liquid discharge.
Headquartered in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, Aquatech — with Rama Subba Rao serving as Executive Vice President — has offices throughout North America and subsidiaries in Europe, the Middle East, India and China. Through its worldwide operations, Aquatech has executed more than 1,000 water management projects in over 60 countries.
The phrase “From Innovation Flows Leadership” affirms Aquatech customers of its dedication to providing new technologies and processes that solve unique project challenges, meet specific industry requirements, enhance system performance and reliability, and significantly reduce installation time and costs.
Ariel Precision Medicine — led by CEO Jessica Gibson — is heavily reliant on its existing customers and advisers when it develops and commercializes new products. The company, which uses precision medicine for the diagnosis, monitoring and tailored treatment of complex diseases, is headed by former clinicians who guide its efforts with their experience and expertise, and relies heavily upon its medical team for an understanding of what is required from a compliance, regulatory and technological perspective. Once it has determined what the product should look like and completed development, it solicits and incorporates feedback from its medical advisory board. It then provides them an early access period to work out any unforeseen problems before launching through its salesforce, with a corresponding marketing effort, more broadly.
Founded in 1978, Automotive Systems Warehouse is a wholesale warehouse distributor of automotive allied products to the collision repair value chain. The company, through its five strategically located warehouses, consolidates 300-plus core vendors to offer tens of thousands of unique automotive products. Rodney King has spent 24 years with ASW and serves as president.
He prides himself on offering exceptional customer service, which showed through numerous customer calls conducted as part of a transaction diligence process in late 2021. Feedback from customers was outstanding, noting King and ASW are valued partners through high-touch service and strong on-time delivery rates. ASW operates as an extension of King’s drive for excellence. His engaging impact on the culture and robust organizational vision have allowed ASW to achieve significant growth.
Sreekar Gadde, executive director for BlueTree Allied Angels, leverages his background in engineering, law and business to identify and analyze early stage companies for potential investment opportunities. In addition, he assists management teams of early and mid-stage companies in developing an IP strategy that complements the company’s business strategy.
Gadde’s work experience spans fields including artificial intelligence, medicine, data analytics and consumer goods. Independent of industry, Gadde works with companies to identify what differentiates them from their competition and determine what forms of IP provide them the best strategic value to protect that differentiation.
Prior to joining BlueTree, Gadde worked as an IP litigator and IP prosecutor at two top law firms and was a validation engineer and team lead for Intel’s microprocessor design business unit.
A smart management consultancy systematically identifies opportunities and seizes upon them. It is also nimble, reacting when business conditions change, never forgetting that business success is based on hard work, earning trust, helping clients become more successful and serving the community. President and CEO Oliver S. Schmidt has built C4CS® with the help of a dedicated team. Schmidt’s leadership encourages people to live up to the company’s tag line: “Leaders in Strategic Communication and Crisis Management.”
Schmidt and two now-retired colleagues founded C4CS® in 1998 in Charlotte, North Carolina; it has been headquartered in Pittsburgh since 2004. Schmidt had newly immigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1990s when he identified a need to combine highly specialized strategic communication and crisis management consulting, training and executive coaching services.
CleanRobotics Technologies combines hardware, software and the Internet of Things to bring new life to recycling programs and the circular economy. Founded in 2015, the CleanRobotics team is driven by the core belief that sorting waste before it reaches recycling facilities is the most effective way to retrieve and maintain the value of recyclable commodities. Its flagship product, TrashBot, reduces contamination at the point of disposal, with a sorting accuracy of 95 percent.
The company, led by CEO Charles Yhap, is the manufacturer of a smart trash bin robot for sorting recyclables from landfill waste. It uses advanced robotics and artificial intelligence during the sorting process. The product monitors the waste processed and analyzes the data about recycling and provides an online dashboard to view instant waste-related data.
J.D. Ewing is an outstanding leader and motivator. The cornerstone of his ability to run a smart organization is people. Ewing believes in recruiting, training and retaining A players who are dedicated to excellence in all facets of the business. He personally set a standard of excellence and ensuring the company’s strategic vision is aligned with service to customers, employees and the community.
