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State and Federal Communications Staff
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AtNetPlus Jim Laber and Jay Mellon
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Ron Marhofer Auto Family
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MobilityWorks Bill Koeblitz and Taylor Clark
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2010 Excellence in Business Awards
In 1982, the Greater Akron Chamber’s Small Business Council initiated awards to recognize outstanding businesses in our community. This year, on Friday, June 11, six businesses will be honored with the Excellence in Business Award for demonstrating outstanding performance, growth, staying power, innovation and proven leadership in the community: AtNetPlus, Inc; Knotice; Lucky Shoes, Inc.; MobilityWorks; Ron Marhoffer Auto Family and State and Federal Communications, Inc.AtNetPlus
AtNetPlus was established in 1998 with an initial stock investment of $250 from each of the four founders. In June 2004, Jay Mellon and Jim Laber bought out the interests of the other two partners. They currently maintain equal ownership of this growing company.
AtNetPlus customizes IT solutions for small and mid-sized organizations. The focus is to deliver cutting-edge services that fit clients’ needs, expectations and budget, acting as a technology adviser to customers and working to develop a long term, cost effective IT strategy for each of them.
Over the past six years, AtNetPlus has more than doubled annual revenue. The firm has gone from a staff of five to employing more than 20 people. In 2008, the company purchased a new office condominium in Stow. The move almost tripled available office space and included a custom-built, data center. The data center features fully redundant critical services such as power and Internet, as well as dedicated cooling and biometric security.
The data center and the monitoring capabilities it provides are key components of the service offerings of the company. Several years ago, AtNetPlus shifted from a reactive ‘break/fix’ business model to a proactive or ‘monitoring, preventative maintenance and management’ approach, also referred to as managed services. The AtNetEdge managed services delivery model provides customers with guaranteed computer uptime at a fixed cost. The ability to budget for computer expenditures is an additional advantage for AtNetEdge clients.
AtNetPlus also began moving into the virtualization market. Today the firm is on the leading edge of that industry for mid-sized businesses. AtNetPlus recently became one of an elite group of companies in North America certified by VMware® to implement hosted virtualization. The in-house data center has been instrumental in the ability of AtNetPlus to embrace this industry trend ahead of their competitors.
Customer service at AtNetPlus is based on a tradition of carefully listening to their clients. Although every IT Specialist at AtNetPlus is a highly skilled technician they also can clearly communicate and translate ‘geek speak’ into plain English. Last year, as a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, AtNetPlus participated in an independent survey where they scored exceptional ratings for customer satisfaction.
AtNetPlus is also active in various community activities, and the company supports employee efforts with donations of time and resources. In addition, the owners serve on the boards of directors of several nonprofit organizations including: The Stow Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce, The Akron Better Business Bureau, and the Northeast Ohio Software Association. AtNetPlus also has been the preferred IT provider for the Home Builders Association Serving Portage and Summit County for a number of years.
State and Federal Communications, Inc.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides government compliance information and consulting to many of the Fortune 500 companies, trade and professional associations, and corporate and contract lobbyists in all 50 states.
The firm’s in-house staff of attorneys and researchers is expert in state, federal and municipal laws regarding lobbying, political contributions and procurement lobbying. It provides accurate, comprehensive and timely information to its clients through online and printed resources.
Its clients receive the information needed to comply with the thousands of rules and statutes in all 50 states, the federal government and in the more than 150 municipalities State and Federal Communications covers.
Additionally, the company offers government affairs consulting services, called ALERTS®. State and Federal Communications works directly with clients to oversee government compliance reporting and to provide information and answer questions about ethics and gifts laws, lobbyist registration and reporting, political contributions and government procurement.
Elizabeth Bartz founded State and Federal Communications in 1993 when she purchased the government compliance division of a Washington, D.C. firm and moved its operations to Akron. Starting with one employee, Bartz has grown the firm in the ensuing 17 years to include more than 25 employees in its downtown Akron location at the renovated Courtyard Square building on South Summit Street.
Several of the company’s staff attorneys, along with Bartz, are featured speakers at national government affairs conferences, and they are considered national experts in compliance law and registration requirements regarding lobbying, political activities and procurement.
No comprehensive online database of government compliance information exists anywhere outside of State and Federal Communications. Furthermore, State and Federal Communications has provided customized compliance services longer than any other company or organization in the nation.
