As our country and our region continue to recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19, I would like to congratulate the 22 Cascade Capital Corporation Business Growth Awards winners for 2021 that have not only persevered during the pandemic but have continued to excel. These companies are located within Summit, Medina, Portage, Stark, Wayne, Ashland and Holmes counties in Northeastern Ohio.
Companies can earn Business Growth Awards by either increasing their sales levels or employee bases significantly over the course of the past five years. This impressive growth results in major economic benefits for our local/regional economy.
These companies’ sales of their goods and services to other parts of the state, across the nation and even internationally enrich our local/regional economy. Receipts and profits generated by these companies are positively manifested when they purchase local goods and services, invest in new operating facilities/equipment and hire new employees. These wealth-creating mechanisms directly lead to the economic vitality, and currently, the recovery, of our local/regional economy.
Cascade Capital Corporation’s primary business focus is to provide capital expansion financing to growing small and medium-sized companies investing in new operating facilities, equipment and human resources throughout Northeastern Ohio. Through its SBA 504 Loan Program, Cascade Capital Corporation provides below-market, fixed interest rate financing. In combination with traditional bank financing, small/medium-sized companies receive 90 percent financing for new building, equipment and business purchases as follows: Bank Financing – 50 percent; Cascade Capital Corporation SBA 504 – 40 percent; Business Down Payment – 10 percent. The primary SBA 504 financing term options are for 20 and 25 years, with current fixed interest rates set at 2.85 percent and 2.97 percent respectively.
Cascade Capital Corporation’s Ohio 166 Loan Program offers an extremely competitive, below-market fixed rate of 2.5 percent for nonretail companies investing in new operating facilities or equipment. Loans of up to $1 million are available, and a number of 2021 Business Growth Award winners have received funding from Cascade Capital Corporation.
Cascade Capital Corporation is very proud to have invested its own financial resources to promote economic development throughout Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties for several years to support new business development, existing business expansion, technology advancement and new job creation throughout the region.
Congratulations to all of Cascade Capital Corporation’s 2021 Business Growth Award winners on a job well done, and thank you for your continuing role in supporting the recovery and growth our local/regional economy. ●
Robert Filipiak is president of Cascade Capital Corp., an economic development finance company that has provided dependable financing options to growing small- to medium-sized companies in Greater Akron and Northeastern Ohio since 1983. Reach him at (330) 379-3160 or [email protected]
Huntington Legacy Award
Sequoia Financial Group | Thomas Haught, President & CEO
Sequoia Financial Group offers comprehensive wealth management services, including financial, estate and insurance planning, asset management, fiduciary consulting and family office services.
Sequoia’s mission has always revolved solely around the success of its clients; it exists to Enrich Lives™. Everything it does is in pursuit of that mission. Over the last 18 months, there has been seismic shifting on a global scale. For Sequoia, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t induce panic or push the company into a reactive response strategy. The technological infrastructure at the firm made the transition to working from home nearly seamless. However, what has changed is its level of reliance upon, and efficient use of, its technological tools. With the pandemic in full swing by the second quarter of 2020, all client meetings went virtual, eliminating the security of regular, in-person contact with clients.
Sequoia’s investment in technology infrastructure gave its advisers the ability to shift to virtual videoconferences immediately through Webex, eliminating any lag in communication. The video component supported the trust and connection of an in-person meeting, even in quarantine. Its technology team worked tirelessly to develop training modules for employees and quick guides for clients to offer support to those who were not familiar with virtual meetings.
Technology has served Sequoia’s mission well, underscoring and supporting clear, consistent communication and creating opportunities for the team to enrich the lives of clients at a time of great turbulence. Additionally, the pandemic created an opportunity to launch a new marketing initiative, offering webinars to clients, prospects, COIs, anyone interested in thought leadership content from Sequoia. The company joined forces with other firms to offer educational seminars and workshops that made the most of social distancing.
Sequoia is committed to its mission, and instead of being derailed by the events of the recent past, it has remained focused on its strategic growth goals. As it continues to create an environment and culture that attract top-tier talent and empower and resource its team to do what is right for clients, the company’s leadership believes the natural result is continued growth. Over the last five years, Sequoia has acquired four firms, more than doubled its revenue and added 36 employees.
