Columbus’ Smart 50 Awards celebrate area’s top executives

As business leaders, it’s important that we take time to recognize one another. And I’m honored that I have a chance to do just that. Thank you, Smart Business, for giving Hylant the opportunity to be part of the Smart 50 awards.
This year’s honorees have made, and I’m confident will continue to make, a noticeable impact on the communities, industries and organizations that they work and live in. Each are true leaders who are passionate about the work they do.
My favorite part of Smart 50 is getting to know the honorees, not just as businesspeople but as individuals who are just as excited as I am to be part of this community. I continue to be humbled and inspired by the level of engagement each leader has with their organization. Each leader is unique, yet they all share a similar passion for the work they do. The honorees have each made a difference in their organization and help strengthen the Columbus business community.
On behalf of Hylant, I want to personally recognize and congratulate all the honorees — the passion and commitment you have for your organization and the community positively impact our entire community. The result of your hard work is evident all over Columbus and Central Ohio.
When founding Hylant more than 80 years ago, Edward Hylant promised to treat our clients and employees like family — with honesty, respect and trust. Today, we are among the largest privately held, full-service insurance brokerage firms in the United States and a 10-consecutive-year winner of Best Places to Work in Insurance. We offer business insurance, personal insurance and employee benefits services to protect the people and things you care about most ●
Chris Godley
Hylant Columbus 

Quick links:
David Abraham, Accel Inc.  |  Nick Akins, American Electric Power  |  John Ammendola, Grange Insurance  |  Justin Bates, Stanley Steemer International  |  Frederic Bertley, COSI  |  Denise Blankemeyer, Crow Works  |  Sarah Blouch, CampusParc  |  Tom Bohls & Greg Bohls, Buckeye Power Sales  |  Margie Brickner, Reliant Capital Solutions  |  Stephanie Clarey, Two Men And A Truck, Columbus  |  John D. Clark Sr., The Whitestone Group Inc.  |  Benjamin Clarke, Bold Penguin Inc.  |  Fernando Crosa, US Tank Alliance  |   Abby David & Erin Nealy, Bridgeway Academy  |  Joe DeLoss, Hot Chicken Takeover  |  Charissa W. Durst, Hardlines Design Co.  |  Dana E. Engle, Madison County Community Hospital dba Madison Health  |  Joel Furno, Citrin  |  Chris Gabrelcik, Lubrication Specialties Inc.  |   Jennifer Gorsuch Walters, Fairfield Homes Inc.; Gorsuch Construction Inc.  |  Gordon Gough, Ohio Council of Retail Merchants  |  W. Gregory “Greg” Guy, Air Force One Inc.  |  Marc Hawk, RevLocal  |  Lisa Huang, Advanced Engineering Consultants  |  Kelly James, ROAM Bikes Inc.  |  Ron M. Jordan, Jordan Hospitality Group  |   Andy Joseph, Apeks Supercritical  |   Lori Kaiser, Kaiser Consulting LLC  |  Mark Kovacevich, Improving  |  Erica Krumlauf, Leading EDJE  |  Neill Lane, Stirling Ultracold, Division of Global Cooling Inc.  |  Catherine Lang-Cline, Portfolio Creative  |  Mike LaRocco, State Auto Financial Corp.  |  Patrick Maynard, I Am Boundless Inc.  |  Tim McCord, DāNite Sign Co.  |  Ryan McManus, SHARE  |  Lori Miller, Exhibitpro  |  Andy Panos, Cloudbreak Health  |  Debbie Penzone, Charles Penzone Inc.  |  Rick Ricart, Ricart Automotive  |  Frank Sasso, Kaufman Development  |  Hiten Shah, MES Inc.  |  Kyle Shen, Nexceris LLC  |  Rita Soronen, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption  |  David R. Specht, The Waterworks  |  Tom Stalf, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium  |  Maura Stevenson, MedVet  |  Rich Wartel, Two Labs  |  Matina Zenios, Artina Promotional Products  |  Jim Ziminski, Crane Renovation Group

Honorees listed in alphabetical order by last name

2019 Columbus Smart 50 honorees

David Abraham
Co-CEO and chairman
Accel inc.
While Accel inc. is known for its hand assembly service, Co-CEO and Chairman David Abraham has strategically led the contract packaging organization to diversify its core services and add automated co-packing lines. This has helped the company broaden its client base and achieve significant growth, expanding beyond its startup days as a small operation assembling gift baskets to become a large, one-of-a-kind facility meeting unique market needs.
Under Abraham’s leadership, the Accel team has overcome production hurdles to meet these needs while keeping costs low for clients by obtaining additional certifications, hosting engineering meetings and testing new equipment. They’ve developed automated lines built inhouse, including manufacturing personal care products such as bath fizzies for L Brand Inc.’s PINK and Bath & Body Works.