Bartz and company employees are very active in community activities. Many of the employees participate in the annual United Way drive and also the annual “Day of Action.” The company has a policy that allows employees, on company time, to participate in activities of United Way member and other community agencies.
Additionally, Bartz is on the United Way board of directors and is a five-year member of the United Way Alexis de Tocqueville Society. The United Way named her as Woman Philanthropist of the Year in 2007. She is also a member of several national, state and local organizations, including the board of directors of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce and the WKSU Community Advisory Committee.
Ron Marhofer Auto Family
The Marhofer Auto Family had its beginning shortly after World War I when Chester Marhofer, upon returning from the service, opened an auto repair shop in a barn which stood where the Chevrolet showroom is today. The barn was used previously as a stable for the stage coach horses that passed through Stow on their way to Pittsburgh.
Jack Marhofer, Ron’s father, became the owner of the business in 1928 and continued to operate it as a repair shop until 1933, when the first franchise with Chevrolet was signed to sell and service their products. Jack was one of the very few dealers in the country who spent many years as a mechanic and garage operator before becoming a dealer. Providing quality service is deeply ingrained in the company’s history.
In 1957, Marhofer Chevrolet was incorporated and the business hired its first full-time salesman. The City of Stow experienced unusual growth in succeeding years and the company grew with it. In 1972, the dealership was purchased from Jack Marhofer by his son, John, who sold it to his brother, Ron Marhofer, the current owner, in 1975.
The company has witnessed tremendous growth under Ron’s leadership. A 14,000-square-foot Collision Center and Parts Warehouse, on Commerce Drive, was completed and occupied in 1979 to provide larger facilities to serve a growing customer base. In 1983, Marhofer Chevrolet became the largest volume new and used car dealer in Summit, Portage and Medina counties. This growth was followed by the opening of a new Hyundai dealership in Cuyahoga Falls during 1988, followed by Mitsubishi and Saturn dealerships in 1990 and a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in 1992, all located near Chapel Hill in Cuyahoga Falls. In 1995, a second Saturn dealership opened in North Canton, and in 2005 a second Hyundai dealership opened in Green.
The company’s rapid growth and success is attributed to the philosophies of joint decision making and employee empowerment. In 1990, Ron established Bucks Creek Learning Center, an educational facility, devoted entirely to developing leadership, facilitating teamwork and building a family type work environment among the more than 300 employees. The company’s exceeds customer expectations and provides a “Best Pricing” strategy to release customers from the anxiety of negotiating for a car. Further, sales team members are compensated based upon their contributions to the team, unit sales and customer satisfaction ratings, not by the traditional profit-based commission structure used by most dealerships. This has helped stimulate an attitude of true teamwork, cooperation and genuine employee ownership within the company. The business has always operated under the Golden Rule, with service to customers and the community as its foremost concern.
When Bill Koeblitz, president of MobilityWorks, purchased New Era Transportation in 1997 he had a vision. He felt that a physically challenged individual should have the same choices and options as an able-bodied person when purchasing an accessible vehicle. New Era Transportation was the perfect opportunity to launch that vision. Starting with that small company serving Northeast Ohio, Koeblitz and his business partner, Taylor Clark, have since built an industry-leading organization (now MobilityWorks) that operates retail dealerships in 13 locations spanning seven states, and has had vehicles featured on a number of TV shows. MobilityWorks also launched a commercial division that now serves businesses nationwide. It is now the leading “upfitter” in the United States for non-emergency wheelchair transportation vehicles, known in the industry as ambulettes.
While MobilityWorks has experienced significant growth, it is the ability to help individuals with leading productive and active lives that gives its owners the greatest satisfaction. Proximity to the Ford Econoline plant, local manufacturing talent, employee work ethic and economic development resources are some of the reasons for MobilityWorks’ success.
For consumers in wheelchairs, MobilityWorks represents the largest minivan conversion manufacturers and OEM chassis in the market, including: Dodge/Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Toyota, plus reconditioned used vehicles. The company’s commercial vans are manufactured from new Ford E-Series vans directly supplied to the company by Ford. All the MobilityWorks’ manufacturing takes place in two facilities, both located on Wilbeth Avenue in Akron. A local retail van showroom and service center is located at the company’s headquarters off Home Avenue between Howe and Tallmadge Avenue on Moe Drive.