Its success has allowed it to make significant contributions of cash, services and time to local organizations including Summit County Habitat for Humanity, Akron Children’s Hospital, Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland and the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank. ●
Entrepreneurial Spirit Award
Leppo Group | Wm. Glenn Leppo, CEO
Leppo Group’s most significant achievement the past five years has been to improve its sustainability by diversifying its business, while nearly doubling its revenue. It accomplished this through targeted growth initiatives aimed at rebalancing its customer base, expanding its geographic markets and increasing the vendors whose products it represent.
Leppo Group — celebrating its 75th year — is in the business of renting and selling construction equipment, with a specific focus on diesel-powered equipment under 100 horsepower. During its significant growth from 1995 to 2015, the company became focused on Northeast Ohio nonresidential construction contractors as its primary customer base. The model served it well, and it was able to grow market share by becoming trusted experts in that niche. The downside of that concentration was that in 2016, it saw a decline in revenue despite a generally favorable economy; its niche was in a mini-recession, and its reliance on a relatively small number of customers caused revenue to fall as those contractors slowed.
Although strong as an organization, Leppo Group took 2016 as a wake-up call. Leadership began prioritizing growth opportunities that would diversify the company’s portfolio, much as one is supposed to do when investing for retirement. It wanted to stick to its core product mix, where it was truly an expert, while looking for markets not on the same business cycle as nonresidential construction. It also recognized that other parts of the country had population growth that helps drive demand for its products and looked for opportunities to add a significant presence in a high growth market.
Adding higher-risk, higher-reward investments to a portfolio can decrease overall volatility and improve financial performance. The company’s version of volatile, high-risk, high-reward investments was rental of construction equipment to energy exploration companies. It made a small investment in this industry with a location in Carrollton, where it operates as Razor Rents. In 2018, it expanded Razor Rents to Midland, Texas. Two of its largest Ohio energy exploration customers had operations in Texas and welcomed its presence.
The downside of renting to energy exploration contractors is the industry is boom/bust. The answer in 2019 was to buy Valco Equipment, was focused on the sale of access equipment. This gave it capacity to rapidly sell fleet at great prices in 2020 when the pandemic shut down jobsites in Northeast Ohio, gave it a national presence in the sale of equipment and allowed it to add vendors with niche products, broadening its customer base. ●
Best Story: Manufacturing
In 1975, Hamrick Packaging Systems started as a rebuilder and parts supplier of Meyer case packers and uncasers. Since then, Hamrick has grown into a respected supplier of end-of-line packaging equipment, specializing in case and tray packers.
Servicing many industries around the globe, it’s Hamrick’s mission to provide affordable automation at a competitive price and stand behind it with excellent customer service and support. As one of the last remaining family-owned, family-managed companies in packaging, it takes pride in every piece of equipment it manufactures.
It has placed over 3,000 standard and customized packaging machinery units throughout the world. Hamrick stands as a strong competitor in the market relative to price and durability. Hamrick’s parts and service department surpass industry standards with responsiveness to customers’ needs. It keeps more than $1 million in parts stocked on its shelves for quick turnaround and shipment to customers.
All of its operations, from sales through final testing, are performed in-house. Hamrick provides the highest quality packaging machinery, machinery parts and service for years of trouble-free operation and within its more than 50,000 square foot facility, it employs some of the most experienced packaging professionals and personnel in the industry. ●
Best Story: Service Industry
Peoples Services, Inc. is a network of company-owned 3PL companies that provide quality supply chain logistics, freight brokerage and asset-based transportation services. With over 7 million square feet of warehouse space across seven states, it has the scope and experience to handle all of its customers’ distribution needs. Its warehouses specialize in food-grade storage, polymers, auto and chemicals, along with customized packaging and fulfillment services. Its transportation capabilities complement the warehouse services, and its experienced team maximizes the company’s advantage to supply efficient and reliable supply chain services. Since 2016, its revenue has increased more than 35 percent and its employee count is up more than 30 percent.
Throughout the years the Sibila family has been active in many community services, whether it is volunteering or sitting on boards in the community or trade associations. They have had continuous representation and leadership roles on local development agencies for decades
PSI is a privately held company with an Employee Stock Ownership Program, and 20 percent of the company is owned by the employees. Leadership believes that having an ESOP over the traditional 401(k) with a match is better for all employees because some would not participate in the 401(k). ●
Best Story: Technology
The Drips AI-powered platform enables brands to engage with their audiences through Conversational Texting® and scheduled calling. Backed by a proprietary natural language processing model, Drips leverages human-like messaging to break through the noise, capture intent and drive meaningful outcomes.
