Rob Adams once said that teaching young lawyers how to be great trial lawyers is his greatest professional achievement. They are learning from one of the best. The co-chair of the general liability and litigation practice group for one of the biggest firms in the Midwest, Adams has served as lead counsel for more than 30 jury trials in various federal and state courts and has a lengthy resume in appellate court cases, as well.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas; J.D., University of Missouri School of Law
HIGH PRAISE: Chambers USA, considered the Bible of legal-eagle rankings, has made Adams a perennial honoree. He’s also been named Missouri Lawyer of the Year by Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
DIVERSE CLIENTELE: Much of Adams’ work is focused on the automotive, insurance and reinsurance, pharmaceutical, and construction sectors, as well as cases involving medical device design.
OTHER DUTIES: When he’s not punching a clock in the courtroom or office, Adams is also Dean of the Trial Bar for the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association.
President and CEO, Liberty Hospital
Raghu Adiga looks at his team at Liberty Hospital, where he was named interim CEO earlier this year, and says he is impressed by the “continued success of the organization in demonstrating that we can provide top-notch, safe and compassionate health care to our community, despite the hurdles posed by the pandemic, inflation, and leadership changes.” Adiga maintains that pace by investing in his staff, “our biggest asset in providing premiere health care in the Northland.” In September, the hospital dropped the “interim” and put Adiga in the driver’s seat.
COLLEGE: Bangalore Medical College Bangalore, Karnataka State, India
ON TALENT: “Our HR department remains very active in exploring any and every opportunity available to attract and retain talent. We are strengthening our relationships with area educational institutions to ensure a pipeline of highly talented new recruits are available to us in the near future as a long-term solution.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “We have a very experienced team that anticipated and responded extremely well to the pandemic. Our employee COVID vaccination rates were near 95 percent even before the CMS vaccination mandate in health care went into effect. The culture among our dedicated staff has been to lead by example to the community we live in.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING?: “More and more interest in KC by major national industries to set up shop here, for the talent pool and quality of life for their employees.”
No sooner than he had arrived on UMKC’s campus in 2018, Mauli Agrawal declared his intent to bolster the engineering program to better serve a city known internationally as a center of engineering excellence. He had a head start on that goal when UMKC broke ground on a new $20 million building for its School of Computing and Engineering two months after starting the job. Overall, UMKC has more than 16,000 students enrolled.
COLLEGE: B.A., Technology, Indian Institute of Technology; M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Clemson University; Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Duke University
EXPANDED PROGRAMS: Agrawal’s penchant for a more sweeping engineering profile at UMKC showed up this year when the university announced two new degree programs—a bachelor’s and master’s in Biomedical Engineering—starting in the fall semester of 2023.
ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET: Agrawal is a mechanical engineer by training, and he specialized in the development of orthopedic and cardiovascular devices before turning to academia. He has multiple start-ups to his credit, including Cardivovate, Inc., a cardiovascular device company he co-founded, and a medical device maker that has been rebranded as Diabetica Solutions.
INVENTIVE MIND: By the time he arrived at UMKC, he already had 15 patents, with more than a dozen others pending.
President/CEO, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas
Matt All decided to go all-in on the newly-imagined workplace. “We’ve transitioned from being a largely on-campus workplace in Topeka to a hybrid workplace across our service area and beyond,” he says. “It’s challenging for us to work, but I believe it will allow our teammates to work in new ways, achieve more for our members, and enjoy more fulfillment outside of work. We want BCBSKS to be a good thing in our employees’ lives, and I believe this new, more flexible way of working will do just that.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, University of Kansas; J.D., Yale Law School
ON TALENT RETENTION: “In addition to creating a more dynamic, flexible workplace, we’re completely revamping our compensation and career structure to meet the needs of a new generation of employees. It’s going to do wonders for us as an organization and open new paths for our colleagues to do amazing things with their careers. The next few years will be an exciting time to work at BCBSKS.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “As a health organization, COVID has affected us in countless ways. It’s forced us to think about our physical workplace differently and caused us to rethink our work in public health.
We’ve done things we’ve never done before, from making hundreds of grants to providers to encouraging telemedicine to invest in new ways to promote mental health. We’ve emerged from the pandemic stronger and more committed than ever to serving our members. We’ll never be the same. We’ll be better.”
NEXT BIG THING: “As a lifelong Royals fan, I’m waiting for the announcement of a downtown baseball stadium. I love Kauffman Stadium, but it’s probably time to bring the Royals closer to the people.
CEO, Tallgrass Freight
This should tell you all you need to know about Damon Anderson’s brand of leadership and his skills in crafting a corporate culture: “The one thing that’s the most important to me about our company is this: I never want to lose that feeling of this company being a community,” he says. And it’s a community primed for success: Revenues last year more than doubled over 2020, soaring past $142 million for the Overland Park freight-solutions provider.
COLLEGE: Kansas City, Kansas Community College
GROWTH KINGS: It’s hard enough to make the Corporate Report 100’s Top 10; harder still to do it back-to-back years. But that’s child’s play for Tallgrass: Anderson and his crew have notched three consecutive appearances in the CR100 Top 10.
BEVERAGE OF CHOICE: “Bottle of Miller Lite” at happy hour.
SONG THAT RESONATES: “Faster Disco” by Faith No More.
AT HOME: He’s also an avid runner and a father of three.
TEAM-BUILDING: Anderson addresses the challenges of a tight labor market by offering his agents industry-leading compensation—with no salary caps.
ABOUT TALLGRASS: The company’s services cover full truckload and less-than-truckload, expedited shipping, rail, and temperature-controlled shipping.
Chairman, Peterson Manufacturing
With nearly 700 employees at its massive 670,000-square-foot headquarters and production facility, Peterson Manufacturing is a cornerstone of the business community in Grandview. Don Armacost Jr., who ran the day-to-day operations for decades, sits at the apex of a family-owned enterprise with revenues of $245 million last year. The company makes and markets vehicle safety-lighting systems and accessories for cars, trucks, planes, and boats.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City
EARLY START: Armacost was just a teenager when his father acquired the company from its founder and put him to work with various odd jobs around the plant for a whopping 75 cents an hour.
INDUSTRY RESPECT: Like his father, Don Jr. has served as the president of the Transportation Safety Equipment Institute, marking the first time that a second-generation owner had held that role. After two separate terms with TSEI, the reins passed to his daughter, making the Peterson clan the first in the organization’s history to be led by three generations of a single family.
PHILANTHROPIC PLATFORM: Though it’s not open to the general public, the Armacost Museum is a venue for charitable fund-raising events. In this unique setting, attendees can view an array of vintage automobiles in that collection.
President/CEO, AMC Entertainment
A Philadelphia native and co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Adam Aron arrived in Kansas City in 2016, taking a hospitality-focused career in a new direction with the lead role for the world’s biggest cinema chain. He previously excelled in travel and tourism settings, then put his leadership skills to the test in early 2020 when the global pandemic shuttered theaters worldwide.
COLLEGE: B.A., Harvard University; MBA (with distinction), Harvard Business School
CHECKING IN: Before arriving at AMC’s world headquarters in Leawood, Aron served as CEO for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide.
WELL-ROUNDED: He flashed his entrepreneurial skills by founding World Leisure Partners, a consulting firm he founded to advise clients hailing from travel, tourism, high-end real estate development, and professional sports venues. He has also held leadership roles with companies that had holdings in ski resorts, cruise lines, and general aviation.
CRASHING THE BOARDS: His ties to the 76ers go beyond ownership; Aron served as CEO from 2011 to 2013. Away from the office, he holds board seats with the team and with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
President/CEO, Dynamic Logistix
It’s no secret that supply chains are in need of help. The good news is, Jeff Auslander’s team is on hand with the technology they need to keep things moving. He looks back happily at “experiencing more than a doubling of growth coming out of the pandemic, which led to our new state-of-the-art facility and 100 percent retention of all of our clientele during that time. The new building was earned off the backs of our leadership team that led Dynamic Logistix staff and partners to new levels,” he said.
COLLEGE: B.S., Journalism, University of Kansas; MBA, Baker University
ON TALENT: “We hired an advertising firm at the start of 2022 to truly attack the market for both clientele and employment branding and recruiting. It’s next-level stuff with people who have produced successful ad campaigns for Fortune 1000 companies and major league sports, as well. Our advertising and website are already on display to show us off and create attractive credibility that this is the best place to work in KC.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “It showed our resolve and toughness that led to creativity and organizational improvements. Those improvements have launched us from an up-and-comer environment to a company that is a big-time and long-term powerhouse. We won’t stop, either. That experience changed us for the better and made us even hungrier, now that we know the engine is running better than ever thanks to it.”
Energy & Process President, Black & Veatch
When Mario Azar came aboard at Black & Veatch in 2018, the company was getting more than a power-sector pro with a global perspective: It was getting a future chief executive. Azar is the CEO-designate upon the looming retirement of Steve Edwards atop the $3 billion engineering, design, and construction firm. He’ll lead a small army of 10,000 employees as just the eighth president in the 107-year history of the firm based in Overland Park.
COLLEGE: B.S., Electrical Engineering, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
POWER PLAYER: The Energy & Process Industries business sector he oversees for B&V provides infrastructure services for companies in the power, oil, gas, and mining sectors, among others.
BEFORE B&V: Azar founded a private consultancy to global energy companies, ALP Citadel
Business: Management Consulting & Services. That followed a 25-year run with stops at Westinghouse Electric and Siemens, where he rose to chief executive over its oil and gas and marine solutions division.
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE: Azar sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Energy Association and has previous board service for the Solar Energy Industries Association.
SUMMING UP: “At the end of the day,” he writes, “I pride myself in balancing my roles as an involved father, active leader in my community, and an effective global business leader.”
Over the course of his career and leadership with one of the region’s biggest grocery chains, if David Ball wasn’t in his office, it’s a good bet you’d find him in the aisles of one of the company’s Hen House, Price Chopper, or Sun Fresh stores. He’s a third-generation leader in a family business that has grown to cover nearly 30 retail locations, along with ownership of Tippin’s Gourmet Pies.
COLLEGE: B.A., Personnel Administration, University of Kansas
CHARITABLE CHAMPION: The Ball family has been instrumental in both the founding and funding of KVC Health Systems, which each year helps 60,000 children and their families by providing services in behavioral health care and youth substance-abuse treatment.
FAMILY VALUES: Ball credits his parents—he says his mother was the CEO of the family, and his father was CEO of the company—for teaching him to do every job the best he can. They were also the source of his passion for serving others and giving back to the communities where the company operates.
SPACE CADETS: The family was instrumental in fundraising for KVC’s Ball Event Center, a multipurpose venue with seating for up to 350, specializing in weddings, special events, corporate events, and business meetings.
Chairman/CEO, Kansas City Region, Commerce Bank
Kevin Barth and Commerce Bank were helping people weather COVID’s financial impact. “We helped our customers navigate the PPP process to secure crucial funding,” he said. “When the second round of PPP was announced, our bankers continued to support customers, which secured approximately $2 billion in loan fundings and originated over 11,000 PPP loans.” Barth added, “Over the past year, we helped the vast majority of them apply for and receive loan forgiveness.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration/Economics, Graceland College; M.B.A., Rockhurst University
ON RETAINING TALENT: “A few years ago, we established several Employee Resource Groups that allow our employees to join and be a part of a smaller group within the company they identify most closely with. The groups organize several development opportunities specific to that group to encourage personal growth, a feeling of belonging, and reflecting just how inclusive Commerce is.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “Initially, even though many of our employees were working from home, it drew us together as a team. Much of that closeness came because of pulling together to help thousands of our customers access the PPP program to save jobs.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “There are a few things that could add even greater momentum to the redevelopment of downtown. Those include a downtown baseball stadium and a “lid/park” over the interstate. A strong and vibrant downtown KC is an asset to the entire metropolitan area.”
Founder, Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Rader
When you consider the body of legal work in Jim Bartimus’ 45-year career, one can only wonder why this Belton native doesn’t have his own show on CourtTV. He’s been the face of successful medical malpractice in this region for decades, and why not? He’s one of the few practicing that legal art who have actually gone to medical school. Along with his wife Dana, he has a proven track record as a philanthropist, too.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business/Commerce, J.D., University of Missouri-Columbia; UMKC School of Medicine
RESPECT: Lawdragon, Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers in America, the KC Metropolitan Bar Association, and many others have bestowed on Bartimus in the Lawyer/Litigator of the Year vein.
GIVING BACK: Bartimus and his wife, Dana, started the DanaJames Charitable Foundation to assist children in need, including major contributions to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Children’s Mercy Hospital.
LUNCH IS SERVED: Every Tuesday, the law firm’s staff assembles more than 350 ham and cheese sandwiches to feed the homeless sheltered at City Union Mission. “It’s all hands on deck,” Bartimus says. “People love it,” he said. “It’s unusual.”
CALL OF DUTY: “There’s so much need out there. We’re supposed to be lawyers and leaders in our community. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and hope someone else does it.”
President, Soave Automotive Group
Marion Battaglia is a guy who gets around—in style. As president of the parent of Aristocrat Motors, Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City, BMW of Topeka, and VW of Topeka, Battaglia is perhaps the most prominent face in luxury vehicle sales in this region. The key to his successful leadership? Giving his people the freedom and knowledge required to serve customer needs on the spot, without needing constant approval from management.
OTHER DUTIES: He also sits on the board of the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City and oversees dealership participation in multiple charities.
BEFORE SOAVE: Battaglia spent nearly 14 years burnishing his luxury-car sales credentials with Baron BMW.
FAN FAVORITE: Aristocrat Motors is a perennial Gold Medal winner in Ingram’s Best of Business Kansas City awards’ Best Foreign Auto Dealership category.
President & CEO, Fike Corporation
What started in 1945 as a basement-based metal shop has grown into an international name in fire and explosion prevention and containment. And business has been good this past year. “Fike is on track to record its third straight year of setting revenue records,” said CEO Brad Batz. “With the macro trends in manufacturing around lack of labor, rising costs, and economic uncertainty, we have been able to maintain market leadership all while having fun doing business and maintaining our unique culture.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Florida
ON ATTRACTING TALENT: “We are trying everything possible, including engaging our employees to introduce potential candidates from their networks and communities and providing a referral bonus upon hiring those candidates.”
ON RETAINING TALENT: “Focus on living our core values, sharing financial information, providing a profit share program aligned with the success of the business, and maintaining a family atmosphere has always been a part of our DNA. We do not look at shareholder value alone and talk about stakeholder value AND how the focus of taking care of our employees, customers, and partners is what truly drives the value of Fike Corp.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Adding the KC Current’s new stadium and the possibility of moving the Royals to downtown is huge for the future of Kansas City being a destination for people all around the country.”
Chancellor, Metropolitan Community College
Just the eighth chancellor in the 107-year history of Metropolitan Community College, Kim Beatty became the first African American in that role just before the 2017-18 academic year (she as formally inaugurated the following summer). She’s at the nexus between work-force development and employer needs, overseeing a four-campus system with an enrollment of nearly 14,000.
COLLEGE: B.A., M.A, English, Ed.D., higher education, Morgan State University
BUILDING OUT: Last year, MCC unveiled its new $7.2 million Engineering Technology addition, a two-story facility houses classrooms and labs, MCC’s FabLab maker space, an outdoor covered work yard for large (or dirty) FabLab projects, a 3-D printing lab, and the Burns & McDonnell Design Innovation Lab. It’s a nice way of strengthening ties between the biggest community college system and a key employment sector in town.
BEFORE MCC: Beatty came to KC after serving as vice chancellor for instructional services and chief academic officer at Houston Community College, the nation’s fourth-largest community college system.
CHANGE-MAKER: Beatty hit the ground running at MCC and has already restructured the college’s five-year strategic plan, drafted a new vision statement for the college, a new shared-governance model, and pressed for the creation of the MCC Innovation Council.
CEO/Owner, P1 Group
Over the course of more than 40 years in the trades—working in both blue collar and white collar—Smitty Belcher has never lost a craftsman’s dedication to getting every detail of a job right. That was true when he was a young pipefitter in Toledo, Ohio, and it’s true today as he leads a team of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing experts in one of Kansas City’s biggest privately-owned engineering firms.
COLLEGE: B.S., MBA in Business Administration, University of Toledo
FOCUSED: Those two degrees we just mentioned? Belcher earned them within five years—WHILE as a journeyman fitter/welder and apprentice-training coordinator in Toledo.
ENTREPRENEUR AT HEART: Belcher made his way to the Kansas City area when he bought a small Lawrence firm, Huxtable & Associates. At the time, the company’s revenues were only about $4 million. Five years later, he merged it with another firm to create P1, which came within a hair of topping $300 million in revenue last year.
JOB GENERATOR: With nearly 1,100 employees, P1 Group has come a long way from that 30-man shop Belcher acquired in ’83.
CAREER ADVICE: “Set your goals and dream big. Never give up trying to achieve them. Never listen to someone who tells you that you can’t.”
KC Market CEO, Prime Healthcare Services
Mark Benz worked his way through college and graduate school as a paramedic in Arizona, but even before that, he was flashing his health-care entrepreneurial skills while still in high school. That’s when he was part of a group that created a behavioral health and chemical dependency treatment service. Today, he’s running point on four hospitals in the Kansas City region for California-based Prime Healthcare, which has 45 acute-care hospitals in 14 states.
COLLEGE: B.S., Social Work/Organizational Development; M.S., Social Work/Healthcare Administration, Arizona State University
PORTFOLIO: Benz is responsible for Providence Medical Center, St. Joseph Medical Center, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth. Combined, those institutions accounted for 22,000 patient admissions last year and more than $1.8 billion in revenues.
BEFORE KANSAS CITY: With more than 25 years of health-care experience on his resume, Benz previously made his mark as market CEO for Tenet Healthcare/Carondelet Health Network in Tucson, Ariz.; CEO of Tenet’s St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson; and Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory, N.C.
CLINICAL ANCHOR: Prime Healthcare’s four area hospitals include 930 licensed beds, more than 900 physicians and 650 nurses, and 2,100 employees overall. In addition to patient admissions, they serve more than 350,000 outpatients a year.
CEO/Chairman, Midwest Trust co.
Having seen his team manage a national expansion without having to borrow or bring in private equity over the past year, Brad Bergman lasers in on finding talent to help clients achieve financial goals. “Talent acquisition is an ongoing initiative,” he says. “We have needed to bring in more talent to handle our influx of new clients. … Our focus, since our inception, has been hiring those with a servant heart who are in this business for the right reasons.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Illinois State; J.D., Washburn University
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “From the very beginning, we viewed the pandemic as an ongoing challenge for everyone around the globe. However, our organization’s cultural foundations were able to guide us toward the right approach: as leaders, we understand that our first obligation is to our customers, then to our staff, and finally to our shareholders.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Kansas City will demonstrate global leadership in agricultural innovation, research, and biotechnology as we face global food scarcity and drought.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “I won’t prognosticate on a win/loss record—as long as it ends in a Super Bowl. Flags fly forever.”
President/CEO, Tension Corp.
Berkley admires CEOs who lead and transform during periods of significant change. On his watch, that’s exactly what happened as Tension became the nation’s second-largest domestic envelope manufacturer and a diversified three-division business. His community activity includes the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, Heartland Civic Collaborative, and the Hall Family Foundation, among other interests.
COLLEGE: B.A., Colorado College; MBA, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College
DIVERSIFIED LINES: Tension still makes envelopes—billions of them every year, in fact—but it provides a lot of other business-support services, including custom-printed mailing, packaging, promotional, and shipping solutions.
GLOBAL REACH: With facilities in China and Taiwan, Tension has become a global player yielding $227 million in 2021 revenues to earn a spot on Ingram’s 100 list of the region’s biggest private companies.
WHY TENSION?: The company’s name comes from the style of envelope—the ones with the string and discs used to close mail pieces that in the 19th century couldn’t ship while sealed. Held shut by the string’s tension, it became a reference to the company’s main products and made for an easy branding change.
President/CEO, Mariner Holdings
We could tell you that Marty Bicknell is one of the nation’s elite wealth managers, but don’t just take it from us: How about Barron’s, read by wealth managers the way the rest of us read The Wall Street Journal. Bicknell’s baby, Mariner, has had an uninterrupted streak among Barron’s Top 5 Registered Independent Advisory Firms since 2016. He took the firm from startup to that stratospheric recognition within a decade of launching it in 2006.
COLLEGE: B.S., Political Science, Pittsburg State University
AUM POWERHOUSE: In its most recent filing to the SEC, Mariner declared more than $55.4 billion in assets under management, serving more than 90,000 client accounts.
BROAD VISION: Bicknell’s wealth-management chops are on display with multiple corporate platforms, from asset management to real estate. “I’m a believer that every corner of this space is going to continue to grow, and I’m just trying to make sure that we’re a participant in as many of those corners as possible,” he said in a 2020 interview with a wealth-management trade magazine.
THE FAMILY: Bicknell is also part of 1248 Holdings, a family-owned private investment firm that manages the family’s personal and philanthropic assets. The seeds for those, of course, came from his father, Gene Bicknell, who built the nation’s largest Pizza Hut franchisee from his home base in Pittsburg. The holdings unit and its partners invest in various companies, funds, late-stage ventures, private equity, and real estate.
Brent Blake has been in the corporate travel business for over 32 years, serving as vice president of sales, vice president of operations, and chief operating officer since 1997, when what is now Acendas was branded as All About Travel, so it’s no surprise he now owns the company. In addition, he currently serves on the Advisory Board for BCD Travel, the third largest travel company in North America, and is on the Executive Board of the Travel Council.
COLLEGE: B.S., Marketing and Administration, Oral Roberts University
COMING BACK: “Rebuilding our staff back to pre-pandemic levels has been a challenge and extremely vital to our continued viability and success. With heavy furloughs, we had to rebuild the staff, facing the reality that we had many veteran associates who would retire or opt not to return.”
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “Unlikely, but will face headwinds because of the impact of inflation.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “We have ramped up our staff considerably since January 2022. It is unlikely we will need to continue talent acquisition at that pace for the rest of the year. However, should the impact of inflation lessen, we will likely need to add staff. Talent acquisition will continue to be a challenge as the industry rebounds. It is estimated that 40 percent of the hospitality industry talent left the industry. Rebuilding will take time. It also creates a situation where travel agencies will need to be creative in attracting workers—with the realization that there will be movement from agency to agency.
Managing Principal, Block Real Estate Services
Ken Block swatted golf balls for 53 years before notching his first hole-in-one; that alone should tell you that there’s a certain measure of determination in the DNA of perhaps the region’s most prominent leader in commercial real estate. Since 2010, when he calved BRES off from the organization, his late father and uncle started post World War II; Block and his brothers, and now members of a third generation, have built the area’s biggest CRE enterprise.
COLLEGE: Michigan State University Honors College
MULTIFACETED MONOLITH: More than just a commercial realty firm offering sales and leasing brokerage and property management services in retail, office, and industrial, BRES is deeply engaged in virtually every aspect of commercial property. That includes the investment side, construction, development, and more nationwide.
CAREER CAPSTONE: Ken Block’s fingerprints are all over many of the region’s biggest development projects over the past five decades, but few of them rival the $1 billion cost to build out City Place in Overland Park. Various aspects of the 90-acre project will be under construction through 2029, yielding office, retail and multifamily housing on a nearly unprecedented project scale.
Mayor, Lenexa, Kansas
Mayor Michael Boehm recalls a great year for the City of Lenexa—a new justice center, a major reinvestment in Old Town Lenexa, and major renovations and amenities upgrades at the city’s largest pool. “We also maintained the momentum that Lenexa has created over the past few years,” Boehm said, “with our continued quality growth and development while navigating the economic uncertainty and a changing development landscape.’’
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Kansas
ON MANAGING TALENT: “We’ve been very proactive. We conducted a total compensation study to evaluate the competitiveness of our pay and benefits against our peers. We made adjustments to both compensation and benefits to include the addition of paid parental leave benefits and recreation center memberships. We are being much more proactive and far-reaching in our recruiting efforts. We have streamlined hiring processes to allow us to hire the right people with minimal delay.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “COVID illustrated the city’s ability to be adaptable and nimble as we continued to provide full service to our community throughout the pandemic. City Hall and the vast majority of our facilities remained open—one of only a few city halls that never closed. We rapidly deployed new ways of providing services, from virtual court to video inspections, to allow our work and the work of those investing to continue. We’re proud that some of the new, innovative ideas have become a part of our everyday procedures.”
CFO, H&R Block
A leadership role at the world’s largest tax-preparation firm implies helping a lot of people maximize their returns. This past year, Tony Bowen helped shareholders maximize value, as well. The company took advantage of a depressed market with a $550 million stock buyback at $23.80 a share; this month, it was trading a hair below $45. Bowen leads all financial functions and sets the overall financial strategy for the firm.
COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, University of Missouri
THE CORPORATE LADDER: Bowen has held various senior leadership roles since joining the company in 2004: vice president of finance for the U.S. Tax Services division and vice president and general manager of H&R Block’s DIY Tax Services business. He has managed online, mobile, and desktop software products and served as assistant vice president of corporate development, program director of finance, director of hedging, and senior treasury analyst.
SUCCESS METRICS: H&R Block announced that it was raising its quarterly dividend to 29 cents a share, an increase of 7 percent, and through 2025, the repurchase of $1.25 billion in additional shares.
SERENDIPITY: Even before the pandemic set in, Block was building out its virtual capabilities—real estate is one of the biggest expenses for the firm, and the ability to reduce square footage needed in thousands of offices, cutting costs and bolstering efficiencies.
Chancellor, Johnson County Community College
Across the state, 19 community colleges overseen by the Kansas Board of Regents are tasked with instruction deemed most immediately relevant to workforce development. None of the 18 others approaches JCCC in scale, measured either by programming or enrollment. In the driver’s seat for the Overland Park campus is Andrew Bowne, who arrived in 2020 and oversees instruction for nearly 11,000 collegiate undergrads.
COLLEGE: B.A., Geography/Urban & Regional Planning, M.A and Ed.D., Education, Western Michigan Univ.
JCCC PERSPECTIVE: How big is the college? With 16,500 students enrolled either part-time or full-time, the undergraduate enrollment is higher than all but two institutions: The University of Kansas (23,958) and K-State (19,753).
RESUMÉ HIGHLIGHTS: Bowne’s extensive experience in higher education administration has included an emphasis on institutional culture, workforce training, partnerships with K-12 schools for lifelong learning, working with community stakeholders, successful fundraising, and promoting public-private partnerships.
BEFORE JCCC: Bowne previously served as senior vice president and chief operating officer for the entire Indiana community college system of 18 campuses, chancellor of Ivy Tech in Muncie, Ind., and associate vice president of the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation in Michigan.
CEO, Enfinite Capital
He’s done a lot of big things in his career, but David Brain is also a testament to the Power of Thinking Little. “You have to celebrate the little victories,” Brain says. “I think more of that is the best thing we can do to build momentum and a positive outlook because they feed on themselves.” In his own case, that has led to Enfinite, which focuses on Brown Cow Capital, a real estate and development firm; and before, EPR Properties, which he co-founded in 1997. He became CEO there in 1999 and led EPR from zero to over $5.5 billion in enterprise value.
COLLEGE: B.A., MBA, A.B. Freeman Graduate School of Business, Tulane University
NEW VISIONS: Brain is part of the group that took the old Westport Middle School campus and converted it into Plexpod Westport Commons, billed as the world’s largest co-working space when it opened in 2017. Other locations have been created Downtown, in the Crossroads, and Lenexa.
POWERING BUSINESS: Enfinite Capital is an investment firm specializing in utility and large-scale commercial and industrial renewable energy, infrastructure, and real estate. Enfinite worked with Black & Veatch’s Diode Ventures to transform the data-center landscape in Virginia in a project valued at $1.6 billion.
KC’S CAPITAL ECOSYSTEM: “KC is a big enough business and financial node that it has investment capital and professional support services to support a wide variety of business activity. [We have] tended to be at the cutting edge of emerging things. It’s a little difficult, I have to confess, because of the highly conservative nature of the business community, but it’s getting better. I’m pretty excited about early stage investment.”
Principal, Brandmeyer Enterprises
You’ve heard of serial entrepreneurs? Mark Brandmeyer goes them one better as a serial executive, with varying C-level engagements over the past 37 years in medical-device production, medical claims payments, construction, venture capital—even baseball. He spent 23 years helping his father build a medical device company, Enturia, that eventually sold to Cardinal Health for a whopping $490 million in 2008.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business, University of Kansas
SAVVY MARKETER: Brandmeyer put together the group that stepped in to breathe new life into the flagging T-Bones baseball franchise playing in the Village West stadium, then quickly—and wisely—
collaborated with Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to capitalize on an iconic brand: Kansas City Monarchs.
SAVVY INVESTOR: Brandmeyer Enterprises invests in health-care companies, especially those in the therapeutic space, at every stage of company development, with a 13-year history that includes multiple acquisitions and exits.
OTHER DUTIES: Brandmeyer is also a partner with Built, an interior-construction company, and director of the MoKan youth basketball club.
WAIT! THERE’S MORE!: He’s a man who likes his scheduling calendar full: Brandmeyer is also a principal with Valmar, a property investment and management company.
Kansas City President, Commerce Bank
Rob Bratcher heads up the Kansas City operation at a bank managing $33 billion in assets. Commerce Bank provides full-service banking in five states. Bratcher believes in the power of people when it comes to success. “Our leadership team will continue to prioritize talent acquisition and retention,” he told us. “We want to have ample bench strength to serve both our existing clients and bring over new clients that have been let down or ignored by their current provider.”
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Finance and Real Estate, University of Missouri Trulaske School of Business
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Downtown Baseball!”
THE ROAD TO COMMERCE: Bratcher worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch at various times in Springfield, St. Louis, Houston and Kansas City.
FILLING BIG SHOES: In 2018, Bratcher was named to succeed Kevin Barth as president of the Kansas City operation. Before that, he had been managing director of commercial banking and managing director of health-care banking.
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “13-4. Road wins in the AFC West will be tough this year, but confident Chief’s Fans will make it almost impossible to lose at home.”
