Awards & Events

Salute to Business Honors Value of Teamwork

BOARDMAN, Ohio – The annual Salute to Business hosted Thursday by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber morphed into a salute to teams and teamwork as speakers and honorees echoed praise for colleagues, community collaboration and the can-do spirit of the Mahoning Valley.

“I’ve never seen this Valley as united as it is today with business, labor and government coming together,” said Gov. Mike DeWine, who delivered the keynote address before a packed house at Mr. Anthony’s Banquet Center. “I’m optimistic about the future of the Mahoning Valley.”

YSU coach Bo Pelini kicked off the teamwork theme by telling how his staff spent much of the off-season teaching football players “what Youngstown is all about: the work ethic, the grit, all the values that you embrace every day. … We’re trying to represent this Valley, its class, hard work and determination in everything we do.”

“Team members and inspirational coaches” – that’s how Mark Lamoncha, president and co-owner of Humtown Products described the workforce at his plants in Columbiana and Leetonia.

Lamoncha, selected as Entrepreneur of the Year, told how his company was hit hard in the Great Recession and reinvented itself through the creation of a real-time pay rate system that shows workers – “industrial athletes,” as he called them — the connection between what they produce and what they earn. The result was a sharp reduction in turnover and “double the profits,” he said.

Indeed, it takes a team to build a company, said James Dascenzo, principal at HBK CPAs & Consultants, honored as Business Professional of the Year. Since joining the firm straight out of college in 1988, Dascenzo has seen HBK evolve with “vastly different” capabilities and grow to 17 offices in four states and 500 employees – “great people we’ve developed” through extensive in-house training.

“This is a great honor but it’s not just me. So many people set great examples. I learned from them,” Dascenzo said.

Likewise, Michael Conway, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., credited the “strong and professional team at MVEDC” for his recognition as Business Advocate of the Year. “I can’t accept this award solely for myself,” he said. “These folks do the heavy lifting.”

M. Brigid Kennedy, president of Ursuline Ministries, said her organization operates the same way as any business “but we have an added responsibility. We have a mission.”

In accepting her award, Nonprofit Professional of the Year, Kennedy delivered impassioned remarks. Ursuline Ministries deals with “every kind of disadvantage and in some cases utter brokenness,” she said.

“We serve with radical compassion. We serve, respect and honor the face of God in the people we serve,” she said. “This kind of affirmation of the value of our work lifts us and we thank you.”

The three new owners of Sheely’s Furniture & Appliances were named Small Business Professionals of the Year. Jeff Curry, Lance Romeo and Jessica Smith purchased the company last year from Dale Sheely Jr.

Smith recounted the business principles instilled by her 90-year-old grandfather, Dale Sheely Sr., who founded the store. “Be honest, service what you sell and sell at the lowest price everyday,” she said.

The new owners have added new vendors, new galleries, e-commerce availabilities and “fresh marketing,” Smith noted.

The final award, Salute to Labor Achievement, was presented to Billy Keel, AFL-CIO labor liaison to the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. Keel, a painter by trade and former union business agent, said the United Way, through the work of its 13-person staff, touches 200,000 people every year.

“We’re working hard with your money,” he affirmed.

“These folks are leading from the front,” James Dignan, CEO of the chamber, said of the honorees.

As is the custom at the chamber’s annual salute, Dignan noted, businesses marking milestones are recognized.

Sharing the honors for 130 years of operating in the Mahoning Valley were Home Savings Bank, Mercy Health (the successor to St. Elizabeth Hospital) and Akron Children’s Hospital (successor to Tod Children’s Hospital).Columbiana Boiler Co. in Columbiana County is celebrating its 125th year in business. Reaching the centennial mark are Adolph Johnson & Sons in Mineral Ridge and the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

Others at milestones are:

  • 70 years: Cafaro Co. and HBK.
  • 60 years: Elmton Catering, Humtown Products and Mayo & Associates Inc.
  • 50 Years: Builders Association of Eastern Ohio & Western Pennsylvania, Eastwood Mall, Raphael’s School of Beauty and Venture Plastics.
  • 40 years: Hospice of the Valley.
  • 25 years: Innovation Exhibits, Prodigal Media, Veterans’ Outreach. 

Pictured at top, Salute to Business honorees, from left: M. Brigid Kennedy, Michael Conway, Billy Keel, Jeff Curry, Jessica Smith, Lance Romeo, Mark Lamoncha and James Dascenzo.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.