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Nick Akins
Chairman, president and CEO
American Electric Power
Nick Akins leads retail energy provider American Electric Power (AEP) as chairman, president and CEO. An electric engineer, he’s ignited a strategic transformation, creating new avenues for corporatewide innovation by leveraging data analytics and emerging digital technologies.
Key among his initiatives is significant investment to modernize the transmission grid, replacing aging facilities, targeting poorly performing assets and improving grid security. Longer term, the company is focused on diversifying its generation portfolio to include renewables.
Beyond self-improvement, Akins drives AEP to impact the industry at large. It recently launched IllumiNationLAB, which identifies and provides resources to promising entrepreneurs and early growth stage companies developing solutions in areas such as renewable energy resources, smart connected devices, customer engagement, predictive analytics and virtual assessments.
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John Ammendola
President and CEO
Grange Insurance
When John Ammendola became president and CEO of Grange Insurance in 2014, he ushered in a culture shift that has significantly modernized the once-traditional insurance carrier. Key to his efforts was creation of a 10-year strategic plan developed in collaboration with his leadership team to define what modernization would look like, while promoting business growth.
A critical component of this plan was addressing technology challenges within the organization, including updating legacy systems and equipping associates with the tools needed to improve the digital experience for both agents and customers. Ammendola also established a team dedicated to innovation, which launched an innovation incubator, held innovation challenges across the company and restructured the carrier to focus on its property and casualty segments.
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Justin Bates
Stanley Steemer International
In 1947, Jack A. Bates founded Stanley Steemer International as a home-based carpet cleaning company. Today, it remains a family-owned business, led by third-generation President Justin Bates, and has expanded across 49 states. The company provides a wide range of cleaning services for homes and businesses.
Encompassing a national network of more than 280 independently owned and operated franchises and company-owned locations, Stanley Steemer ensures consistent, high-quality service by manufacturing its own state-of-the-art equipment and training technicians in house. Its corporate training program consists of hands-on and classroom learning, with continued education through web-based programs.
Focused on providing safer cleaning to consumers, Stanley Steemer has been recognized with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice label.
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Frederic Bertley
President and CEO
When Frederic Bertley was named president and CEO of COSI in 2017, it was a pivotal time for the science museum, which was preparing for an unprecedented transition with the opening of the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery permanent exhibition and the American Museum of Natural History Special Exhibition Gallery. Featuring state-of-the-art traveling exhibitions from New York City’s renowned museum, this unique collaboration expanded COSI’s offerings with natural history.
Bertley has since continued efforts to enrich COSI’s offerings, including driving creation of the COSI Solar Eclipse Celebration, Science Festival and Color of Science program, as well as development of a new strategic vision and mission. His efforts have helped earn the museum recognition as an “Institution of the Year” by the Ohio Museum Association.
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Denise Blankemeyer
Crow Works
Denise Blankemeyer co-founded Crow Works with her husband, Dennis, in 1995, with a vision to provide design-centric, commercial-grade furniture. Serving high-profile clients such as Starbucks and Whole Foods, the company’s success stems from the creation of pieces that combine utility, beauty and sustainability, with 100 percent of products made in Ohio.
Under Blankemeyer’s guidance, the company has implemented advanced manufacturing capabilities that have increased the size of the operations teams, including woodworking, textiles and engineering; from 2017 to 2019, employee growth has doubled.
Overseeing this growth, Blankemeyer maintains a strategic focus on fostering a healthy work environment. She is responsible for establishing the company’s wellness program, charitable giving and employee philanthropy programs, tuition reimbursement and more, and is passionate about the associates’ professional development.
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Sarah Blouch
President and CEO
As president and CEO of CampusParc, The Ohio State University’s parking system, Sarah Blouch runs the first large parking concession at a major university in the U.S. She and her team are continuously blazing trails to provide safe, efficient campus parking and good stewardship of the parking system assets, as well as achieve the expectations of investors.
The parking system Blouch oversees — one of the largest of its kind — spans 5 million square feet within 16 garages and 7 million square feet within 196 surface lots for a total of 36,591 system spaces. Key to her and CampusParc’s success in managing such an expansive system is their focus on fostering operational efficiency, data-driven decision-making and long-term strategic planning.
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Tom Bohls & Greg Bohls
President; Vice president
Buckeye Power Sales
Family owned and operated since 1947, Buckeye Power Sales (BPS) is run by brothers Tom Bohls, president, and Greg Bohls, vice president. They’ve used their decades-long experience since their start with the organization under their father to not only maintain the successful business but grow it into the multimillion-dollar enterprise it is today.
A leader in lawn and garden equipment sales and Kohler product distribution, the Bohls brother have strategically diversified the business by introducing additional product lines and services, including expansion into retail equipment and parts. They’ve built an online store for businesses to buy new and pre-owned lawn and construction equipment and associated parts, and further grew BPS’ outdoor product equipment offering and territory through acquisition in 2018.