CEO, Ferrell Capital
Heading up the organization tasked with preserving the Ferrell legacy, Pamela Breuckmann takes every success personally. “As a member of the Board at Ferrellgas,” she said, “I am very proud of the nearly $2.9 billion recapitalization of Ferrellgas we completed in March 2021.” At her offices, things are clicking, too. No “great resignation” there: “It is because we have hired some really bright people that work hard and enjoy being challenged; in turn, they are appreciated and rewarded.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration and Accounting, University of Kansas; M.A., Accounting and Information Systems, University of Kansas
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “Unlikely in 2022, maybe in 2023. At Ferrell Capital, we are primarily investors, so we do the same as in all cycles: do business with smart people. This leverages our team and results in more smart minds making decisions at each underlying business. Said another way, invest with smart people and get out of their way.”
CHALLENGES: “Rising interest rates increase the cost of capital and reduce ultimate investment liquidity.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “I am so proud of KC and how it has come onto the scene. KCI, NFL draft, World Cup, Panasonic—the sky is the limit. It is really a tribute to the people in the city, thrusting it forward. I would love to see the city continue to develop and attract businesses, adding to the economic engine.”
Robin Broder Gibson
Chairman/CMO, Henderson Engineers
Robin Broder Gibson has not just one title at Henderson Engineers. Or two. She’s hit the trifecta: As CMO, she leads a team of business development professionals in procuring work, building client relationships, and creating brand awareness while fostering employee engagement. She has developed and taught classes within the Henderson University curriculum and speaks nationally on topics on soft skills and empowering employees to become brand ambassadors.
COLLEGE: B.A. Communications, Bethel University; Certified Professional Services Marketer
A BIG YEAR: “We rolled out a company structure we’d been working on for 18 months. We moved from a regional market model to a new vertical market model, bringing our depth of expertise together in a more collaborative way as a national powerhouse. That has been a game changer for us.
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “A recession is somewhat likely, but we joke that we have decided not to participate in it when it does happen. Kidding aside, we have a depth and diversity of clientele that is well-positioned to weather the storm.”
KC’s NEXT BIG THING: “The upcoming KC Current Stadium at Berkley Riverfront will be a game-changer as the first stadium built exclusively for a women’s team.” (Henderson is a project partner.)
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “No one else has Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid on their side, so I believe we’re going undefeated and bringing home another Super Bowl championship.”
Kansas City Market CEO, UnitedHealthcare
More than 450,000 people in the KC market have health insurance coverage with United Healthcare, which means Rob Broomfield and his team of 3,200 touch a lot of lives. After stops in Iowa, California, and Texas, Broomfield came to the KC 20 years ago in a leadership role with Mercer, then aligned with UHC in 2005 and assumed CEO duties in 2017. His network helps clients with coverage for services from nearly 19,000 providers in a four-state area.
COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
HOW YOU’D DESCRIBE YOURSELF: “I would say ‘pragmatic.’”
HOW FRIENDS MIGHT DESCRIBE YOU: “In public, my friends would probably say ‘irreverent,’ though in private, I’d hate to even venture a guess.”
DOGS? CATS? OTHERS?: “I’m a dog person.”
SOURCE OF PRIDE: “My family (wife and two children). All of them bring a different perspective to the family, and they all have unique interests and talents.”
IMPACT: Broomfield is responsible for the insurer’s operations in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Central Illinois, helping clients with coverage for services from nearly 19,000 providers in that territory.
Chairman, CEO & President, Euronet Worldwide
Like so many other companies worldwide, 2020 put a dent in revenues for Euronet, but the global electronic payments processor snapped back in a big way the following year, posting a record gross income of nearly $3 billion. For those keeping score, that’s a 21 percent year-over-year pop. That should be no surprise for a company under the leadership of Mike Brown. Euronet is the second of two companies he’s taken to No. 1 and No. 2 showings in Ingram’s Corporate Report 100.
COLLEGE: B.S., Electrical Engineering, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia; M.S., Molecular & Cellular Biology, UMKC
GROWTH CHAMPION: Brown rocketed to the very top of the Corporate Report 100 in 1987 with a tech firm called Innovative Software; he nearly pulled it off again in 2000 with Euronet, hitting No. 2.
VISIONARY: Brown capitalized—and that’s the right word—on the burst of economic freedom that erupted after the fall of totalitarian regimes in the former Eastern bloc of Europe in the late ‘80s and ‘90s.
EURONET TODAY: Not only was Euronet a fast-track company out of the gate, it was able to go public in 1997, just three years after its launch.
ENTREPRENEURIAL DNA: In between his stints with Innovative Software and Euronet, Brown was a founding investor in a software firm, Visual Tools, that was sold in 1996 to Sybase Software.
RECOGNITION: Brown is among the honorees in the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management.
When you throw the switch, and the light comes on, thank Kevin Bryant. As chief operating officer for the biggest bistate electric utility, he’s the one responsible for all of Evergy’s operations, from power generation to transmission, right up until it reaches your breaker box. He came on board at Kansas City Power & Light, which was later merged and rebranded back in 2003, and has held various key leadership positions over the years.
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Finance/Real Estate, University of Missouri-Columbia; MBA (Finance/Marketing emphasis) Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
BEFORE THE C-SUITE: Among his other duties, Bryant previously served as vice president of strategic planning, vice president of investor relations, and treasurer, then was named executive vice president of finance and strategy in 2015. He also did a stint as president of KLT, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Great Plains Energy, prior to the 2018 merger with Westar.
BIG ASSIGNMENTS: When Great Plains acquired Aquila, Inc., in 2007, Bryan led the integration of the sales and marketing organization, then in 2010, was tasked with efforts in the General Assembly to authorize electric utility investment in energy efficiency.
ENGAGED: Bryant serves on the board of directors of the UMKC Foundation and Boys & Girls Club of Greater KC and serves his alma mater on the dean’s advisory board at MU’s Trulaske School of Business.
Founder, LANE4 Property Group
Owen Buckley and his LANE team have plenty of faith in their ability to continue thriving, whatever the economy throws their way. They’ll be “Keeping our head down and believing in the fundamentals of our industry and our Lane4 philosophy,” said Buckley. “We won’t be afraid to push pause on certain endeavors and move forward with confidence on others.” Part of that is deploying people in the most advantageous way. “We are experimenting with limited work from home,” Buckley told us. “We definitely are more productive when we can see each other in the office. However, some work from home helps our people achieve a better work/life balance.”
COLLEGE: B.A., M.A., University of Kansas
CHALLENGE AHEAD: “Rising construction costs.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Kansas City is going to significantly move up on the most popular list. The Kansas City region has accomplished so many great things over the past 15 years, and the new airport will shed a better national light on this fact. The KC region has so much to be proud of and look forward to.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “They will lose a few games, but they will, of course, win the Super Bowl.”
Chairman/President/CEO, Bukaty Companies
This is a big year for Bukaty Companies; it’s 30th since Mike Bukaty founded the firm with one mission in mind: to provide products and services to individuals and families that help build and protect their health and financial security throughout all stages of life. Today, it’s a leading employee benefit and insurance brokerage with nearly 200 employees, three offices, and thousands of client and vendor relationships.
COLLEGE: University of Kansas
IN THE TRENCHES: Bukaty also runs the firm’s health-insurance division in addition to his chief executive’s duties.
FAMILY MATTERS: Being family owned, he says, “to us, it is personal: My name is on the building.”
TRUTH IN ADVERTISING: When the company bills itself as a full-service enterprise, it’s no exaggeration: in addition to helping clients secure property and casualty insurance policies, its service lines include employee benefits, HR consulting and training, compliance, benefits administration, and payroll and accounting.
LOYALTY: Bukaty Companies boasts a five-year client retention rate of 96 percent.
VALUES: Bukaty has instilled a set of values for the company grounded in four pillars: Service, Knowledge, Integrity, and Teamwork.
Andy Callahan knows food. Period. Since 2018, he’s been at the helm of Hostess Brands, a company reborn after financial tumult a decade ago threatened to remove the beloved Twinkie from America’s collective lunchbox. A former flight officer in the Navy, Callahan has overseen the growth of more than 34 percent since coming on board, hitting $1.14 billion last year. But before that, he worked for high-profile brands like Tyson, Hillshire Brands, and Kraft.
COLLEGE: B.S., Mechanical Engineering, U.S. Naval Academy; MBA, Florida Institute of Technology; Executive Agribusiness Seminar, Harvard Business School
BEFORE HOSTESS: Callahan’s executive-level experience includes a stint as president of Tyson’s Retail Packaged Brands, then the same title with its North American Foodservice & International, where he was also a member of the executive leadership team. If you’re a fan of product brands Jimmy Dean, Sara Lee, or Ball Park franks, you’ve done business with him.
ON THE NASDAQ: The company’s stock appropriately trades on the NASDAQ under the symbol TWNK. But there’s more to Hostess than the venerable Twinkie; it also produces the classic Hostess Cupcake, along with Ding-Dongs, Ho-Hos, and other treats.
CEO, AE Wealth, Advisors Excel
David Callanan came out of small-town Kansas to do big things, none bigger than the 2005 founding of Advisors Excel, which provides support for more than 700 wealth advisers nationally, and AE Wealth Management, one of the nation’s fastest-growing Registered Investment Advisory firms, with $19.6 billion in AUM and more than 142,000 client accounts.
COLLEGE: B.A. Management/Marketing, Washburn University
SMALL START: Callanan’s hometown was the Cowley County burg of Burden, which has a current population of just 620.
ABOUT ADVISORS EXCEL: It’s the nation’s leading independent marketing organization assisting independent financial advisors around the country with assistance in wealth management, broker-dealer divisions, annuity, Medicare, and life insurance.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Fewer than 5 percent of AE Wealth’s clients fall in the category of high net worth investors; non-HNW accounts average just $215,000.
PHILANTHROPY: Advisors Excel gave more than $925,000, and employees provided more than 5,500 volunteer hours on behalf of a diverse set of causes: reducing hunger, fighting poverty, enhancing education, and improving financial literacy. Total giving since 2008 is $6.3 million.
David Campbell draws from personal experience when he ponders guidance for young executives: “Focus on the customer and always deliver your best,” he says. “When there are stumbles—and there will be stumbles—if your customers see the commitment and understand the value that you will deliver, it will make all the difference.” He makes that difference for more than 1.6 million Evergy customers in Missouri and Kansas at the largest electrical utility.
COLLEGE: B.A., Yale University; J.D., Harvard Law School; Masters, International Relations, Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar)
MANAGING AMID CRISIS: Campbell came to Evergy nearly a year into the global pandemic and says that “roughly half of our team shifted to working from home, and they have managed that transition very well. It has gone much more smoothly than anyone had anticipated. Half of our team continued to report to the workplace, keeping the power plants online and the system up and running so that the lights stayed on for everyone.”
POWER EMPLOYER: Following the 2018 merger of Great Plains Energy and Westar, the new company had a combined workforce of roughly 5,000 people in Missouri and Kansas.
BROAD MANDATE: Beyond his goal of enhancing customer experiences, Campbell is responsible for the modernization of the electrical grid, improving the system’s reliability and ensuring competitiveness.
CEO, Kansas Health System-St. Francis
If you’re reading between the lines on the health-care executives in this elite leadership group, you may notice a Texas-to-KC pipeline at work. The latest product of that system is Scott Campbell, who came to the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus this summer. He made his way to Topeka from Athens, Texas, where since 2019, he had been chief executive officer of UT Health Athens.
COLLEGE: B.A., Virginia Commonwealth University; M.A., Healthcare Administration, Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University
WITH UT Health: Campbell honed his leadership skills for the Houston-based health system as a leader at hospitals in the Texas burgs of Jacksonville, Quitman, and Pittsburg.
CAREER PATH: Campbell is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a two-time CEO of the Year honoree with Health Management Associates. He’s spent more than 30 years in health care, with additional stops in Lancaster, Pa., Naples, Fla., and Columbia, S.C., among others.
REBUILDING SKILLS: When Hurricane Michael visited its devastation on Panama City, Fla., in 2018, Campbell was the CEO of Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart Health. The facility was clobbered, and Campbell was credited with leading the restoration and repairs that allowed it to reopen just five months later.
CEO, Eversana Intouch
More than 20 years of work went into taking Intouch Solutions from a startup to a takeover target worth nearly $1 billion, but with that box checked on his to-do list, Faruk Capan now leads the charge with dual duties as CEO at Eversana Intouch and as chief innovation officer at the acquiring firm, Eversana. He leads a global workforce of thousands in those roles, making good on what he told us in 2016: “I believe my best career moment is still yet to come …”
COLLEGE: Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey; MBA, University of Central Missouri
AMERICAN DREAMER: Capan grew up in Istanbul, and after college there found his way to the Midwest and UCM. He interned at Marion Merrell Dow (now Sanofi) and worked at Teva Neuroscience before founding Intouch in 1999.
GROWING INTOUCH: It started off as a digital marketing service for the pharmaceutical industry, but over the years, Capan turned Intouch Solutions into Intouch Group, with seven separate operating units.
ABOUT EVERSANA: Based in Chicago, it’s a leading provider of commercial services to life-sciences enterprises around the world—more than 670 of them at this point. Late last year, it came calling with cash—a reported $950 million—and added Capan’s enterprise to its fold.
CAO, University Health
More than most, even most within health care, Mitzi Cardenas gets it when it comes to the vital role that tech plays in delivering positive patient outcomes. She’s worked in the industry for 30 years, most of that within IT disciplines. She currently serves as the executive chief administrative officer for University Health, where she’s tasked with overseeing corporate administrative operations and services, construction and real estate, strategy and planning, and IT systems.
COLLEGE: B.B.A., University of Texas-Arlington; M.S., Troy State University
UP THE LADDER: Since joining the former Truman Medical Centers in 2008, she’s been senior vice president and chief information officer.
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Before her health-care career, Cardenas did a stint as a dancer with the Chicago Lyric Opera.
BEFORE TRUMAN/UH: Cardenas spent six years with Children’s Mercy Hospital as its director of information technology. Before that, she logged four years with Kinetra as director of operations.
HONORS: Ingram’s previously recognized her as one of its Heroes in Healthcare, and Health Data Management declared her one of the Most Powerful Women in Health IT two years in a row.
INDUSTRY: Cardenas served as chair of the Interoperability Advisory Group for the American Hospital Assn. since 2014 and previously chaired the Missouri Hospital Association’s HIT Committee. Outside her sector, she’s on the board of trustees for Park Univ. and the executive committee and board of the YMCA of Greater KC.
President/CEO, MMC Corp.
Like most chief executives, Tim Chadwick has anxiously awaited a declaration that from public health officials anyway, has never come: The end of the pandemic. If fiscal performance can make a statement, his teams at MMC Corp. appear to have moved on—their 2021 revenues surged by 11 percent last year, a $90 million improvement over 2020. He’s been with MMC for nearly 20 years, first with its MW Builders division, then in the C-suite as COO in 2011 and CEO in 2014.
COLLEGE: B.S., Construction Science, Kansas State University
ABOUT MMC: Through its subsidiaries, MMC’s service lines include general contracting, mechanical contracting, construction services, and building automation.
BRANDS: The parent is a holding company for five brands, including general-contracting arm MW Builders; two mechanical-contracting divisions, MMC Contractors and Countrywide Mechanical Systems; and a specialty-contracting business called Building Control Services.
EMPLOYEE OWNED: The company, headquartered in Overland Park, has 14 offices from California to Florida and is 100 percent employee-owned.
PROMINENT PROJECTS: Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway, the General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant shop, and the Liberty Wastewater Treatment Facility—are all in the company’s pro-ject portfolio.
CEO, McCownGordon Construction
“Times are good at McCownGordon” says Ramin Cherafat. “Our Leadership and Management team has successfully been implanting a long-term strategic plan that we developed in 2020-2021. In 2022, we took significant steps toward implementing our long-term plan by launching two new Business Units. We opened an office in the Dallas-Fort Worth as well as launched a national business unit focused on projects in the Manufacturing Sector.
COLLEGE: B.S., Construction Science, Kansas State University; MBA, UMKC
THOUGHTS ON TALENT: “We’ve been very fortunate to have been able to attract the talent we’ve needed over the past few years as our company has grown both in the KC Marketplace and throughout the Midwest region. I attribute that to our incredible culture, core values, and our 100% employee ownership structure. As we have added new members, I continually hear from them that McCownGordon is one of the most collaborative and supportive environments that they have ever worked in.”
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “I do believe that we are actually now currently in a recession, and that will continue for the next six to 12 months. We have yet to see a major impact on our pipeline, our backlog is near-record levels, and our pipeline remains very strong; in fact, it’s at a record high. That being said, I believe that for the last decade, monetary policy has been so loose and accommodating that it has contributed to record levels of liquidity, all of which is now constricting.”
Bill Clarkson, Jr.
CEO, Clarkson Construction
If you want to brag about the longevity of your family business in the presence of Bill Clarkson Jr., you’d best bring your A-Game: The top executive of Clarkson Construction leads an enterprise with roots that date back to 1880. That puts the company into its sixth generation of family leadership. That history includes some of the most high-profile projects in these parts, including the new terminal at KCI Airport.
VISIONARY: G.G. Clarkson started the company by grading roads and excavating for foundations. Among its more recent achievements, Clarkson has had a piece of the work on the Children’s Mercy Park in Village West, and the adjoining Legends retail center in western Wyandotte County.
CONTROLLED APPROACH: More than 80 percent of the work on its project list is performed by a member of the employee work force with Clarkson Construction equipment.
SPECIALISTS: The company builds highways and performs the grading for road construction projects and does concrete paving, and bridge work includes some of the most important spans in the Kansas City area, including the Christopher S. Bond Bridge and Broadway Bridge over the Missouri River, and the I-35/Southwest Trafficway bridge Downtown.
ADDITIONAL BUSINESS: Clarkson Construction also owns Total Risk Management, Everett Quarries, Johnson County Aggregates, and Superior Bowen Asphalt.
President/CEO, IBT Industrial Solutions
Just because your grandfather founded the company doesn’t mean you get to be president and CEO, and sometimes life takes you in an unexpected direction. Jeff Cloud studied at the New England Culinary Institute before he joined IBT, a division of Cumulus Companies, in 2006 and worked through sales, director of corporate development, regional manager, and VP of marketing before taking the reins. He carries a proud family tradition into a third generation.
COLLEGE: General Studies, University of Kansas; AOS, Culinary Arts, New England Culinary Institute
RECESSION OUTLOOK: I believe we will experience a reduction in consumer consumption due to increased costs, but the lack of unemployment will continue to drive the economy forward.
DEFENSIVE POSTURE: “We are focused on automating as many processes as possible to allow for revenue growth.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “As an industrial distribution organization, supply-chain issues have been and will continue to be a major challenge.”
MOVING WITH THE TIMES: We are in the process of upgrading our ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software to a more modern system that will be substantially more appealing to younger employees than our current antiquated system.
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “Win/Loss, doesn’t matter. Super Bowl bound. Two words: Patrick Mahomes!”
CEO, Lockton Companies
Peter Clune was named CEO of the world’s largest independent insurance brokerage on Nov. 6, 2019—think about that date for a moment. By the time he took office in May 2020, the world was a different place, including the insurance and benefits space. But Lockton still managed to post revenue growth amid the pandemic, then under his leadership, knocked it out of the park, with a 27 percent year-over-year revenue surge to reach $2.7 billion.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, University of Missouri-Columbia
ROAD TO THE C-SUITE: Clune joined Lockton in 2006 as COO of its St. Louis office, then was made president and COO of U.S. operations in 2017. Before joining Lockton, he spent 10 years with Zurich Insurance Co.
TRANSITION: Few have held the reins at Lockton who didn’t bear that surname. Clune replaced Ron Lockton, who became the firm’s chairman, and whose father founded the firm in 1966. Before that, Ron’s uncle, David, had led the company’s emergence as a global entity.
GLOBAL PLAYER: Lockton has more than 100 offices around the world, in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, and Central America.
IMPACT: At last count, the company had more than 8,500 associates serving 65,000 clients and an impressive 97 percent retention rate.
Managing Partner, Prime Capital Investment Advisers
In 2017, Scott Colangelo became CEO of a new wealth-management brand, PCIA, as one of the senior partners who bought the firm they were working for from its founder. Then he and his team put a spark to the growth fuse: From $4 billion in assets under management at acquisition, it now stands at $17.3 billion AUM, serving more than 12,000 client accounts.
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance (minor in marketing), Kansas State University. He also holds FINRA Series 7, 63, and 66 registrations
OTHER DUTIES: In addition to managing partner Colangelo is chairman of PCIA, and founder of Qualified Plan Advisors, focused specifically on retirement planning needs.
A NICHE IS BORN: As Colangelo tells it, a client who owned a company with a retirement plan came to see him for guidance, so Colangelo asked to speak with employees to learn about their retirement goals. The owner’s response: “Why do you need to meet with them? No one has ever done that before.” Bingo. QPA was formed to address those needs.
A FAMILY CONSTRUCT: “The concept of work-life balance, unfortunately, doesn’t happen often enough in our business. But our team approach provides a support system that allows us time to be with our families.”
Like a Phoenix rising, FORVIS was built on the legacies of BKD and DHG. Last year’s merger, though, doesn’t change commitment to value and service for Abe Cole, who started with BKD in 1996. He became a managing partner in 2014 and this year moved up the proverbial ladder to assume the helm of COO. His longevity and upward mobility help instill confidence in their clients. Knowing all that KC and FORVIS have to offer will keep him in the region for years to come.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, Missouri State University
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “We were able to complete a massive merger of equals between BKD and DHG, effective June 1, 2022. This merger was one the largest in the history of the public accounting profession. The combination of our two great firms created FORVIS, which is now the eighth-largest public accounting firm in the country.”
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “Though a recession is somewhat likely, I don’t believe there will be a deep recession. I think it will be more like 2000-2001, when we had a slight dip. The labor market remains very competitive, and I believe it will be that way for a while.”
POSTURE: “Focus on our core metrics, including maintaining strong levels of working capital.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Talent acquisition continues to be very competitive in this current labor market. We are very focused on providing a flexible work environment.”
President/CEO, MGP Ingredients
Few topics in business are hotter today than supply-chain management. Few executives are as well-prepared to discuss the root causes of supply-chain disruption—and the needed solutions—as Dave Colo, who took on the leadership at MGP Ingredients just as the pandemic hit in March 2020. He led MGP’s pivot into the production of desperately needed sanitizing solutions, and revenues jumped an impressive 58 percent the following year.
COLLEGE: B.S., Agribusiness Economics, Southern Illinois University
LEARNING THE BUSINESS: Colo, who already had more than two decades of leadership in general management and manufacturing operations, had a five-year head start on understanding the fundamentals of MGP’s operations as a member of its board of directors since 2015. He took the reins after Gus Griffin retired as CEO.
BEFORE MGP: Colo previously was President and CEO of the Canadian firm SunOpta, following a stretch with San Francisco’s Diamond Foods as chief operating officer, where he earlier had been executive vice president of global operations and supply chain. His resume also includes leadership roles at ConAgra Foods.
THOUGHT LEADER: Colo put that expertise to work for three years as an independent industry consultant, focusing on organizational optimization and planning.
CEO, Bardavon Health Innovations
Before founding ARC Physical Therapy+, then Bardavon Health Innovations, Matt Condon got his first lessons in business on the farm where he grew up. “It didn’t just teach me about hard work—getting up early, working into the night, and getting my hands dirty,” he says. “It also taught me about entrepreneurship and small business. I didn’t just learn about the pressures of owning your own business—I lived them. My mom and dad taught me about work ethic, risk, faith, and love.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Kinesiology, Iowa State University; JD/MBA, University of Toledo
GAME-CHANGER: Condon has an established track record as an innovator in health care services. He launched ARC in 2003, sold a majority interest in a $36 million deal a decade later, then created Bardavon to help companies make data-driven decisions for improving workforce wellness.
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT: Fly fishing has long been one of Condon’s passions. “There is something magical about really learning about the setting (fresh water vs. salt water; stream vs. ocean, etc.), the rhythm of the casting, and the excitement of the strike. Unfortunately, the strikes don’t come as often as I would like.”
MISSED OPP?: “I’ve always dreamed of being an ESPN College Game day announcer. Sometimes I think I missed my calling! I’ve always loved college football, the strategies of growing a program, the culture of college towns, and the excitement of the game day experience.”
Global CEO, VMLY&R
Hands down, the best part of Jon Cook’s job, he says, is “being excited every morning about what I get to do for a living. In my wildest dreams, I could have never imagined that after joining VML in the mid-90s as employee No. 30 or something … I would have the opportunity to help lead a global marketing enterprise with nearly 13,000 employees in nearly 45 countries—all from right here in Kansas City.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Journalism, University of Missouri
KEY MENTOR: “My father, Clayton Cook. Dad was a Presbyterian minister, and I remember asking him if coming up with a weekly Sunday sermon was the hardest part of his job. His answer surprised me. He said everything else about the job—providing religious guidance … visiting parishioners in the hospital … helping people with life issues—was the most challenging. Writing and delivering the weekly sermon was fun and made everything else worthwhile. I think about that as I tackle my role. It’s the in-between stuff that really matters—for our people and our client partners.”
IF YOU COULD LIVE IN ANOTHER TIME: “100 years from now. Having experienced so many technological and cultural advancements in my lifetime, I’m incredibly hopeful the world will be a more connected, peaceful, and bountiful place for all of humanity.”
HOW YOU’D DESCRIBE YOURSELF: “Passionate.”
Principal, Copaken Brooks
For 100 years, the firm that is now Copaken Brooks, with Jon Copaken sharing the leadership load, has developed some of Downtown Kansas City’s most iconic centers of commerce. That work continues unabated, but a the same time, the firm is remaking the face of Lenexa in the Kansas suburbs, with projects totaling hundreds of millions in value at Lenexa City Center.
COLLEGE: B.A., American History, University of Pennsylvania; MBA, University of Michigan
UTILITY PLAYER: Copaken brings a history of achievement in multiple aspects of development, from major tenant office and retail leasing to financing, land acquisition, zoning, and construction.
LEADERSHIP TRIO: Along with his brother, Keith, and their partner, Bucky Brooks, Copaken leads in strategic planning initiatives, with a particular emphasis on public and private partnerships like their crown jewel in Lenexa.
HONORS: Copaken earned a spot in the Midwest Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame for a career primarily focused on Downtown Kansas City’s future and the urban core.
ABOUT THE FIRM: A full-service commercial real estate firm, it deals with investment acquisition and sales, tenant representation and headquarters relocations, condominium building and property management, leasing in office, retail, medical, industrial and underground, and construction management.
Vice President, Cosentino Food Stores
You probably know the names—Price Chopper, Apple Market, Sun Fresh, and, of course, Cosentino’s Market, but those are just the flags. If you want to know the folks behind those grocery brands … well, you’re going to need a big notebook. The family tree that sprang from a single fruit stand in 1948 has grown to encompass a score of Cosentino family members at virtually every level of a grocery chain with 30 regional stores and with John Cosentino assuming a leading executive role.
COLLEGE: Marketing & Communications, Missouri State University
CIVIC COMMITMENT, Part I: When civic leaders let it be known that Downtown residential growth was a non-starter without a full-service grocery, the Cosentino family stepped up and committed to the current location at 13th and Main. In the years since that facility’s 2009 debut, Downtown residential growth has exploded.
CIVIC COMMITMENT, Part II: As an organization, Cosention’s focuses on supporting groups whose primary mission is feeding the hungry in the communities where it operates. And in the grocery business, that means food—the stores combine to donate more than $1 million worth of food each year to Harvesters-The Community Food Network, and other local food pantries.
Founder/Managing Partner, Five Elms Capital
The formula is simple: Deploy anywhere from $5 million to $75 million in capital investments to companies with revenues between $2 million and $20 million, operating primarily in the B2B software world. Fred Coulson and his team at Five Elms have wielded that strategy into a global player in venture capital.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Kansas
DOUBLE DUTY: In addition to serving as managing partner at Five Elms, Coulson is chairman of Spring Venture Group, a digital insurance platform in the senior healthcare market and one of the fastest in recent years to go from launch to 1,000 employees.
RATIONAL APPROACH: Five Elms states that, while it loves those billion-dollar darlings as much as any other investor might, it won’t adopt a “unicorn or bust” strategy: “We don’t push companies to grow at all costs or raise mega-rounds of capital—that mindset increases founder dilution and reduces the landscape of exit scenarios where everyone wins. We like managers to have both significant equity stakes and significant option value as to what outcomes can be a win.”
THE ROAD BACK TO KC: Coulson previously served as a senior investment professional with TH Lee Putnam Ventures, following an investment-banking stint with Morgan Stanley in New York.
President/CEO, KC Area Development Council
Kansas City is a rising star on the national stage, and Tim Cowden is loving the ride. “This year will go down as the most successful from a corporate-attraction standpoint in the history of the region and Kansas City Area Development,” he says. “Our regional brand is rising like a rocket ship. I’m so excited about where Kansas City is headed.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Journalism, University of Oklahoma
PRAISE FOR THE TEAM: “I’m incredibly proud of how our team moved right back into a more normal workflow coming off the pandemic,” he said. “They never missed a beat, and I believe the results bear this out.”
ON RECRUITING: “One specific example is a series of campus pop-up events at KU, K-State, and Mizzou this fall. More than 40 percent of students that attend these universities are from outside of the KC region, so it’s vital that we elevate KC as a top career and lifestyle destination to this highly sought-after talent pool. We have plans to expand this campus effort into neighboring states and will continue to leverage KC’s rising brand to recruit talent from across the career spectrum.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “I believe that KCADC has always promoted a flexible culture for our team; however, the pandemic showed us that we must be even more flexible, which I know our team appreciates and is in part contributory to the success the organization is having.”
President/CEO, Compass Minerals
Mild winters have taken a bite out of Compass Minerals’ revenues the past few years, but Kevin Crutchfield is taking the Mission-based firm in new directions that will reduce reliance on road-treatment products. The company is investing roughly $10 million to develop a sustainable lithium resource on Utah’s Great Salt Lake, with a goal of producing a commercial, battery-grade lithium product by 2025. Great timing, too: Kansas recently won the incentives sweepstakes for Panasonic’s $4 billion battery plant.
COLLEGE: B.S., Mining Engineering, Virginia Tech; Crutchfield was inducted into the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Academy of Engineering Excellence.
THE ROAD TO COMPASS: Right out of Blacksburg, Va., Crutchfield went to work for Pittson Coal and became its VP of operations. He was the CEO of Contura Energy when Compass came calling in 2019.
