Awards & Events

Chamber Salute to Business Honors Valley Professionals

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Five professionals from the business and nonprofit sectors were honored for their contributions to the local economy and community as part of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s annual “Salute to Business” breakfast Thursday.

The honorees reflect a passion for business and reinforce that the region “has all the resources in the Valley to help ourselves,” said James Dignan, president and CEO of the chamber.

More than 500 attended the morning event held at Mr. Anthony’s Banquet Center. PNC Bank served as the presenting sponsor, while the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades served as the award sponsor.

Linda McMahon, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, delivered the keynote address during the breakfast. During the speech, she highlighted the accomplishments of the Trump Administration, particularly the implementation of tax cuts and regulatory reform measures.

Attendees also heard remarks from David Dickey, president of the Canfield Fair Board of Directors, and Bo Pelini, head football coach for the Youngstown State University Penguins.

Among those accepting awards Thursday were Ryan Behenna, vice president of operations, melt and mill operations at Arconic Engineered Structures; Rob Gorham, executive director of America Makes; Penny Wells, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past; Charles T. George, CEO of Hapco, Strangpresse, and Triptech; and Tyler Harden, president of Exospec.

“We’ve had the opportunity to get great support from the Youngstown Business Incubator and Youngstown State University,” said George, who since acquiring Kent-based Hapco in 2008 has launched two other ventures in the Mahoning Valley related to additive manufacturing.

As such, George received the Entrepreneur of the Year award for his efforts. Strangpresse manufactures plastic extrusion heads for large-area additive manufacturing applications. “Any domestic O.E.M. production with large area additive includes some of our technology,” he said.

Other new applications under development include large-area polymer additive manufacturing processes, and working with area companies such as M-7 Technologies in Youngstown that would allow real-time measurement of 3D printed components.

This, he noted, would allow for future exploration to integrating artificial intelligence into the 3D printing production processes.

“Our goal is to determine for the industry whether you have a good part before it actually comes off the build chamber,” he said.

The company’s customers are mostly found in the aerospace and transportation industries, George said. “Our long-term goal is to bring production back to Youngstown, Ohio, and we’re looking forward to that opportunity.”

Ryan Behenna, the recipient of this year’s Business Professional of the Year award, echoed such optimism from his perspective as vice president of operations for Arconic, formerly RTI Titanium in Weathersfield Township.

Since Arconic acquired RTI, the local operation has added 170 employees to its ranks for a total of more than 700 now working at the plant, Behenna told the large crowd.

“We’re in unprecedented growth in aerospace,” Behenna said, and Arconic’s local plant is a major player in the market. The plant manufactures titanium billets and bars that are processed into parts used in jet engines and other aerospace applications. All of the titanium used in the joint-strike fighter, for example, comes from Arconic’s plant.

“This growth has enabled us to invest tens of millions of dollars in that facility over the last couple of years,” he said. The company’s products and technology allow jet engines to operate 30% more efficiently, thereby reducing fuel consumption in the aircraft industry.

“We are actually the fourth-largest titanium supplier in the world,” Behenna said.

The chamber’s Business Advocate of the Year was awarded to Rob Gorham, executive director of America Makes.

Gorham, a native of Texas, said when he moved to the Mahoning Valley six years ago, he found a region steeped in family values, a passion for getting things done, and an attitude of cooperation in order to compete in a global market.

America Makes facilitates partnerships between the public and private sectors to enhance research and development in additive manufacturing, or 3D printing.

“We’ve got some real momentum, and I’m very proud that we’re going to be putting together a very critical piece of what the future of Youngstown looks like,” he said. “We have a national initiative, but behind that we have to deploy that initiative at home.”

The award for Nonprofit Professional of the Year went to Penny Wells, executive director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past.

Each year, the program takes students into the South to explore sites and meet with people that were, and continue to be, instrumental in the Civil Rights movement.

“Students return home empowered to practice the principles of nonviolence and give back to their schools and their community and beyond, even after graduating from high school,” she told the crowd.

Sojourn students have organized voter registration initiatives, petitioned the school board to observe a nonviolence week, and successfully lobbied for legislation in the Ohio General Assembly recognizing the first week in October as nonviolence week.

“It was Sojourn students who were with Gov. Kasich when he signed the bill into law,” Wells said. On Oct. 7, students will host the eighth annual nonviolence march and rally.

“These Sojourn students have blessed me beyond measure,” she said.

Tyler Harden, president of Exospec, an internet provider that uses fiber as its backbone to serve customers in downtown Warren, received the Small Business Person of the Year award.

Exospec has offices at the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, and Harden noted he’s been interested in business since he was 19 years old. After working in software development for a defense contractor, he decided to move back to the Mahoning Valley and start his own venture.

Harden said the business has survived its first year and is in growth mode. “We started our first month doing $10,0000 in business,” he said. At the close of 2018, sales should be more than 25 times higher than that first month. “We’re on track to do some extremely large contracts at the end of this year and the next,” he said.

Pictured above: (From left) Tyler Harden, president of Exospec; Charles George, CEO of Hapco; Rob Gorham, executive director of America Makes; Penny Wells, executive director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past; and Ryan Behenna, vice president of operations, melt and mill operations at Arconic Engineered Structures.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.