Ewing, chairman and CEO, is personally responsible for starting, building and growing COE into a $100 million company over a decade by constantly innovating and adapting products and services to meet and exceed customer needs. The company operates with a culture of continuous improvement though innovation at every level. Whether it’s new products, services or process, Ewing cultivates an atmosphere where every employee feels empowered to innovate.
Pat Cavanaugh has boot-strapped a smaller, entrepreneurial-based organization that entered a very competitive market of functional and sports nutrition products (Coke and Pepsi-beverages, Clif and Kind-bars). Through shrewd strategies and the mindset of outworking the competition, he has built a $100 million-plus company and Ready® Brand, with its products featured in the very largest players in the mass retail, grocery and club channels.
He has accomplished this through best-in-class product innovation and quality with his Ready® Brand, along with building a corporate culture that values the challenge of competing as an underdog with a dogged attitude to succeed. Cavanaugh has had to make the smartest use of his relatively limited resources, compared against corporate giants, to get his products into the marketplace and be accepted by consumers.
Commonwealth Charter Academy, a K-12 public cyber charter school, provides a flexible, customizable education to students across Pennsylvania at no cost to families. Founded in 2003, CCA has helped change the narrative on online learning during a global pandemic.
CCA, led by President and CEO Thomas Longenecker, nearly doubled its enrollment of 10,200 students in the 2019-20 school year to 19,200 in the 2020-21 school year. CCA also doubled the size of its staff from approximately 500 to over 1,000 in six months in 2020.
As of June 2022, CCA served 23,000 students and the school staff grew to 1,500 employees. CCA is now the second-largest K-12 public school in Pennsylvania — only below the city of Philadelphia School District.
Conco Services is a provider of cleaning services and nondestructive testing for industrial facilities and power plants. Edward Gunner Saxon began working at Conco in 1977 and became CEO in 1992. He leads Conco with the “Total Performance Program — Safer, Faster, Cleaner, Greene.” It prioritizes safety, which Saxon reinforces across the organization, as he sees safety not only as a responsibility but a moral obligation.
To accomplish this mission, Saxon fosters a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement using his effective work ethic, communication skills and frequent meetings with all levels of employees. Under his leadership, the organization’s most impactful recent accomplishments include three consecutive years with “Perfect Records,” as described by the National Safety Council, and high retention rates with employees and customers through COVID-19.
Duquesne Light Co. is the largest provider of electricity to the Greater Pittsburgh region, servicing more than 600,000 customers. Founded in 1880 — just one year after the light bulb was invented — with $90,000 in pooled investment funds, DLC (known then as Allegheny County Light) became Pittsburgh`s first electric utility company. This was around the same time that Thomas Edison began generating power for a few dozen Manhattan residents using alternating current (AC). In Pittsburgh, DLC’s pioneers knew that AC was the way of the future and worked together to bring electricity to our region.
Today, DLC is committed to delivering safe and reliable energy for customers’ everyday needs. It’s one of the highest-ranking utilities in reliability and customer service, and was named a 2022 Most Trusted Utility Brand.
Every Child Inc. provides prevention, behavioral health and foster care services to children and their families throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. The individuals served are among the most vulnerable.
When CEO Laura Maines arrived at Every Child eight years ago, its future was unclear. Relationships and partnerships had been strained, commitments were not met and employee turnover was unmanageable. Maines built an executive leadership team to stabilize the organization, built a sustainable yet aspirational strategic plan and began the transformation. The focus is on what Every Child does better than anyone else, and how it could bring that to more children in need.
The organization began flourishing, stabilizing contracts and funding sources while attracting top human service talent and continuing to grow to be a leader in its field.
After working at Federated Hermes for 50 years — 24 of them as CEO — J. Christopher “Chris” Donahue has a deep passion for expanding the company’s footprint in responsible investing and Environmental and Social Governance (ESG), in addition to growing the business on an international scale.
In 2018, it acquired London-based Hermes Fund Managers Ltd., a private equity and infrastructure manager focused on creating sustainable returns for investors, bolstering the company’s bench strength in responsible investing. The firm rebranded in 2020 as Federated Hermes Inc. and renamed its products to reflect its new identity. Now, Federated Hermes is a global leader in active, responsible investment management, with $632 billion in managed assets that can incorporate ESG factors alongside traditional financial analysts.