SONG: “Dreams by Fleetwood Mac is a favorite. I’m a fan of their music—such talent with great harmonies. Perfect to listen to when relaxing with a fine whiskey and great company, better if it’s outside by a fire.”
BOARD BARON: It would be hard to find someone with deeper ties, past and present, to more corporate or industry boards that most people have never heard of but which are vitally important to mineral production in this country. Among them: The National Mining Association, the Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp., Electro Mechanical Corp., Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering, the Coal Industry Advisory Board International Energy Agency, and Rice Energy.
Founder, Tradebot Systems
Dave Cummings had the opportunity early in his career to learn from one of Kansas City’s legendary entrepreneurs—the late, great Neal Patterson, co-founder of Cerner Corp. Fair to say the lessons took: Cummings helped shake up the stodgy world of equities transactions by founding the high-frequency trading platform Tradebot Systems in 1999, then did it again with BATS Global Markets, which became the nation’s second-largest exchange before a $3.2 billion acquisition in 2017.
COLLEGE: B.S., Computer and Electrical Engineering, Purdue University
SMALL START: Cummings founded Tradebot with just $10,000 and some space in a spare bedroom.
CAREER GUIDANCE: “If you want to start your own business someday,” Cummings once told us, “work for a successful entrepreneur early in your career. The experience will be worth far more than your paycheck.”
ALTRUIST AT HEART: “Whatever the rules are, we will compete,” Cummings said in a Traders Magazine interview. “But ultimately, I want what’s good for the markets. If the markets instill public confidence, that’s the best long-term thing. I don’t want to ask for a bad market structure to benefit myself.”
TOP-SHELF ADVICE: Cummings is also an author; his Make the Trade, published in 2016, highlights his entrepreneurial experiences, which were not always uplifting, and the lessons learned along the way.
Partner, CPC Management
Having a vision is one thing. Clarity is another. Wiley Curran brings both to the task at CPC Management, and it starts with the mission statement: “Our mission is to buy, build and hold great businesses for the long term.” No corporate mission speak there. The companies CPC has acquired and employs more than 3,000 people across the U.S. The company launched last year with a goal of investing $400 million and now pursues controlling investments that start at $50 million and run past $100 million.
COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, Miami of Ohio; MBA/Accounting, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University
BEFORE CPC: Curran led the asset consolidation of the Curran family umbrella of businesses. As president of Curran Companies, he led investments in more than a dozen businesses from diverse sectors—aerospace, manufacturing, industrial field services, and professional sports.
EARLY IMPACT: Ingram’s has recognized Curran in its 20 in Their Twenties awards (2013) and 40 Under Forty (2021).
BOARD BARON: Curran keeps a full calendar with his day job and additional commitments with the boards of Airshare, Brado, Clore Automotive, Heartland Fasteners, Pearce Services, Precision Aerospace, and Studentreasures.
Regional Owner, RE/MAX Mid-States & Dixie Region
Dennis Curtin has set an example how to operate smart in real estate.He is able to report that, over the past year, “We had a 97% renewal rate for our franchisees which was significant in these challenging times.” His professional advice to KC? “The city planners and review departments have to prioritize affordable housing and relieve the bottleneck currently at City Hall in getting permits approved. This will continue to attract new and younger talent to the city.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration and Marketing, Rockhurst College
ON RETAINING TALENT: “We started our annual reviews six months in advance to get ahead of the curve. Average increases have been 8-10%.”
ON COVID CHALLENGES: “We still take the threat of Covid seriously but have not implemented anything new for the last six months.”
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “12-4. The Chiefs have made some good moves in the off-season, plus I think the team has learned to be more of a team than just Mahomes and Kelce. Those two are great, but it takes a bit more to go all the way.”
High-flying SelectQuote ran into some serious headwinds over the past year: An incredibly tight labor market, changing consumer preferences among seniors, and competition from other online insurance-shopping platforms that began to copy SelectQuote’s model that had produced sterling growth for years. Danker, though, is responding with a pivot into additional service lines aimed at restoring the company’s growth arc.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, University of Missouri; MBA, University of Kansas
IPO: Took the company public in 2020, raising $334 million in what’s billed as the first virtual IPO.
ON INDUSTRY TRENDS: “Consumers are looking to explore their insurance options through the combination of digital research and telephonic engagement, as opposed to agents coming inside their homes. We believe this consumer trend that was already moving at a fast clip will only further accelerate as consumers realize the convenience and transparency inherent in models like ours. Furthermore, consumer demand for health and protection products remains strong in these uncertain times.”
COVID & CULTURE: “With the crisis, we’ve had to rethink the way we can build upon our culture in new and innovative ways. We’ve placed more emphasis on both formal and informal communication (virtual “Town Halls” and informal “Shout Outs” for great deeds). We’ve had lots of Zoom breakfasts or lunches, even a Zoom Happy Hour, to meet new associates, as we can’t see them in the halls for the time being.”
President, D&L Transport
This transportation lawyer turned president made good use of his legal background during an acquisition this year and shares the credit gladly. “We have an amazing leadership team, all of whom have been with D&L for over 12 years,” he said. “We’re a true family across the entire company, so consistency and loyalty with our team is important. Our most significant achievement over the past year was successfully navigating an acquisition, which enhanced our tech and expanded our service offerings for our brokerage operations.”
COLLEGE: B.B.A., Finance, Baylor University; J.D., University of Missouri School of Law
ON RETAINING TALENT: “Our employees and our entire agent production team are the most important part of our business. We have a unique logistics business model, and both are the centerpieces of our entire model. It’s important to listen to the needs and wants of employees and production talent, and actually respond and deliver.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “Like many other companies, we’ve shifted to 100 percent remote optional. We resisted at first due to culture concerns, but ultimately a lot of folks produce at a high level when offered options on workspace. And, most importantly, it’s what our folks wanted. Our employees responded incredibly, and it’s been well-received. We’ve implemented creative culture initiatives to maintain a good balance.”
President/CEO, Capitol Federal
The next stop for John Dicus and his team at Capitol Federal: $10 billion in assets. Currently sitting at $9.55 billion, that metric makes CapFed the largest bank in Kansas by a long shot. Dicus, who started at the Topeka-based bank in 1985, has been at the helm since 2003 and chairman since 2009.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business, MBA, University of Kansas
FAMILY TIES: The nameplate on the door just needed a new middle initial when Dicus succeeded his father, John C. Dicus, in the bank’s leadership role. The elder Dicus, John B. told us, was the CEO he admired most “for the way he conducted himself and how he treated the people around him.”
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: Capitol Federal was founded in 1893, which, if you know your American history, wasn’t the best of times in the financial sectors. Undeterred by the panic and depression, 15 business leaders founded what was then The Savings Association of Topeka, with assets of a $8,171.
CIVIC: Outside the office, Dicus is engaged as a board member for the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, and his non-profit work includes board seats with the Capitol Federal Foundation, Washburn University Foundation, and his alma mater’s endowment association. Gov. Laura Kelly added to his service and appointed him to the Kansas Board of Regents, which has oversight of the state’s public universities.
President/CEO, Pivot International
Celebrating Pivot’s 50th anniversary in 2022, Mark Dohnalek points to proof of his company’s strength over the past year: “The most significant achievement this year was our ability to successfully navigate through the historic supply chain/logistic crisis that everyone has experienced,” Dohnalek said. “With our strong Supply Chain and Engineering Design team, we have been able to work through most of the challenges this year to attain stronger year-over-year growth for 2022.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Economics, Cornell University; MBA, Keller Graduate School of Management
ON COVID CHALLENGES: “Although we have always operated in a somewhat flexible work environment, we have broadened that approach. We do prefer to have non-remote overall; we have embraced greater bands of flexibility of remote work when reasonable.”
ON TALENT RETENTION: “We have applied a greater emphasis and focus on introducing some additional off-work social events that have added a more social element to their experience.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “I think we should shoot for the Super Bowl.”
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “11-5: Division is much improved, and Chiefs have some offensive holes to fill. Although, I think the defense will be improved.”
President, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes throws, Kelce catches, Jones brings the pain on defense. Those names make Monday-morning headlines, but behind them is a business operation successfully navigated by Mark Donovan. In 2009, he came here from Philadelphia and spent two years as COO before taking on day-to-day oversight and helping bring another former Eagle staffer, one Andy Reid, to the Chiefs as head coach in 2013. The rest is blissful history.
COLLEGE: B.A., Organizational Behavior, and Management/Political Science, Brown University
FOOTBALL CHOPS: Donovan is no stranger to the playing field, having served as team captain at Brown, where he was a quarterback and threw for nearly 2,525 yards over two seasons.
MULTI-SPORT SKILLS: Donovan previously held administrative roles in the National Hockey League, serving as the league’s director of sales.
ANSWERING FAN DEMAND: Donovan recently oversaw an effort to align with BetMGM to capitalize on Kansas’ recent legalization of betting on sporting events.
BIG JOB AHEAD: Donovan will be deeply involved in the team’s efforts to help manage the 2026 FIFA World Cup matches that will be played in Kansas City, saying the event “will help cement our legacy as the Soccer Capital of America.”
President, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue
Case Dorman is a hospitality-sector executive who refused to accept the fates of countless other restaurateurs who ended up in new careers thanks to shutdowns and slowdowns imposed by a global pandemic. Dorman marshaled the troops at Jack Stack to ramp up every possible revenue stream when the numbers of diners plummeted—online ordering and curbside pickup, catering, and shipped products. Result? The chain was well-positioned in 2021 to open its sixth location in Lenexa.
COLLEGE: “Bar-B-Q U.,” as he calls it.
SMOKEY START: Dorman started with the company nearly 35 years ago, while he was still in his teens, and learned the barbecuing arts directly from the masters of the pit. Then he applied the business savvy of Jack Fiorella—his father-in-law—and built blue-collar fare into a fine-dining experience across the metro area.
GEN IV: Dorman’s son, Taylor, is the general manager of the Martin City location where the chain has its roots; he represents the fourth generation of family leadership.
RISK-TAKING IN THE DNA: To capitalize on his barbecue dream, patriarch Russ Fiorella sold the family’s seven-bedroom house in 1957 and opened Smoke Stack BBQ in south Kansas City, later relocating to Martin City.
CEO, United Real Estate Group
The company Dan Duffy leads was established in 1925, but make no mistake: This is not the United of old. A visionary who understands the power of tech to transform the centuries-old act of selling property, Duffy has built United into one of the fastest-growing companies in the Kansas City region and is now expanding his reach not just across the nation but overseas. Duffy’s empire consists of United Real Estate, United Country.
COLLEGE: B.B.A., Indiana University; MBA, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
DOWNTURN? WHAT DOWNTURN?: When most businesses were was contracting sharply during Year One of the pandemic, Duffy and his team capitalized on demand for the safety of home. Franchise Times ranked United No. 1 among companies in real estate services with 127% growth in 2020.
STRATEGIC ADDITIONS: United has had steady growth organically and with strategic additions, and this past year was no different. He aligned with a fast-growth company, residential specialist Platinum Realty, a 10-time winner on Ingram’s Corporate Report 100 list of fastest-growing companies.
NEVER FORGET: Duffy’s brush with national fame in another venue came with a 2016 episode of Undercover Boss. It’s still up online, and we’re still baffled that people working for him couldn’t figure out who that guy was. Many people talk with their hands. Dan Duffy speaks in metaphors like this one to explain his real estate brokerage’s 127% sales growth in 2020, the best in real estate services.
Mayor, Leawood, KS
Leawood has added thousands of new residents since Peggy Dunn became mayor in 1997, and she leads the continuing growth in one of the region’s elite suburbs. Among the recent achievements she can cite: “After brief pandemic delays, we’ve undertaken three capital building projects. We’ve had a renovation/addition to our Leawood Aquatic Center, and begun a new Fire Station in northern Leawood, as well as a new Parks Maintenance Facility.”
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri-Kansas City
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “The continued addition of Kansas City streetcar lines in all directions throughout our broad community would be welcomed by many.”
CHALLENGE AHEAD: “We will continue to strive to make Leawood a desirable and safe location in which to both live and work. In the end, I believe we will sustain our outstanding reputation.”
TALENT RETENTION: “We are currently reviewing employee wages to remain competitive as well as possible flexibility in our work hours.”
COVID EFFECTS: “We had to install plexiglass separators in a number of locations within our public buildings; and we’re also allowing for hybrid meetings when requested. The majority of our public meetings are also now available on YouTube and will remain so making us far more transparent than in the past.”
Chairman, KC Common Good
He’s well-known for an exceptional construction career, but Terry Dunn isn’t one to rest on his laurels. His builder’s heart is thoroughly invested in the social infrastructure of the KC region, where he focuses a great deal of attention. Over the past year, Dunn is most proud of his role as board chair and founding director of KC Common Good, an organization dedicated to eliminating violence in KC—the latest in a long list of community-focused initiatives to which he’s dedicated.
COLLEGE: B.S, Business Administration, Rockhurst University; MBA, UMKC
CURRENT BUSINESS FOCUS: “My work as founding investor and director of Tesseract, very high-ceiling technology venture started 3½ years ago in KC. I will also be working as a director and investor to assist in addressing all emerging risks in a number of my investments. Planning and looking ahead will be my focus across the board.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC?: “Branding our region to attract businesses and talent. Through KC Common Good’s leadership, KC 360 has begun a process for greater community and police engagement to work together to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in our central city.”
CHIEFS 2022 PREDICTION: “Barring major injuries, the Chiefs are stronger and deeper at every position. 17-4 record. Super Bowl win.”
Chairman, JE Dunn Construction Co.
Insurance, not construction, was the first pathway Tim Dunn explored after college, a path that took him to North Carolina, Texas, and California while working for big brands like KPMG, Chubb, and The Hartford. But the pull of a family business running into a fourth generation was strong. He came home in 2006, moving up through the financial side of the region’s biggest general contractor. In 2019, he succeeded his father, Steve, as chairman.
COLLEGE: B.S.B.A, Accounting, University of Richmond; M.A., Entrepreneurial Real Estate, UMKC
NATIONAL REACH: With more than two dozen locations nationwide, JE Dunn employs more than 3,400 overall, with roughly 1,500 of them at the mother ship in Kansas City. Sales volume of $4.33 billion last year earned it distinction as the region’s seventh-largest private company.
FAMILY ELEMENT: Even after adopting the employee-ownership model in 2010, the company continues to reflect generations of Dunn family influence, particularly with its civic and philanthropic engagement.
DATA DISTINCTION: Dunn’s commitment to elevating the company’s digital footprint is reflected in his role as a board member for North Carolina-based Prescient, a construction-software company.
ROYAL LOYAL: Dunn crunched the numbers behind the family’s commitment to getting in on ownership of the Royals when the Glass family sold it to the organized partnership in 2019 for a reported $1 billion.
Managing Partner, FORVIS
It’s been a year of expansion and rebranding for Rachel Dwiggins and her colleagues. “FORVIS is now a Top 10 professional-services firm thanks to the merger of equals between BKD CPAs & Advisors and Dixon Hughes Goodman,” she says. “Our Kansas City team and our commitment to client service haven’t changed, but our new colleagues across the firm are providing services and experience that expand on what we provide our clients.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, Missouri State University
ON ACQUISITION & RETENTION: “We have a multi-pronged strategy for talent acquisition and retention. It certainly hasn’t hurt that we were named one of the best places to work by Glassdoor. Recently, we’ve launched a generous referral bonus program to incentivize our team to recruit friends and past colleagues.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “The pandemic forced us to innovate so that we could provide services remotely, and many of those changes continue to be valuable. However, I think we have also learned the importance of relationships and connectivity both internally and with our clients. Connection maintains and strengthens our culture as well as provides the highest level of professional development.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Downtown baseball?”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “13-4 in the regular season and then undefeated.”
Steve Edwards is running the final leg of the race before retirement beckons at Black & Veatch, where he’s been in the key leadership role for nearly a decade. He’s been with the Overland Park engineering giant since leaving the University of Missouri and has overseen multiple global projects and business lines. He joined the board of directors at the employee-owned firm in 2012, became COO in 2013 soon afterward advanced to the top job.
COLLEGE: B.S, Electrical Engineering, University of Missouri
ESOP CHAMPION: On Edwards’ watch, Black & Veatch completed its transition to 100 percent employee ownership in 2015.
WHY EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP?: “Growth and long-term value greatly depend on being able to recruit and retain top talent, and employee ownership gives us a competitive edge,” Edwards said when the transition was finalized. “With a global workforce topping 10,000, being able to offer employee-ownership benefits to our professionals outside the U.S. by adapting the benefits to country-specific laws and regulations is also critical to our long-term success.”
POWER PLAYER: Among all U.S. firms, Black & Veatch enjoyed Top 10 rankings this year from Engineering News-Record in its power division (No. 2 for six years running), Telecom (also No. 2), water (No. 7), and Sewer/Waste (No. 8).
Exec. VP, Admin. & Corporate Affairs, KC Southern
No getting around it: Big Business and Big Government are inextricably linked. So it’s just good business—and defense of shareholder interests—to have someone who can decipher public policy at all levels. For Kansas City Southern Railway, soon to be Canadian Pacific Kansas City, that someone has long been Warren Erdman. The final phase of a distinguished career has been helping the two rail systems navigate regulatory challenges to last year’s merger.
COLLEGE: B.A., Westminster College
MAKING CONNECTIONS: Erdman served as chief of staff to Kit Bond during the latter’s tenure in the U.S. Senate and likewise was a member of Gov. John Ashcroft’s staff.
BIG JOB: His duties for the railroad have included supervision of the rail system’s legal operations, claims, and railroad security. That put him at the forefront in dealing with regulatory affairs, government relations, and communications and focusing on the long-term infrastructure needs of the railroad and the communities it serves.
CIVIC CHAMP: Among his many civic involvements, he’s been a member of the University of Missouri-Kansas City board of trustees and a vice chairman of the Westminster College Board of Trustees.
CAREER ADVICE: “Be a good and respectful listener, and seek to understand what others are saying and why to inform you in your own views and efforts.”
President/CEO, Saint Luke’s Health System
Melinda Estes has led a health system with more than 12,000 employees across its hospitals, clinics, and urgent-care centers for a decade, helping define high-level health care in the Kansas City market. “The mission is first and foremost to care, and that mission always starts with the patient,” Estes says. “Looking back, I’m proud that I’ve really lived and worked through that credo in every leadership position I’ve held.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Sam Houston University; M.D., University of Texas Medical Branch; M.B.A., Case Western Reserve University
HAPPY ENDINGS: “As a longtime bassoonist, I began my college as a music major at Sam Houston State University. But it wasn’t long before I understood the real formula for success as a musician—and it really wasn’t fair. Music is 90 percent hard work and 10 percent talent. You can work and work, but if you don’t have the full measure of talent, it’s going to be a long, hard road. That realization, fortunately enough, sent me into biology, medicine, and health-care administration. I think it was the best outcome.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF: “Courageous. The word comes from the Latin root “cor,” which means heart. I try to live and work with courage and heart.”
ACCOLADES: She’s on numerous awards, including Modern Healthcare’s recognition as being among its “50 Most Influential Clinical Executives.”
David Feinberg is certainly a man of action. It took Cerner’s three founders and successors more than 15,300 days to build a visionary startup into Kansas City’s largest private-sector employer. Feinberg, who became its CEO last Oct. 1, needed just 81 days to orchestrate its sale to Texas-based Oracle Corp. for a reported $28.3 billion. The new owners reaffirmed a corporate commitment to Kansas City and put Feinberg in charge of a rebranded division, Oracle Health.
COLLEGE: B.S., Univ. of California-Berkley; M.D., Univ. of Health Sciences/Chicago Med; MBA, Pepperdine Univ.
LINCHPIN: Industry analysts say Feinberg, an M.D., will play a key role in determining whether Oracle founder Larry Ellison made the right move by expanding into the health-care space. Feinberg understands population health and informatics with UCLA Health and, before Cerner, Google Health.
THE ORACLE MISSION: Oracle Health offers the most secure and reliable health care solutions, which connect clinical, operational, and financial data to improve care and advance decision-making around health and well-being, creating human-centric health experiences.
SOUTH CAMPUS STATUS: Oracle has not formally announced whether it will pull the plug on what had been billed as the largest development project in Missouri history, the proposed $4.45 billion Innovations Campus near Bannister Road. Four of the 16 buildings originally envisioned have been completed, but even that space is under-utilized in the wake of pandemic-era remote work.
President/CEO, Central Bank of the Midwest
Bill Ferguson’s extensive retail banking experience reads like a Who’s Who in banking, and it made him stand out when Central Bank, named as one of Forbes “Best Banks in America” every year since 2009, conducted a regional search for a Chief Operating Officer in 2016. That role was short-lived, as Ferguson was heir apparent and being groomed for his current position, which he transitioned into a year after joining Central Bank.
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Executive MBA, Entrepreneurship and
ABOUT CENTRAL: A division of Jefferson City-based Central Bancorp., it has 32 locations and $1.7 billion in assets. It’s the fifth-largest bank based in the Kansas City area by assets and tied for seventh-biggest by market share of deposits at 2.14 percent.
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: Central Bank won the J.D. Powers Best Bank Award for the Lower Midwest Region, including Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “Likely as we move into next year.”
DEFENSIVE POSTURE: “Taking care of our team, so we are here to care for our customers and help them navigate the likely downturn.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “11-6 with a slow start due to our re-calibrating.”
The undisputed dean of Kansas City business leadership is Jim Ferrell, who has been with Ferrellgas—almost exclusively in the leadership role—since before many of his Ingram’s 250 peers were even born. He joined his father’s flagging propane-services company in 1965, built it into one of the nation’s biggest propane retailers, retired after about 40 years, then came back to right the ship in 2016 after a series of decisions that jeopardized the company’s future.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business, University of Kansas
COMEBACK 1: After serving as an Army infantry officer, he intended to return to the KC area to stabilize his father’s operation with the goal of helping manage a recovery. He found his career calling.
COMEBACK 2: Ferrell stepped aside for nearly a decade before returning in 2016, managing a recovery after several ill-advised attempts at diversification. After restoring a focus on its primary propane services and Blue Rhino exchange system, he led a corporate restructuring in 2020. The improved balance sheet from that, he said, “gives us a chance for a very long life.”
LOOKING BACK: “We drove a hard bargain for our employees because we believed the company was worth saving,” Ferrell said in a commentary for LPGas magazine. “Now we have gotten what we fought so hard for” on behalf of 4,500 workers nationwide and 350 in Kansas City.
SERVICE: Ferrell is a past president of the World LP Gas Assn and chaired the Propane Vehicle Council.
KC Office Leader, Willis Towers Watson
Spencer Fields heads up the Kansas City operation for a multinational insurance advisory company. He has quite a story to tell about the past year. “The Kansas City office of Willis Towers Watson faced a significant challenge this past year after a failed M&A transaction with another large competitor,” Fields recalls. “Our office had to step back, recommit to each other and, most importantly, our clients. While we did lose some colleagues, overall, we united and renewed our commitment to WTW, our clients, and the marketplace.”
COLLEGE: B.S. General management/accounting, Accounting and Business/Management, Purdue Univ.
ON MANAGING TALENT: “We focus on embracing colleagues to bring their whole self to work; thus, we have been recognized globally for our inclusion and diversity programs and support. In addition, we better understand and allow for flexibility in our work locations, working from home, and our flexibility regarding workday hours. This allows us to be an employer of choice for many employees. Providing a safe, engaging, and respectful workplace has gone a long way in attracting and retaining talent.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “We aggressively invested in technology, employee and family support, and flexibility. As a professional services firm, we were able to quickly implement the needed protocols and support working from home that other organizations could not do, as we were able to continue to serve our clients without having to go into an office or factory location.”
Managing Partner, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
The legal complexities of public and corporate finance, corporate transactions, and general business aren’t all that complex to Wesley Fields, who came from a family of lawyers and followed their lead. In addition to his legal savvy, Fields is tasked with executive duties overseeing the Kansas City office, with more than 60 lawyers in a firm that boasts 1,200 in 30 offices nationwide.
COLLEGE: B.S., Political Science and African-American Studies, Yale University; J.D., Univ. of Virginia.
BUILDING INFLUENCE: Fields has left his fingerprints on a significant number of regional development projects, having served as lead counsel to Kansas City’s Tax Increment Financing Commission for more than 15 years. His duties included assisting in drafting the legal framework for more than 100 development and infrastructure projects.
ACTIONS, NOT WORDS: Civic and philanthropic causes fill much of Fields’ time outside the office. His service record includes the boards for Research Medical Center, Harvesters-The Community Food Network, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and Friends of the Zoo, and on a national level, with organizations that include the Southern Christian Leadership Conference through its local chapter. He also made Ingram’s 40 Under Forty in 2000, and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association designated him, Young Lawyer of the Year in 2006. The SCLC weighed in with the Black Achiever Award in 2002.
President, Kiewit Power Constructors
Dave Flickinger is no stranger to big project wins as an engineering-sector executive, and this year has proved no exception: among them was Kiewit Power’s Equipment designation as the engineering, procurement, and construction lead for the massive Gemini solar-plus-storage installation in Nevada, one of the nation’s biggest solar arrays. The Lenexa site accounts for more than a fourth of the Omaha-based parent’s $10.3 billion in annual revenues.
COLLEGE: B.S., Civil Engineering, Pennsylvania State University
POWER PLAYER: On his way to the executive offices, Flickinger honed his engineering skills in projects that entailed air-quality-control upgrades, transmission and distribution, and fossil-fuel generation.
TRANSFORMATIVE WORK: The Gemini project in Nevada, with 1.8 solar modules covering 6,500 acres, is expected to be a $1.2 billion project; that in itself is nearly as much as the combined $1.5 billion value of renewable and alternative energy projects the company tackled over the previous 15 years.
KEY EMPLOYER: The Lenexa site has more than 1,500 of Kiewit’s 27,000-member workforce.
President/CEO, ReeceNichols Real Estate
Selling homes couldn’t have been easy during days of lockdowns and social distancing, but Mike Frazier can happily say, “I’m most proud of our company’s ability to not only survive but thrive while still enduring a pandemic over the past two years,” he said. “That couldn’t have happened without an extremely high level of buy-in from our 225 employees and 3,000+ agents. They kept clients safe and navigated constantly changing rules and regulations.”
COLLEGE: B.A., William Jewell College
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “I believe COVID actually helped our culture because our team had to work together in situations where they weren’t meeting face-to-face. Not only did it force us to find creative ways to collaborate, but it also allowed us to explore new avenues to connect with clients.”
RECESSION PROBABILITY: “I believe we are likely already in a recession, but I don’t think we’re looking at a long or deep downturn. The housing market already appears to be stabilizing, and demand will stay strong even if there aren’t as many homes sold in 2023.”
DEFENSIVE POSTURE: “We’re focusing on getting back to the real-estate basics as the housing market changes. Our fundamentals became less critical during the frenzy in the housing market over the last couple of years. Now we’re trying to use the turmoil in the market to sharpen up those skills.”
CHALLENGES: “Talent acquisition and retention are still significant priorities for us moving forward.
Next year marks the sesquicentennial for Lathrop GPM, the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi River and one with a significant history in the evolution of Kansas City business. As managing partner, Cameron Garrison is the steward of that legacy, overseeing nearly 125 of the firm’s 350 lawyers. Lathrop GPM, formed in 2020 with the merger of Lathrop & Gage and Minneapolis-based Gray Plant Mooty, has offices in 13 states.
COLLEGE: B.A., Government and History, University of Virginia; J.D., Washington and Lee School of Law
IMMOVABLE OBJECT: Garrison, who became managing partner in 2017, came to the firm straight out of law school nearly 20 years ago, and he spent 15 years as a partner.
MORE THAN LAW: “Our lawyers and staff understand that it is no longer enough to only provide exceptional legal services. We must also do so in a way that reflects a thorough understanding of our clients’ business pressures and adds value at every opportunity,” Garrison said when he was promoted.
BUSINESS FIRST: Garrison has defended clients in trials dealing with false advertising, as well as copyright, patent, and architectural infringement.
Partner, MLP Holdings/KC Royals
Philosophy and history? On a college tennis scholarship? And then Oxford? Bill Gautreaux had “refined” written all over him before that word took on a new meaning in a spectacularly successful career built around petroleum products. After nearly 30 years in that space, most notably with Inergy LP and MLP Holdings, Gautreaux ventured into sports ownership when his longtime energy-sector wingman, John Sherman, assembled the partnership that ponied up $1 billion to buy the Royals.
COLLEGE: B.A., History, William Jewell College; Oxford University
MORE REFINEMENT: Gautreaux, along with his wife, Christy, is also considered among the most astute art collectors in the Kansas City region. Again in 2021, they made ArtNews.com’s list of the world’s Top 200 collectors. They don’t simply frequent the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; they’ve actually loaned the museum pieces from their personal collection.
HUMBLE START: After college, Gautreaux tended bar and picked up a few bucks on the side teaching tennis. His entrée to the energy sector came with a part-time telemarketing job at Ferrellgas, where he met Sherman. The rest is entrepreneurial history.
FAVORITE CHILDHOOD TOY: “A ping-pong paddle.”
ULTIMATE DESSERT: “Ice cream.”
BOARDS: Gautreaux has a record of board service on behalf of education, including William Jewell, Pembroke Hill School, and the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship. He’s also active with the 16th Circuit Court Judicial Commission, Nelson-Atkins and Kemper museums, Greater KC Community Foundation and Civic Council.
President/CEO, Bank of Blue Valley
In just over a year since assuming his current role, Brent Giles is particularly happy about, “Coming together as an all-new leadership team and seeing the significant improvement in the culture and employee engagement surveys.” He’ll be the first to tell you it’s a team effort, but it looks like the people who hired him were right when they called Giles, “an exceptional banking executive who brings more than 30 years of experience in commercial and consumer banking, strategic leadership, team building and delivering client satisfaction.”
COLLEGE: Bachelor of Science (Finance) and MBA, University of Missouri
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “I think the remote work environment caused a decline in spontaneous problem solving, group creativity, and relationship building. I believe there are tremendous benefits to an office-centric culture, but the remote flexibility is an added benefit we continue to learn from with the COVID experience.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Downtown Stadium for the Royals and a World Series run.”
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “11-6. It’s a tough schedule.”
CEO, CommunityAmerica Credit Union
“Community” isn’t just built into the brand for Lisa Ginter and her team at the region’s biggest credit union. “We recently opened our first Community Access Center in Hickman Mills,” she says, “with a goal of offering more opportunities for financial peace of mind.” CACU will partner with other organizations to offer financial-literacy resources. “It wouldn’t have happened without the team we have in place,” she says.