With more than half a billion conversations handled to date, its AI is constantly improving. More than 3.5 billion touch points have gone through the Drips platform, which offers an open API allowing clients to integrate with any CRM, marketing automation system, dialer or call center platform. Since 2016, the company has increased revenue more than 2,000 percent and increased its employee number eightfold.
Drips also tries to do its part in making the community a better place. It donates to local politicians during election season and is involved in, and is a sponsor to, the Nantucket Concert Series Downtown Akron. When the local indie theater, Nightlight Cinema, moved into the neighborhood, Drips donated high-end Love Sac furniture to it.
Drips’ employees often give keynotes and run workshops at local meet-ups and speak at local schools to promote S.T.E.M. education. Most important, the company is creating jobs and keeping a Silicon Valley type tech company’s income right here in Akron. ●
Best Revenue Growth
The computerization of medical offices began in earnest in the 1990s, focusing on automation of the billing process. By the time the Internet became a platform for hosting business applications, the focus of the medical software industry had shifted from accounts receivables applications to medical records applications that also did billing.
The founders of Open Practice Solutions Ltd. (OPS) saw that while physician practices were getting squeezed with ever-decreasing reimbursements, the quality of available A/R systems was getting worse as the market focused on the government-subsidized move to electronic medical records. Seeing both the need for a web-based solution and a solution focused on helping private practices stay viable, OPS was founded in 2005.
The decision to develop its applications as browser-accessed has been more accepted by the market with each passing year. However, COVID-19 was the ultimate validation of this strategy. When clients pivoted to remote work, they were able to do so seamlessly without concerns over maintaining access to their RCM platform. This is now a driver of sales, as organizations clearly recognize the benefits of not having applications reside on their local PCs. ●
Best Employee Growth
Incept brings true conversational marketing back to customer experience to improve the outcome of customer interactions, promote and protect brands and accelerate growth. It has worked with some of the largest brands in the world to develop CX campaigns with one main goal — strengthen relationships at every touch point.
At Incept, its purpose is to help employees become the best version of themselves. An intense focus on this purpose has landed the company at the top of multiple awards lists, commemorating its culture and employee engagement. Incept engages its employees by focusing on the most important aspects in becoming an organizationally healthy workplace — direction, execution and connection (as defined by WorkplaceDynamics). By ensuring employees have emotionally bought in to what the company is trying to achieve, continuing to build culture with a focus on performance and ensuring that employees are working toward something meaningful, Incept continues to have happy employees and happy customers.
It is because of this commitment to employees that the company has subsequently experienced so much success in the past several years. Incept has added over 300 jobs to the local economy in the last five years while increasing revenue by more than 97 percent. ●
2021 Honor Role
An IT managed service provider, AtNetPlus provides a full range of technology, security and software development services for SMBs. Led by co-founder and CEO Jay Mellon, its mission is to offer excellent service and management of a business’s technology so owners can focus on making their business better. When remote work became a priority during the pandemic, the AtNetPlus’ team became essential, ensuring clients’ transitions were done securely. Its revenue has increased 40 percent-plus since 2016.
Consolidus offers a web-based solution (SaaS) to better manage and reduce the costs for custom branded products, including promotional products, custom branded apparel, banners and displays, and print. Consolidus is an innovation leader and has developed progressive customer-facing technology solutions and internal management systems that allow it to offer industry-leading quality of service at reduced costs. Founder and CEO Jeffrey Jones had led the company to increase revenue by more than 200 percent since 2016.
Corporate Technologies Group
Corporate Technologies Group had planned to celebrate its 20th anniversary with its clients in 2020 but it didn’t let a global pandemic slow it down. In 2018, it acquired the northern division of Pro OnCall, and these customers struggled with COVID stay-at-home orders, as their phone systems would not effectively allow them to work from home. CTG and co-founder Jeff Sumner worked with these customers to provide temporary solutions and discuss long-term solutions.
Crimcheck is a culture-driven organization with a tightknit, collaborative leadership team and workforce. Team members across departments share a common goal of delighting customers and a passion for protecting their employees, customers, assets and brand by providing best-in-class employment background screening solutions. CEO Tom Shieh communicates transparently, and the company celebrates successes, recognizes employee and company milestones and hosts events that strengthen cross-functional relationships. Crimcheck has sustained revenue growth of 30 percent in the last five years.
