BBB Presents Torch Awards for Marketplace Trust

POLAND, Ohio – They are trust builders and are exemplars of marketplace trust. Five financial institutions, four local businesses, a nonprofit and civic leader were lauded Thursday at The Lake Club by the Better Business Bureau for exemplifying ethics, integrity and community service.

The BBB Trust Builders — PNC Bank, Farmers National Bank, Huntington Bank, Home Savings Bank and Chemical Bank – sponsored the annual awards program.

Torch Awards for Marketplace Trust were presented to Bolt Construction Inc., based just outside Poland; Westside Tire & Service, Youngstown; Morris Financial Group, Salem; and Komara Jewelers, Youngstown.

“They are all family-built businesses,” said Carol Potter, president of the BBB Serving Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull Counties. Some were established “a long time ago and some came together at difficult times, when the steel mills were coming down. They had to learn new trades and it was important to them to start these family businesses. And it’s awesome to see companies that have been here 70 years and their third generation is taking over the business.”

Potter was referring to Komara Jewelers, established in 1948 and now operated by the founder’s grandchildren, and to Westside Tire and Services, “born out of [economic] necessity in 1978,” Potter said, by the Rogenski brothers, Bernard, Richard and James.

Today Westside Tire and Service operates stores and service centers in Youngstown, Austintown and Niles. “Dad, this is for you,” said Rich Rogenski, as he accepted the company’s Torch Award. “You taught us integrity and honesty.”

Robert Komara, now retired, said he started working in his family business as a boy “sweeping floors” in his immigrant father’s original store in Struthers. Today his son Bob and daughter Brianna, both gemologists, operate Komara Jewelers and its store in the Cornersburg neighborhood where “a major remodeling project is underway,” their father said.

Morris Financial Group was founded nearly 50 years by the father of the current operator, George W. Morris III, and his wife, Coby. The company works with 225 employers in northeastern Ohio, providing them with health insurance, employee benefits and financial planning. It employs 10 and Morris said his definition of family business includes the staff, many of whom have been with the company for 20 years.

Bolt Construction, a family business founded in 1981, was presented the fourth Torch Award for Marketplace Trust. Bolt builds fueling systems for airports across the nation as well as compressors for the oil and gas industry.

The awards program opened with a video that highlighted how the BBB Trust Builders – five banks — work with commercial customers to facilitate business growth and job creation.

“They never tell us ‘No.’ They figure it out,” said Bonnie Rudzik of her relationship with Farmers National Bank. With the assistance from the bank, Rudzik is expanding its footprint and buying large excavating equipment, she noted.

“They make local decisions. Their feet are on the ground,” said Anthony Gemma from Daprile Insurance Group, which works with Chemical Bank.

The video also showed how Huntington Bank is working with the city of Youngstown, Home Savings Bank is helping Window World expand in Akron, and PNC Bank is funding the Success by Six early-education program carried out by United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

“We share the same mission,” said Ted Schmidt, regional president of PNC. “We know where the needs are in our community.”

The Torch Award for civic leadership was presented to Sharon Meanor Letson, executive director of CityScape, whose “passion for lifting our community up,” as she described her work, has changed the face of downtown Youngtown.

“Little acts can make a big difference,” Letson said of the spruce-up and clean-up day of her organization. “Dream big and always look for partners.”

The final Torch Award, for nonprofit excellence, was presented to the Youngstown Foundation, which is celebrating its centennial and tonight will be recognized again when the ribbon is cut at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater.

“We live in a world where integrity is not talked about nearly enough. All too often, the end justifies the means,” said Jan Strasfeld, executive director. “Success comes and goes but integrity lasts forever.”

The awards program ended with the presentation of Ethics & Integrity Scholarships sponsored by Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC & Farmers Trust Co. Jayda Benson, Jenna DeSalvo, Cameron Kreps, Joshua Lanham and Katie McBane each received an award of $1,000.

Pictured at top: Todd and Melinda Miller, Bolt Construction; Rich Rogenski, West Side Tire, Sharon Meanor Letson, CityScape; Carol Potter, BBB; Jan Strasfeld, Youngstown Foundation; George W. Morris III, Morris Financial Group; Robert, Bob and Briana Komara, Komara Jewelers.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.