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Accounting, Rockhurst University
ON RETAINING TALENT: “We’re very proud of our family-like culture and place the well-being of our employees front and center. We are consistently named a best place to work in Kansas City, and a large part of it is because we genuinely care about our employees. It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing for employees to feel it, and we work hard to make sure they do.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “It proved the culture we have in place is fantastic when we’re under the same roof, but it also proved we can work in a variety of different capacities. We have kept our core values and mission as the driver of everything we do and will continue to ensure we’re bringing financial peace of mind to people all over our community.”
BIG THING: “KC is going to be on the map in a bigger way than it already was. This will drive more opportunities for us to be a host city for more events in and out of the sports world. With all of this exposure across many platforms, I genuinely believe the world is about to see that KC really is amazing.”
Chancellor, The University of Kansas
This region’s future workforce—nearly 28,000 college students, graduate, and undergraduate—count on Doug Girod’s leadership over multiple campuses across the state of Kansas, including the mother ship in Lawrence. The past couple of years have been intense exercises in responding to multiple challenges—the COVID shutdowns, loss of revenues, shrinking college-age demographics. But KU stood firm last year, with fall enrollment actually ticking up slightly over 2020.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of California-Davis; M.D., University of California-San Francisco, surgical residency, University of Washington
ACADEMIC TRACK: Before becoming chancellor in 2017, Girod had served an equivalent role overseeing the KU medical school campus in Kansas City. That put him in charge of education, research, patient care, and community engagement for the schools of medicine, nursing and health professions.
MASTER OF MESSAGING: Girod has had speaking engagements worldwide and has published 14 book chapters and more than 70 articles in scholarly journals.
MILITARY & MISSIONS: He is also a decorated Navy veteran, having been on a dozen international medical missions in places such as Uganda, Guatemala, Mali, the Philippines, and Mexico. Closer to home, he previously served as co-chair for the KC Rising regional prosperity effort.
Lead Director, UMB Financial
When asked to look back on a year of achievement, Greg Graves has a wide field to cover. He has played roles in earning the University of Kansas Health System distinction as the Best Hospital in Kansas City and in Kansas for an eighth straight year, the grand opening of Barstow School’s IDEA Space, and TechAccel’s work in improving the resiliency of farm crops under stress.
COLLEGE: B.S., Mechanical Engineering, South Dakota School of Mines
HEALTH-SYSTEM HEALTH: Among the keys to such success for the health system, where he was a long time board member and chair, Graves places special emphasis on “confidence in the long-term health of the enterprise and being the best possible place to work.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC?: “Don’t underestimate what the KC Current can mean for Kansas City. It’s another major sports franchise and critically puts women’s sports back on the big-league level in KC. Of course, I have to add, KC adds another 10 employee-owned firms and another 10,000 employee owners.”
CHIEFS 2022 PREDICTION: “The schedule is brutal and the AFC West is a dogfight. In the end though, we have #15 [Patrick Mahomes] and they don’t; 12-5, AFC West Champs, and on to another Super Bowl.”
President, The Builders’ Association
A lot of people talk about unity, but Don Greenwell is someone who has accomplished it. The official launch of “The Builders,” an all-new chapter of Associated General Contractors of America, doesn’t happen until 2023, but the journey bringing The Builders Association and AGC Kansas City together has been memorable. “A common team of staff has managed the two organizations for nearly a century,” he told us. “The unification of membership is creating one of the largest chapters of the largest commercial construction trade association in the nation.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, University of Missouri-Columbia; J.D., University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law
CURRENT BUSINESS CHALLENGE: “Talent acquisition and retention.”
RETENTION STRATEGY: “Social media campaigns about career and specific job opportunities.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “Presence with a purpose. There should be a reason why work is performed at a particular location compared to other options.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Becoming a data and advanced manufacturing hub in our evolving global economy.”
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “13-4. Because we are that good.”
If you’ve driven past the former Bannister Federal Complex in south Kansas City, you know something big is happening there: A $135 million rebirth as Blue River Commerce Center, an industrial park with 2.6 million square feet of space. Big? Sure, but it’s just a small piece of what Nathaniel Hagedorn is accomplishing nationwide with NorthPoint, which he acquired just a decade ago and turned into one of the nation’s fastest-growing commercial development enterprises.
NEW DIGS: In 2021, NorthPoint acquired the former Cerner Corp. site on North Oak Trafficway to renovate the 260,000-square-foot office building as its new headquarters.
BIG DOINGS: Since 2012, the firm has developed and managed more than 140 million square feet of industrial space across the country, served more than 465 clients, and raised an astonishing $11.3 billion in capital and counting.
BIG FOOTPRINT: NorthPoint offers expertise in its bread-and-butter industrial property development and management space, self-storage, multifamily, and 3PL warehousing facilities and services, along with architectural and civil engineering support and brokerage services.
President/CEO, Kansas City University
Our question about a significant achievement from the past year was hard for Marc Hahn. KCU took a major step toward opening a College of Dental Medicine. They graduated their first class of Doctors of Clinical Psychology. Faculty, students, and staff administering more than 60,000 COVID vaccinations. There’s even a first on Hahn’s list: “KCU earned the 2022 Platinum Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health, a first-of-its-kind workplace mental health certification that recognizes employers who strive to create mentally healthy workplaces.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Syracuse University; D.O., Des Moines University
ON TALENT: “Institutional Spirit—recognizing and celebrating the successes and prioritizing the wellness of our people—is one of the five goals in our new Strategic Plan, Redefining Health Science Education. Last year, KCU launched a new Office of Health & Wellness focused on student, faculty, and staff well-being. We also offer competitive salaries, best-in-market benefits, and modern state-of-the-art campus work environments.”
ON COVID CHALLENGES: “Our use of technology allowed us to quickly position ourselves to work, teach and learn from home and successfully support our academic programs. However, as a health sciences institution, our students desire face-to-face learning, and we perform hands-on research and patient care. Our office of Health & Wellness has been helpful in our transition back to a more pre-pandemic workplace, but with additional resources to support our faculty and staff and a continued commitment to our students and the communities we serve!”
Donald Hall, Jr.
Executive Chairman, Hallmark
Don Hall’s family has watched economic waves roll through Kansas City for a long time, so his practical attitude toward those times makes sense. “What’s that old saying?” he asks. “Economists have predicted seven of the past five recessions?” Hall went on to say, “I was an Economics major and learned that economists always couch their predictions with ‘on the other hand.’ What is certain are economic cycles will occur, and businesses have to learn to ride the ups and the downs with equal balance.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics/Literature, Claremont-McKenna College; MBA, University of Kansas
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “I think the region will see population growth, as people living in expensive cities on the coasts facing huge challenges will start to understand what a great community this is. The Kansas City Spirit is alive and well, and there is not just one thing leading to our improved quality of life.”
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “I’ve been a Chiefs fan for a long time, and the upcoming schedule is as tough as I’ve ever seen. They’re playing both teams from Super Bowl LVI, and about six other teams that could make a run at a championship this year. I think the spirit of the team, however, is one that should give us great confidence, and I predict the Chiefs will end the regular season at 12-5 before going to another Super Bowl.”
Founder/Pastor, Church of the Resurrection
Dad. Mom. Two kids. That was the headcount when Adam Hamilton founded the Church of the Resurrection in 1990. His goal, he said years later, was to build a different kind of ministry. Well …. mission accomplished. The different kind of ministry he built is, in fact, the nation’s second-largest Methodist congregation, trailing only the massive Windsor Village church in Houston. Among Hamilton’s flock are dozens of top executives from Kansas City’s biggest businesses.
COLLEGE: B.A., Pastoral Ministry, Oral Roberts University; M. in Divinity, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
DEFINING QUOTE: “God’s strategy for changing the world happens one person at a time ….”.
FORWARD IN FAITH: Hamilton has led the congregation’s work on Vision 2030, its plan to close the gap between what is and what should be in the lives of its members, the broader community, and the world between now and the year 2030.
PENMANSHIP: A prolific author, Hamilton has been inspired to craft nearly three dozen faith-related books, from explorations of Moses, Luke, John, and St. Peter to treatises on courage, truth, and forgiveness. Also in the mix is a guide for improving the speaking skills of religious speakers and preachers.
CEO, Helzberg Diamonds
Brad Hampton spent the previous five years as chief financial officer and member of the executive board for Helzberg Diamonds, so he was well-qualified to assume the final rung on the leadership ladder when Beryl Raff headed out this summer after a 13-year run as CEO. The national retail chain he now leads, with 170 stores coast to coast, has been part of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate since 1995.
A DIFFERENT PATH: Before coming to Helzberg in 2017, Hampton spent 20 years in telecom, working for Sprint.
NEW DIGS: Hampton is now at work in a completely redesigned 52,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in North Kansas City; in March, the company put the finishing touches on a makeover that started in late 2020.
FOR THE TEAM: “Our associates are at the center of everything we do,” Hampton said of the facility makeover. “We wanted to transform the space we have been in for over 50 years to maximize inclusion, facilitate in-person collaboration and enhance communication across work groups.”
“I DO … RIGHT NOW”: The company set something of a new standard for employee training in 2019 when it began ordaining associates so they could perform weddings right there in the stores.
President, VanTrust Real Estate
Dave Harrison has been in on some pretty high-profile development projects in the Kansas City region for better than four decades, but is he working on a career capstone Downtown? The company he founded in 2010, Caymus Real Estate, later became VanTrust, and it’s working with the city on a reimbursement plan for the demolition of several buildings. Where? At one of the sites being mentioned for a new baseball stadium. Stay tuned …
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, Rockhurst College
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “The biggest obstacles in navigating the choppy water in today’s environment are the movement of long-term interest rates and their corresponding impact on capitalization rates, continued cost increases for labor and material, lagging increases in rental rates and continued procurement challenges.”
FINDING TALENT: “We continue to focus on finding great people and then slotting them into applicable roles.”
KC’s NEXT BIG THING: “The next big thing needs to be the collective focus of the entire city as it relates to affordable housing, education, crime, job creation and growth through development. We desperately need to be “firing on all cylinders” in order to realize our future potential.”
Market President, Humana
Patience. Strategy. Teamwork. Coaching. They’re all fundamental to successful performance in baseball—a game close to Bob Hayworth’s heart since his days playing the game as a kid—and they continue to be values he applies to his leadership of Humana’s Kansas City operations. “The baseball diamond,” Hayworth says, “was where I learned a lot about life and working together as a team.”
COLLEGE: East Carolina University
BACK TO HUMANA: Hayworth came to Kansas City to work for the company more than 20 years ago. In 2003, he took a position as chief operating officer for Lockton companies in the benefits division and eventually became executive vice president before making his way back to Humana.
WHY INSURANCE?: “Completely by accident and chance. I had planned to go to law school after undergrad. Yet, during my senior year, a friend of mine encouraged me to interview for a sales position with an insurance company he was working with. I interviewed and received a very promising offer with great income and perks, but more importantly, there was a chance to learn something new. I took it and have never looked back.”
PASS THE SAUCE: “I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this community and look forward to finishing my career here. Although the sun, surf, and sand will be calling my name in retirement, I am going to get my fill of Kansas City barbeque before I ride off into the coastal sunset.”
President/CEO, Garney Construction
It was a career at first sight when new college grad Mike Heitmann came to Garney Construction in 1990. And from construction project work around the country to executive roles and, finally, the firm’s leadership in 2011, it’s been a perfect fit. He leads an employee-owned firm with 1,700 people across the country, generating more than $1 billion in annual revenues. His biggest professional achievement, he has said, is “being a part of the development of Garney into the leading water and wastewater contractor in the U.S.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Architectural Engineering, University of Kansas
A KC SUCCESS STORY: Heitmann is steward of the legacy created by one of Kansas City’s elite entrepreneurs, Charles Garney, who founded the company specializing in pipeline and utility construction in 1961.
ESOP ADVOCATE: The concept of employee ownership was nearly 30 years old at the time but still relatively new to Kansas City contractors when Garney sold nearly a third of his stake to employees in 1986. He followed that up in 1995 by taking the company 100 percent employee-owned.
POWER PLAYER: Among other recognition, various trade publications and industry metrics rank Heitmann’s team No. 1 in both water supply and water transmission-line construction, No. 2 in water treatment and desalinization plants, fourth in sewerage/solid waste systems, fifth in wastewater treatment plants, and No. 6 in sanitary storm sewers.
President/CEO, Performance Contracting Group Inc.
Jason Hendricks has been in the top executive role at PCG, one of the region’s Top 25 private companies, since 2019, when he was named president and CEO of an enterprise with nearly $1.8 billion in revenue. On his watch, the construction group has done more than just stave off the effects of economic uncertainty; it has recorded consistent growth during each of the three pandemic years.
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, University of Arizona
MOVIN’ UP: Hendricks started in the LA office of PCG as a branch controller, then steadily rose through the ranks to chief operating officer before he was tabbed to succeed Bill Massey in the top spot.
FEELING THE DRAFT: The Montreal Expos came calling when they made Hendricks their 13th-round pick in the major-league baseball draft in 1998. In the pros, he knocked 17 dingers and recorded 60 RBIs while batting .240.
ABOUT PCG: The company, over 60 years old, has more than 40 offices across the nation, nearly 8,000—450 of which are in the Kansas City area. Engineering News-Record has recognized it with four Top 20 designations: the nation’s No. 1 contractor in wall and ceiling work, No. 6 firm in asbestos abatement, and 14th and 15th in demolition/wrecking and specialty contracting (No. 15).
Dealer Principal, Bob Allen Ford
As Brad Hewlett’s boss, Bob Allen, used to say, “All Fords are created equal; it’s the dealer that makes the difference.” It also helps if a dealer loves what he does. Having been around cars his entire life, Hewlett comes by his love of cars honestly and has held many titles in the business, from service assistant to general manager and now Dealer Principal. If you’re not a car guy yourself, he also loves to talk sports, especially when it comes to the Chiefs.
DUAL DUTY: Hewlett is also behind City Rent a Truck, a booming business whose success he credits in large part to a team that includes his brother-in-law, Jeff Schuetz, and nephew, Shaefer Schuetz. City Rent A Truck has four locations in two markets and is rapidly growing. “We would be in a few more markets,” Hewlett said, “but we can’t get enough vehicles.”
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “We have grown our fixed department to one of the region’s largest and Top 10 in mobile service in the nation..”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Shortage of inventory, chips, parts, logistic issues, and transporting inventory have been problematic. All the above are huge challenges in the auto industry. Rising interest rates, gas prices, hiring good people, and retaining them are very impactful for my business.”
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “A national recession is somewhat likely. Raising interest rates will slow the economy down. An important initiative we will undertake is to adapt to the times.”
CEO, Automatic Systems, Inc.
In a moment of understatement, Michael Hoehn called the past year a “big” one for his company. ASI turned 50 years old. They won GM’s Supplier of the Year award and were honored as Best Place to Work by the Kansas City Business Journal. Commenting on it all, Hoehn said, “The team managed record growth in revenue through the headwinds of supply chain disruptions and a pretty wild labor market.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Business (Finance and Accounting), Georgetown University
ON COVID CHALLENGES: “I think it’s provided the chance to strengthen our culture—to help connect more personally with each team member, to better understand individual circumstances, and to help find what each team member needs.”
UP THE LADDER: Hoehn worked for Pricewaterhousecoopers as a restructuring consultant for five years before joining ASI, where his father was chairman, nearly 20 years ago as an estimator. He became the chief executive at the firm in 2007.
BLUE COLLAR? HARDLY: The tech intrusion in to manufacturing is on full display at ASI, where conveyors and bulk-material handling systems go hand-in-hand with robotic integration for clients’ production facilities.
Vice President/General Manager, Turner Construction Co.
For nearly 20 years, Karen Hogan has moved up the ranks at the nation’s largest construction company, where she started as a field engineer right out of college. Along the way to her appointment as head of the Kansas City office, she worked on infrastructure projects in Missouri and Kansas, including renovations of the Liberty Memorial and World War I Museum and Hyatt Crown Center hotel. The local office routinely bills $500 million or more in work.
COLLEGE: B.S., Engineering Management, Missouri University of Science and Technology
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: Hogan is active outside the office with professional, philanthropic, and civic causes. She’s on the board of directors for the Kansas City Area Development Council, has been treasurer since 2017 for the local chapter of the Design-Build Institute of America, and since 2007, she’s co-chaired the annual Turner for KC charity golf tournament, held the fourth Monday of September.
LOCAL FOOTPRINT: Among the KC office’s recent projects are the B.E. Smith Family Center in Overland Park, KU’s Earth, Energy and Environment Center, U.S. Soccer’s National Training and Coaching Development Center in Wyandotte County, and Lenexa City Center’s branch of the Johnson County Library.
ABOUT TURNER: Founded in 1902 and based in New York, it’s the nation’s second-largest general contractor, with annual billings of more than $14 billion and nearly 10,000 employees—200 of those work under Hogan in the KC office. Trade publications say Turner routinely takes on 1,500 projects a year.
President/CEO, Academy Bank
Even for a banking CEO, sometimes it’s just nice to get some fresh equipment. Over the past year, Paul Holewinski reports, Academy Bank “undertook an initiative to improve operational efficiency by improving back-office processes and implementing robotic process automation to increase processing speed and accuracy.” The benefits were bigger than even he expected. “While we knew this investment would generate a strong ROI,” he said, “it also proved very beneficial to our clients’ experience and our CX scores. Definitely a win-win.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, Saint Louis University; J.D., MBA, Saint Louis University/School of Law;
Colorado School of Banking
ABOUT ACADEMY: It’s one of two banks in the Dickinson Financial Corp. stable; the other is Armed Forces Bank. Academy itself has $2.2 billion in assets and more than 475 employees. In terms of deposit market share, it’s among the 10 largest locally headquartered banks.
NEXT BIG THING FOR KANSAS CITY: “Definitely downtown baseball. Let’s get it done, so it is a catalyst for growth and equity.”
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “Total guess, but in a tough division, I think they will go 12-5.”
LEGAL EAGLE: Before his banking life, Holewinski was an attorney with Bryan Cave, where he worked in mergers, acquisitions, and securities offerings.
President/CEO, Olathe Health
To say that no sector has been busier than health care in recent years is perhaps the pinnacle of understatement. So Stan Holm is especially happy to report success “Navigating through ongoing staffing challenges while exceeding patient engagement score targets.” Holm added that he is “Blessed to be surrounded by an incredible team.” Holm says the operation continues to show the spirit that keeps Olathe Health independent and locally owned in a world of health-care conglomeration.
COLLEGE: M.S., Health Care Administration, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Talent acquisition and retention for the foreseeable future. Speed and efficiencies on workflows when candidates apply. Responsiveness. … Whatever the pressures, remaining focused on high-quality care and outcomes while balancing staffing and payor challenges.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Hosting the World Cup will open new doors for the next big thing.”
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “14-3 with another Super Bowl Win!!! (I’ve been told I’m an optimist, but this is simply being a realist).”
Claycomo Plant Manager, Ford Motor Co.
In Carlos Holwell, you might not find a better example of how the manufacturing sector has evolved from its blue-collar roots. Among the skills he brings to work for one of the region’s biggest private employers are Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing, ISO 14001, DMAIC, and Value Stream Mapping. He uses those tools and more to oversee one of Ford’s crown jewel assembly plants, which produces the iconic F-150 pickup truck and the Transit van.
COLLEGE: B.B.A., University of Central Missouri
BACK IN TOWN: Holwell made his way here at the start of the year, coming in from Ford’s plant in Lousiville, which he also managed. But the Claycomo operation isn’t new to him: He started there in 1994 and worked as a production supervisor, manpower planning manager, quality manager, and assistant plant manager until Ford sent him to Kentucky in 2018.
ABOUT THE PLANT: More than 7,000 people work at the massive plant north of the Missouri River, making Ford one of the Top Five private employers in the metro area.
GETTING BIGGER: In June, the company announced that as part of a nationwide build-up, it would add 1,100 more union jobs at Claycomo, part of a $3.7 billion investment that also includes plant upgrades in Michigan and Ohio.
President/CEO, KVC Health Systems
A global pandemic’s lingering effects include uncountable mental health costs, placing even greater demand on Jason Hooper and his team at KVC Health Systems. The need for behavioral health care and child-welfare services remains as strong as ever, a challenge even for an organization with $150 million in annual revenues. It’s the region’s second-largest non-profit organization, with more than 1,600 employees and 35 locations in five states.
COLLEGE: B.A., Baker University; M.S.W., University of Kansas
FINDING TALENT: “Talent acquisition and retention has always been our greatest challenge as well as our greatest opportunity. Our people, their core values and expertise, and how they form meaningful connections with the children and families we serve are at the heart of KVC. Having smart, compassionate, empowered employees is how we create value and make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
HIRING EDGE: “We lead with our mission and purpose; offer flexibility; support employee engagement; prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; offer attractive compensation and benefits; and much more though it’s our employee engagement work that has really been a key differentiator. Our team’s employee engagement has risen by 19 percent over the last three years. This means people are getting their needs met at work, are psychologically committed to our mission, and contribute their best work. We are so thankful for our KVC team members—it takes everyone working together for a greater purpose to achieve a positive impact.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “Wins and losses are too difficult to predict. Playing in the postseason and competing for a championship—no doubt we will be there! Go Chiefs!”
CEO, AdventHealth Mid-America Region
Sam Huenergardt’s leadership touches more than 20,000 people every year in hospital admissions alone, and more than 3,200 others working for him at AdventHealth. The main medical center in Merriam is the centerpiece of the regional health-care system that also has more than 170,000 outpatient cases a year and generates $3.2 billion a year in revenues.
COLLEGE: B.B.A., Accounting and Finance, Union College; MBA, Baker University
BUSY YEAR: In July, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission announced that it would soon begin work on a new 71,000-square-foot cancer center. The new building will be entirely dedicated to cancer care, helping accommodate the anticipated need for more than twice as many patients to be served by 2030.
OTHER EXPANSIONS: He previously oversaw a 100,000 square-foot expansion on the hospital’s main campus, and within the past year has advanced plans for a new wellness campus at Lenexa City Center and an expansion at the hospital in Ottawa.
DUAL ROLES: Huenergardt came to the Kansas City area in May 2018 after serving as president and CEO of Parker Adventist Hospital in Parker, Colo. In addition to his duties here, he’s tasked with the direction of Chippewa Valley Hospital in Durand, Wisconsin.
Chairman & CEO, Kansas City Chiefs
Can his team make it five straight? Clark Hunt has set the standard for NFL team achievement with four straight AFC championship game home-field appearances. Now, he’s looking to build on that success and see the team back in the Super Bowl after seeing a two-year streak broken in early 2022. With two appearances in the title game, he’s matched his legendary father, team founder Lamar Hunt, in both frequency and outcome: They both stand 1-1.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration/Finance, Southern Methodist University
STRONG START: Hunt graduated first in his class at SMU, where he was a four-year letterman for the Mustangs’ nationally ranked soccer team.
POWER PLAYER: His peers among NFL team owners have recognized Hunt’s leadership by naming him chairman of their Finance Committee, and he serves or has served on the league’s International committee, the Management Council’s executive committee, the Personal Conduct committee, and the chairmen’s committee.
NOT JUST FOOTBALL: Early in his career, he helped his father establish Major League Soccer in 1996. He also serves as the co-chairman of the MLS Product Strategy Committee and sits on the league’s Labor Committee.
Marco Ilardi is focused on not being hasty in the face of shifting economic winds. “We try to remind ourselves about the long-term benefits of adjustments in value for sustainable assets and great companies that we can partner with to grow together,” he said. “Without a longer-term view, it is easy to make poor decisions and miss out on opportunities during an economic downturn.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Truman State University
EARLY RISER: Ilardi was a 2011 selection for Ingram’s 40 Under Forty, spotlighting rising young executive talent in the Kansas City region.
FOSTERING SUCCESS: V2 has been behind nearly a dozen companies that have either been acquired or merged into larger entities. One of those investments, Amply Media, soared to the top of Ingram’s Corporate Report 100 list of fastest-growing regional companies in 2020.
LOCAL SUPPORT: V2 is squarely behind ReachMobi and Pushly, both based in Kansas City.
COMING TO KC: Ilardi joined V2 forerunner Adknowledge in November 2011 after a successful run in digital media, including a stint with the firm that launched MySpace.
EVP/COO, Cboe Global Markets
When someone makes it look this easy, it’s easy to forget the misfires and labor that went into an impressive accomplishment and what it took to get there. In Chris Isaacson, you find words like perseverance, determination, and persistence that not only help to define his leadership, but helped make Cboe Global Markets the success it is today. How successful? Cboe is one of the world’s largest exchange holding companies, and Chris Isaacson has been COO and led Kansas City operations since 2019.
KEY ACHIEVEMENT: “Continuing to execute our vision to build the world’s largest securities and derivatives network, integrating nine acquisitions completed since the start of 2020, growing the Cboe global team to match the global scale of our business (now 26 markets) while delivering record financial results.”
RECESSION: “Somewhat likely. It’s difficult to gauge how hard the landing will be in bringing down inflation.”
DEFENSIVE POSTURE: “Continue executing our strategy and building a diversified global business that thrives in any market environment, grow non-transaction revenue at an accelerated rate, and focus on Data, Derivatives, and Digital Assets.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Talent acquisition and retention. Our business starts and ends with great people (and) creating a world-class associate experience and culture that combine both flexibility with hybrid work and connectedness to a truly global, diverse team, on top of excellent compensation, benefits, and career development opportunities in an industry that is underrepresented in KC.”
“Growth” has been the watchword since Bob Jacaway and his team set out in 2006 to be the premier quality vehicle retailer in the Midwest. And the past year has been no exception. Nevada (Mo.) Auto Mall is now Max Ford of Nevada, Max Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM of Nevada. Swafford Ford in Richmond, Missouri, is now Max Ford of Richmond. HMH Autosport of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is now Max Pre-Owned Superstore Lee’s Summit.
ON TALENT: “We believe in the value of education and on-the-job training for growth and retention. Max Motors also launched our Degrees@Work program. Max Motors Dealerships provides our employees with a no-cost, no-debt college degree for our employees and their families.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “Since 2020, Max Motors Dealerships launched Max Transit Delivery Service, where you can buy from the comfort of your home, and we deliver the vehicle to your doorstep. Also, we offer pick-up and delivery service for our service customers’ automotive needs. Our customers can schedule appointments online to service their vehicle (all makes, all models) from home or work within 50 miles; we pick up, service and repair, then deliver the vehicle back completed.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Due to Kansas City’s central location and great cost of living, we feel the population growth will be positive exposure in the years to come, and with that, many more businesses will move to the Kansas City area.”
President/CEO, Westlake Ace Hardware
Joe Jeffries is at the helm of a company founded in 1905 and today is the largest Ace Hardware dealer in America, operating more than 150 neighborhood stores throughout the country. That number has grown throughout Jeffries’ leadership, based on a strategy of strategic acquisitions of properties that benefit from scale in the competition against big-box home improvement stores. On his watch, the store count has increased by 25 percent.
EXECUTIVE PATH: Jeffries first arrived at Westlake in 2014 with a strong retail resume in hand. After serving as COO for four years, he assumed control and has led the company’s growth of better than 87 percent since then, surpassing $617 million in 2021.
NOTEWORTHY: Westlake Hardware is the biggest Ace Hardware dealer in America. Nearly 3,500 people in 12 states work for the Lenexa-based company, about 650 of them in the Kansas City area.
INVENTORY APLENTY: The company provides in-store and online access to more than 70,000 products, many aimed at the do-it-yourselfer market.
THE ROAD TO LENEXA: Before jumping into hardware, Jeffries was an executive at Office Depot, then worked in the world of retail arts and crafts. In 2012, he launched a private venture-capital company called Antiques Village.
Director, KU Cancer Center
There’s no question that Kansas City is a destination for world-class medical care. Over the past year, Roy Jensen’s team has repeatedly proven it by winning recognition as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Care Center. No small honor in the medical world. How has such an effective team been built? “Our focus,” Jensen says, “has been on developing and nurturing a culture that focuses on our mission of achieving the best outcomes for our patients.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Chemistry, Pittsburg State University; M.D., Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: “Cancer doesn’t give a rat’s patoot whether there is an economic downturn or not. We have to be prepared for that fact no matter what the economy is doing.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Talent acquisition. It is always our most important activity and the major determinate of our success.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “Downtown baseball?”
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “12-5, they have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL.”
General Manager, Kansas City Board of Public Utilities
Consumers aren’t the only ones feeling the pain of inflation; higher utility bills don’t necessarily reflect the higher costs of goods—even power, says Bill Johnson. “We are absorbing the price increases,” he said at the start of the current inflationary spike, “but a continuation of higher prices will at some point affect our maintenance and capital improvement budgets.” Words of caution, then, for 65,000 electricity customers and 53,000 water customers in Wyandotte County.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business, MBA, Ottawa University
TAKING THE REINS: Johnson, who has been with the utility for nearly 43 years, became general manager in April 2019. He previously managed the electric operations and technology unit for a public enterprise with $318 million in annual revenue.
OTHER GUIDANCE: “We sometimes experience double-digit price increases on commonly used materials. There are also longer lead times for items and sometimes an increase in delivery costs. If these trends continue, this could cause a drawdown on our stock reserves and affect our utility operations.”
SUPPLY-CHAIN WOES: Compounding the inflationary pressures—and, in fact, contributing to them, are challenges with the BPU’s supply chain. “Some of the supply chain constraints have already affected some of our engineering design decisions and project schedules,” Johnson said. “We have had to sometimes look beyond some of our normal supply chain vendors and are still evaluating other options.”
CEO, Saint Luke’s Hospital
Jani Johnson assesses the impact of a pandemic on one of Kansas City’s biggest hospitals, she thinks about how it tested—and continues to test—the resiliency of more than 3,300 employees. “Personally,” she told us earlier in the crisis, “I felt an obligation to be visible, but to also keep the leaders and staff instilled with hope, optimism, and confidence that we could manage this situation. In fact, we were doing that every day.”
COLLEGE: B.S. Nursing, Methodist School of Nursing and Webster University; M.S., Nursing, UMKC
LEADERSHIP STYLE: “I lead with calm confidence and transparency of information. We have a wonderful team, and together we are successfully managing through each surge of this pandemic.”