Jennifer Owen is principal of Flyspace Productions, Pittsburgh’s fastest-growing and only certified woman-owned full-service event producer. Together with her partner, she has managed the strategic growth of the company, which started in 2006 with annual revenue of $15,000 and now has 40 full-time staff and a significantly increased projected revenue this year.
She has guided the company through rapid growth, recessions, a pandemic and an ever-changing industry with foresight, compassion and passion. In March 2020, she helped navigate her company through the most difficult period in its history. Overnight, the event industry shut down and the company was faced with an open-ended timeframe full of unknowns. She made every effort to keep the staff employed and their health insurance paid.
Thanassis Avgerinos is vice president of engineering at ForAllSecure Inc. His work has fundamentally changed how companies think about cybersecurity. He has translated pure academic research into a product used by Fortune 500 companies. Most products iterate on detecting attacks. Avgerinos envisioned a fully autonomous system — a self-driving car for security — that continuously hacked your own stuff and, when it found a problem, automatically patched it.
In 2016, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) asked whether a system like Avgerinos proposed was practical in real life. It launched a Cyber Grand Challenge with a $60 million investment to anyone who could win the challenge. Avgerinos’ research was the fundamental basis for the winning entry, leading to the U.S. Smithsonian recognizing his invention as unique and historical.
As president of Ford Business Machines since 2010, Johnathan Garlow also assumed the role of CEO in 2018 after the passing of his father and the company’s founder. His insight into the growing industry has led to additions to the company’s solution portfolio, as well as a rebranding in 2021 to Ford Office Technologies. This has allowed Ford to fully define its services and commitment to customers by helping them identify with its brand in the marketplace.
Year after year, Garlow continues to listen to the needs of clients and shifts the focus of the company’s offerings to reflect their overall current office environments. This continuous introspection ensures it is always offering the latest in cutting-edge office technology, solutions and unparalleled customer experiences.
Robert “Bob” Fragasso, founder, chairman and CEO of Pittsburgh-based Fragasso Financial Advisors, is celebrating 50 years in the investment industry in 2022. The son of hard-working immigrant parents, Fragasso was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. As a young boy, he managed a paper route and saved the money he earned to invest in mutual funds. Eventually, he used the money he earned as a child for a down payment on his first home.
Fragasso became a financial advisor in 1972. He founded Fragasso Financial Advisors Inc. 26 years ago as an independent Registered Investment Advisor on the premise that clients’ financial success should be made personal, and investments should be selected by what is best for them.
Franjo Construction is a general contractor, construction manager and design/builder. It is a
privately owned corporation servicing the needs of clients regionally through its building, restoration and construction management operating divisions.
Franjo is a leader in the Pittsburgh region in building innovative and cutting-edge projects. Today, more than 100 trade employees work at Franjo in the field and the office. Employee retention is high, with a number celebrating 10 or more years with the company. Although the company was incorporated in 1997, 2002 was its first year of revenue. Joseph Leonello Jr., with his father, started working full time at Franjo in 2002. Supplementing their efforts were Frank Leonello, who joined Franjo full time in 2003 and is now CEO, and Joe Leonello, who serves as president.
Matthew Ferrari leads GAMMA Sports after taking over as president and CEO from his father and organizational founder. When Ferrari took the helm, the company was experiencing declining revenue and profits tied to the decline of the popularity of tennis. In 2015-16, he set GAMMA on a path to recreate itself. Focusing on the racquet and paddle sport industry, he identified an emerging market that was using existing tennis grip products on their gear. Pickleball paddle manufacturers had identified the dominance of GAMMA in tennis grips and began using its product on paddles. It identified pickleball as the next big vertical and dove in. Revenue has turned to the positive, the team at GAMMA Sports is growing and it recently hosted the largest indoor pickleball tournament in the U.S.
Jason Wolfe is a serial entrepreneur who has created and grown numerous companies, including MyCoupons.com, Direct Response Technologies, GiftCards.com, PerfectGift.com, Gift Card Granny and now GiftYa. Wolfe, CEO of GiftYa, continually takes what he has learned from prior companies and products and applies it to his current company, making improvements along the way. He has a drive and dedication to disrupt the gift card industry and fix the brokenness of the gift card, changing and improving the way we gift.