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Margie Brickner
President and CEO
Reliant Capital Solutions
With 35 years of experience, Margie Brickner has become a trusted adviser in the collections industry. A former recovery specialist, she started her accounts receivable company with the vision of creating a leading national provider of collection services offering an exemplary customer service experience for both clients and loan borrowers. She’s achieved that with Reliant Capital Solutions.
As president and CEO, Brickner has led the company to consistent year-over-year growth with operations in Ohio, New York, Colorado and Arizona. She’s continued to expand the core business, from supporting higher education loan recovery to government services and health care debt recovery. She’s also expanded her staff and invests significant time and resources into developing a positive, supportive company culture focused on people.
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Stephanie Clarey
Two Men And A Truck, Columbus
Stephanie Clarey leads Two Men And A Truck, Columbus, in providing Central Ohio with experienced home, business and interstate moving services. She started with the company after college, working her way up to owner through smart business savvy and a commitment to developing her fellow associates.
Under Clarey’s management, the company typically provides approximately $120,000 in bonus and incentive programs each year to its staff of more than 100 employees across two locations. She’s overseen the development of key programs focused on helping employees lead successful lives, with programming around life skills such as interview training and budgeting. Furthermore, she engages her staff in philanthropic initiatives, partnering with more than 20 local nonprofits.
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John D. Clark Sr.
President and CEO
The Whitestone Group Inc.
When John D. Clark Sr. started private security company The Whitestone Group Inc. nearly 20 years ago, he built a core senior management team to support his vision. Leveraging a background in law enforcement, he founded the company to provide private investigation services, but after Sept. 11, 2001, he identified a void in quality professional security forces and engaged his expert team to help fill it.
Together, he and his staff have excelled, providing custom security services for big names such as NASA and the U.S. Army, as well as several Fortune 500 companies. Much of The Whitestone Group’s success stems from Clark’s personable and dedicated leadership style, as well as significant investments in technology and employee training.
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Benjamin Clarke
Co-Founder and CTO
Bold Penguin Inc.
Under the expertise of Co-founder and CTO Benjamin Clarke, insurtech innovator Bold Penguin Inc. is focused on making the fractured commercial insurance market more profitable by revolutionizing the quoting process. Toward that end, Clarke leads a team of engineers in developing the Bold Penguin Exchange, a software solution that integrates automation technology with the human touch.
Unlike other technology solutions, this innovative combination doesn’t eliminate jobs with technology. Rather, it uses technology to supercharge the trusted advisers who are essential to the industry. In three years, Clarke’s solution has saved those who buy and sell small commercial insurance policies more than 630 million hours collectively, increasing the rate of efficiency by 91.6 percent and ultimately reducing friction in the buying process for customers, agents and carriers alike.
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Fernando Crosa
President and CEO
US Tank Alliance
A national service provider for the convenience store and gas station industry, US Tank Alliance offers professional testing, compliance management and cleaning of underground storage tanks (USTs), lighting maintenance and waste transportation. Founded in 2000 and helmed by President and CEO Fernando Crosa, it’s one of only three national players in this space.
The company has doubled in size since 2009 without the assistance of banks due to Crosa’s smart leadership. Rather than securing a business loan or tapping its line of credit, US Tank Alliance instead relies on cash flow in stages from growing operations as it’s expanded from coast to coast. It will use this model again as it plans to provide services for Marathon Oil Co.’s 1,110-store expansion.
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Abby David & Erin Nealy
Co-founders and co-executive directors
Bridgeway Academy
In 2005, Abby David and Erin Nealy combined professional expertise running separate, private therapy practices — and their passion for helping children with autism — to co-found nonprofit Bridgeway Academy. Eliminating the exhaustion families faced in making multiple commutes to receive therapies for their children, Bridgeway Academy serves as a central source for outpatient therapy services in speech, music, physical and occupational therapies, as well as an outstanding school day and summer camp.
The organization has remained agile to continue to meet the needs of children and their families. Relying upon evidence-based research and practices, it has expanded into new program areas such as family partnership services.
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Joe DeLoss
Hot Chicken Takeover
Joe DeLoss founded Hot Chicken Takeover in 2014 to bring Nashville’s famous hot chicken experience to Columbus and to provide supportive jobs to men and women needing a fair shot at work. He’s accomplished both goals, growing what started as a small pop-up chicken window into a three restaurant and counting operation.
Focused on providing his staff with financial stability, personal growth and professional development — regardless of traditional barriers to employment such as incarceration and homelessness — DeLoss has created more than 200 jobs in the area with a turnover rate well below the national average. This mission, combined with his focus on hospitality and commitment to the stakeholders who have supported Hot Chicken Takeover since its start, has earned the restaurant chain a loyal, growing following.
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Charissa W. Durst
President and principal architect
Hardlines Design Co.