UP THE LADDER: Johnson started with the system in 1985 as a staff nurse assigned to the hospital’s Mid America Heart Institute. Following several management roles, she became vice president of cardiovascular services in 2002, then president and CEO at Saint Luke’s South in Overland Park in 2012. She came back to lead the mother ship hospital near the Country Club Plaza in 2015.
HONORS: On Johnson’s watch, Saint Luke’s South made U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals list, and she was listed among Women Hospital and Health System Leaders to Know by Becker’s Hospital Review.
President/CEO, LMH Health
Russ Johnson grew up in Merriam, one county east of Lawrence, where he’s the chief executive for LMH Health and its flagship Lawrence Memorial Hospital. He came on board in 2016, bringing three decades of senior leadership in hospitals and health systems. LMH serves a market that is part college town, part bedroom community for commuters in the Kansas City and Topeka areas, and admits roughly 8,000 patients a year.
COLLEGE: B.S., Management/Economics, University of Tulsa; M.A., Health-Care Administration, Washington University
ECONOMIC MIGHT: With $1 billion in annual revenues and 1,500 employees, the health system plays a major role in the city’s business stage.
THE TASK AHEAD: “Workforce is our No. 1 concern and will be for the next three years. It is challenging to meet the needs of the patients we serve with a workforce that is already strained, frustrated, and weary. We have had to provide cautious constraints on our ability to accept patients from outside of our primary service area as other hospitals around us have sought to move patients to other hospitals.”
PREVIOUS STOPS: Johnson started his career in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and did eight years with Saint Luke’s Northland back in his hometown before moving on to Texas and, later, Colorado.
President/CEO, H&R Block
Change-maker. That’s what the chairman of the board for H&R Block called Jeff Jones when a new five-year contract as CEO was announced last fall. Level I of that change: Introducing the company to a new generation of individual filers and small businesses; Level II was leading the world’s largest tax-preparation firm to its best tax season performance in a decade—revenues surged a remarkable 29.33 percent, topping $3.4 billion.
COLLEGE: B.A., Communication, University of Dayton
TRANSPARENCY WORKS: Jones led the rollout of Upfront Transparent Pricing, by which Block set itself apart in a highly competitive market, giving customers pricing and fee information before the tax preparation process begins.
OTHER INITIATIVES: Also on his watch, the company’s Block Advisors expanded services for small business owners, acquired Wave Financial in 2019, and set a long-term growth strategy.
TO DO: “Over the last four years, our team has worked tirelessly to dramatically improve how we innovate, serve clients and live our Purpose,” Jones said when the new contract was unveiled. “While our work is not complete, we’ve made great progress, and I’m thrilled to have the support of our Board as we accelerate Block’s transformation and continue to create value for our stakeholders.”
Founder, Fidelity Security Life Insurance
Dick Jones signed the original papers to incorporate Fidelity Security Life Insurance back in 1968, but it would be two more years before he could start punching a clock there—he was in the Army at the time, and Uncle Sam was in charge of his schedule until 1970. That’s when he came on board to expand the enterprise that his parents, Forrest and Dorothy, started in 1953, then branched off with Fidelity Security, where he’s chairman today.
FAMILY AFFAIR: The Jones family roots in insurance now run three generations deep, with Dick’s sons in leadership roles at the two organizations. One son, Bryson is the president at Fidelity Security; the other, Rick Jr., holds the same title at Forrest T. Jones & Co.
ON THE INGRAM’s 100: With $182 million in 2021 revenue, Fidelity Security made its way to Ingram’s ranking of the Top 100 Private Companies in the Kansas City area this year.
ABOUT FIDELITY: The company offers risk-management tools in supplemental health, life and disability, annuity, and stop-loss contracts that protect against catastrophic or unpredictable losses for small to mid-sized organizations with self-funded employee benefit plans.
PHILANTHROPIC PILLAR: The company provides support in various ways for nearly a score of non-profit organizations and causes in the area, including the Kansas City Symphony, Boy Scouts, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the American Royal, and Starlight Theatre.
Board Member, Retired Banking Executive
In one of the region’s most respected financial minds, Mark Jorgenson’s gears are turning on the nation’s economic outlook, and supply-chain issues in particular. “I am on the board of a private equity firm,” Jorgenson said, “and our executive team reports that our 34 portfolio companies are experiencing supply-chain disruptions. The need for talent and talent retention is probably the single most concerning item for these companies. Interestingly, most of these companies have been able to pass along price increases with little or no pushback.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics/Business Administration, Coe College; MBA, Washington University
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC?: “We shouldn’t sleep on the NFL draft. That will be a BIG deal for Kansas City. Our community has already demonstrated that we show up big for such national events. Witness how well the MLB All Star Game and festivities were supported by KC. Our community will show very well on the big stage of the NFL—the biggest sports organization in the country.”
CHIEFS 2022 PREDICTION: “Unlike many national pundits, I expect the Chiefs will once again go deep into the playoffs, if not make and/or win the Super Bowl. The Chiefs have a great offensive line and most position groups have improved in terms of depth or talent level. The team is very athletic, in part owing to its relative youth. Mistakes will be made because of that, so the regular season record will probably come in at 11-6. Good enough for a decent seed in the playoffs. GO CHIEFS!”
Anyone challenging Gov. Laura Kelly’s re-election bid this fall might have a tough time arguing against her economic-development record: In July, Kansas won the incentives war to secure Panasonic’s construction of a $4 billion battery-production facility in Johnson County. For a sitting Democratic governor in a deep red state, that’s a powerful argument for a second term.
COLLEGE: B.S., Psychology, Bradley University; M.S., Therapeutic Recreation, Indiana University
HALF OF IT: Panasonic was a big get, but Kelly boasts of twice that sum—$8.6 billion—in new business investment during her term, yielding 41,000 jobs created or retained. Within that sum, more than 425 new infrastructure projects in development, including fixing roads, rebuilding bridges, and expanding efficient and reliable internet to rural communities. Site Selection Magazine awarded her its Governor’s Cup for record economic growth in 2021, ranking Kansas No. 1 nationally for per-capita ED investment.
A BATTLE AHEAD: One major issue that would confront her in a second term would be Medicaid expansion, where Kelly has worked to get close to legislative approval, only to see bills fall short each year. If she wins in November, expect it to be high on her priority list.
POLITICAL START: Kelly was executive director of the Kansas Recreation and Park Association before she decided to run for the Kansas Senate in 2004, representing a district out of Wichita.
Chairman Emeritus, Commerce Bank
He left behind the day-to-day executive duties at Commerce Bank in 2018, but Jonathan Kemper, like so many executives at that level, remains engaged, currently in the oversight role for Commerce Bank’s Trusts and Foundations Office, guiding the bank’s philanthropy with multiple non-profit structures and millions in assets. The bank itself, a public company, has had a Kemper at the helm since its founding six generations ago.
COLLEGE: B.A., MBA, Harvard University
BRANCHING OUT: After completing his education at Harvard, Kemper immediately went to work for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as a bank examiner, then to the private sector with companies in New York and Chicago.
TAKING THE REINS: Two years after returning to Kansas City, Kemper was named president of the Kansas City operations and became CEO in 1988.
BOARD DUTIES: In addition to Commerce, Kemper has been on the board for commercial-realty subsidiary Tower Properties, as well as past leadership positions with the boards of the Civic Council and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. His service history also included time on behalf of the Kansas City Public Library, the Truman Library, and Pembroke Hill School, among others.
Chairman/CEO, UMB Financial Corp.
Mariner Kemper’s organization has about $37.5 billion in assets and shows no signs of slowing down. Asked about the past year, Kemper said, “Our business practices remain consistent and unchanged, and it’s paying off. We’re not just surviving; we’re thriving. Knowing we continue to successfully anticipate, plan, and execute so our associates, customers, and communities can count on us will always be one of our most significant achievements.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Political Science, University of Puget Sound
ON TALENT RETENTION: “We continue to expand our flexibility and make sure we remain focused on career development, growth, and support. We tell our associates we want them to have seven careers with UMB, and we mean it. We want ambitious people working for us, and we work hard to establish an environment to support that.”
ON TALENT ACQUISITION: “The best attraction tool we have is the raving fans within our walls. What our associates say is our most important testament, and we know fulfilled associates will not only deliver great results, but they’ll recruit other high performers, too.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC: “A Downtown Royals stadium and a new home for the American Royal are certainly two extremely exciting opportunities for Kansas City.”
KC CHIEFS PREDICTION: “12-5 … and then Super Bowl-bound!”
In its rich entrepreneurial past, Kansas City has been home to world-changing ventures, but what’s happening right now with C2FO may become the world-changiest. Sandy Kemper launched this fintech firm in 2008, before fintech was even a word, and has rewritten the rules on digital payables and receivables. More than 1 million companies worldwide, with $10.5 trillion in annual sales, use the platform, connecting more than $110 billion in daily accounts.
COLLEGE: B.A., American History, Northwestern University
THE VISION: Kemper saw an emerging demand for companies to access payables well before the terms set on transactions, allowing others to buy those amounts owed at a discount in exchange for immediate payment.
WISE REBRAND: The company was originally incorporated as Pollenware, but soon embraced the C2FO brand, which stands for Collaborative Cash Flow Optimization.
GOING GLOBAL: From its base in Kansas City, the firm has expanded with operations in Europe, China, India, and Australia. It is now the world’s largest non-bank provider of working capital and, since its first transaction in March 2010, has cut the payments timetable by a combined 1 billion days, generating more than $110 billion in working capital funding in 183 countries.
President/CEO, Children’s Mercy
Children’s Mercy’s decades-long rise to national prominence among pediatric hospitals and research centers continues unabated under the leadership of Paul Kempinski, who took the reins there in November 2018. From its roots as a stand-alone facility in the urban core, it has expanded bistate with acute-care and urgent-care locations and clinics and admits 16,000 young patients every year.
COLLEGE: B.S., Health & Human Development, Pennsylvania State University; M.S., Health Systems Management, Rush University
INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP: Earlier this year, Kempinski joined the board of the Children’s Hospital Alliance, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives’ Board of Trustees.
MAKING A SPLASH: When the main hospital opened its new research tower last year, it immediately thrust KC into national conversations about pediatric drug research. The nine-story, 375,000-square-foot facility was a $200 million project largely funded with philanthropic donations.
ABOUT CHILDREN’S MERCY: The hospital was founded in 1897 by two sisters and today is a health system with facilities in more than a dozen locations in western Missouri and Kansas. The main hospital overlooking Downtown Kansas City has 367 staffed beds.
President/CEO, Stormont Vail Health
Robert Kenagy brims with justifiable pride over his organization’s past year of achievement, serving the Greater Topeka region. The team, he says, “has continued to rise to the challenges presented by staffing shortages, supply-chain disruptions and all the other many changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Addressing staffing efforts, he cited a“more than doubling our child-care capacity focused on early childhood education.”
DEALING WITH COVID: “Health-care workers were uniquely challenged by the care required for those with COVID-19 and a significant number of our team count these days as their most fulfilling and most challenging, some to the point of emotional trauma. The experience will continue to impact our culture, both as a point of great pride and as one of great challenge.”
MAJOR PROVIDER: Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka is the anchor for a health system that serves much of northeast Kansas and a broader region. The main medical center itself is the second-largest in the region in patient volumes, with roughly 24,000 admissions per year.
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “The Chiefs will lose three games and win the Super Bowl. Go Chiefs!”
President, Kincaid Group Holdings
Diversified holdings and sectors and recovery of student transportation services helped Kincaid Group keep its financial balance in 2021. But it’s more than business with Scott Kincaid; it’s a matter of values, and the ones that drive performance for his team are Family, Safety, Service, and Respect. The family-owned group of businesses founded by his father is engaged with motor coach production, ready mix, vehicle sales, digital security, and IT.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, University of Tulsa
DRIVING SUCCESS: Don Kincaid started driving a bus at the age of 17, setting the stage for a career in student transportation. In 1976, he founded School Services and Leasing with a fleet of 17 buses, eventually building that into a 3,500-vehicle enterprise serving school systems in seven states. Scott joined Midwest Bus Sales in 2005 and directed the company’s expansion into multiple sectors on his way to the leadership ranks.
DIVERSIFYING: The company’s lineup of businesses today: American Digital Security, DS Bus Lines, DS Bus Lines South, Kincaid Coach Lines, Kincaid Information Technology, Kincaid Ready Mix, Midwest Bus Sales, State Line Nissan.
IN OVERDRIVE: The Bonner Springs company employs 2,000 people and generated 2021 revenues that reportedly surpassed $314 million in 2021.
Owner, GreatLife Golf
Topeka’s Jim Klausman became one of the region’s most prominent developers of senior-living centers, and now he’s doing the same for golf: His GreatLife Golf & Fitness, which already owned 13 courses in the Kansas City area, is merging with a Pennsylvania company, which will up the count to 53 courses and four gyms. Their sports-themed empire took off after Klausman and his Midwest Health partner hooked up with GreatLife’s founder to go on a course shopping spree in recent years.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Washburn University
BEFORE GOLF: Klausman, a Baby Boomer himself, had the vision to anticipate senior-living demand while he was still in his mid-20s, founding Midwest Health in 1977. It’s now an empire of 77 senior-living centers across Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Missouri, with 3,000 employees in assisted -living centers, skilled-nursing centers, and senior independent-living apartments.
CHIEFS ON BOARD: Klausman and Eaton own the Jack Henry Building on the Country Club Plaza, which recently added an impressive tenant: the second Chiefs Fit fitness center.
HONORS: Last year, he and his Midwest co-founder, Butch Eaton, were inducted into the Topeka Business Hall of Fame. He’s a past chairman of the Topeka Chamber and board member for Go Topeka.
BOARD DUTIES: Klausman also sits on the boards of his alma mater, Topeka-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, and Junior Achievement.
President, Safe Haven Security Services
The metaphor is mixed but apt: Mark Kleeman and his team at Safe Haven have lassoed a growth rocket in home security systems, building the nation’s largest authorized ADT dealer. From its humble inception in 1999 and formal incorporation three years later, Safe Haven has grown under Kleeman’s watch to national power with 82 office locations in 43 states.
SERVICE LINES: Safe Haven installs everything from basic alarm systems to more sophisticated tech, including Pulse cameras, voice control, and energy optimization devices.
FAMILY VALUES: Kleeman’s son, Dustin, is on board with the company as a project manager, a role he took as the ink was drying on his degree in industrial engineering from Mizzou in 2018.
BROAD REACH: Over its history, the company has delivered to more than 100,000 clients in 75 metropolitan areas.
ON THE INGRAM’S 100: In 2018, the company’s revenues stood at a healthy $88 million. Then came the boom: Within two years, it had added $100 million to that top line, then knocked it out of the park in 2021 with a bump of 76.35 percent year over year to hit $332.5 million in sales.
President, Inland Truck Parts
Keeping the supply chain moving was crucial throughout the pandemic, so Greg Klein’s crew never closed the doors to truckers who needed their services. Klein shared that he is especially proud of Inland’s leadership team for increasing margins over the past year, even during inflationary times the U.S. hasn’t seen in 40 years. “These margins were essential for us to be able to offset the significant cost increases we are seeing in our wages and operating expenses,” he said.
KEEPING EMPLOYEES ENERGIZED: “As an essential business our stores remained open throughout the pandemic. By showing our employees how important their health and safety is to us, whether by paying them to stay home if they were at high risk or giving them extra paid time to deal with being sick or exposed to someone who was, it reinforces to our employees that they are valued and appreciated as human beings, not just workers. The fact that they own 100 percent of the company via an ESOP certainly helps their morale, as well.”
STAFFING CHALLENGES: “Talent acquisition has been an issue in our industry for some time now, especially repair technicians.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING?: “Continue to promote Kansas City as a transportation hub in every way possible. Located in the center of the country, with a confluence of several interstates and railways, Kansas City is perfectly poised to expand its role as the heart of transportation in the U.S.”
CEO, National Beef Packing
Tim Klein took the food-production skills he honed at Cargill to National Beef Packing in 1997, serving as COO before becoming chief executive there in 2015. In that role, he leads a vast enterprise with revenues of more than $7 billion, according to industry estimates. The company produces fresh beef, case-ready products, and beef by-products to customers around the world and operates two major packing plants in the southwest Kansas cities of Liberal and Dodge City.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration/General Management, Westmar College
QUOTABLE: Responding to rancher complaints about a squeeze on profits, Klein testified before a House ag committee hearing early this year, offering a vigorous defense of the demand-driven spike in U.S. beef prices during the pandemic. “History,” he said, “teaches us that as cattle supplies decline cyclically, and new capacity comes on line, there will be a shift in profits to the cattle-production segments of the industry.”
MEETING DEMAND: To address increased beef demand by consumers, National Beef announced that it would invest more than $100 million to double the capacity of its Tama, Iowa, plant, boosting production to roughly 2,500 head per day.
COMPANY GIVING: Among the non-profits to have received donations from National Beef and its employees are the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the United Way, the Kansas Children’s Service League, and TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which serves those who have lost someone in the military.
CEO, Foley Equipment
The world of heavy earth-moving equipment isn’t particularly accommodating of women in executive roles today. It was even less so in 1991 when Ann Konecny signed on as Generation Three at Foley: “I was lucky that my father and grandfather encouraged me to be a leader in our family business in a day when that was not common for women in our industry,” Konecny told us. “But I focus on the job, and my work speaks for itself.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Finance and Economics, Wichita State University
BROAD REACH: The company has 18 locations in 15 cities, spanning the two-state area from Sedalia to Liberal in southwest Kansas.
FAMILY VALUES: Her grandfather founded the company in Wichita in 1940, and on her watch, it has grown to provide sales and rentals of new and used heavy equipment like backhoes and loaders, plus power generators and more.
ENTREPRENEUR ALWAYS: Konecny also co-founded a mobile fitness-tracking app, Nukshuk, in 2018.
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: After an acquisition prompted her to move to Kansas City, she joined the boards of both the American Royal and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and previously served on the boards for the Wichita State University Foundation, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and the Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce.
President, Kornitzer Capital Management
With $7.3 billion in assets under management for nearly 5,000 client accounts, John Kornitzer has built one of the Kansas City area’s biggest wealth advisories. In doing so, he’s earned respect nationally for the firm’s financial performance; this year, Investor’s Business Daily included two funds from KCM’s Buffalo Funds subsidiary among the Best Mutual Funds of 2022.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration, St. Francis College
HERD MENTALITY: In 1994, Kornitzer created Buffalo Funds, a family of 10 actively managed, no-load mutual funds to provide managed investment vehicles for the private accounts of clients. Why Buffalo? The name was inspired by the American buffalo, the main source of food, clothing, and shelter for Native Americans for thousands of years.
BEFORE KCM: He incorporated KCM in Kansas in April 1989, but before that, Kornitzer had spent more than a decade with Wall Street firms Merrill Lynch and Butcher & Singer. He also was an asset manager and eventually vice president of investments for Employers Reinsurance Corp.
GLOBAL IMPACT: KCM serves clients around the world, and more than one-third of its total AUM—$2.49 billion—is managed on behalf of 660 high-net-worth individuals.
Chairman/CEO, Burns & McDonnell
For a company with the reputation of Burns & McDonnell, Ray Kowalik’s favorite business memory of the past year is a milestone of incredible proportions. “We signed up the largest project in our history this year,” he said, adding that the project “will need the expertise of almost everyone one of our business lines.” According to Kowalik, the collaboration involved and Burns & Mac’s diverse service offerings make them uniquely qualified to take on the project.
COLLEGE: B.S., M.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Missouri-Columbia
ATTRACTING TALENT: “We’ve grown tremendously over the last year. We know we have a lot to offer talent that wants to work in an employee-owned business model.”
NEXT BIG THING FOR KC?: “Downtown baseball and a cap over I-670.”
2022 CHIEFS PREDICTION: “17-0. Always need to set expectations high!”
GROWTH YEAR: Burns & McDonnell eclipsed the 10,000-employee level for the first time over the past year, asserting its place as the biggest engineering enterprise in a city teeming with them.
HUMBLE ORIGINS: The seeds for today’s Burns & McDonnell in 1898 were planted by two young engineers who came to Kansas City, correctly envisioning the need for municipal engineering services as cities sprung up from the plains in the Midwest.
Market President, BOK Financial
The corporate roots of BOK stretch back to 1910, and it entrusts its Kansas City market operations to Kevin Kramer. Over the past year, he’s been pleased to see the way his people have kept customer interests front and center with a “focus on how our customers effectively utilize their cash during a time of potential slow down.” Kramer is a veteran Kansas City-area banker who came on board in mid-2019.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, Benedictine College
ENGAGED EMPLOYEES: How does Kramer keep a sharp team sharp? “Our focus on culture, making it cool to come into the office, has limited the number of associates requesting to work from home,” he said. “Being together in a healthy environment has validated how important culture is to our organization.”
EARLY ACHIEVER: Kramer was a member of Ingram’s 40 Under Forty Class of 2003.
SIZEABLE BRANCH: The parent is a banking giant in its home state of Oklahoma, with $46 billion in assets, ranking among the Top 30 nationwide. The Kansas City operation has some heft of its own, with assets of roughly $1.8 billion.
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “20-0. Why? Because I am from Kansas City and believe we will win every game on the way to another Super Bowl victory.”
KC Managing Partner, Dentons
The world’s largest multinational law firm appraises the Kansas City market and deems it worthwhile to staff an office here with roughly 50 lawyers, and it placed them under Lisa Krigsten’s direction in 2109. The current labor market does not make that task any easier. “Without a doubt, talent acquisition is a challenge,” she says. “Client demand for legal services is increasing and is expected to continue, even with the current economic headwinds.”
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas; J.D., University of Iowa, College of Law
MORE ON TALENT: “We are working to attract additional talent with specific skill sets and experience. Although recruitment for those skills can be challenging, this is an exciting time for our region, which makes Kansas City easy to sell to prospective new employees.”
COVID IMPACT: “While the pandemic initially created some uncertainties, it accelerated some positive changes in our culture. We suddenly had to focus on interacting with our clients and our teams in a new way and with different technology, which created some terrific opportunities for engagement. As we emerge from the pandemic, our challenge now is to find a balance between effectively using technology and coming together in person. The extremes—either all remote work or all in-person work—are not sustainable for us, so calibration and balance are our focus into 2023.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “I never bet against the Chiefs (or KU), so my prediction is that the Chiefs win it all!”
President, Trade and Processing, The Andersons
When we asked Bill Krueger what he looks back on with pride from the past year, he brought up an international home run for his Kansas City company. “We opened an office in Lausanne, Switzerland, that has exceeded our expectations,” he said. With his mind still occupied with big moves, he’s looking forward to the day when we’ll see the Royals playing downtown, and The K converted to a Chiefs training facility. Hey, after the World Cup coming to KC, anything is possible!”
COLLEGE: B.A., Ag Business, University of Nebraska
COVID CHALLENGES: “Like most companies, our work schedule has become more flexible for our office workers; for our hourly people in the plants, we have tried to create the safest work environment possible.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “11-6. The AFC is going to be much tougher this year, and we have an extra road game.”
ABOUT THE ANDERSONS: Founded in 1947 in Maumee, Ohio, The Andersons is a diversified company rooted in agriculture that conducts business in the commodity merchandising, renewables, and plant nutrient sectors. It’s a public company with stock traded on the NASDAQ, and 2021 revenues of $12.7 billion.
Managing Partner, Deloitte Tax LLP
Craig Kuckelman and his team look back on the past year as one of growth and personal fulfillment. “We’re proud to have experienced about 15 percent growth in headcount and celebrated opening our completely remodeled office space last fall,” he said. And the firm has done more to promote equity, he said, citing support for organizations such as United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Mercy Hospital, JDRF, and High Aspirations.
COLLEGE: B.S.B., Accounting, Emporia State University
COVID WORKPLACE EFFECT: “You’ve likely seen the headlines that many companies are modifying their pandemic-related restrictions based on current circumstances. I’m pleased that improving conditions are allowing us to bring our hybrid workplace model to life in a gradual and flexible manner.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “We continue to consult extensively with our team of medical advisors, and the health and safety of our people remain our top priority. We will continue to monitor conditions and adjust as appropriate.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “In addition to needing to address the home for the Chiefs and the Royals with both leases expiring in 2031, the Kansas City region is poised to capitalize on its investment in things like KCI to attract new and expanding businesses to help drive further economic growth.”
President/CEO, KBP Brands
“Our team has shown great resolve in some very turbulent waters,” says Michael Kulp, looking back on the past year. He also makes special mention of his team’s COVID response. “In a consumer-facing business, it took its toll,” said Kulp. “Our team did an amazing job. It has given us a confidence in our ability to pivot.” He does not, however, take the availability of good people for granted.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration/Marketing, Colorado Mesa University
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “Somewhat likely. Due to unprecedented inflation, we have already taken many measures to be as proactive as possible.”
FINDING TALENT: “While our operating strategy has had to be flexible, we have worked to stay true to cultural principals that differentiate us as an employer of choice.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: “Supply chain, and its implication on landed costs.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Mountains!?”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “10-6. Strong division. Good team!”
Grass Roots wasn’t just a band—it also describes this native Missourian, who can often be found on his cattle farm with his family when he’s not leading a billion-dollar private rail and heavy/highway contracting company. Herzog has seven divisions and more than 2,300 employees, in addition to the execution of the day-to-day overall strategic plan, direction, and operations. Lager began his association with Herzog in a strictly advisory capacity before being appointed President of Herzog Technologies in 2014, then the leadership of the whole enterprise in 2020.
COLLEGE: summa cum laude, B.S., computer management systems, Northwest Missouri State University
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “We have been blessed to see continued top-line and bottom-line growth even though sectors of our business have seen a slowdown. The team has done a great job of finding quality work and identifying customer challenges where we were able to provide solutions.”
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “There is a strong argument that we are already in a recession, and if not, it is very likely within the next year. Over the last 18 months, we have focused on understanding what we do very well and doubled down on those activities while ending or greatly restructuring the things that we did not do as well.”
CHALLENGE AHEAD: “Supply-chain issues, talent acquisition, and fuel prices.”
FINDING TALENT: “Our recruitment team has done an incredible job of finding people, but it has required looking at double or triple the applicants than in the past. Not innovative, just doing the hard work to get the job done right.”
President/CEO, JE Dunn Construction
JE Dunn as a company was a spry 90 years old before the first person not named Dunn took the reins. He might not be related to his predecessors, but he sure drives like they did: Since he assumed leadership in 2014, the region’s biggest general contractor/civic pillar has nearly doubled in billings to $4.33 billion last year, and acquired additional offices around the country.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting and Business, Baker University
UP THE LADDER: Lansford came on board with Dunn in 1996 as director of internal audit, and two years later, moved up to chief financial officer. Over the next 15 years, he was responsible for all accounting and financial reporting for the construction group, including investment management, payroll, IT, and contract administration.
BY THE NUMBERS: He’s a CPA who got his start in that field with KPMG before making the move into the construction sector.
INFLUENTIAL BUILDER: Downtown apartment towers? Check. Cerner office-building complexes? Check. Cambridge Tower at the University of Kansas Hospital? Check. The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts? Check again. You’ll find JE Dunn’s fingerprints all over Kansas City, usually at some of the most prominent architectural high points.
Market President, Arvest Bank
It’s been said that the pandemic produced clear winners and losers in business. Chalk Mark Larrabee’s team up with a “W.” “Our team has continued to focus on meeting customers’ needs, and we have successfully grown our business 50 percent during the pandemic to $1.5 billion in total assets in Kansas City.” He runs local operations for the biggest and oldest bank in Arkansas, owned primarily by survivors of Walmart founder Sam Walton.
COLLEGE: B.S./B.A., Finance, University of Kansas; MBA, Finance, Trulaske College of Business, University of Missouri
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “The Fed’s goal is to slow the economy by raising interest rates. Monetary policy tends to be a blunt-force instrument, so I think it is highly likely that we will have a recession in the next 12 months. How severe it might be remains to be seen.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Talent acquisition remains very challenging, particularly for entry-level positions. Rising interest rates help our net interest margins but adversely impact other parts of our business.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “I think we’re on the cusp of seeing significant investment and rejuvenation on the City’s east side. There is already momentum, but the challenge is how to do that in a way that lifts all boats in the rising tide.”
Regional Manager, Amazon
Back during his active-duty service, Jeff Laurendeau oversaw an armour company of roughly 30 personnel. He’s overseeing a heck of a lot more troops today on the firing line of Amazon, the online retailer that has fallen in love with the Kansas City area as a center of distribution excellence. Laurendeau’s charges now surpass 5,000, operating out of multiple massive distribution facilities, mainly on the Kansas side.
COLLEGE: B.A., Criminal Justice, Norwich University
COMBAT VETERAN: Before joining Amazon in 2010, Laurendeau spent four years as an active-duty Army officer, then nearly three more in the Reserves. He was stationed in Iraq, and as a scout platoon leader there, he planned and executed more than 100 combat missions in the most dangerous parts of Baghdad.
LOGISTICS LESSONS: In addition to leading troops, Laurendeau was responsible for $10 million worth of equipment in a combat environment, training that plays directly into a civilian logistics career.
BEFORE KC: Laurendeau’s tour of duties in online retail distribution has included billets at facilities in Middletown, Del., and Windsor, Conn.
Sandra Lawrence is a veteran of C-suite offices now sharing her expertise on the director level, and she’s glad to see companies recognizing the value in a wide range of people. “The publicly-traded companies of the boards on which I serve have paid close attention to strengthening their cultural foundations, showing appreciation for the people who make success possible,” Lawrence said. “We are being deliberate about recruiting ethnically diverse candidates through non-traditional sources, like the Executive Leadership Council and NACD.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Psychology Statistics, Vassar College; M.A., Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; MBA, Real Estate/Finance, Harvard University
DEFENSIVE POSTURE: “It’s so important to create and maintain options in both your professional and personal activities. To do that, build liquidity, fully assess all products, and be prepared to flex as market conditions change. Times of stress sometimes produce our best opportunities.”
BOARD BARONESS: Lawrence graces boards for publicly traded companies (Evergy, Brixmor Property Group, Delaware/Macquarie, and Sera Prognostics, privately held Recology, the national non-profit NACD, and two very big local non-profits, the Hall Family Foundation and the Nelson-Atkins.