A peer-to-peer gifting technology allows consumers to send money easier and more securely. GiftYa links directly to a user’s Visa, Mastercard or American Express debit or credit card and automatically credits their account when they pay at a merchant the person gifting the money has picked.
Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, headquartered in Lawrenceville, has been serving Southwestern Pennsylvania and North Central West Virginia for over 100 years. In 2021, Goodwill SWPA fulfilled its mission to help people improve their quality of life through work and related services by serving 12,411 adults and youth, had 5,207 participants receive virtual services, employed 1,137 people and had 123 companies hire Goodwill participants. Individuals placed by Goodwill earned an average of 70.5 percent above minimum wage, and services created an economic impact in Southwestern Pennsylvania of more than $90 million.
Reuse of items through Goodwill’s thrift stores keeps millions of pounds of useable goods out of landfills, provides jobs, job training and other opportunities, and provides a steady flow of affordable, high-quality items for resale.
GrayMatter CEO James Gillespie has prioritized GrayMatter’s Brilliant Operations offering to address a talent gap that represents an urgent challenge for large and mid-sized manufacturers and industrial organizations. Retirements, a competitive job market, availability of remote work options and supply chain constraints have made it difficult for industrial companies to find U.S.-based employees to work in factories and industrial plants.
Organizations are looking for new ways to use data and technology to improve their operations and assist the operators they have with their work. GrayMatter’s Brilliant Operations helps companies fill that talent gap. Its industrial control system engineers, data scientists and manufacturing execution system expertise allow industrial companies to overcome the constraints of the tight labor market for industrial technology talent and to find ways to keep innovating.
Iconic Air is at the cutting edge of oil and gas carbon accounting, working with clients to add much-needed features to the company’s SaaS platform that address common pain points for upstream operators. During onboarding, Iconic Air’s engineers work closely with the client to customize the platform, ensuring that it integrates into their workflow and has desired features.
Led by CEO Kyle Gillis, Iconic Air works with oil and gas upstream and midstream companies to reduce carbon emissions. Historically, carbon has been tracked manually via spreadsheets in a time-consuming process. Now, Iconic Air stores, tracks, benchmarks and visualizes this data on one platform. Operators can take an operational view of assets with unprecedented granularity, helping them meet emissions reduction targets on their path to net zero.
Irwin Car and Equipment is a 130-year-old engineering and manufacturing company that specializes in the design and production of leading-edge, heavy-duty material handling equipment for a vast array of heavy industries and specialty applications.
For the last 29 years, Irwin Car and Equipment has reflected President and CEO William Baker’s vision for a company that is composed of multiple niche-like business units related at a common level yet provide a sound and diversified mix of markets, products and industries. This has provided a reliable engine for continued growth for the individual business units of Irwin Car and Equipment and the company as a whole.
Since Baker acquired Irwin Car and Equipment in 1993, the company has had consistent, stable and at times rapid growth.
JWF Industries designs, manufactures and integrates metal centric products by growing with people, processes, markets and customers. The company is dedicated to its employees, communities and global customers in the defense, energy and commercial industries. Under the leadership of President and CEO William “Bill” C. Polacek, JWF Industries has become a pillar in the Johnstown community and surrounding areas.
Polacek believes that “Faith-Family-Country” are the key components to a successful life, and JWF Industries adopted the term as its mantra. These values run from the top down, allowing employees to be a part of the organization’s overall vision. In 1987, Polacek founded Johnstown Welding and Fabrication. Diversification led to a name change, JWF Industries, to provide better growth into newer markets and capabilities.
Founded in 1983, Keystone Foam PA LLC is a fabricator of foam products and applications that serve the medical, packaging, furniture and other industries. Keystone specializes in customized foam solutions using polyurethane, latex and viscoelastic foam.
CEO Brian Quinn has spent 25 years with Keystone Foam. He and the company pride themselves on offering industry-leading customization, capabilities and quality, which showed well through customer calls conducted as part of a transaction diligence process in mid-2022. Customer feedback was outstanding, noting Quinn and the company are valued partners through high-touch service and strong compliant products shipped rates.
Since becoming CEO, Quinn has helped accelerate the expansion of the business through strategic growth initiatives, including the expansion of the warehouse in 2019.