Charissa W. Durst founded her architecture, planning and historic preservation firm, Hardlines Design Co., in 1990 with one small project. In the three decades since, she’s navigated through a male-dominated industry by specializing in historic buildings and the preservation and documentation of historic buildings, or — in the case of new buildings — the architecture, design and construction management of buildings within a historic district.
Differentiating herself from larger competitors, Durst has established Hardlines Design Co. as an expert in historic architecture, able to field research on a historic property and help clients apply for and manage the use of historic tax credits. She’s built a skilled team, strategically hiring and mentoring female architects, and invested in technology upgrades to keep the firm on the cutting edge.
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Dana E. Engle
Madison County Community Hospital dba Madison Health
Since Madison County Community Hospital opened in 1962, its mission has been to provide quality health care for people in the community. CEO Dana E. Engle continues this mission under a rebranded organization now doing business as Madison Health, transforming the once-small, rural hospital into a broad network of local providers.
These efforts, paired with Engle’s relationship with Alliance partners from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Mount Carmel Health System, have attracted specialists in the areas of neurology, urology, pulmonology, nephrology, podiatry, ophthalmology, orthopedics and general surgery to the system, enabling Madison Health to provide specialty care. Engle also led the efforts to become a member of The James Cancer Network and to partner with TriTanium Solutions to offer a medical management withdrawal program for patients combating addiction.
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Joel Furno
Founder and CEO
Founded in 2006 by CEO Joel Furno when he was a sophomore at The Ohio State University, Citrin began as a parking solutions company. Furno has since implemented an aggressive growth strategy to transform the organization into what it is today, providing unparalleled valet, porter and employee management services to automotive dealers across the country.
Furno’s success stems from his development of a new and innovative offering he refers to as “automotive hospitality,” which uniquely targets dealerships that deal with the daily challenges of managing front-line associates. This highly successful offering helps dealerships improve operational efficiency and the overall customer experience and has led Citrin to be embraced by brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, Audi and more. Furno’s next initiative lies in providing the manpower behind mobility programs.
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Chris Gabrelcik
Founder, president and CEO
Lubrication Specialties Inc.
Chris Gabrelcik founded Lubrication Specialties Inc. 20 years ago with the goal of effectively and affordably solving customer problems by producing high-quality lubricants to precise industry specifications. Under his leadership, the company remains focused on continuous testing, research and implementation of new technologies, manufacturing automotive oils and additives under the Hot Shot’s Secret brand.
Through this rigorous commitment, LSI has developed three patented technologies using chemical synergies that cannot be found in any other product in the world. The high quality of its products has seen Gabrelcik’s operation grow beyond its humble start in his home garage to a 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility for bottling, blending, packaging and office spaces. While the company’s sales continue to grow exponentially, Gabrelcik maintains a commitment to sourcing business locally.
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Jennifer Gorsuch Walters
President; owner
Fairfield Homes Inc.; Gorsuch Construction Inc.
Jennifer Gorsuch Walters is on a mission, one that runs in the family — to change lives and make a difference in the communities she serves. She does so as the leader of a third-generation family business made up of Fairfield Homes Inc., Gorsuch Construction Inc. and Gorsuch Realty.
As president of Fairfield Homes Inc., she leads the development, construction and property management company in focusing on providing affordable and recovery housing within her community. The organization is known for the development of an innovative public-private partnership, Pearl House, which provides permanent supportive housing for homeless families recovering from drug/alcohol addiction.
Building upon Fairfield Homes’ focus on client services, Gorsuch Walters also founded and owns Gorsuch Construction Inc., a full-service commercial construction and development company.
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Gordon Gough
President and CEO
Ohio Council of Retail Merchants
The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants has been serving the interests of Ohio’s retail and wholesale industries at the local, state and federal levels since 1922. However, while most statewide associations operate as a lobbying organization, with industry organizations benefiting from their actions, regardless of membership status, President and CEO Gordon Gough has pushed a different model.
He’s focused on creating value for members through unique offerings such as health care insurance, human resources outsource service, retail trending reports, energy services, thought leadership content and more. Gough also formed an innovation hub to bring together startups creating technologies with medium and large retailers to collaborate and build their businesses. His efforts have seen the association grow from 5,000 members to more than 7,000 since 2013.
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W. Gregory ‘Greg’ Guy
Air Force One Inc.
W. Gregory “Greg” Guy continues his father’s entrepreneurial legacy as CEO of Air Force One Inc., a provider of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning services to large, owner-occupied commercial buildings. He’s continued to expand the company’s offerings and capabilities to grow its nationwide reach, with a strategic emphasis on recruiting, training and retaining high-quality technicians.
Toward this end, Guy led the development of Air Force One’s accredited apprenticeship program for technicians, as well as the creation of the Smart Building Consortium to benefit the HVAC industry at large. Joining forces with like-minded facility services organizations, SBC provides a comprehensive technical training program tailored to member needs. Under Guy’s visionary leadership over the past two decades, Air Force One has grown from eight associates to more than 240.