NEXT BIG THING: “The easy answer is a downtown baseball stadium, but I think we need to continue to press forward in equal opportunities and support for all members in our diverse community.”
Owner, Cable Dahmer Automotive Group
Only one person can lay claim to owning Kansas City’s biggest minority-owned company, and that person is Carlos Ledezma. But trust us, this native Texan earned that distinction every step of the way since arriving in Kansas City nearly 30 years ago and starting his career on the sales floor for new and used cars. He needed just two years there before joining the ownership of the Cable Dahmer enterprise and has built it into a market-leading presence with eight area dealerships.
STILL GROWING I: Early this year, the group added an eighth location, breaking into a new market with the acquisition of Ed Bozarth of Topeka. That added another horse to his stable of dealerships selling Buick/GMC, Cadillac, Chevrolet, as well as Kia. Cable Dahmer Auto Direct, in Independence, is its used car outlet.
STILL GROWING II: Ledezma’s team, like most every car dealer in the country, has felt the sting of supply-chain construction since the pandemic hit. Nonetheless, sales are up more than 30 percent since the final year before COVID hit, reaching $736 million in 2021, earning Cable Dahmer a spot on the Ingram’s 100.
AUTOMOTIVE FAMILY: Ledezma’s daughter, Amanda, is the general manager of Cable-Dahmer Chevrolet. His sister, Sylvia Ledezma Flores, is head of human resources for the company.
Managing Director, Mariner Wealth Advisors
Retaining clients and associates alike was a key success metric for Brian Leitner and Mariner this past year. “We know both our clients and associates have other options and vote with their feet,” he says. “As a leadership team, we need to earn their loyalty every day.” He oversees Mariner investment platforms managing $55.8 billion in 95,000 client accounts.
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Talent acquisition … We are seeing a great deal of demand for the services we are offering, and finding the right talent is not easy. There’s a shortage of talent across our industry, and according to the data, about one-third of advisers plan on retiring over the next 10 years.”
RETAINING TALENT: “Our associates have been an incredible resource in attracting talent. Great people know great people, and we encourage and incentivize our people to speak with others they know and share their experience. We also reward and celebrate associates who demonstrate and live our values. …We partner with firms that invest in their associates and share our cultural values, and it has been a wonderful way to find talent. Finally, we have a significant number of internal recruiters who do a phenomenal job of sourcing incredible people.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING?: “It would be great to host the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four. The last time we did was in 1988. An event like this would be fantastic in so many ways for our city.”
President/CEO, Security Bank of Kansas City
By almost any measure, Security Bank of Kansas City lives up to its name with impressive financial metrics. Among them? As of last spring, a minuscule 0.03 percent share of its $1.44 billion loan portfolio qualified as problem loans. Credit Jim Lewis and his team at Security for that performance, which includes amassing a healthy $450 million in equity capital. With $3.52 billion in assets, it’s the fifth-largest bank in Kansas and third-largest among locally owned banks in the Kansas City area.
LIFER: Lewis has been with Security Bank for 42 years and helped usher in the consolidation of seven banks under the Security brand in 2016. He had previously served as president of one of those, Industrial State Bank.
BUSINESS PILLAR: Security Bank is the hometown banking leader for Kansas City, Kan., and a significant employer, with nearly 450 people working there. This past year, it had a net income of nearly $37 million.
CIVIC PILLAR: The bank seeks out Wyandotte County institutions to execute its community-based philanthropy, leaning toward local schools and social-welfare organizations.
CORPORATE PEDIGREE: Security’s parent company, Valley View Bancshares, grew from the success of two Kansas City business financial-services legends—Sherman Dreiseszun and Frank Morgan.
KC Market President, Bank of America
According to Matt Linski, “We improved routines and communication to become more efficient with time and resources” over the past year. And he looks back at the arrival of COVID as an important time of learning. “Yes, it has had an impact on everything, but there are silver linings. We are more aware as a company culture that teammates can work from anywhere, and we trust in technology and each other more than we did—and we already trusted our teammates a lot.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting & Finance, Missouri State, Missouri
RECESSION CHANCES: “Early 2023, we will see it play out, even though we are in a technical one now. We will ensure our team is prepared to help our customers—we will educate teammates, review portfolios, and ensure we have the staffing to support KC customers.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Falling consumer confidence.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “With KCI’s Streetcar expansion and the slew of new companies growing and hiring in KC, big ideas will drive major KC-brand awareness.”
CHIEFS POSITION: “9-7, because it is hard to win 10-plus games in the NFL.”
EARLY RISER: Just 15 years after his first job as a banking intern, Linski became president of the Kansas City market, a big reason he was recognized as a member of Ingram’s 40 Under Forty Class of 2021.
Executive Chairman, Lockton
Leadership may have been pre-ordained for Ron Lockton, whose father founded what would become the world’s largest private, independent insurance brokerage. But those duties were by no means gifted to the son: He started there at the underwriting level before becoming a producer in 1991—duties he retained, by the way, during his rise through the corporate leadership ranks.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, University of Kansas
ABOUT LOCKTON: The company is now a global player, with more than 8,500 professionals serving 65,000 clients in 135 countries. While its roots were in insurance brokerage, it has grown to include risk management, retirement, and employee benefits services.
FIERCELY INDEPENDENT: A company slogan, “Independence Changes Everything,” speaks to an organizational culture that places the needs of clients ahead of all other considerations.
GLOBAL REACH: Lockton has more than 100 offices around the world.
LOYALTY: The average client retention rate in the insurance industry is 84 percent; Lockton leaves that mark in the dust with its 97 percent rate.
PILLARS OF GIVING: Lockton and his family have been behind millions of dollars in donations to charitable causes in Kansas City and the communities it serves.
Chairman/CEO, Palmer Square Capital Management
It’s getting hard to pigeonhole Chris Long: Wealth-management kingpin? Sports team owner? Civic champion? Philanthropist? The correct answer is: All of the above. He founded Palmer Square in 2009 and has built a $23.3 billion AUM behemoth. But most recently, he’s made headlines by stepping up with wife Angie and Brittney Mathews to buy the pro women’s Kansas City Current soccer team and make plans for a riverfront stadium.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics (cum laude), Princeton University; MBA, Harvard Business School
SOCCER BOOSTER: He became a pro franchise owner in December 2020 with the acquisition rights to add the Kansas City Current to the National Women’s Soccer League. Last year, the ownership trio agreed to front the money for a soccer-only stadium along the Missouri River.
INFLUENCE: Long was on the executive committee for Kansas City’s successful bid to become a 2026 FIFA World Cup host city. The Kansas City Sports Commission made him its 2022 Sports Executive of the Year, and he was on Sports Business Journal’s 2022 Power Players for women’s sports.
DAY-JOB SUCCESS: Long, a member of Ingram’s 40 Under Forty Class of 2015, has built a roster of investors at Palmer Square that includes only large institutions, family offices, registered investment advisers, bank/trust interests, and broker-dealers.
It might be unfair to suggest that Greg Maday possesses the Midas Touch, but he sure seems to have struck gold on a lot of different levels: Industrial coatings and construction materials? Yep, SpecChem is a leader in that field. Pro soccer? He was in the original investor group that bought what is now Sporting Kansas City from Lamar Hunt. Venture capital? There, too, with Rock Island Capital, among his other investment interest.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business Administration-Finance, University of Missouri, Columbia; Postgraduate studies, Harvard Business School
ASTUTE INVESTOR: Rock Island has raised more than $310 million in capital, investing in middle-market companies considered leaders in manufacturing, distribution, or services, with enterprise values up to $150 million. A number of those reflect Maday’s deep knowledge of the construction sector’s material needs, including firms that produce flat-rolled steel, diesel engines, pumps, motors, and control systems.
IN GOOD COMPANY: In 2006, Maday threw in with Cerner co-founders Cliff Illig and the late Neal Patterson, along with venture capital whiz Pat Curran, and Robb Heineman, to buy the former Kansas City Wizards pro soccer club, rebranded as Sporting KC, and he retains an ownership stake today.
President/CEO, CrossFirst Bankshares
“It was an honor to be recognized this year as an Ingram’s Best Company to Work For and a Best of Business,” he said. “These recognitions are a reflection of our dedication to finding the right bankers and investing in their strengths, which in turn leads to client relationships that exceed expectations. … When you empower people and lead with service, you create an environment where the client always benefits.” With $5.5 billion in assets, you can’t argue with that strategy.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business, J.D., University of Kansas
ON TALENT: “I firmly believe our commitment to culture is not only what allows us to continually deliver on our promise of providing extraordinary service, but it also allows us to attract and retain talent. From training programs and development opportunities, expanded awards and recognition programs, and a clear line of sight to career advancement, we reward people for doing the right things.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “Despite the challenges of remote work, virtual school, and the serious pandemic, we never lost sight of our purpose of serving people in extraordinary ways.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “With the new KCI single terminal nearing completion and the announcement that the World Cup is coming in 2026, it is an exciting time to be in Kansas City!”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “I believe that the Chiefs will add to this excitement by finishing the season hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.”
QB, Kansas City Chiefs/Investor
Patrick Mahomes came to Kansas City with a personal goal to change the face of the Kansas City Chiefs. That he’s done, but he’s not stopping there. Super-charged by a long list of corporate endorsement deals—not to mention that half-a-billion, 10-year Chiefs contract—Mahomes is showing some serious investment acumen that goes well beyond his appetite for Whataburger and the uncanny demand for his endorsement power.
COLLEGE: Texas Tech University
SAVVY INVESTOR: Last year, Mahomes bought into the ownership group of the Kansas City Royals and Sporting Kansas City, and he’s the founder of Mahomes Magic Flakes cereal. In addition to his native Texan penchant for Whataburger, he’s an equity owner there, and his other deals lean toward sports-related ventures, including Hyperice, Biosteel, and the Buzzer sports app.
ENDORSEMENT KING: Mahomes is one of the most sought-after faces for brand endorsements in American sports. He’s already done deals nationally for brands like Adidas, Hunt’s, Bose, and Coca-Cola and regionally for Hy-Vee, CommunityAmerica Credit Union, and the GoodCents sandwich chain.
ON THE FIELD: Lest we forget, there’s a small matter of record-setting performances on the field, as well. As he turns 27 this month—that’s 18 seasons younger than Tom Brady—and already, he holds the NFL record for most games with at least five touchdown passes, among other marks. On his watch, the Chiefs have recorded a record four straight games as the home team for the AFC championship.
In early 2021, Paul Malir worked with a New York private equity firm, Sentinel Capital Partners, to restructure finances after years of comparatively flat revenues at infrastructure engineering firm TranSystems. The goal was to produce growth, and guess what? By the end of that same year, revenues had popped 25.7 percent over 2020’s numbers, setting the firm up for additional upward moves going forward.
COLLEGE: B.S., Civil Engineering, Kansas State University; MBA, University of Kansas
UP THE LADDER: He joined TranSystems after earning his graduate degree and has steadily advanced in leadership roles, serving as chief operating officer and, since 2009, president, and now oversees a company with more than 700 employees overall and about 115 at the Crown Center complex headquarters.
ABOUT THE FIRM: Founded in 1966, the company also offers architectural planning, design, and construction services, all with the goal of moving goods and people from Point A to B. The company is 100 percent employee-owned and has about 750 on staff, roughly 150 of them in its Crown Center headquarters.
EXPERTISE: If it’s a platform to move traffic, TranSystems has the skill sets—aviation, bridge design, freight rail, ports and waterfronts, highway, and public transit all fall within the firm’s portfolio.
CEO, Creative Planning
Peter Mallouk has had some big years since acquiring Creative Planning in 2004, but none bigger than this past one: He more than doubled the size of his nationally acclaimed wealth management firm and soared past venerable American Century as the region’s largest, now with assets of $235 billion. The big move came last fall, with the acquisition of Lockton Retirement Services, which added $110 billion to assets under management or administration for the Overland Park firm.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Kansas; MBA, J.D., University of Kansas
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “I think a mild recession is likely, especially given the Federal Reserve’s efforts to soften the economy up a bit. It’s impossible to predict, though, and I always recommend people invest as if they have no idea what will happen over the short run.”
DEFENSIVE POSTURE: “The best investment plan assumes that downturns will happen regularly and can’t be predicted.”
RETAINING TALENT: “Give people a caring culture, opportunities to work with other people, surround them with talent, offer supportive leadership and competitive pay, and the labor market won’t feel tight.”
ACCOLADES: Mallouk is perennial No. 1 on Barron’s “Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors” list, and Worth magazine featured him in back-to-back years in its “Power 100.” He also a past winner of EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
President/CEO, Multivac U.S.
Kansas City native Matt Malott joined the packaging-production company Multivac in 1988, then worked his way through package design, manufacturing, sales, and marketing, on his way to vice president of sales and marketing. That set the stage, in 2018, for him to assume the leadership at this subsidiary of Multivac Group, a German conglomerate.
COLLEGE: B.S., Marketing Management, Park University
JOB DUTIES: Malott oversees a corporate workforce of 400, slightly more than half of which, 230, are attached to the Northland headquarters and production facility.
BOOM: It wasn’t just a good year; it was a great year for Malott’s team in 2021, as sales rocketed 33 percent year-over-year to hit $349 million.
ABOUT MULTIVAC: The German parent provides industrial packaging systems for companies around the world, food-production sites in particular. The Kansas City site is its only North American production facility, but it has regional offices throughout the U.S.
Executive Chairman, Vanguard Packaging
Perhaps you don’t hear much about them because the company’s operations are tucked away in SubTropolis, the underground business park north of the River. But Vanguard packaging, owned by the Mathes family, is huge in serving the retail sector with merchandising displays and other products. Mark Mathes took the reins from his father, Jack, in 2007, and last year hired a CEO so he could focus on long-term growth and expansion.
COLLEGE: B.A., Marketing, Sales & Communications, William Jewell College
THE LADDER UP: Mathes started in sales with Vanguard back in 1981, then moved through the leadership ranks as sales manager, president, and CEO.
ABOUT VANGUARD: The company was founded in 1975, and among the products it manufactures for retailers are point-of-purchase displays, signage, retail packaging, and corrugated boxes.
DOWN BELOW: From its underground location, the company operates a 600,000-square-foot facility that handles manufacturing, assembly, and fulfillment. Other offices in St. Louis and Arkansas deal with sales and design functions.
KEY LOCATION: Vanguard has an office in Bentonville, Ark., so that should give you a clue as to the kinds of companies it’s able to serve—and the scale.
Founder, McCarthy Auto Group
Now with 11 locations with diverse brands spanning the metro area on each side of the state line, from Lawrence to Sedalia, John McCarthy has spent four decades creating one of the region’s leading vehicle-sales companies. His growing family of dealerships sells thousands of new and used cars every year, employs more than 700 people, and you can find most major brands of vehicles under the McCarthy umbrella.
LIKE FATHER: McCarthy’s son, Ryan, has been with the group since 2000 and has joined father in the ownership.
FULL SERVICE: The dealerships combined offer more than 1,000 new and used vehicles, parts and service, plus assistance helping buyers secure loans.
THE BRANDS: The company’s dealerships include Chevrolet sites in Olathe, Lee’s Summit and Overland Park, Honda in Overland Park, Nissan in Lawrence and Olathe, Hyundai in Olathe and Blue Springs, Subaru in Lawrence, and Toyota in Sedalia.
GIVING BACK: The company has long been known for supporting local organizations, formalizing that commitment in 2017 when it established the McCarthy Family Foundation as the organization’s charitable arm, providing a more structured philanthropic strategy.
Partner, Humphrey, Farrington & McClain
He might not be the mayor of Independence itself, but it’s no stretch to call Ken McClain the mayor of Independence Square. Thanks to the infusion of capital he’s brought to that Downtown area, there’s a commercial buzz that rivals what Harry and Bess Truman might have experienced half a century ago. At least 20 buildings and businesses have been restored or funded through his successful law practice.
COLLEGE: B.A., Graceland College; J.D., University of Michigan Law School
WINNER: As a trial lawyer—and a highly regarded one, at that—McClain specializes in complex toxic and mass tort litigation. In six of the past 10 years, he has secured a Top 100 verdict somewhere in the country. Over his career, his clients have been awarded verdicts and negotiated settlements totaling more than a billion dollars.
ON THE SQUARE: His real-estate projects that have brought new life to the square include restaurants, boutique retail shops, service enterprises, and the renewal of the historic Harry Truman neighborhood corridor.
UNFORGETTABLE QUOTE: The best part of his job, he once told us, is “trying cases.” And the worst part? “Not trying cases.” Bah-rump-bump …
President/CEO, Research Medical Center
She’s not just influential; she’s a bridge between generations: Ashley McClellan pulls off the rare feat of earning a spot on the Ingram’s 250 in the same year she was included in our 40 Under Forty awards for rising young executives. A native of Overland Park, she runs the largest medical center for the company with the largest market share—measured by hospital beds—in the Kansas City region, HCA Midwest Health.
COLLEGE: B.A., Spanish, MBA/MHA, Texas Woman’s University
FLAGSHIP DUTIES: McClellan returned to this market in 2019 after previously leading the 400-bed Woman’s Hospital of Texas. Research is half again larger, just shy of 600 beds, and admits more than 20,000 patients each year, generating north of $3 billion in annual revenue.
IMPACT: From its campus east of Brookside, Research plays a key role in providing health care services within the urban core. It also has key programs in organ transplantation and the treatment of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. The hospital counts more than 600 physicians and 600 nurses among its providers.
HONORS: The American College of Healthcare Executives, which counts McClellan as one of its fellows, recognized her in 2018 with its Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for young health care executive of the year.
Laura McConnell Perin
At the helm of a nearly century-old Kansas City company that produces the vital infrastructure of research, Laura McConnell Perin says two of the main traits she brings to that leadership task are persistence and discipline. She became CEO there after more than 20 years in sales and managerial roles in the lab-supply space. The south Kansas City company manufactures a wide range of sophisticated laboratory equipment.
COLLEGE: B.S., Biology, and B.A., dance, Denison University
BEFORE SALES: Perin, in an earlier phase of her career exercised, her passion for ballet, dancing professionally in Chicago.
AT LABCONCO: Her late father had been the long-time chief executive at the company, and she joined its board in 2016.
LEARNING EARLY: Board service with the company was not her introduction to it; even as a child, she would accompany Dad to the office on weekend mornings, and the business was frequently a topic of family dinner conversations. “Every dinner,” she once told us, “was an executive MBA session in the McConnell household.”
HONORS: Her company ranked No. 3 last year on Ingram’s list of the Top Women-Owned Businesses in the Kansas City region, and she was one of our 50 Kansans You Should Know in 2021.
Chair, Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Now firmly fixed in her second five-year term as chair of the biggest firm—by lawyer count—in the Kansas City region, Madeleine McDonough commands a small legal army of 538 lawyers in 18 locations nationwide. She’s been with the firm for 32 years, working her way up from associate in the pharmaceutical/medical-device practice to chairing or co-chairing three separate practice groups before taking the helm.
COLLEGE: B.S., UMKC School of Pharmacy; J.D., University of Kansas School of Law; LLM, Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center
SUBJECT-MATTER: McDonough is a pharmacist by training, and before law, she was a clinical pharmacist at a teaching and research hospital. She has applied that knowledge to serve corporations in the pharmaceutical, animal health, medical device, food, cosmetics, and beverage sectors.
BROAD CLIENT BASE: Each of the world’s 10 biggest pharmaceutical companies worldwide has come calling on Shook for legal services at some point, in large part because of McDonough’s work in developing strong practice groups.
HONORS: She previously won the Women, Influence & Power in Law Award for Innovative Leadership from Corporate Counsel/In-House Counsel magazine, and she was in the inaugural class of the National Law Journal’s list of the nation’s Top 50 Litigation Trailblazers & Pioneers.
Managing Principal, Olathe Ford
Olathe Ford started years ago with 30 people and has grown to more than 300. And Marc McEver credits every one of them with helping the dealership win the title of #1 Commercial Dealer in America for Ford Motor Company over the past year. McEver’s pride in his team is obvious when addressing their COVID response: “Even when some of our people could not even sleep in their normal beds at night, they kept coming in. We will be forever grateful.”
ON TALENT: “We have enhanced our benefits package in a few ways, including the cost of health insurance and PTO. Like everyone, we raised our starting pay for ALL positions some as much as 20 percent.”
ON COVID CHALLENGES: “We made a lot of internal operational changes, and some are still in place today. The Zoom Room has to be considered the biggest of all. It is truly amazing how many we have daily.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Landing the Panasonic plant has to be at the top of the list. This is huge for the entire area!!! Congrats to all the people involved in this effort.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “I, as much as anyone, hope I am wrong, but given the past four years and the new, improved competition, I think it’s going to be very tough. 10 and 7.”
He built one of the region’s best-known boutique accounting/consulting firms from the ground up, enjoyed a four-year run in the Ingram’s 250 based on that record, then retired and headed for cooler climes (summer) or the Florida shores (winter). Yet John Meara remains a man of great intellect and influence, most recently for his interest in and potential encouragement to Panasonic Energy to build its $4 billion battery plant in DeSoto, Kan.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; UMKC School of Law
MASTERING THE NUMBERS: He founded the accounting firm of Meara, Welch, Browne back in 1977, and led the way there for nearly 42 years before calling it a career in 2019.
A PARTICULAR SET OF SKILLS: A certified public accountant, he specialized in business valuation and financial forensics, and carried fraud-examiner certification.
BIG DEAL: Meara has an interest in Panasonic Energy, the organization that supplies batteries to Tesla and the trade and the firm that’s committed to build a $4 billion production plant in DeSoto, Kan. Meara may have had influence with Panasonic and a voice in structuring the biggest deal in Kansas History.
BIGGER ACHIEVEMENT: “Seeing my 12 kids grow up, get married and succeed in life.”
PASSION/HOBBY: “I love the water and boating with friends and family.”
THE CAT CAME BACK: We thought he was a goner, but the cat came back . . . returns to the i250.
President, Financial Holding Corp.
With nearly $8 billion in assets, Americo Life is one of the largest independent, privately held insurance groups in the United States. It boasts $6.0 billion in assets, close to 660,000 insurance policies under administration, and more than $43.2 billion of life insurance in force. Big? You bet. But it’s just one piece of the Financial Holding Corp. empire controlled by the Merriman family, with Michael Merriman holding the largest ownership interest.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, Southern Methodist University
BROAD REACH: Americo Life is the parent of various insurance companies and an affiliate list that includes Great Southern, United Fidelity, National Farmers Union, and Investors Life Insurance Co. of North America. Also part of the Financial Holding family are Americo Services and Americo Investment Advisors.
RESPECT: Ratings agency A.M. Best scores Americo with a high-performance “A” rating.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Americo has a long list of philanthropic organizations it supports in the Kansas City Area, including Habitat for Humanity, The United Way, the Salvation Army Angel Tree project, the Kansas City Corporate Challenge, Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Harvester’s-The Community Food Network, and the American Cancer Society.
President, Midway Ford Truck Center
Trey Meyer learned about accountability the hard way—in high school geometry. “I hadn’t done the required homework” throughout the semester, and the impact of that course grade on his GPA was significant. He learned, he said, “an invaluable life lesson about personal responsibility. I still reflect on that lesson at times.” It seems to be working: Midway is one of the nation’s most successful Ford dealerships.
CHILDHOOD HEROES: “I was a STEM kid, so my heroes were technology innovators (Edison, Bell, Gates, etc.).”
PET PERSON?: “I am a dog person. Cats just seem untrustworthy.”
ON INEQUITY: “My parents taught me that I could accomplish anything I wanted. That belief carried me through college and into my career. Somewhere along the way, I noticed others who did not have such a fortunate upbringing. Due to no fault of their own, they struggled—not due to a lack of intelligence or creativity, but rather due to a lack of self-confidence and opportunity. I think that is when I started realizing life wasn’t fair.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?: “Even—meaning I do my best to maintain a positive, optimistic, and productive mental state. A wise person once told me to only get angry if it serves my purpose. I think my friends might agree.”
SOURCES OF PRIDE: “I am most proud of my two sons. Both Eagle Scouts.”
With a tech-heavy resume that included stretches at United Healthcare and Cerner, Bill Miller was well-qualified to take on the leadership duties when Mediware Information Systems was courting a new CEO in 2017. One year and a rebrand later, he was heading up WellSky, an Overland Park health-tech company serving 10,000 client sites in the provider community.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, M.A., Urban Planning-Public Policy, University of Kansas
BEFORE WELLSKY: Miller was previously CEO of OptumInsight, an operating unit for United Health, where his team produced record revenue growth and expanded margins while transforming the health services market. At Cerner Corp., he became vice president of technologies, with global responsibility for the company’s managed services, outsourcing, and technology services business units.
THE WELLSKY MISSION: The company provides technology solutions—software and other services—for a highly diverse field of health-care disciplines—including blood banks, home health agencies, hospices, rehab facilities, and aging-related public-sector entities.
EVER UPWARD: The company has leveraged provider needs during the global pandemic to cross the $500 million revenue threshold and cement its place on the Ingram’s 100, our list of the region’s Top Private Companies.
Managing Principal, Populous
Populous has a global reputation for design excellence in the sports world of arenas and stadiums, with high-profile projects—London Stadium, Kyle Field at Texas A&M, and even Children’s Mercy Park right here in KC. And it got that reputation, in part, through the work of Bruce Miller, whose own portfolio includes Target Field (baseball’s Minnesota Twins), Allianz Field (soccer’s Minnesota United), and Exploria Stadium (Orlando City Soccer Club).
COLLEGE: B.A., Architecture, University of Cincinnati
TAKING THE REINS: Miller was named managing principal for Populous Americas in 2019.
ACCOLADES: National media, including Sports Business Journal, Urban Land Magazine, National Public Radio, Design Intelligence, The Business of Sports, and Athletic Business, have all sought Miller’s thought leadership in their sports-design reporting. He’s also served as a guest lecturer at New York University and was a Sports Business Journal 40 Under 40 winner in 2003.
ON THE BIG SCREEN: Populous was the creative force behind Major League Baseball’s “Field of Dreams” stadium, built next to the cornfield where they filmed the 1989 Kevin Costner hit.
GLOBAL REACH: Founded in 1983, Populous has designed 1,325 stadiums in 34 countries around the world. Combined construction value: $23 billion. Among those facilities are college and pro football stadiums, rugby and cricket fields, track and field venues, and even Australian-rules football sites.
President/CEO, Blish-Mize Co.
His company distributes more than 50,000 items, so it’s no wonder Jonathan Mize shared this particular past-year memory: “We removed our old, outdated, loud conveyor system, and replaced it with a modern, efficient whole new system,” he says. “We now have a spiral conveyor system,” with across-the-board efficiency improvement. “It boils down to efficiency,” he says. “Especially when it gets harder to keep and find good, dedicated employees.”
COLLEGE: University of Kansas
ABOUT BLISH-MIZE: The company, now more than 150 years old, is a supplier to hardware retailers across the central United States.
RETENTION INCENTIVES: “Special employee incentives. Not always monetary. Food, prizes, and continued appreciation.”
COVID CHANGES: “Changed somewhat; focus more on safety. Stronger group coming out of the pandemic.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Continued expansion of light rail. Needs to service more North and South KC Metro areas.
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “16-1. Sixteen wins in honor of Lenny ‘The Cool’ Dawson.”
President, Kansas City Royals
This season marked Dayton Moore’s 16th year with the Royals, and for those keeping score, that’s nearly three times the average tenure of a Major League Baseball executive at that level. In a small-market construct, he helped lead the Royals from the early 21st-century doldrums to back-to-back World Series appearances, winning it all in 2015. As the 2021 season was winding down—his 15th as general manager—he was named president of the club.
PERSONAL: Moore is a native of Wichita, Kan., who grew up a Royals fan.
FOR THE KIDS: Moore started the “C” You In the Major Leagues Foundation in 2013 to support youth baseball, education, families in crisis, and faith-based programs and organizations. He followed that up in 2018 with the creation of the C-10 Mentoring & Leadership program.
RECOGNITION: Kansan of the Year (Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas), Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame, Executive of the Year (Kansas City Sports Commission).
PREVIOUSLY: Before coming to the Royals, Moore served as assistant general manager for the Atlanta Braves.
Kansas City’s claim to be in the center of a life-sciences corridor is owed in large part to animal-health interests—a lot of cattle and pigs are raised in these parts, after all—and among the biggest players in that space are Todd Muenstermann and his relatively compact team at Durvet. Less than 60 strong in number, they pack a nearly $300 million punch with annual revenues.
COLLEGE: B.S.B.A., Marketing & Management, University of Central Missouri
UP THE RANKS: Muenstermann has been with Durvet for nearly 26 years. He started in 1996 as a marketing manager, spent three years overseeing sales, and became president in 2015.
SALES SURGE: On his watch, top-line revenues have gone from $171 million the year he assumed leadership to $298.8 million last year.
ABOUT DURVET: The company manufactures products, many at its Blue Springs plant, to serve both the production-animal world and companion pet space.
PIONEERING: Durvet proudly declares that when it opened in 1970, it was the first entity in the over-the-counter animal-health market to operate within both the manufacturing and distribution spheres. It would become a model for the animal supply chain business.
Managing Partner, Stinson LLP
The past year witnessed a new, more flexible law firm at Stinson, Allison Murdock says, by “successfully implementing a permanent hybrid remote work policy that offers our lawyers and operational personnel a valuable opportunity to connect and collaborate in person a few days a week while still enjoying the flexibility of remote work the remainder of the week.” Now, it’s back to the task of client service for one of the region’s biggest law firms, a specialist in business transactions and litigation.
COLLEGE: B.A., UMKC; J.D., UMKC School of Law
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “Somewhat likely, but I’m confident KC and Stinson will successfully weather any economic downturn. We will continue to grow where our clients need us—whether it’s a geographic location or practice area. We hope to substantially deepen our bench in key practice areas while expanding our geographic footprint.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Talent acquisition. Engaging in conversation with and recognizing that the next generation of lawyers’ expectations is different from my generation.”
KC’s Next Big Thing?: “Exciting upgrades to our transportation system and infrastructure such as the KC Streetcar expansion and the deck over I-670 to better connect the south loop of Downtown, and the possibility of a downtown ballpark. KCI’s makeover and the success of the NFL draft and the World Cup in KC may help us land an NBA or NHL team and possibly host a Super Bowl.”
Executive Chairman, Murphy-Hoffman Co.