Despite the slowdown in the economy, the company has been very busy. In the last two years MobilityWorks has:
• Expanded retail operations in Chicago, Milwaukee and San Jose
• Brought to market the Mobility Conquest, the first production made motorcycle for physically challenged individuals in the United States
• Acquired the product line of their largest commercial competitor
• Launched the Ford Transit Connect Mobility Van, being offered nationally as a commercial minivan for non-emergency transportation and as a consumer rear entry wheelchair van
MobilityWorks’ success has not gone unnoticed. The company has received numerous awards, including the Inc. 5000, Weatherhead 100, NEO Success Awards, 2005 Northeast Ohio Entrepreneur of the Year and Inner City 100. In 2010, the company is expected to increase its Akron area employment by 25 percent, building more than 1,500 vehicles.
For Koeblitz and Clark, however, the best reward for their success is in knowing that the company has provided 10,000+ vehicles to the disabled community, enabling physically challenged individuals to shop, work, vacation and enjoy life.
Luck Family Timeline:
• 1919: Joe Luck opened a general goods store called The Lucky Store in Firestone Park
• 1946: sons Milton and Leonard take over the business
• 1955: Milton opened the first shoe and accessory store called Lucky Shoes in Fairlawn Plaza
• 1973: Milton’s son Tom joined Lucky Shoes
• 1976: Tom expanded the Fairlawn store by taking over the 17,000-square-foot Acme grocery store, making one of the first super shoe stores in the country and increasing the business threefold in two years
• 1981: Lucky Shoes expands to Canton
• 1991: John Luck joins the business
• 1995: Lucky Shoes Fairlawn adds Stride Rite Bootery
• 1996: Lucky Shoes adds a third location in Strongsville including another Stride Rite Bootery
• 1998: Turning point in Lucky Shoes direction—at a National Shoe Retail Association seminar, John met a certified pedorthist and instantly knew the next direction Lucky Shoes should take.
John initiated an additional level of service to the business strategy. Lucky Shoes provided not only “shoes you wanted” but now carried orthotic-friendly shoes “you needed” that looked great, too! John accomplished this by returning to college and becoming a certified pedorthist. He upgraded the level of customer care to include the free services of a pedorthic staff. Today, Lucky Shoes employs seven board-certified pedorthists.
A certified pedorthist is responsible for carefully evaluating footwear along with a known or diagnosed problem and then dispensing proper fitting and functional shoes to relieve or accommodate foot conditions, temporary or chronic. Proper footwear in function and fit is essential to pedorthic solutions to foot problems.
The Lucky Shoes buying staff purchases comfortable styles that can fit the lifestyles of its customers as well as support the orthotics needed. In 1999, John acted on the opportunity to open New Balance athletic concept stores. Their similarity to Lucky Shoes, specializing in hard-to-find sizes and widths ranging from infants to adults from 2A (very narrow) to 6E (extremely wide), made it a perfect fit. From 1999 to 2009, eight New Balance Only stores were opened in Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Columbus.
Lucky shoes has been in the area for 90 years and continues to grow. John, the fourth generation to operate the family business, has redirected the chain and is preparing for the next generation.
Knotice delivers direct digital marketing software solutions to marketers across a variety of industries. Direct digital marketing is interactive marketing that is “addressable,” having the ability to identify the recipient of a marketing message. Knotice is working to change the way online marketers conduct programs to help them grow revenue, reduce cost and provide their customers with meaningful and relevant online experiences.
Concentri®, the company’s patent pending software platform, combines core elements of the interactive marketing technology stack, allowing marketers to conduct highly targeted campaigns across Web, mobile and e-mail channels to maximize the return of investment on marketing investments. The Concentri® platform is a solution that is delivered on-demand under the “Software-as-a-Service” model.
Over the past few years, Knotice has grown the business significantly from $1.2 million in revenue in 2005 to $5.4 million in 2009. In the same time frame, the company has gone from 12 employees to 47. Bolstered by 26 new customers in 2009, Knotice ranked 12th on the Weatherhead 100 fastest growing companies in Northeast Ohio in early 2010 and was the highest-ranking Akron company.
The company is currently raising growth capital to execute its sales and marketing plan, expand its Software as a Service infrastructure and build out its customer support organization. By 2014, the company forecasts annual revenues approaching $85 million, creating a target enterprise value in excess of $200 million.