Knichel Logistics Founder William Knichel began working in the railroad industry in 1974. In 1986, he moved to a third-party IMC. After operating for years as an independent agent for a national carrier, he formed Knichel Logistics in 2003 with his daughter, Kristy.
In 2007, Kristy Knichel took over the family business as president, and is now president and CEO. Her brother, William Knichel Jr., is vice president, and her sister, Kandy Knichel-Barkley, is vice president of administration. Being a family business has helped shape the company’s culture, and it views all employees as an extension of the family. That culture helps drive the dedication Knichel Logistics has toward providing best-in-class customer service.
Knichel Logistics’ mission is to be the best third-party logistics provider in the industry.
Nearly 10 years ago, Mary Yohannan left behind a successful career in forensic science to follow her passion for travel. With a growing family, she wanted to be home with her daughters. She channeled her love of travel into Life Is Better Traveling LLC (LIBT) in 2013 as its sole employee, creating a niche around Disney vacations and quickly becoming part of Disney’s exclusive Earmarked program. She soon began to branch out.
Today, LIBT hosts 17 other agents. Yohannan fosters their growth — and hers — through a proprietary, customized online training school. Modules range from Mastermind sessions, where Yohannan leads discussions on sales, marketing, promotions, rules and regulations and new travel trends to a Leads program designed to help agents pinpoint their niche travel market.
With a background as a truck driver and political activist, Logistics Plus Inc. Founder and CEO Jim Berlin took a gamble 26 years ago with one customer, a one-year purchase order and three employees to create a highly successful global logistics enterprise. The company continues to grow and expand under Berlin’s unique and passionate leadership. His philosophy of saying yes to virtually any challenge has led to a company that provides almost any solution needed across a supply chain.
In 2003, he bought the dilapidated Union Station building in downtown Erie for his global headquarters. Investments in charities, the commissioning of murals to combat blight and the ongoing training of hundreds of interns have created an organization that is as committed to the community as it is to its success.
The accounting firm of Louis Plung & Co. was founded in 1921 by Louis Plung and his wife, Jane, in their kitchen in Pittsburgh to provide exceptional auditing, tax and business advisory services to Pittsburgh businesses.
Their son, Donald, took over as managing partner in 1960. In 1984, Donald’s son, Lou, joined the firm and in 1992 became the third managing partner. As Lou grew the firm, the original premise of providing exceptional accounting services and helping clients succeed remained the focus.
Lou and his team vowed to remain an independent firm and engaged in a process of continuous strategic planning. To provide additional focus, they hired a facilitator in 2020 who worked with the partner group to establish goals to sustain and grow the firm.
At the onset of the pandemic, when IT companies were still trying to figure out ways of wading through the COVID waves, Mastech Digital President and CEO Vivek Gupta was ahead of the race with the successful and timely launch of Remote Staffing Services, branded as MAS-REMOTE.
IT staffing services that Mastech Digital had provided until then were at client locations or at Mastech Digital offices. With MAS-REMOTE, its U.S. clients now had access to the top 10 percent of remote-working IT professionals around the country. In 2021, Gupta took MAS-REMOTE and extended remote staffing to Offshore Staffing out of India. This is a timely offering; with a looming recession, organizations are tightening their belts, looking for more for less in IT services, and Offshore Staffing satisfies the need.
For over 30 years, MFA Wealth Management President and CEO Chris McMahon has advised clients in comprehensive financial planning, asset allocation, retirement planning and estate tax management techniques. McMahon is an industry resource serving as a consultant and adviser to industry professionals, giving clarity in the areas of practice management, client care and comprehensive financial planning.
McMahon founded his own wealth planning firm in 1986, which in 2014 became MFA Wealth Management. As a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firm, MFA Wealth Management has a fiduciary responsibility to only provide investment advice that’s in their clients’ best interests. It was this driving force that propelled McMahon to adopt technology years sooner than other financial planners.
In 1979, Gina Luffy founded p.r.n. Health Services with the goal of helping seniors and persons with disabilities live better lives through personal, caring service tailored to their needs, provided by highly qualified professionals. Luffy started the company while looking for a solution for her grandmother who lived alone and needed help. She had a stroke in her early 70s and required daily assistance to live her life with as much dignity as possible.