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Marc Hawk
As CEO of personalized digital marketing agency RevLocal, Marc Hawk has been instrumental in developing the company’s core values and implementing them throughout the organization’s culture. A strong proponent of both continuous workforce training and work-life balance for his staff, Hawk has leveraged the core values “Be Real, Go Beyond and Help Someone” to foster a creative and collaborative environment.
He complements RevLocal’s highly trained staff and supportive culture with an innovative and ever-evolving technology platform, with particular focus on shaping Google’s technologies for local businesses. Ultimately, his leadership has seen the company expand significantly since its inception in 2011, growing from a few employees to its current 420. The agency has realized 30 percent year-over-year growth over the past eight years.
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Lisa Huang, PhD, PE, RCDD
Advanced Engineering Consultants
Recognizing a need for a more client-focused approach to consulting engineering, Ph.D. electrical engineering student Lisa Huang started Advanced Engineering Consultants out of the basement of her home. In the 20 years since, she’s hired more employees and expanded her services from electrical engineering to full mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering services. However she hasn’t lost that founding focus on providing high-quality engineering services with a personal touch.
Employing more than 50 associates across offices in three cities, Huang drives her team to keep up with new technologies and products available for construction to uphold the firm’s reputation for innovative and practical solutions, often meeting with industry vendors. By understanding new products, the company helps clients make informed decisions that meet project goals.
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Kelly James
Founder and president
ROAM Bikes Inc.
Kelly James is president and founder of startup ROAM Bikes Inc., a dockless, on-demand rideshare app offering electric pedal assist bikes. Leveraging state-of-the-art engineering and a dedicated team, he’s turned his vision into reality, developing a solution to Columbus’ transportation issues that is fun, contributes to clean air movements and fosters community collaboration.
Set for launch in June, the design of James’ electric bike goes beyond traditional models with a strategic focus on safety, ease of use and longevity. It features fat tires, front fork suspension, a ring lock and thumb throttle, as well as a unique retro design and colorful tires. It also boasts the largest battery in the industry to eliminate the need for docking stations or at-home charging systems.
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Ron M. Jordan
Jordan Hospitality Group
Since taking on his long-standing family’s small business in 2015, Ron M. Jordan has transformed ownership of a single Popeye’s location into Jordan Hospitality Group. As chairman and CEO, he’s expanded JHG to encompass six quick-service locations and a full-service restaurant, Hen Quarter Dublin, and has diversified the business with firms in staffing, marketing and consulting.
Leveraging a background in sales, much of Jordan’s success can be attributed to his focus on providing staff with the training and resources needed to be successful. He’s grown the business from $1.9 million in revenue in 2016 to more than $14 million in 2018, with plans for new locations over the next five years.
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Andy Joseph
President and CEO
Apeks Supercritical
Drawing on his engineering background and understanding of the principles of mechanical operation learned while serving in the Navy as an enlisted nuclear propulsion mechanic, Andy Joseph founded Apeks Supercritical in 2001. Since then, he has grown the organization to become a leading manufacturer of botanical oil extraction systems utilizing subcritical and supercritical CO2.
Built with innovative, patented technology, Joseph’s high-quality CO2 extraction systems are a safer, cleaner and faster way to extract plant oils, including oils from cannabis to create concentrates for medicinal use. The can also be used to extract oils for natural flavorings, fragrance and more. Continually working to improve the processes and capabilities of Apeks systems, Joseph and his team have provided fully automated, user-friendly solutions that realize fast ROI for clients.
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Lori Kaiser
Founder and CEO
Kaiser Consulting LLC
Since founding Kaiser Consulting LLC in 1992, Lori Kaiser has grown the company into an award-winning, multimillion-dollar accounting and information technology consulting firm. As CEO, she oversees more than 75 people, including six shareholders, and is the visionary behind the company’s innovative business model, built around a flexible, part-time structure that promotes better work-life balance for Kaiser’s associates. By taking public accounting’s positive attributes such as professional work, excellent training and challenging projects, and eliminating its negative stereotypes such as continuous travel, excessive overtime and inflexibility, her model has allowed the firm to attract and retain highly experienced, well-educated business professionals.
The company has more than doubled in size since 2013, with clients benefiting from the flexibility to request as-needed, fractional, highly specialized and experienced accounting professionals.
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Mark Kovacevich
President, North American Operations
Under Mark Kovacevich’s guidance, Improving has grown from a $9 million consulting and training firm with two locations in 2012 to an organization with 10 locations around North America, with revenue of over $100 million. The primary driver of this growth has been his intense focus around the culture and vision for the organization.
A graduate of The Stagen Leadership Academy’s Integral Leadership Program, a 52-week immersive training program, Kovacevich has taken an active role in supporting Improving’s own learning program, ImprovingU. He teaches two 13-week immersive foundational leadership courses and is facilitating the rollout of a new career development plan, Career Path. Kovacevich also speaks externally on “Conscious Capitalism,” Improving’s philosophy around business and capitalism that promotes higher purposes beyond making a profit.