From the Utah border to suburban Philadelphia, and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, Murphy-Hoffman has much of America covered with the muscular machines of commerce: the tractors that pull trailers of freight, sleeper tractors, cab/chassis combos, and now, even electric versions as Tim Murphy and the team continue to modernize and diversify its offerings. Dealing primarily in new Kenworth and Volvo trucks, MHC also offers used-truck sales, service, parts, and leasing.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, Spring Hill College
LONG-TIME LEADERSHIP: From 1989 to 2017, Murphy served as chief executive officer at MCH before taking the executive chairman’s duties, and overall has more than four decades of experience in the trucking industry.
OUTSIDE DUTIES: Murphy was appointed to the Economic Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in January 2021 and is also on the board of directors for UMB Bank.
INDUSTRY PROPS: He has served on numerous supplier councils to the heavy-duty industry, and the company has been a frequent winner of Kenworth’s North American Dealer of the Year Award.
SMALL START: From a three-man operation that started as Ozark Kenworth in 1975, the company has grown to serve 50,000 customers through more than 125 location in 19 states.
The FIFA World Cup is coming City in 2026. “Not only the most significant achievement for us this year,” says Kathy Nelson, “but one of the most notable victories in the Kansas City Sports Commission’s history. The multi-year bid process was among the most complicated and time-intensive projects we’ve ever undertaken.” As for the 2023 NFL Draft? “It will be the largest event our city has ever hosted,” Nelson said.
COLLEGE: Truman State University
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “As organizations that produce our own events, like the Garmin Kansas City Marathon and Kansas City Triathlon, as well as attract conventions as visitors, inflation is an immediate concern since it impacts both business and discretionary spending. And with COVID-19 restrictions easing, there is increased competitions for market share when it comes to personal and business travel, sports tourism, and endurance events.”
MORE ON THE DRAFT: “It will be the largest event our city has ever hosted, with an unprecedented economic impact. Not only will thousands of fans come here from all over the country, but tens of millions of people will see Kansas City via the broadcast coverage.”
CEO, D.H. Pace Co.
D.H. Pace has been “opening doors” for customers since 1926. Over the past year, Rex Newcomer has been impressed by seeing his team “adjusting to an uncertain operating environment.” And adjust they certainly did, bringing in $35 million more in 2021 than 2020 and completing a record number of backlogs. The company ended 2021 with 2,899 employees and announced in April that Total Quality Service of Southern Florida is now part of the D.H. Pace family of companies.
COLLEGE: The University of Kansas
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “Best case is a short, shallow recession with a lower probability for a deeper recession along with uncomfortably high inflation, driven by further disruptions in trade flows of energy, food, raw materials, high-tech components, and financing.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Talent acquisition and retention is always job one.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “A downtown stadium. Building a strong niche in the EV and green energy chain.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “Toughest schedule in football. My heart says 12-5, my head says 10-7.”
ABOUT D.H. PACE: The family-owned enterprise isn’t far from its centennial; it has been providing doors and door-related products and services to commercial businesses and residential customers since 1926.
President, Hill’s Pet Nutrition
Jesper Nordengaard had a big job on his to-do list soon after stepping into the leadership of one of Topeka’s biggest companies, Hill’s Pet Nutrition. He helped break ground for last year’s grand opening of a new $20 million, 25,000-square-foot nutrition facility. The new operation focused on small dogs, added even more depth to the service lines available in the region’s Animal Health Corridor.
COLLEGE: B.A., Marketing, Copenhagen Business School
ABOUT HILL’S: The company is a $2.7-billion private division of global consumer-goods conglomerate Colgate-Palmolive.
CHANGING CONSUMERS: As American consumers have opted for smaller dogs in recent decades, the task for Hill’s and other pet food has changed—animals with small stomachs do more grazing throughout the day, whereas the big dogs eat just once or twice. That meant reformulation and resizing of the company’s feed lines.
THE HILL’S STORY: The company was founded more than 75 years ago when a veterinarian named Mark Morris designed a dinner product to treat the kidney infection in a dog that belonged to a traveling salesman. It worked, it caught on, and the rest is history.
President, Kellan Restaurant Management
Mike Norsworthy and his team stood tall during the worst part of the global pandemic, a time when restaurants by the thousands were going under after government-imposed reductions in customer volumes. At Kellan Restaurant Management, with locations popularly known as 54th Street Grill, he led the team through a defensive posture that limited losses and set the stage for better than 37 percent growth in 2021.
QUICK PIVOT: Norsworthy’s team responded quickly during the pandemic, swiftly shifting to a to-go and delivery model where those sales increased fivefold.
NOW HIRING: The hospitality industry suffered a crippling body blow starting in early 2020, and Norsworthy had to pare staff. But with restrictions easing, the company continues to advertise for help in the face of a fairly tight labor market for that kind of work. About one-fourth of its 2000 employees are based in the Kansas City area.
ABOUT KRM: The customer-facing brand is 54th Street Grill, with 31 casual, neighborhood-style bar and grill settings in eight area locations, plus six more in St. Louis and 17 in the San Antonio and Dallas metro areas in Texas. It recently opened a site in Austin and will cut the ribbon on another San Antonio location in 2023.
FAMILY TIES: Norsworthy took the leadership reins from founder Tom Norsworthy, who founded the chain.
Chairman/CEO, U.S. Engineering
According to Tyler Nottberg, over the past year, “The most impressive achievement is how well each leader consistently focused on the growth and development of individual team members.” That may just be pudding-proof of a retention philosophy he shared with us: “Ensuring we cultivate a high-performance culture where everyone feels like they belong is a high-priority strategic commitment for our organization.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Middlebury College
ON CULTIVATING TALENT: “We are proud to be investing in the work force of tomorrow, and not just through our own organization but by investing directly in high-quality early childhood education programs, high schools, and local higher education institutions.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “We have a unique work force in that two-thirds of our people are required to do their work at a construction site or at a customer facility. This work for our customers is “essential,” so most of our team members continued to work as normal, though with additional precautions for health and safety. … We’ve learned to utilize communication technology much better.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “I believe the next big thing is not even on our radar yet. With all the work that the business and civic community has done to elevate our profile nationally and internationally, I strongly believe that the best is yet to come for the Kansas City region.”
Tom O’Grady and HNTB are celebrating a major contribution to the economic picture. “As industry leaders in transportation infrastructure, we’ve been engaged heavily in communicating the need for significant infrastructure investment to strengthen the country’s safety, efficiency, and competitiveness, We’re proud that our longstanding and broad efforts contributed to the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and that those investments are now benefiting KC and communities across the country.”
COLLEGE: B.S., M.S., Civil Engineering, Vanderbilt University
ON TALENT: “The key is the complete employee value proposition. In a somewhat unexpected way, we are seeing net positive value in our ‘better together (work from the office)’ approach, where people are seeing the benefit of growing their knowledge and careers by being back in the office on a full-time basis.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “The experience has been difficult and exhausting, but the overall impact has been very reinforcing of our key culture elements of technical excellence, integrity, collaboration, and sustainability. The experience strengthened our collective resiliency in ways we wouldn’t have imagined.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “The streetcar extension will bring a decade-plus of redevelopment and investment along the Main Street corridor. A downtown Royals ballpark will also bring significant transformation.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “11-5. Everybody is going to be circling the Chiefs on their schedule, but we have the leadership and team talent to succeed against the best.”
COO, Burns & McDonnell
There are pros and cons to being the first. The pro? You get to blaze your own trail without being compared to your predecessor. The con? Well, you have to blaze your own trail. John Olander was the first chief operating officer in Burns & McDonnell’s history, responsible for managing and facilitating new processes and tools to improve efficiencies and collaboration for more than 10,000 engineering and technical professionals in offices and project sites throughout the world.
COLLEGE: B.S., Electrical Engineering, North Dakota State University; MBA, University of Kansas
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: Delivering results to the communities where we work. … In 2021, we had a record-breaking year with $4.6 billion in revenue supporting nearly 17,000 projects. We expect to continue our rapid growth and grow by 13 percent this year.”
DOWNTURN DEFENSE: “Burns & McDonnell is intentionally diversified in our service offerings allowing us to weather ups and downs in our markets.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “We continue to see higher demand with lagging supply. This year will again be challenging, and we are here to help our clients and partners with short- and long-term supply chain issues. Utilities have no choice but to operate.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: Leverage the new KCI, link entertainment/hotel districts; ”offer visitors, conference organizers, sports organizations, and businesses a compelling reason to come to KC.”
President/CEO, Kansas City Southern Railway
Passionate about the inherent efficiency of moving freight with steel wheels on steel rails, Pat Ottensmeyer put the capstone on his career last year by helping orchestrate KC Southern’s union with Canadian Pacific Railway. When the rebranding is complete, Canadian Pacific Kansas City will be uniquely positioned among North American rail systems to move cargo from coast to coast and from Canada to the Panama Canal.
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, Indiana University
THE ROUTE TO KC: Early in his career, Ottensmeyer sold homes for his father’s real estate business, then went into corporate banking. Working with Santa Fe Pacific Corp. as a client, he piqued his interest in railroad leadership, and he ultimately found his way to Kansas City Southern as CFO in 2006.
BIG SHOES: Ottensmeyer credits his two predecessors—Mick Haverty and then David Starling—with positioning the railroad to capitalize on the current boom in logistics and transportation, allowing him to leverage dramatic changes in railroad technology.
KCS ORIGINS: The company was founded in 1887 as Kansas City Suburban Belt Railway.
Those of you in the betting pool for Kansas City’s next company to top $1 billion in revenue would be well-advised to keep an eye on Gayle Packer’s team at Terracon, which burst through the $908 million mark last year on the strength of an 11 percent year-over-year gain. That kind of performance has been the norm at the environmental engineering giant since she moved into the leadership ranks.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, B.S., International Studies, M.S., Agricultural Economics, Ohio State University; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School; LLM, Agricultural Law, University of Arkansas Law School
ACQUISITION MASTER: The company has a two-pronged strategy that relies on both organic growth and acquisitions. Packer demonstrated her leadership skill, particularly on the second prong, as chief administrative officer, driving the acquisition and integration of 50 companies across the company.
WHAT IT DOES: The firm was founded in 1965 and has become a national leader in environmental, facilities, geotechnical, and materials engineering services. Engineering News-Record last year ranked the firm as No. 1 in the nation for its asbestos and lead abatement work and in the Top 25 for design firms.
STRUCTURED GIVING: In 2008, the firm established the Terracon Foundation to formalize its corporate philanthropy. It focuses on education and the built and natural environment and also has a program to match employee gifts, university and community grant programs, and scholarships for employees’ dependents.
President/CEO, The University of Kansas Health System
Bob Page’s healthcare powerhouse ranked in eight specialties among the 2022-23 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals. That’s neither the beginning nor the end of their award-winning, but seeing all that quality never gets old for Page. “I have marveled at our entire team’s ability to stay focused on our core mission during an unprecedented pandemic over the past year,” he said. “During some of the most difficult times in healthcare, our team ensured our patient experience and quality of care were outstanding.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, Illinois Wesleyan
NONE BIGGER: Page’s portfolio includes the University of Kansas Hospital, the region’s largest, with more than 44,000 patient admissions a year. That’s nearly twice the size of the second-largest institution in the market.
REBUILDER: Page came to the hospital nearly 30 years ago, when it was on the verge of financial collapse as a state-controlled entity. As CFO, he was instrumental in the transition to a stand-alone public health authority in 1998, and the patient-focused culture he has stressed since becoming CEO continues to fuel growth.
MISSION: Because its mandate is statewide, not limited to the Kansas City area, the hospital treats a disproportionately large volume of acute cases, some of the most challenging in the Sunflower State.
Founder/CEO, Parris Communications
Influencer? That’s a social media thing. Real influence? For more than 30 years, Roshann Parris and her strategic communications team have had it as a powerhouse in corporate and political consulting. This Louisville native is a national-level power player whose D.C. connections reach both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House (as with this month’s planning for the U.S. state delegation to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral).
COLLEGE: B.A., Indiana University, MBA, University of Kansas
RECENT ACHIEVEMENTS: “We’re in the crisis communications business, and that requires our team to adapt five minutes ago—to absolutely everything. When the pandemic hit, we immediately pivoted into multiple (and unfamiliar) communications protocols, helping our clients navigate the same. That flex has reaped gratifying results, with double digit revenue growth in the past year.”
COVID LESSONS: “For us, failing to adapt and elevate both our operations and culture in the heat of the pandemic was never an option. So, we mobilized. We improvised. We collaborated. We thought deeply, about everything. We were incredibly intentional for our clients and ourselves. Somewhere along the way, we became better and closer for the journey.”
KC’s NEXT BIG THING: “Downtown baseball and a re-imagined Arrowhead would be the capstone to an incredible, one-of-a-kind decade in Kansas City.”
With a background in word-processing equipment services that included operations management, employee training, sales support, and human resources, Lenora Payne had all the tools needed to light her entrepreneurial fire. She struck that match in 2005 by founding Technology Group Solutions and, over the next decade, turned it into one of the biggest minority-owned firms in the Kansas City region, eventually surpassing $100 million in revenue.
EDUCATION: Kellogg School of Management, Kauffman FastTrac Growth Venture, multiple IT sales and technical certifications
VALUES-BASED: Payne built her business on four philosophical pillars: Integrity, honesty, dependability, and being customer-centric.
BEFORE TGS: She honed her IT-world skills while working in various roles for GE Capital Information Technology Solutions, MicroAge Computer Center, and other IT resellers.
HONORS/AWARDS: In addition to multiple appearances on Ingram’s Corporate Report 100 list of the region’s fastest-growing companies and Ingram’s 100 list of the largest by revenue, Payne has been a recipient of Women Executives-Kansas City honors. Others include the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies World-Wide, EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards as a 2013 Central Midwest finalist), Diverse Small Business of the Year, Supplier of Year, MBE Supplier of the Year, Kansas Woman-Owned Business and others.
In nearly 10 years at the helm of Olathe-based Garmin, Clif Pemble and his team have witnessed more technological advances than the company experienced in its preceding 25 years. While it still counts on navigation systems for land, air, and water as a primary revenue driver, the explosion of wearable tech and the company’s emergence as a tool for understanding population health has opened new frontiers. Pemble was one of the first employees hired by founders Gary Burrell and Min Kao, starting there as a software engineer.
COLLEGE: B.S., Math & Computer Science, MidAmerica Nazarene University
R&D FOCUS: Recognizing the need to innovate or perish, Pemble signed off on a research and development budget of more than $840 million last year. That was up an impressive 19 percent from 2020.
GAME-CHANGING: New marine products, watches, and other wearable tech—they’re all rolling out of the company’s idea factory every year. The world of autonomous vehicles, though, may be the way the company gets us to the Jetsons Era: Garmin Autonomi offers pilotless flight solutions, and Garmin Autoland can de-risk small-plane flight by landing an aircraft if the pilot is incapacitated.
LONG WALK: Devices manufactured by Garmin record trillions of user steps each year, along with billions of miles logged on bicycles and millions of additional miles running and swimming.
Managing Partner, KPMG
KPMG is a worldwide financial-advisory powerhouse, and Stephen Penn heads up the Kansas City office. Over the past year, he was pleased by “Amazing growth in our practice, fueled by incredible professionals who are reconnecting with each other and our clients in truly remarkable ways.” The 28-year veteran of auditing operations became office managing partner in 2020.
ON RETAINING TALENT: “We’ve emphasized hybrid working models—balancing flexibility for our people and our clients while ensuring our professionals have the opportunities for in-person professional development, collaboration, and personal growth.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Ride the momentum to increase Kansas City’s prominence and awareness as a top-choice business and living destination.”
ABOUT KPMG: Based in London, England, KPMG has subsidiary firms operating in 144 countries and territories across the globe, offering audit, tax and advisory services.
STILL STANDING: Once upon a time, the sector was ruled by what were known as Big Eight accounting firms; consolidations have trimmed that down to the Big Four, and within them, KPMG boasts annual revenues of roughly $30 billion.
CEO, Hallmark Cards
Mike Perry learned the business at Hallmark from the ground up, starting there in 1989 and working his way through a series of leadership positions in core business units, including customer management and new business development, then president and CEO of the Crayola division and Hallmark Greetings. In 2018, he took on global responsibility for Hallmark as CEO.
KEY ACHIEVEMENT: “Just leading through these times is an achievement in itself. We’re still dealing with a pandemic. There have been massive changes to how/where people work. And then there’s the highest inflation we’ve seen in 40 years, making it hard on businesses and consumers alike.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Tight and unpredictable supply chains and inflationary pressures have been the biggest challenges for our businesses this year, so we’re finding new ways to meet our goals. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that inflation and supply chain issues wane in 2023.”
ATTRACTING/RETAINING TALENT: “Hallmark has always been an employer of choice in Kansas City and wherever we operate across our enterprise. Our culture and mission attract job seekers and create deep bonds here—in many cases, Hallmarkers work here for four decades or more! But we’re also wise enough to know that we must change with the times, so we’re hiring more people in remote status than ever before. We know that work is what you do, not where you do it.”
KC President, The University of Kansas Health System
This healthcare executive is still a nurse at heart, with a focus on patients. Tammy Peterman’s memory of the past year? “In the midst of a pandemic, we cared for patients from every state in the U.S., every county in Kansas, and 109 out of 114 counties in Missouri,” she said. “We set a record of caring for over 343,000 unique patients.” And on top of all that, “Our patient satisfaction ranked us in the top decile of hospitals across the country.”
COLLEGE: B.S., M.S., M.S.N., University of Kansas
ON MANAGING TALENT: “Our organizational culture is a distinct advantage in both recruiting and retaining talent. In today’s labor market, we must be more creative, responsive, and flexible. Our GED program and pipeline development programs are a couple of creative approaches we have implemented.”
KEYS TO SUCCESS: “In my opinion, it’s always about people—retaining the best and hiring the best.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “If anything, 2.5 years of facing COVID has allowed us to reinforce our culture. Throughout the pandemic, we have remained true to our focus on service, quality, and people.”
KC Market President, US Bank
“Adapting to change; it is all around us,” Tim Petty told us, is a constant imperative, especially in banking, so “our positioning and innovation in the payments space were a huge plus this year.” And they left no client behind. “It allowed us to help clients navigate everything that has been thrown their way and has been critical in helping companies adapt to a remote operating environment,” Petty recalls. “Those who were not ready had to pivot quickly, and our team was up for the challenge.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting/Finance, Kansas State University
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “The market has changed, and we did too. People want flexibility, and we adjusted our work schedules and policies to formally support a hybrid workforce. It has been well received and helped us to retain and recruit in a very competitive industry.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “There has been a huge shift in people choosing where they want to work. No longer just where the job is, but now the job is mobile. That positions Kansas City very well for many years to come.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “12-5. I think we will make the playoffs and win the division title again. From there, who knows!!!”
CEO, Mosaic Life Care
Upon the departure of Mark Laney earlier this year, Mosaic Life Care turned to long-time health-care executive Mike Poore to fill the CEO’s role on a contract basis. The board needed less than 90 days to determine that Poore was more than a stopgap: He was the man for the job. Board chair Serena Naylor announced his unanimous selection in June, saying that “as interim, he quickly became an exceptional leader for our system.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Health-Services Administration, Auburn University; MBA, University of South Alabama
WHY MOSAIC?: “This is a strong system with some of the best physicians, nurses, and caregivers I’ve ever witnessed offering amazing care to patients,” he said. “Mosaic’s financial stability and the partnerships between communities are unlike anything I’ve experienced. I’ve worked across the country, and this is where I want to be.”
ABOUT MOSAIC: In addition to the home base in St. Joseph, the health system has care facilities in Maryville and Albany in northwest Missouri and operates clinics throughout northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.
BIG DEMAND: In admitting nearly 17,000 patients a year to its acute-care settings and treating multiples of that number in its various clinics, Mosaic ranks among the 10 busiest health-care providers in the Kansas City region.
Jeanette Hernandez Prenger
Chairman/CEO/President, ECCO Select
Jeanette Hernandez Prenger will be recognized by Hispanic Executive as a notable Hispanic professional in the tech industry for her IT services firm’s success, which starts with people. In a challenging year, she says, “we continue to improve our workplace environment and find ways to help our associates stay inspired about what we do. Our goal is to have an environment that is high energy, collaborative and fun while providing the satisfaction of being productive in meeting our mission and vision.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Management Information Systems, Park University
RECENT ACHIEVEMENT: “Diversifying our client base and offerings.”
RECESSION PROJECTION/ACTION: “Likely. Reducing expenses, overhead and focusing on providing more value to our partners.”
KC’s NEXT BIG THING?: “Should be anchored around creating more experiences for our citizens and visitors. I would love to see the Missouri River become more vibrant with the right investments. Seeing the Currents’ moving to the riverfront and the restaurants and housing being built gives me hope that more people will live and work in KC.”
ACCOLADES: Prenger has won numerous industry and business media awards, including her 2011 Women Executives-Kansas City recognition from Ingram’s. And she’s earned all of it; ECCO Select is on the Corporate Report 100 honor roll.
Rosana Privitera Biondo
President, Mark One Electric
Once upon a time, a woman running a big electrical services and consulting company would have been—forgive us, here—shocking. But with Rosana Privitera Biondo at the helm and her three brothers filling out the team, Mark One continues to be the power player their parents, Carl and Josephine, started in 1974. Today, with more than 200 employees, and with Carl and Josephine’s nine grandchildren on-deck, the future is looking safe and sound.
CULTURE IS IMPORTANT: The Privitera family spirit that fuels Mark One extends throughout the organization and was instrumental in seeing the firm through the pandemic. It will also play a crucial role in riding the rough economic tides some believe are coming down the road.
STAYING CLASSY: Where a lot of people got a little—shall we say, unkept—during the online-meeting world of the pandemic, Mark One made it a point of pride to have the staff maintain a level of presentation and personal appearance throughout that kept things as normal as possible for clients.
SPEAKING OF CLASSY: Community spirit is part of this family’s culture and Privitera Biondo displays a lot of it with leadership roles in initiatives such Kansas City Area Development Council, CREWKC (for women who are construction executives), Women Construction Owners & Executives, and the United Way’s board of trustees, to name just a few.
Despite the current health-care challenges, Julie Quirin beams about Saint Luke’s standing in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ recent provider assessment; the main hospital topped the list with the system’s three other metro hospitals ranking among the top six in the area, she happily reports. “This metric is particularly meaningful as it speaks to the heart of our mission, which is providing incredible patient care,” Quirin says.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business/Corporate Communications, Buena Vista University; M.A., Organizational Communication, University of Kansas
ON TALENT: “Pay is incredibly important, and we’ve demonstrated how much we value our work force through measures like implementing two minimum-wage pay increases within about a year. Last winter, in recognition of our employees’ hard work, dedication, and sacrifice, we provided a thank-you bonus to all eligible regular full- and part-time employees.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “People across the globe are recognizing the tremendous things happening in Kansas City—we need to take advantage of the momentum and evaluate opportunities that may come our way. We take pride in our partnership with the Kansas City Current—the team has taken Kansas City by storm in its first two seasons, and the rest of the country is starting to take note as well with plans for the first stadium purpose-built for a National Women’s Soccer League team.”
For more than 20 years, Mike Rainen has developed multi-family apartments, condominium conversion, and industrial properties in the Kansas City area, but his history in real estate runs much deeper. He started with institutional interior design and office furniture wholesaling, and in 1992, leveraged that success into the purchase of three apartment complexes. That led to the multifaceted, award-winning real estate development and management company he runs today.
HISTORIC SUCCESS: Rainen and his partners purchased the Sulgrave and Regency House apartments in 2001, turning it into a unique luxury community. It is considered the most successful condominium conversion in Kansas City history.
OTHER KEY PROJECTS: Rainen also led the development of the award-winning Cityview Apartments, a 246-unit multifamily property. Expanding from traditional multi-family, Rainen Companies moved into senior living with the development of the 318-unit Gardens at Northgate Village. That project won the Keystone Award from the Northland Clay County Economic Development Commission.
President/CEO, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce
He knows the challenges of business success in the urban core; he knows the role that mass transit can play in supporting it. Joe Reardon’s path to the Chamber set him up with a unique appreciation for what’s needed to drive commerce across a metro area of 2.2 million people. He previously served as two-term Mayor/CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, then briefly led the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Rockhurst University; J.D., University of Kansas School of Law
SUCCESS IN OFFICE: In his public-policy life, Reardon racked up achievements that include helping his community win the competition to bring Google high-speed fiber to town, then successfully negotiating an agreement with Jackson County to acquire the 17-mile Rock Island Rail Corridor for future public and transit use. He has been named a Wyandotte Countian of the Year and Kansas Mayor of the Year.
TRANSFORMATIONAL: Picking up where his predecessor, Carol Marinovich left off with development of the Village West entertainment district, Reardon led Wyandotte County’s effort to clear the way for construction of what is now Children’s Mercy Park.
MEMBERS: Reardon and his team help amplify the unified voice of more than 2,200 member businesses.
POLITICAL ROOTS: He’s part of a Wyandotte County political dynasty that includes a former mayor (his father, Jack) and a long-time member of the Kansas House (his uncle Bill.)
Owner, Reed Automotive Group
In days when we hear a lot about hard times for car dealerships, it’s great to hear how operating smart can help. “We have led our teams through this very challenging time in the Retail Automotive industry with very low turn-over and high morale,” says Randy Reed. A key to his team’s success: “We have been very aggressive in hiring talent when we have the opportunity,” he said, “as well as providing compensation adjustments for existing staff to ensure they are not poached.”
COLLEGE: B.S., U.S. Air Force Academy; MBA, Troy University
ON RETAINING TALENT: “We always make the priority for leadership creating and maintaining a positive and healthy culture on our teams. We have been building new facilities for our dealerships to have the most functional and Team Member-friendly places to work.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “We announced personally in each dealership at the beginning of COVID that we were going to get through this challenge ‘Together.’ That has been our priority from the beginning. We respect and follow the CDC and local guidelines and put each individual’s safety and health concerns as the priority. Emphasizing team and helping each other has paid high dividends for us.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “13-4. Super Bowl Champions.”
CEO, MMGY Global
The road’s end beckons Clayton Reid, but first will come some torch-passing and transition guidance at MMGY Global, the integrated marketing firm serving the travel sector. “I’m immensely proud of what we’ve accomplished in these last three decades, growing our business portfolio to 500 colleagues and hundreds of travel clients around the world,” says Reid, who after year’s-end will serve as chairman, with Katie Briscoe succeeding him.
COLLEGE: Business and Marketing, University of Kansas and New York University
RECESSION DEFENSE: “Continue to focus our travel-specific insights and tools that enable the industry to be prepared. Travel is a birthright. It’s soul food, essential to the human experience. Economic conditions will change, but travel will always be a part of lifestyle and business around the world because it’s necessary.”
ON TALENT: “Over the last two years, we’ve taken a hard look at our total compensation and benefits packages to remain competitive … reimbursing most employees for lost wages during the pandemic and improving things such as time-off and parental leave policies.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING?: “I believe we’re only getting started with regional transportation. I hope that one day the Streetcar, light rail, and other transport systems will connect the communities who would benefit economically while also joining our neighborhoods (to) bring us all closer together.”
President/CEO, North Kansas City Hospital
Steve Reintjes takes a lot of pride in his hospital’s role during the pandemic. “Through Operation Safe, we vaccinated nearly 100,000 members of our community,” he says. “Beyond protecting many Missourians from COVID-19, we protected them from hospitalizations and the ravages of COVID.” And it didn’t stop there. “We are one team with one mission: to provide hope and healing to every life we touch.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Georgetown University; M.A., Philosophy, M.D., University of Kansas School of Medicine
ON RETAINING TALENT: “We create a great work environment with a competitive wage and benefits package, as well as an environment that allows our staff to provide the best care possible for our patients. To be recognized by Forbes and Becker’s Healthcare as one of the best health-care employers in the nation speaks volumes about our commitment to our employees.”
COVID & CULTURE: “We inspire our teams to run to the fire and face the challenge that comes before us.”
TAKING THE REINS: Reintjes became CEO in 2020 after serving as president of the medical staff.
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “14-3.”
Partner, Husch Blackwell
This American history buff (Civil War period, especially) understands the importance of keeping track of things. That’s why he puts together his annual nationwide survey and analysis on P3 projects—public-private partnerships. Renner uses it in advising clients and communities on projects that serve the lasting interests of businesses, government and people. It’s a unique financing tool that gives him a decided edge in helping clients.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, University of Missouri-Kansas City; J.D., UMKC School of Law
BIG CASES, SMALL CASES: His team has worked on massive public infrastructure projects, including the largest P-3 water infrastructure in the U.S., and neighborhood-level efforts like the Harris Park sports complex on Kansas City’s east side.
LEADERSHIP: Renner, naturally, serves as chair of the firm’s Public-Private Partnership team, and amassed a long track record working with complex development incentives, including those involving community improvement districts and tax-increment financing.
COVID PERSPECTIVE: Rather than dwell on negatives, Renner looks at the brighter side of people having spent more time with their families. Not surprising for a guy who enjoys joining his wife in cheering at their kids’ sporting events.
President/CEO, Hunt Midwest
Ora Reynolds’ organization, founded by the legendary Lamar Hunt, is taking Kansas City Spirit well beyond the city line. According to Reynolds, the past year included “Successful expansion of our industrial development platform in both the Kansas City metro and the Southeast by leveraging our reputation, resources, and relationships. We now have logistics parks under development or in the pipeline in six states.” She leads quite a team, with Hunt Midwest employees donating more than $2 million to United Way of Kansas City since 1987.
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, Indiana University-Bloomington
ON TALENT RETENTION: “Listening to our employees and providing solutions that enhance productivity, collaboration, and work/life balance. Additionally, we did a complete brand refresh of our logo and messaging in conjunction with the opening of a new Crossroads office to support our growth.”
ON COVID CHALLENGES: “Expanded technology allows for more flexibility.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “More large job attraction projects like the Meta and Panasonic announcements, and fingers crossed that the next mega user locates at our KCI 29 Logistics Park adjacent to the new KCI airport terminal!”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “You are asking HUNT Midwest? Super Bowl XLIX Champions!”
CEO, Jack Cooper Transport Co.
Eighty years after its 1928 founding, Jack Cooper Transport was struggling. In stepped Michael Riggs, who acquired it in 2009 and set about the task of restoring the fundamentals for a company that plays a big role in the automotive sector. Not as a manufacturer but as the vital link between assembly plant and dealer lot, transporting thousands of new vehicles to their dealership destinations each year.