The desire to help her clients maintain a normal, independent lifestyle while receiving the best home health care possible has motivated her to continue investing in providing more services. For over 35 years, p.r.n. Health Services has provided professional, qualified, trustworthy home care and transportation services for clients in the Pittsburgh area.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were thrown a major curve at the onset of the pandemic, when fans were not permitted to attend, followed by limitations for the first half of the next season. Both had a major impact on its primary revenue, ticket sales. However, the Penguins, with the assistance of the NHL, its banks and owners, emerged stronger than in pre-pandemic times. Attendance by year-end averaged 90 percent of capacity, with season ticket sales strong for the upcoming season. Sponsorships and TV revenue are at all-time highs.
Led by President of Business Operations Kevin Acklin and Kevin Hart, vice president of finance, the Penguins answered each of the challenges they faced. Acklin is in his fifth season in the Penguins organization, and his first as president of Business Operations.
Joel Reed, executive director of the Pittsburgh Robotics Network (PRN), describes himself as an entrepreneur in a consultant’s body. He is a start-up savvy, passionate robotics business leader with 25 years of strategy, customer development, sales, marketing and operational experience who utilizes a mix of leadership styles to deliver value in the face of risk and uncertainty.
Highlights of his career include introducing autonomous mobile robots as a new class of logistics robots, commercializing 3D LiDAR data processing software, which was acquired by Autodesk, and eCommerce picking robots, for which he raised $20 million and secured key customers. He is a fierce advocate for robotics companies and dedicated to building an impact aligned with his vision for the region.
Two- and three-year colleges specializing in technical education play an important role in building the workforce of tomorrow. Under the renewed leadership of Alicia B. Harvey-Smith, Ph.D., Pittsburgh Technical College is positioned to not only be a leader in applied technical education within the region, but also nationally.
Harvey-Smith is strategically positioning PTC as an educator of choice for technical education and careers of the future as programs are explored and expanded. With more than 30 academic programs, she has reinforced PTC’s role as a primary pathway for filling middle skills jobs and fueling economic development through sector partnerships and career pathways.
In the last year alone, she has formed articulation agreements with Robert Morris University and West Liberty University to make advanced degrees affordable and accessible.
Dr. Douglas Gebhard, PharmaD MBA, has dedicated his life to connecting underserved patients with much-needed therapies. He is president and of RareMed Solutions, the nation’s only concierge patient services provider. RareMed partners with biopharma to transform the lives of patients afflicted with rare and devastating conditions by accelerating access to biomedical breakthroughs and treatment. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, RareMed offers case management, co-pay, financial assistance programs, reimbursement support, nursing support, health care professional education, patient adherence and education, and noncommercial pharmacy dispensing services to all 50 states.
Gebhard leads over 200 individuals with a breadth of experience developing, launching and maintaining therapy-specific teams.
River Point Technology continues to be recognized as a leader within its market. Founder and CEO Jeff Eiben has instilled an innovative culture since founding the company in 2011. River Point is recognized within its industry as a leader within cloud automation, and companies such as HP, PWC, Trace3 and others partner with RPT to bring this expertise to their customers. This leadership in the market is mainly due to Eiben’s vision and executing it within a competitive market.
Outside of River Point leadership, Eiben is sharing his smart methodology, Value Creation Technology, in a soon-to-be-released book. His goal is to share the smart model that River Point has successfully used to help companies and technologists have more success with enabling emerging technology.
Graham Rihn believed there was a better way for companies and organizations to recycle waste. On a mission to solve the operational inefficiencies that most often come with traditional waste and recycling management, he launched RoadRunner Recycling in 2014. The company is now setting new and actionable sustainability benchmarks for businesses and dramatically increasing America’s recycling rates.
Before RoadRunner Recycling, a business would contract with a solid waste company, where about 95 percent of materials go to landfills because of traditional hauling and material separating inefficiencies. When a business signs with RoadRunner, it becomes its materials management partner, onboarding existing incumbent solid waste companies while implementing flexible recycling options customized to fit their business.
SteelBridge Labs is an early stage Fintech Venture Capital firm. The investment firm grew through its people’s experience as world-class management consultants. Through its consulting work with PE and VC firms, it identified the need to create an ecosystem for Fintech companies to tackle real-world problems and grow.