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Erica Krumlauf
Leading EDJE
As COO at Leading EDJE — a technology consulting firm specializing in software development and custom business solutions — Erica Krumlauf is responsible for ensuring employees are connected with the organization’s core values and culture, understand the long-term goals and vision and feel empowered to deliver the highest-quality services to clients. She does so largely by emphasizing continuing education and professional development.
Under Krumlauf’s guidance, Leading EDJE associates receive a training bank of hours to use each year for continued learning and access to coaches who are responsible and accountable for ensuring every team member has a customized career and training plan focused on their areas of opportunity and growth. These initiatives have been critical to Leading EDJE’s ability to recruit, develop and retain an elite staff.
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Neill Lane
President and CEO
Stirling Ultracold, Division of Global Cooling Inc.
Stirling Ultracold, a division of Global Cooling Inc., found its niche in ultra-low temperature freezers in 2009, the same year Neill Lane joined Global Cooling as president and CEO. Backed by a proven record of creating start-ups and building high-growth companies, Lane has built Stirling Ultracold into an award-winning premium brand.
The Stirling Ultracold freezer’s innovative design — sold to laboratories, biorepositories and pharmaceutical companies to store biological materials — has moved the life sciences freezer industry toward improved energy efficiency and sustainability. This is reflective of Global Cooling’s innovative approach across its entire refrigeration product portfolio, which, lacking compressors, are the first of their kind. Fast growing, Global Cooling’s diversified technologies are making an impact across many industries including energy, aerospace, industrial, pharma, biotechnology, agriculture and more.
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Catherine Lang-Cline
President and co-creator
Portfolio Creative
Seeing a need for a seamless solution to connecting creative talent with the creative needs of businesses in Central Ohio, designers Catherine Lang-Cline and Kristen Harris left their corporate retail jobs to co-found creative recruiting and staffing firm Portfolio Creative. As president, Lang-Cline leads her team in providing customized, flexible staffing solutions that enable clients to adapt quickly to the needs of the economy and scale.
Most recently, Lang-Cline and Harris collaborated to create the “Illumination Bureau” podcast, drawing from their professional experience and providing free advice to help people find their dream work. A value add for current and prospective clients and remote workers, the podcast’s episodes address issues including finding talent, diversity, keeping employees legal, retention and more.
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Mike LaRocco
President and CEO
State Auto Financial Corp.
Mike LaRocco joined regional property and casualty insurance holding company State Auto Financial Corp. in 2015 after leading large national insurance carriers and forming a technology startup. In the years since, he’s led the transformation of State Auto’s culture, the development of a new strategy and the rollout of a new technology platform for personal and commercial lines that has delivered a significant increase in new business for the organization.
With the launching of this platform, State Auto Connect, the company has transformed to become an exclusively digital carrier marketing through independent agents, leveraging functionality such as digital signatures, electronic payments and digital delivery of policy and billing documents. This aggressive transition has created a best-in-class digital experience for both independent agents and customers.
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Patrick Maynard
I Am Boundless Inc.
Since assuming the helm of I Am Boundless Inc.— previously known as Franklin County Residential Services Inc. — in 2015, CEO Patrick Maynard, Ph.D., has worked with the board, staff and individuals served by the nonprofit to create and execute a strategic vision to expand its core services. The agency, which has provided high-quality, person-centered, residential-based services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for more than 30 years, has diversified across the intellectual and developmental disabilities and behavioral health spectrums.
Maynard has led the charge to diversify the organization’s funding opportunities, starting a philanthropy program to provide financial support and enable growth at a faster rate than standard operating business might otherwise allow. His efforts have resulted in annual revenue increase from $28 million to more than $70 million.
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Tim McCord
Owner and president
DāNite Sign Co.
Tim McCord purchased DāNite Sign Co. in 2007 and took over operations as president. Since then, he has applied a continuous improvement model based loosely on the Kaizen methodology to turn the once-declining commercial signage company into a profitable operation. His commitment to continuous improvement has infused DāNite Sign’s culture companywide, with revenue per employee more than doubling under his leadership.
He’s made strategic moves to leverage technology in diverse ways to support improvement efforts, notably leading DāNite Sign to become an early adopter of Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology in signage. McCord has also championed the adoption of paperless project folders and accounting systems, utilization of ever-improving print technologies and adoption of process flow technologies that allow for process adaptivity as the organization continues to evolve.
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Ryan McManus
Co-founder and CEO
Ryan McManus co-founded SHARE, a microtransit company, in Columbus in 2016 with the goal of changing the way people move. The organization is making a significant impact in the community, bridging the gap between public transportation and ride-hailing to provide cost-effective, convenient solutions to transportation issues facing employers, senior living communities, schools, health care and more.
