8 Professionals Honored at Chamber Salute to Business

BOARDMAN, Ohio – The Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber honored eight business professionals in six areas Thursday for outstanding performances in their fields and leadership by example.

At its annual Salute to Business Breakfast, Sharon Hrina, brothers George and Spiro Bakeris, Eric Ryan, Robert Smith and his wife, Peppe Smith, Deryk Toles and Kevin Reilly were applauded respectively as business professional of the year, business advocates of the year, entrepreneur of the year, small-business persons of the year, nonprofit professional of the year and Reilly a “salute to labor achievement.”

Delivering the keynote address was Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel who touted and made an interactive demonstration of his government transparency initiative, OhioCheckbook.com. It allows anyone with access to the Internet to see how state funds are spent – to whom and for how much — and those of a growing number of municipalities, townships and school districts across Ohio.

To inform officeholders of his initiative, Mandel said, he sent letters to the 18,000 mayors, councilmen, treasurers, county commissioners, township trustees and township fiscal officers and school board members throughout Ohio. “Mahoning County was the first to sign up,” he said. “Trumbull County signed up today.

CheckbookOhio “is catching fire across the state of Ohio,” Mandel said, listing several entities that included Hamilton, Franklin and Cuyahoga counties.

The state treasurer also announced that Boardman Township, Boardman Park and the city of Columbiana had just agreed to participate as well. Boardman fiscal officer Bill Leicht, Boardman Park District executive director Dan Slagle and Columbiana Mayor Bryan Blakeman were in the audience.

Again this year, the head coach of the Youngstown State University football team offered his outlook for the season of “11 hard games.” YSU opens Saturday against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field.

Bo Pelini, in his first year as coach of the Penguins, assured the audience, most of whom are Penguins fans, “Our young men have worked hard and are doing the right things,” but like all coaches he wishes he had two more weeks to get ready for the season opener.
“I will work tirelessly,” he promised, to ensure that his team contends for the championship of the Missouri Valley Conference, the playoffs and a national championship. “It’s not where you start. It’s where you finish,” Pelini said. “It’s going to be an exciting year.”

Of his team, “the potential is there,” he said. “The work ethic is there.”

The chamber recognized the Bakeris brothers, owners of the Ohio Commerce Center in Lordstown, for resurrecting a 500-acre property “nearly abandoned” five years ago – it was only 20% full – and breathing life back into it. “What was nearly a ghost town five years ago,” said Don Crane, who presented the awards, “today is a thriving center 85% filled.”

Crane is president of the Western Reserve Building & Construction Trades Council.

George Bakeris singled out Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill and Dan Crouse and Chuck Joseph of the commercial real estate firm of Routh-Hurlbert Co., for their support.

Reilly, executive vice president of the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, was honored because of the excellent relationship organized labor has with The Builders.

Since the inception of the salute to labor, the member of a union had always been the recipient, as Crane, himself a past recipient, noted.

Together the building trades and The Builders fund the trades apprenticeship programs and have reached new collective bargaining agreements without discord.

“Our member companies,” Reilly said, “hire the most dedicated and talented employees” because of the apprenticeship and ongoing training program. Both sides appreciate the role the other plays and how they depend on each other.

Ryan is president of JAC Management Group and Eric Ryan Productions LLC, both the Covelli Centre in Youngstown and Packard Music Hall in Warren. He made no apology for exceeding his allotted time as he enthusiastically recounted how he became involved in assuming management of the entertainment venues.

His theme was, “When people believe in you, it’s amazing what you can do” and named some of “the people who believe in me.”

Of his first meeting with Sam Covelli, Ryan told how he approached the owner of Covelli Enterprises, Warren, about assuming the naming rights to the arena in Youngstown after Chevrolet said it would allow its contract to lapse.

“I will not be part of a loser! Understand?” Covelli told Ryan. Covelli still believes in Ryan and his success there led the city of Warren to ask JAC to manage Packard.

Hrina, vice president of Akron Children’s Hospital in the Mahoning Valley, led the entry of Akron Children’s into the Mahoning Valley a decade ago. Since then Akron Children’s has spent $62 million here and established itself as a place where infants and juveniles are provided with the best treatment.

Since 2005, it has grown to a 32-bed hospital with more than 600 employees from eight beds at the outset. Next month it will commit another $19 million in four phases over 10 years.

Hrina, who earned her baccalaureate in nursing at YSU and master’s in nursing at Pitt, noted she has spent her entire life in the Valley. “There is no more rewarding work than providing care to others,” she remarked, and expressed pride in the accomplishments of Akron Children’s.

The Smiths own and run Camelot Lanes in Boardman and their experience of running a thriving business of a sport in which fewer Americans participate is remarkable. They bought the bowling business from her father, spent $1 million to upgrade it and have broadened its appeal. “We try to make it outrageous fun,” Mrs. Smith said.

The commitment of Toles, executive director of Inspiring Minds, to children who live in the inner cities of Warren and Youngstown earned him the chamber salute as nonprofit professional.

Early in his philanthropy, he decided to use the children to raise funds on a telephone bank, something he can laugh about today. He told of a boy, age 10, who called a woman who agreed to contribute to Inspiring Minds.

Toles had cautioned the youngsters to be prepared to hear a lot of no’s. So when the very excited 10-year-old told Toles he had a donor on the line, Toles had to calm him down.

“How much?” Toles asked, expecting hear a large sum.

“Five dollars,” the boy answered.

Where does she live?”


So Toles and the 10-year-old drove from Warren to Canfield because he didn’t want to dampen the boy’s enthusiasm.

Pictured: The Regional Chamber’s Tom Humphries, left, and Don Crane, right,  president of the Western Reserve Building & Construction Trades Council. present one of the awards to brothers Spiro and George Bakeris.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.