DRB Systems LLC
For decades, DRB Systems LLC has been helping entrepreneurs discover the American Dream of running and growing a business. Led by President and CEO Dan Pittman, it has supported — and often driven — growth in the car wash industry. With its support, car washes have limited weather impacts with unlimited wash plans, improved customer experiences with advanced technology and tapped hidden growth potential. Since 2016, DRB has increased staffing by 75 percent in Northeast Ohio.
Etactics Inc. was established in 1999 to provide a cost-effective service that enhances the accuracy and delivery of time-sensitive documents, especially invoices and statements. Helmed by CEO Michael Teutsch, it is a leading business solutions organization committed to providing innovative, web-based solutions that improve clients’ cash management and customer relationships. Its products and services help clients improve business processes, boost productivity, reduce expenses and accelerate payment, leading to a 40 percent increase in revenue since 2016.
With a strong emphasis on health and safety, Fire-Dex, a family-owned, global manufacturer of personal protective equipment for first responders, continues to pave the path of innovation for head-to-toe PPE product solutions. Led by President Lauren Burke Devere, the company’s mission is to serve those who serve. Fire-Dex continues to grow through acquisitions, increased sales and its unending dedication to the fire industry. As a result, it has nearly doubled revenue since 2016.
Focal Point Digital Marketing
Chairman Mark Krohn leads the team at Focal Point Digital Marketing, helping clients tell their story, market it and drive awareness, interest and engagement, all of which are a must before explosive sales can take place and revenue can grow. The company has developed a simple, proprietary, four step, turnkey process that helps business of all types, with or without a marketing or sales team, develop world-class sales and marketing plans and generate amazing results.
Great Lakes Fasteners Inc.
Since 1958, Great Lakes Fasteners has been supplying quality production and MRO fasteners to Midwest manufacturers at a value price. GLF offers a complete portfolio of standard, metric, military spec and build-to-order special fasteners and customized solutions. Led by President Kevin Weidinger, GLF has an unwavering commitment to provide its customers with quality products and services on time and at the right price. Since 2016, it has quadrupled revenue and nearly tripled its employee count.
Headed by President and CEO W. Michael Jarrett, Jarrett is a leading provider of transportation and logistics solutions, driving visibility, control and continuous improvement. Jarrett has been executing strategic initiatives such as technological improvements, employee recruiting and retention, and relocating the Jarrett Fleet Services division. Its customized services enhance operational efficiency, lower transportation-related costs and mitigate supply chain risks. Since 2016, it has increased revenue more than 40 percent and added 34 employees.
Law Firm of Mark E. Krohn
Mark E. Krohn has served as general counsel and COO to numerous small and medium-sized local businesses, helping them at every stage of their development, from start-up to high growth, scale and divestiture/sale. His legal and business experience helps him understand exactly what executives and owners want, helping businesses take advantage of their most promising opportunities while managing and minimizing perceived risks and challenges. As a result, he has nearly doubled his firm’s revenue since 2017.
QualityIP is celebrating 18 years as an IT services company. From a modest start that focused on Voice-over-IP, it has grown to 55 employees and more than doubled revenue since 2016, with expertise in key areas of information technology. Led by CEO Ryan Markham, QualityIP delivers robust IT solutions to help customers stay competitive, with expert advice to simplify their options and best practices to tie it all together to save time and money.
Radcom’s employees have a passion for helping people love their work, with a niche of improving performance at work. It’s in the business of human performance: Improving business by improving its people. Headed by President Angela Dianetti, Radcom helps organizations improve performance by conveying information effectively and impactfully, whether they’re adopting technology, introducing products, welcoming a workforce, implementing processes, or taking a new approach to an old problem. Since 2016, it has nearly doubled revenue.
S3 Technologies is Northeast Ohio’s foremost technology specialist, creating value for clients by solving individual business challenges. With a decade of expertise and a dedicated team including President Nancy Larker, S3 delivers complete technology solutions from concept through installation and support with projects that include security, audio-visual, networking and emerging tech needs with an unrelenting focus on trust and consistency. Since 2016, it has tripled revenue and nearly doubled its employee count.
For more than 25 years, Vizmeg Landscape has focused on creating and maintaining exceptional outdoor living spaces. Its extraordinary team of designers and technicians work collaboratively to best understand their clients’ vision and work tirelessly to exceed expectations. Founder George Vizmeg has always been a leading innovator, challenging management to find new efficiencies. Led by President Garrett Walker, the company has recently accelerated its growth plans while building a strong internal foundation for the future.