Under McManus’ leadership as CEO, SHARE has seen tremendous growth. The company continues to add new customers, grow revenue, expand operations and build out its team. Looking to the future, McManus is also developing strategic plans to help drivers develop skills to continue working with the company regardless of whether autonomous vehicles take shape and are deployed by SHARE.
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Lori Miller
Lori Miller is CEO of Exhibitpro, a full-service exhibit company specializing in delivering face-to-face marketing engagements through trade show exhibits, events and branded environments. The company’s success stems from its innovative customized interaction with clients to help realize their full business potential at trade shows and events.
This includes the in-house development of a proprietary online inventory management system, Inventorypro, which helps clients better navigate the complex logistical and financial requirements of a trade show. It also provides data reporting to track events, reserved property and consumables to give clients insight into year-to-year budgeting requirements.
The company’s strides under Miller’s leadership have earned it long-time loyal clients, as well as a growing new client base. In 2018, Exhibitpro experienced 31 percent growth.
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Andy Panos
Co-founder and COO
Cloudbreak Health
As co-founder and COO of Cloudbreak Health, Andy Panos guides the organization’s business strategy and product innovation to solve traditional barriers to medical communication and humanize health care. He created the organization in 2003 by combining Martti — the leading Video Remote Interpreting pioneer — and Carenection — the first Telemedicine market network — to deliver unified telehealth solutions to hospitals nationwide.
Panos remains dedicated to improving Cloudbreak Health’s specialized technology and leading-edge services to meet both the country’s changing demographics and the hunger for secure, technology-enabled solutions. He’s led the company in expanding the number of languages it supports to 250 and has eight business operating centers nationwide.
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Debbie Penzone
President and CEO
Charles Penzone Inc.
Over the last year, Charles Penzone Inc. President and CEO Debbie Penzone has led the network of PENZONE Salons + Spas through a complete rebrand and the introduction of an entirely new salon and spa concept. Driving a more holistic approach to beauty, this concept centers on helping guests connect with themselves on a deeper level to go beyond outer beauty.
Toward this end, PENZONE Salons + Spas encourages mindfulness, with holistic services infused in hair, skincare, massage and nails. The brand also provides a social room promoting healthy nutrition, with access to plant-based food options and cold-pressed juice. This new holistic concept has been well-received by the community, resulting in increases in door swings, service sale increases and retail increases, necessitating the expansion of staff.
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Rick Ricart
Ricart Automotive
Established in 1953, Ricart Automotive is a third-generation, family-owned new and used car dealership in Central Ohio. President Rick Ricart oversees critical business functions including sales, marketing, business development and innovation. Over the last 17 years, a primary focus has been his commitment to bringing the business into the digital age.
Ricart led the dealership in partnering with Auto-Fi to pioneer Express Checkout, an online car-buying tool that has since been implemented by Ford nationwide. One of the first platforms of its kind within the automotive industry, Express Checkout enables customers to browse, search for and purchase a vehicle online, and even have the vehicle delivered to their home. This has greatly reduced the average time customers spend buying a car.
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Frank Sasso
Kaufman Development
Joining real-estate development firm Kaufman Development in 2012, Frank Sasso has moved up the ranks to assume the role of president. He’s been instrumental not only in expanding the organization’s team but in fostering the foundation on which the company was built by living out its philosophies of wellness, expression and impact every day.
Sasso and his leadership team ensure this is upheld in all undertakings by thoroughly reviewing every possible development project before making a decision to move forward. They consider more than economics, taking into account the potential for a positive, exciting impact on the community. In this way, Kaufman Development provides communities designed to help people live, eat, sleep, play and entertain more creatively and intentionally.
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Hiten Shah
President and CEO
MES Inc.
MES Inc. is a full-service provider of global manufacturing and supply chain management services led by President and CEO Hiten Shah. The company helps North American OEMs by managing the entire outsourced manufacturing process, leveraging innovative technologies to best serve customers.
MES’ latest development is the MESH-Project® App, an Android- and iOS-compatible solution introduced in 2019. A comprehensive metrics tool for tracking projects through each stage of the supply chain, this proprietary platform allows MES to provide real-time data on the status of tooling development against planned data, as well as easy-to-read Gantt charts that can be automatically sent to customer engineering and purchasing managers. The real-time information gives customers more control and accuracy in managing a supply chain, ultimately saving time and expense.
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Kyle R. Shen
President and CEO
Nexceris LLC
Kyle Shen is president and CEO of Nexceris LLC, an energy company that develops innovative sensor, power generation and catalyst solutions. Founded in 1994, Shen purchased the organization with partner Randy Stacy in 2017 with a vision to accelerate commercialization of Nexceris’ portfolio of emerging technologies.
Although he’s focused on innovative transformation, Shen continues to uphold the company’s legacy of collaborating with global customers and partners to transform ideas to make energy production safer, more efficient and environmentally responsible. He’s grown and sustained Nexceris’ contract research and development business while reinvesting profits to launch commercial products into research and development markets.
