The Great Prognosticator

Several years ago, I wrote a column for an online sports magazine under the pen name, “The Great Prognosticator.” Prog, as he was called, predicted what was going to happen with baseball, football and basketball games, as well as potential organizational and player moves.

The column was essentially tongue-in-cheek, fact-based sports fiction, but the idea was that my character was never wrong. Ever.

Each January, Smart Business publishes its “Companies to Watch” feature, pointing out which firms around Northeast Ohio are worth keeping an eye on and why. Last year, we listed 22 companies.

So how did we do? Well, we weren’t perfect, like Prog, but we weren’t terrible, either.

We correctly predicted a strong year for OfficeMax, saying that its restructuring efforts in 2001 and 2002 left a much leaner operation in place and that the company deserved renewed attention.

As predicted, its profits soared during 2003. Further, the leaner operations garnered the attention of Boise Cascade, which in July announced it would acquire the Shaker Heights-based office supply retailer for $1.15 billion in cash and stock.

We also said that Quark Biotech‘s future in Northeast Ohio was in jeopardy because, among other issues, it had difficulty attracting Ph.D. level job candidates. Its future here ended when it announced in September it was moving operations to California.

Conversely, our assessment of Advanced Lighting Technologies produced mixed results. We asserted CEO Wayne Hellman put the company into such trouble during 2002 that “pending a miracle, it doesn’t look like 2003 will be any better.”

In February 2003, the company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, making us look like seers. But then that miracle we alluded to arrived in late October, when the company announced it had reached an agreement with the creditors’ committee to accept the terms of the company’s reorganization plan.

That plan included taking the company private with an infusion of cash by Saratoga Partners and, believe it or not, keeping Hellman at the helm. Under any circumstances we didn’t expect him to survive with the company this long.

This year, we have a different bent on our list. We recruited several regional experts to give us their ideas. We hope you enjoy it, and next year at this time, we’ll look back and tell you how accurate our “experts'” predictions were.