The lab provides a safe space for innovation. Entrepreneurs, coders, investors and technologists looking to take an idea from its infancy and grow it from the ground up now have a place to call home. SteelBridge Labs wants founders who are passionate about what they do and will work tirelessly to win. It takes an active role in all companies by providing guidance, leadership and, in some cases, a hands-on role inside the company.
Tecum Capital was founded by Managing Partner Stephen Gurgovits in 2013 and is headquartered in Wexford. Tecum Capital invests in lower-middle-market businesses with exceptional management teams. On behalf of a highly seasoned group of institutional, family office and high-net-worth individual investors, Tecum Capital has invested over $850 million in approximately 100 platform and add-on acquisitions.
Gurgovits was the driving force in developing the vision of Tecum Capital as the leading source of flexible capital for lower-middle-market businesses by creating value for all key stakeholders in a portfolio company. He envisioned a collaborative, relationship-focused approach, which is where he decided on the name Tecum, a Latin adverb meaning “with you.” Partnership and collaboration are exemplified not only in the investing relationships, but in the team within Tecum.
Christy Pietryga started with Veterans Leadership Program in 2014 as a housing case manager, assisting veterans experiencing homelessness move into permanent housing. Through this experience and performance, she moved to housing manager, program director then COO. Since becoming COO, Pietryga has helped VLP nearly triple its annual number of veterans served, tripled the organization’s annual budget and nearly tripled its staff. Most important, by increasing the annual budget of the organization, VLP has been able to expand its services from 18 counties in Pennsylvania to 30 counties in Western and Central Pennsylvania, serving more veterans in need of assistance. She has implemented a data and compliance team to ensure performance measures are being met and veterans are provided the highest level of care.
Sharise Nance founded Vitamin C Healing in 2016, two years after the release of her first book, whose mission is to promote life balance, satisfaction and fulfillment. Vitamin C was created to focus on the healing of the whole person, with the hope that its services will provide a similar experience as the nutrient.
Vitamin C has evolved into an organization that enhances the emotional wellness by helping professionals, entrepreneurs and caregivers struggling with self-care, work-life balance, compassion fatigue and burnout through group coaching, workbooks, live and virtual workshops and online courses. Since 2017, Vitamin C has collectively helped over 100 educational facilities, nonprofit, social service, community mental health and health care organizations.
She also co-founded HandinHand Counseling Services in 2013.
Wesley Family Services, led by CEO Douglas Muetzel, is a nonprofit organization that annually impacts more than 20,000 individuals and families in Western Pennsylvania. WFS’ trained staff of over 900 people is committed to providing high-quality behavioral health care services and support programs to children, adults and families over the course of their lifespan so they are empowered to reach their full potential.
WFS’ mission is to empower children, adults and families by providing transformational care, while its vision is to do more for children, families and adults by being more effective, efficient and sustainable, and continuing to innovate in what they do and how they do it.
WFS has a proven commitment to creating and sustaining a culture that focuses on empowering people.
West Shore Home has evolved and honed its business model over the last 15 years and has grown from two locations in Mechanicsburg and Pittsburgh to over 30 locations, with an aspiration to soon become the leading national brand in the same-day bath/shower, windows and door installation business. The company, with CFO Philip Brenckle, has been fueled by organic growth in each market location, greenfield de novo start-up locations and acquisitions. The common denominator is to leverage the proven business model that generally completes the install jobs in one day, utilizes artificial data intelligence to identify likely households to target, deploys their own employees in telemarketing centers to make contact, makes extensive use of television marketing to build their brand and uses company-employed installers.
When Founder and Co-Managing Partner David Wilke started his accounting firm in 1998, it was just him and one client. Today, he has grown that vision to nearly 60 employees and more than 2,000 clients in Western Pennsylvania and nationwide. In the past three years, their growth rate has averaged 10 to 12 percent.
The firm’s defining principle is, let employees choose their own path. He compensates employees based on individual effort and firm profitability. Compensation is based on a straightforward hourly rate, which makes it easier to budget for expenses, reduces administrative tasks and puts the control squarely on the employees. Bonuses are based on a team members’ results and efficiency. It’s predictable, easy to manage and incentivizes employees to reach their own personal goals. ●