Overall, Shen’s various strategic efforts and focus on fostering a people-first culture have contributed to 20 percent company growth over the past year.
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Rita Soronen
President and CEO
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a nonprofit foster care adoption organization that finds homes for foster care children across the U.S. and Canada. Under the leadership of President and CEO Rita Soronen, the foundation also advocates for social change on behalf of underserved, abused and neglected children.
Soronen’s passion for this cause led to the creation of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in 2004, an innovative program through which the foundation provides grants to adoption agencies to hire recruiters to find loving, permanent homes for the nearly 155,000 children waiting in foster care across North America. In 2018, she guided the foundation’s dedication of more than $33.5 million to grants and award-winning programs, including the quickly growing Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and others.
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David R. Specht
Owner and president
The Waterworks
Under the leadership of President and CEO David R. Specht, full-service plumbing, sewer repair and drain cleaning company The Waterworks has earned recognition for nearly two decades as one of the most ethical, quality-driven companies of its type within the national arena.
Specht’s success comes from his willingness to invest in technology, software and formal and informal staff training to enhance the organization’s knowledge base.
Key among these investments was his creation of The Waterworks Plumbing Apprentice Program, a paid four-year program designed to increase the dwindling pool of qualified technicians available for hire. With curriculum provided by and audited by the Ohio Department of Labor, the program includes accreditations from NCCER National Curriculum, the Ohio State Apprenticeship Council, Department of Labor and Veterans Affairs.
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Tom Stalf
President and CEO
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
As president and CEO, Tom Stalf leads the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium with a single focus — to inspire people to make a difference for wildlife and wild places. Bringing more than 25 years of experience to the role, he continually reviews ways to diversify revenue streams and enhance guest satisfaction to improve the operation, including bringing in new exhibits and increased animal interaction, while maintaining the highest standards for animal welfare.
Under Stalf’s direction, the zoo has opened its largest region to date — the award-winning Heart of Africa — and achieved record-breaking attendance numbers, along with sister operations Zoombezi Bay, Safari Golf Club and The Wilds. Additionally, the zoo dedicated more than $4 million to conservation in 2018, supporting more than 80 conservation projects in over 40 countries.
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Maura Stevenson
Chief Human Resources Officer
MedVet is a fast-growing network of emergency and specialty hospitals providing health care for pets spanning 24 facilities in 12 states. Under the guidance of Chief Human Resources Officer Maura Stevenson, this rapid growth has been accomplished through strategic acquisition of and investment in existing hospitals.
In 2018, Stevenson led MedVet to commit to initiating work to enhance the employee experience to ensure focus on team members isn’t lost as the company scales. She developed an employee experience agenda to guide these efforts, outlining initiative goals, resource allocation, change management capabilities and measurable metrics for success. Key accomplishments to date include the execution of the organization’s first employee experience surveys, revision of the employee handbook, strengthening of compensation and benefits programs, design and launch of a leadership development program and more.
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Rich Wartel
Founder and CEO
Two Labs LLC
Rich Wartel is founder and CEO of Two Labs, a leading pharma services company that provides commercial, market access and market intelligence services to pharmaceutical manufacturers. He is a leader not only within the company but in the ever-evolving pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, using his business to deliver life-saving medicines to patients and foster good in the greater community.
Over the past year, Wartel has incorporated a new strategy and vision when it comes to talent management and development to ensure continued quality of operations and staff retention as his business undergoes rapid growth. He’s worked with his team to create a comprehensive employee benefits plan and build a culture that promotes fun, as well as hard work and collaboration between employees.
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Matina Zenios
Artina Promotional Products
Initially working part time in her family business during her college years, Matina Zenios fell in love with the promotional products company and would go on to carry on her father’s legacy, taking up the role of president of Artina Promotional Products. Under her leadership, Zenios’ team has built vendor relationships and delivered creative solutions for its customers.
This team has created unique services, process touch points, creative operational procedures and first-to-market exclusive offerings that differentiate Artina Promotional Products from competitors. That has allowed the company to grow to become part of the largest buying group in the industry, with one of the largest product selections. To navigate this portfolio, Zenios has invested in a website with robust search engine capability and customer functionality.
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Jim Ziminski
Crane Renovation Group
Crane Renovation Group President Jim Ziminski has developed a culture internally and externally that focuses on three customers: employees, consumers and subcontracting partners. With these constituents in mind, he drives growth and innovation while upholding Crane’s core values.

To maintain this strategic cultural focus in the face of rapid growth, Ziminski uses a third party, GLINT, to benchmark Crane against industry standards. In the company’s most recent GLINT survey, scores were above the national average in all 20 categories. This success can be attributed to Ziminski’s efforts to provide associates with the technology tools and training to be successful in their careers, investments to modernize Crane’s office space and employee perks such as flexible hours, team bonding lunches and fun celebration events.

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