COLLEGE: B.S., Business, Kettering University; MBA, Harvard Business School
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY: On Riggs’ watch, the company has built a workforce of nearly 3,000, and it now ranks among the 100 largest trucking firms in the country by trade magazine Transport Topics.
A MAKER’S BACKGROUND: Before he came to the trucking industry roughly 20 years ago, Riggs had made his mark in the manufacturing sector.
MAJOR MOVE: Among the most significant leadership initiatives, Riggs navigated the firm through a 2019 bankruptcy filing, securing a restructured pension program (with 68 percent of union workers supporting it) and positioning the company for long-term growth.
INDUSTRY PRAISE: He’s been a member of the American Trucking Association’s executive committee and chairman of the Auto Carriers Conference. E&Y’s Entrepreneur of the Year program recognized him with its 2013 Midwest region awards.
President/CEO, Berkeleys & Company Contractors
Most of us will never see what Greg Righter’s company puts in place but, according to Berkel, most of us have been supported by that work at some point in our lives. The deep foundation work Berkel is known for is trusted by the world’s largest and most successful engineering firms and contractors. And it’s not just Righter and his c-suite colleagues whose reputation goes into each job; Berkel was employee-owned before employee-owned was cool.
COLLEGE: B.S., Pre-Engineering, Furman University; B.S., Civil Engineering, Clemson University; M.S., Civil Engineering, Georgia Tech
UP THE LADDER: Righter started as a field engineer with the company in 1999, then steadily advanced through the ranks as project manager, regional manager and vice president of operations. He took the reins of the company in 2017.
PARTICIPATING IN HISTORY: Berkel was involved in the post-9/11 rebuilding efforts at the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Closer to home, it’s been involved in the historic makeover of Kansas City International Airport, starting with the foundation work on the project in 2019.
CORPORATE ORIGINS: The late Charles Berkel founded the company in 1959. Today, it has 250 employees in the area and 650 total in offices nationwide, and had 2021 revenues of $175 million to earn a place on the Ingram’s 100 list of the region’s biggest private companies.
President/CEO, UMB Bank
Jim Rine is proud to say his banking team has come through the past year without “missing a beat” and is in a great position to help customers. “We continue to have strong performance throughout the organization,” he said. Rine is also quite pleased with his larger organization, saying, “Our regions outside Kansas City also continue to grow and make a more sizable impact, particularly our Texas, Arizona, and Colorado markets.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, Missouri State University
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “The continued reimagination of downtown with our major league baseball stadium as a new centerpiece for sports fans is certainly an exciting option. As demonstrated in other metropolitan areas, having a world-class MLB stadium would drive even more traffic and economic activity for Kansas City.”
PROMISING METRICS: “We’re experiencing strong loan growth and have the capacity to continue to lend—both critical to our success and a positive outlook.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “10/7. Our division has strengthened, and there is tough competition ahead.”
KC Managing Partner, EY
It’s a simple question but a big one: Where do you start if you want to change the world? For Kim Rock, big changes start with something small, triggering a cascade of responses that lead to a better working world. “I am working diligently every day to build a Better Working World for our clients and our people,” this CPA says, and she does that by leading a team that advises clients with a wide range of corporate financial services.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, John Carroll University
BEFORE KC: She joined EY in 2004 and worked in the assurance service line as both a senior manager and partner in Nashville and Charlotte, N.C., before coming to Kansas City in 2020.
EY’S SERVICE LINE: The company’s accounting services include financial statement audits, adoption and audit of Sarbanes-Oxley requirements, mergers and acquisitions, private equity offerings, IPOS, and offerings of public debt.
EQUITY COMMITMENT: Rock, the first woman to lead EY’s Kansas City office, is also a member of the firm’s Professional Women’s Network, helping educate and empower women for career success.
CIVIC-MINDED: Back in Charlotte, she devoted time to supporting the American Heart Association and Goodwill Industries. She quickly got into the flow of civic life in this region, serving on the board of Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City.
President/CEO, Dairy Farmers of America
Reins are for horses, so forgive the use of the analogy where they’ve been handed off to Dennis Rodenbaugh at the biggest private company—by far—in the Kansas City region. Rodenbaugh took over this year with the retirement of Rick Smith, who had helped found this national dairy products cooperative in 2018 and turned it into one of the nation’s biggest producers in that space. The company recorded $19.3 billion in 2021 sales.
PROVEN LEADER: Rodenbaugh came on board at Dairy Farmers in 2007 and has held multiple senior management roles. Among them: vice president and chief operating officer of the Mideast operation, senior vice president of the Western Fluid Group, and executive vice president.
BROAD REACH: His resume includes oversight of U.S. milk marketing, farm services, and 23 commercial manufacturing plants and global marketing operations in DFA’s Ingredient Solutions division.
STILL MORE: Rodenbaugh is also chairman of Newtrient, on the executive board of directors for National Milk Producers Federation, on the executive committee and a board member for International Dairy Foods Association, and on the boards for several other DFA fluid milk affiliates.
THE ROAD TO DFA: Rodenbaugh worked in banking and finance while also owning and managing dairy farms and other agri-businesses.
Partner and Practice Chair, Polsinelli
The law firm Frank Ross leads has a good year to look back on, as Ross recalls, “Pushing ourselves to surpass more than 20% growth in our Business Department revenue while keeping young lawyer attrition to about 6% in the era of the Great Resignation.” How does the firm manage such great retention? “The best way to attract and keep talent is to continually let our people know that we have a true culture of caring for them and about them,” said Ross.
COLLEGE: B.S., Kansas State Univ; J.D., Washburn Univ School of Law; LL.M., Georgetown University
COVID AND CLIENTS: “As we were building this law firm, we always talked with our clients and our lawyers about putting the best lawyer on the file regardless of where that lawyer lived. We told our clients we were certain they didn’t care where our lawyers lived, only whether they were the right one to handle their work. COVID has made that crystal clear. This is the culture created by Jim Polsinelli 50 years ago, and we still live it.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “A new Royals stadium downtown, a decision for a great home for the Kansas City Chiefs, wherever that might be, and the renewal of the Country Club Plaza as a nationally prominent hub of great retail stores and more great locally owned restaurants to add to all of the great restaurants that are there now.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “I can never escape being a Chiefs fan … a 20-0 year, with a Super Bowl win.”
CEO, Custom Truck One Source
Too often, when business figures ponder gazelles—those startups that soar to $1 billion in revenue—they overlook the more muscular animals that might not have the glitz and glamor of a tech company. But Fred Ross and a passel of his siblings have done the gritty work on the blue-collar side of the economy, taking Custom Truck from its startup in 1996 to one of the nation’s premier providers of heavy construction vehicles.
BLUE-COLLAR FOUNDATION: Custom Truck is a national power behind the construction sector, providing the heavy equipment used to build and repair America’s infrastructure.
TEN-FIGURE THRESHOLD: After a 2015 capital infusion from affiliates of private equity giant Blackstone, Custom Truck went on a growth surge and surpassed $1 billion in sales for the first time in 2019.
ACQUISITION TARGET: In April 2021, Nesco Holdings acquired Custom Truck for $1.45 billion, and it became a public company. The strength of the brand, though, came shining through as Nesco swapped its symbol on the New York Stock Exchange for CTOS.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Five of his siblings joined Ross at the company’s inception, which meant 40 percent of the 15 employees hailed from one family.
POWER EMPLOYER, TOO: The company’s workforce has grown more than 100-fold, with 1,700 workers in all. About 650 of them work at the headquarters on the site of the former Armco Steel plant, and 100 more are expected to be on staff by year’s end.
CEO, United Way of Greater Kansas City
“Growing up in one of KC’s poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods,” Chris Rosson says, “there were daily reminders from as early as I can remember of life’s unfairness. This spawned in me a lifetime commitment to work to make KC a better place for all.” Leading the region’s most relevant non-profit allows him to touch the lives of one in three area residents, and he relishes each day doing it. “Today, it is a gift,” he says. “That’s why it is called the present.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration & Economics, William Jewell College; Philosophy & Political Science tutorials, Oxford University (England); M.A., International Economics & International Relations, Johns Hopkins University
KEY MENTOR/INFLUENCE: “Phil Jackson (former NBA coach) is my guru.”
CHILDHOOD HEROES: “Michael Jordan and David Letterman.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?: “Tenacious.”
HOW WOULD OTHERS DESCRIBE YOU?: “Adventurous.”
SOURCES OF PRIDE: “My five beautiful daughters and loving wife.”
BEST PART OF HIS JOB: “I get the opportunity to make a real, transformational difference in people’s lives every day, and that is incredibly rewarding.”
The past year, says Andy Sareyan, was all about adapting. “We’ve adapted extremely well to change and kept our focus despite all kinds of distractions in the external world,” says the leader of this media content giant. “There’s no single achievement that stands above the rest, but this leadership team has been absolutely unflappable under some pretty challenging circumstances.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Middlebury College; MBA, Stanford University
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “It does seem like more of a question of when than if. I’m optimistic that we’ll push the downturn farther down the road and that it won’t be severe when it arrives.”
DEFENSIVE POSTURE: “We’ve spent a lot of time and effort on supply chain issues and managing physical costs. But at the same time, we’ve got our foot firmly on the pedal to pursue new initiatives and drive top-line growth.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Near-term challenges to AMU, I’d put supply chain at the top of the heap. In terms of our primary focus, talent acquisition and retention will always trump all else.”
ATTRACTING TALENT: “We’ve stayed committed to our values, many of which revolve around how we treat our people and genuinely care for one another. And we’ve done our best to listen and adapt to changing desires and needs of the workforce.”
CEO/Managing Partner, RPS Financial Group
Spare Philip Sarnecki the hair-splitting over whether a recession will be here in 2022 or 2023: “We’re in a recession,” he says, simply enough. It helps, then, to becoming off another record year, but past performance won’t alone see his financial services firm through: “We’re prepared,” he says. “We have great leaders, great advisers, and great products. We’ve historically done extremely well during downturns. The financial strength of Northwestern Mutual is a huge advantage.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Finance, University of Illinois
WIDE NET: Sarnecki has built a small empire across the two-state area, as well as Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, with more than 250 financial advisers in 13 offices.
CHALLENGE AHEAD: “Talent acquisition.”
COVID IMPACT: “We just continued to do what we do well, which is have our world-class advisors bring world-class products to our clients.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING?: “NBA or NHL team?”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “11-6. Tough schedule, tough conference. Might take a little time to integrate the new players, especially the wide receivers.”
For more than 25 years, Paul Schultz has been with this third-party logistics provider, the last three of them in the role of chief executive. Those happen to be three of the biggest years in the company’s relatively brief history since its founding in 1997. Year-over-year growth of 56.8 percent last year, in fact, propelled Schultz and his team onto Ingram’s 100 list of the region’s largest private companies.
THE BOOM: UTXL, like many logistics-sector firms here, has taken advantage of Kansas City’s increasingly prominent profile in shipping and distribution. Last year’s surge brought the company’s top line to $163.4 million.
NICHE: The Northland company specializes in nationwide over-the-road full truckload and multi-stop loads at any length of haul.
RELOADING: The company set the stage for future growth last year when transportation giant Knight-Swift bought control for $22.5 million, providing access to capital and experienced logistics leadership. “Once UTXL and Knight-Swift began discussions,” Schultz said, “we quickly realized that we found a dynamic leadership team to support us as we gain momentum in growing our business and continue to strengthen the UTXL brand.”
Neal Sharma did his part to change the world—literally: Inc. magazine listed his corporate baby among its “25 Companies That Are Changing the World”—then oversaw its sale and staged his exit last year. Now, he’s plotting his Next Big Thing. “Truth be told,” he quips, “I am screwing up quasi-retirement. Earlier this year, he took his current role with an offshoot of Dentsu, the company that bought DEG, which he had taken from startup to digital power.
COLLEGE: B.A., Communication, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government, American University; MBA, University of Kansas
OTHER TASKS: Sharma is also on the board of MRIGlobal, an adviser and investor with Heirloom Brands, and an investor in about half a dozen startups over the past year.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!: “In addition, I am in the process of starting a couple of companies myself with some operators—one in the blockchain arena and one in the tech-enabled professional services arena—and might look at buying a company or two. Stay tuned for more there…”
THE CIVIC SIDE: Sharma remains co-chair of KC Rising, a collaboration between the Kansas City Area Development Council, KC Chamber, Civic Council, and Mid-America Regional Council to bolster workforce development. He’s also on the Young Presidents Organization board, having just completed a year as chairman, and remains a Fellow of the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program HEMP.
Principal Owner, Kansas City Royals
John Sherman certainly had some success in business, founding, building, and selling LPG Services Group, then Inergy, L.P., and doing deals that created enterprises valued in the billions. But when he had to come up with a billion to buy the Royals, he had a whole new appreciation for the power of all those zeroes. The deal-maker turned to Kansas City’s most successful business figures, creating a partnership that could buy the team.
COLLEGE: B.A., Ottawa University
BASEBALL INTRO: Before jumping right in with the Royals ownership, Sherman purchased a share of the Cleveland Indians, which went to the 2016 Series on his watch.
PHILANTHROPY: As a philanthropist, Sherman has focused largely on creating education opportunities for the underserved. He and his wife have established an endowed scholarship at the Institute for Urban Education at UMKC, where they also funded the Urban Education Research Center and endowed a chair in Urban Education Research.
RECOGNITION: Sherman has been awarded an honorary doctorate from UMKC, is an honoree in the Bloch School of Management’s Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame, has been recognized as the school’s Regional Entrepreneur of the Year, and is a past winner of the National MS Society’s Hope Award.
President/CEO, University Health
It’s been reinforced each of the nearly 1,000 days since a global pandemic reached the U.S.: “University Health,” says Charlie Shields, “has always been Kansas City’s Essential Hospital, but everything we’ve done to take a leadership position during COVID (including the incredible education efforts, the most testing and vaccinations in the metro and our commitment to take those into places like schools and churches) has reinforced this.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Marketing, MBA, University of Missouri
HOW YOU’D DESCRIBE YOURSELF: “I think of myself as someone always seeking positive change, but I think my friends would tell you I can be very patient.”
A SERVICE LIFE: Shields came to the former Truman Medical Centers in 2010 after a long stretch in public service. He started as COO at the Truman Lakewood medical center campus, then was named CEO of the health system in 2014.
BRANDING/BUILDING: Shields has overseen an expansion of the main campus on Hospital Hill that includes a $45 million University Health Building I and the $70 million Building II across 22nd Street from the mother ship medical center.
URBAN IMPACT: The Truman campus, with nearly 17,000 admissions each year, plays an oversized role in regional health care, treating the disproportionately low-income, uninsured, or under-insured.
President/CEO, EPR Properties
When EPR Properties needed to reload after co-founder David Brain retired in 2015, it didn’t have to look far to find someone who knew the business from the inside out. Greg Silvers had served as vice president, secretary, and general counsel from 1998 to 2006, then as chief development officer for five years before becoming chief operating officer. Before entering the entertainment-real estate space, Silvers specialized in real-estate law while in private practice with the firm that today is simply Stinson LLP.
COLLEGE: B.S., Tennessee Technological University; J.D., University of Kansas
ABOUT EPR: The company specializes in the acquisition and management of entertainment-themed properties—movie theaters, ski resorts, casinos, hotels, and others. It operates 358 locations and has more than 200 tenants in 44 states. The combined investment value of those properties: $6.6 billion.
EXPANDED REACH: By moving into educational assets with private schools and early childhood education centers, the branding shifted a bit from “entertainment” properties to “experiential” ones. Turns out, not many of the patrons are in those settings.
Despite the so-called “great resignation” that has been happening in the wake of COVID, Chase Simmons team at Polsinelli has been keeping turnover largely at bay while doing some great things. “That level of integration and engagement in the face of adversity is something I want our team to be proud of,” he said. “We had our largest organic growth year-over-year to become basically the largest U.S.-only law firm.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Southern Methodist University; J.D., University of Georgia Law School (cum laude)
ON MANAGING TALENT: “In many of our practices, we are able to utilize our National platform, allowing younger Kansas City-based lawyers the ability to get Wall Street-caliber experience while also building a local client base, all while doing so at a compensation level that is positively impacted by the work they do in larger markets. We believe this is a differentiator for us.”
COVID CHALLENGES: “Something I thought was key for us was that we did not cut associates, or associate salaries, at the beginning of COVID-19. We saw many law firms do this, but that wasn’t our culture.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “The South Loop Link Project (cap on I-670).”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “17-0. Chiefs leadership.”
Office Managing Partner, Husch Blackwell
If bigger is indeed better, then Husch Blackwell is a better law firm today than it was in 2014, when Jeff Simon was named managing partner of the Kansas City office. Acquisitions and organic growth within its six defined practice groupings have taken the firm from 514 lawyers to more than 800. More than 130 are under his watch in Kansas City, one of more than 20 offices the firm maintains across the nation.
COLLEGE: B.A., English, J.D., University of Missouri
FOCUS: The firm is organized around six business frameworks—energy/natural resources, financial services, food/agribusiness, healthcare/life sciences/pharmaceuticals, real estate/development/construction, and technology/manufacturing/transportation—and groups all aspects of its work within that structure, combining litigators with transactional staff to align their client-focused missions.
EARLY RISER: Simon is a St. Louis native who was in the Class of 2003 for Ingram’s 40 Under Forty awards, spotlighting rising executive talent.
COURTROOM VETERAN: Simon is an accomplished trial attorney whose client list includes Fortune 500 companies.
CIVIC CHAMPION: Simon has also been involved in causes grounded in broader social challenges facing the region, public safety in particular, plus the board of directors of the Kansas City Downtown Council Board of Police Commissioners and chair of the Kansas City Liquor Control Board of Review.
President, Milbank Manufacturing
Milbank Manufacturing is a national supplier of electrical components, largely for industrial use, and since 2018 this family-owned company based in Kansas City has been under the command of Brad Skinner. He started at Milbank more than 35 years ago and has learned the ropes on the sales and manufacturing sides. His leadership duties are primarily focused on driving growth and innovation at the global company.
COLLEGE: Park University
ABOUT MILBANK: The company makes instruments to measure electricity and electrical signals in residential and commercial applications, including meter sockets, pedestals, meter mains and breakers, service pedestals, power sockets, and air-conditioner disconnects.
WORKERS WANTED: Like most companies, Milbank continues to issue the call for more workers. Unlike most, the need might be more acute because of its perceived blue-collar status.
PLANT LOCATIONS: Milbank products are turned out at manufacturing sites in Kansas City, Concordia, Mo. and in El Dorado, Ark. It also has a warehouse operation in Reno, Nev.
BRIGHT OUTLOOK: Power doesn’t get from a utility to a consumer without products like Milbank’s somewhere along the line. And the demand across the nation—worldwide, actually—will only increase with advances in electrical-vehicle charging, smart technology, and communication upgrades. All, the company says, will require power distribution systems.
All these years of helping other businesses with their operations paid off big this past year, according to Brian Sloan. “I would say our biggest achievement was, quite frankly, holding it all together during one of the most challenging years to be a leader, at least in my career,” he said. “Demand at an all-time high, supply at an all-time low, and a workforce that is demanding more than ever from their leadership! It’s been challenging but also a lot of fun!
ON TALENT: “We have developed the first accredited low-voltage apprenticeship program in the state of Arkansas. We hire young men and women right out of high school from every state in the nation and put them through a two-week boot camp before sending them to work under a journeyman-level installer for a period of two years. We have had over 60 new hires go this route this year.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “I think during unprecedented times like these, you just have to remain flexible, patient, and compassionate. Let adults be adults; let them work through this at their own pace. The COVID situation has been difficult in some way for every human on the planet, so forcing employees out of their comfort zone, in this case, will only cause a company more harm than good.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Downtown baseball field. 1-2 million people go to the Royals games each year. Directing that traffic to the spending center of our city is the way to go, in my opinion.”
President/CEO, Associated Wholesale Grocers
David Smith has been in the grocery sector since he was a teenager working in a family-owned business. Over the years, he worked in various retail roles, including store owner/operator. Smith spent 17 years in various wholesale positions prior to joining AWG in 2003 as director of real estate, which was followed by several promotions over the years leading to his appointment as president and CEO, a position he assumed at the end of 2015.
CALLING THEM OUT: Smith went to bat for his member stores and independent grocers last year in congressional testimony that cited industry concentration among the top five grocery retailers, led by Walmart, as a primary cause of the supply-chain crisis for foodstuffs. “These retailers use their control over the market to advantage themselves at the expense of everyone else,” he said. “They dictate terms and conditions to suppliers.”
ABOUT AWG: Founded in 1924 and incorporated in 1926, AWG is the nation’s oldest grocery cooperative.
FINANCIAL FACT: Continued a long streak of sales growth by hitting $10.8 billion in 2021; by comparison, more than half of Walmart’s $555 billion in sales was generated by groceries. Still, that was good enough to place AWG No. 2 on the region’s list of top private companies.
Chairman, McDowell Rice Smith & Buchanan
Pete Smith often concedes that he’s not the smartest lawyer in the world—but he’s not about to be outworked by his opponent. That recipe for success, applied dispassionately and relentlessly for half a century, has made him one of the region’s go-to business litigators. To say he specializes in business law would be to grossly understate his skills: He also is an entrepreneur who founded the legal-services company that became Epiq Systems.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, University of Kansas; J.D., UMKC School of Law
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “Somewhat likely. I have been dealing in insolvency law for 50 years. A common thread in insolvencies that lead to recession is high-interest rates. The economy does not work with high rates.”
DOWNTURN IMPACT: “We represent debtors in Chapter 11 cases. Economic downturns result in us being very busy.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Supply chain … followed closely by high-interest rates and high labor costs.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “All wins except two losses because Mahomes will be out to show them.”
STILL RIDING: Smith is an avid motorcyclist logging in excess of 350,000 miles. This August Smith completed his 33rd consecutive 750 mile same-day ride to Sturgis, S.D. He’s either outlived or outlasted other riders but always welcomes an endurance wingman to ride—and attempt to keep up.
Senior Vice President, Holmes Murphy
With roots going back to 1932 as an insurance company, Holmes Murphy is today a widely diversified business advising and providing services for businesses in a broad range of risk management scenarios. Jeff Spencer heads up the company’s efforts in the KC region in the world of employee benefits. He’s pleased to report that, over the past year, the company has been successful at “Retaining and acquiring talent; growing our top line and increasing profits.”
COLLEGE: University of Kansas
TALENT STRATEGY: “Profit sharing, increased 401k match, allowing for somewhat flexible work schedules.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “The pandemic challenged all aspects of our business. We have been focused on nurturing our culture through the challenges to continue to attract and retain the best talent in our industry.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Another World Series.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “13-4. Don’t bet against Mahomes.”
Senior VP-Business Development, SE2
Tom Spencer’s work with SE2, building it into a powerhouse of tech tools and third-party administration services for the insurance industry, set the stage just this month for its evolution as Zinnia. For going on three decades, he’s worked in the financial services and insurance industry, assisting as some of the nation’s largest insurance companies upgraded their tech tools. He helped lead it from a startup with a handful of employees, to more than 2,000 associates.
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Missouri-Columbia
BIG IMPACT: On average every 12 months, SE2 says it helps launch 10-15 new products and thousands of apps, generating more than $15 billion in new premiums.
BEFORE SE2: Spencer has worked with or served as consultant to some big names in the sector, including DST, GE Insurance Solutions, UnitedHealthcare and TIAA.
HOBBIES: Travel, hiking, fly-fishing and golf.
REGIONAL IMPACT: The company’s growth, and that of its parent, is a significant piece of the long-term strategy set by economic-development officials in Topeka and Shawnee County to boost the fintech presence there.
LONG REACH: Nearly two dozen client companies of SE2 administer more than 2 million insurance policies, and have more than $100 million in assets.
U.S. Tax Practice Leader, KPMG
The leadership at KPMG grew the firm by 20 percent in a tough environment this past year, to which Brad Sprong says, “Way to go Steve Penn!” in a nod to his office’s managing partner. Sprong hopes Kansas City experiences the same. “Get large conventions back to KC,” he said. “We’ve lost many of them over the past 10 years due to transportation and hotel space, which we’ve partially solved. Also need a major company to relocate their HQ here.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, William Jewell
ON RETAINING TALENT: “We instituted a hybrid work model which strongly encourages time with clients and the office, to help grow as a person technically and culturally, but allows them to work remote a couple of days a week to help with responsibilities they may now have outside of the work environment.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Sports related—Super Bowl!”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “11-6. Teams have built themselves to defend the Chiefs’ offense and score on the defense. Have the Chiefs modified their approach enough to stay ahead of other teams’ changes?”
Plant Manager, Goodyear Tire & Rubber
With roughly 1,500 workers at its Topeka plant, Goodyear is a major regional employer, and that workforce is under the direction of David Squyres, who has been with the Akron, Ohio-based company since 2011. He’s a native of Lawton, Okla., whose previous stop with Goodyear was north of the border, at Goodyear Canada’s plant in Nepanee, Ontario. He succeeded Dusty Douglas in that role last fall.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration/Management, Cameron University
SERIOUS SCALE: The Topeka plant is the second-largest tire plant in the world, at 3 million square feet, nearly 69 acres under one roof. At its peak, the plant employed 4,400 people, nearly three times the current workforce, and it celebrated 75 years in production as of March 2020.
CRISIS-TESTED: Squyres’ managerial skills were tested in Canada when the plant there, for the first time in its 32-year history, was completely shut down at the onset of the global panic, idling 750 workers. Earlier this year, the Topeka plant averted a strike when union workers agreed to a new contract.
DID YOU KNOW: The Topeka plant has cranked out more than 2.5 million tires used by U.S. military Humvees. The largest tire it rolls out is 13 feet tall and weighs more than 6½ tons.
ABOUT GOODYEAR: The company overall employs 63,000 people worldwide at 47 facilities in 21 countries.
Anne St. Peter
Co-Founder, Global Prairie
Global Prairie is a 100 percent employee-owned Certified Benefit Corporation (B Corp), Anne St. Peter proudly declares. “Our leadership team helped drive the growth of our ESOP stock by 203.6 percent last year, and our ranking among more than 5,600 B Corporations worldwide is in the top 1 percent.” Can that be replicated? “My dream is that one day Kansas City will be known around the world as a mecca for purpose-driven businesses.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, Wellesley College
ON TALENT: “We look for entrepreneurial, optimistic leaders who believe business should be a force for good in the world, have an owner’s mindset, and who not only want to do purposeful work for our clients but also want to be engaged in their communities. Once hired, we are intentional about retaining our talent by providing ownership in Global Prairie, best-in-class benefits, and a supportive, growth-oriented culture with opportunities to learn and lead.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “Over the last 2.5 years, our Global Prairie team switched to a hybrid work model in our nine offices in the US and Europe, increased our DE&I efforts, purchased carbon offsets to neutralize our environmental footprint, improved our data security, and increased our charitable giving to communities in need during these challenging times.”
CHIEFS’ PREDICTION: “17-0, because they’re simply the best.”
CEO, Seaboard Corp.
The Merriam headquarters is unimposing from the outside, but Seaboard Corp. is the hub of a diversified organization with more than 13,000 people worldwide and net sales over $7 billion annually as the Kansas City region’s largest public company. The first non-family CEO since Otto Bresky founded the company in 1918, Robert Steer has been with Seaboard nearly 40 years.
COLLEGE: Kansas State University
DIVERSE WITHIN AG: Seaboard has interests in pork and poultry production, processing, cargo shipping, commodity merchandising and flour and feed milling.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN: Seaboard plans to spend more than $300 million over several years to capture methane emissions from a portion of its hog production facilities. It is investing $180 million to construct three container ships capable of operating on natural gas.
DEDICATED WORK FORCE: In Seaboard’s 2021 annual report, Steer wrote, “It has become increasingly difficult to find the people we need to fully staff our facilities. This means that in many cases we have had to ask more of the people we do have. I am incredibly proud of the dedication I have seen time and time again from Seaboard’s employees.”
EVP/Managing Director-Aviation, Garmin
Those movies where a plane’s pilot falls unconscious? If that ever happens to you in real life, hope that you’re sitting next to Philip Straub—he holds an airline transport pilot certificate for multi-engine planes, and he’s a certified flight instructor with single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument privileges. For more than a decade, he’s used those skills to help Garmin develop its line of aviation-sector products.
COLLEGE: B.S., Electrical Engineering, University of Missouri-Columbia
EARLY HIRE: Garmin wasn’t far removed from a small startup—just four years—when Straub climbed on board in 1993. Over the years, he’s served, helped, and led the development of aviation products, software, and certification flight testing.
BIG JOB: For a company with just shy of $5 billion in 2021 revenue, Straub plays an outsized role. He was the first person to hold the aviation manager’s duties when the job was created. And he oversees all global aviation business activities—from engineering, marketing, and sales to flight operations and aviation customer support. In 2017, the company elevated him to his current role. Before joining Garmin, Straub was a pilot and flight instructor at Executive Beechcraft and Baker’s Aircraft Center.
BIG THING: The company’s recent advances in aviation tech include an autonomous landing system for small planes when the pilot is incapacitated. That Autonomi advance is winning awards around the world.
President/CEO, Blue KC
In an organization outwardly focused on well-being, Erin Stucky turns the focus inward. “One of our biggest challenges continues to be weighing talent acquisition and retention with the expectations and challenges surrounding a hybrid workforce,” says the CEO of this region’s biggest health insurer. “We continue to evaluate all our positions to ensure we are evolving to meet the needs of our members, our employees, and our business.”
COLLEGE: B.S., Education, University of Missouri
ON RECRUITING: “Individuals have quite different expectations for how and where they will be working. We have implemented several recruiting initiatives due to the competitive labor market.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “COVID has greatly changed the landscape of the health-care industry. While we have had challenges such as figuring out how to help our members access appropriate care in an overwhelmed system, we have also seen opportunities including an increased emphasis on behavioral health and virtual care.”
NEXT BIG THING: “Kansas City has so many great things happening right now; it’s hard to predict the next big thing. I’d love it if we were named one of the United States’ healthiest cities. I think with the work we’ve been doing to improve our parks and install bike lanes and walking paths, we can get there.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “I’m hoping in 2023 we are hosting a Super Bowl parade in February and a World Series parade in the fall!”
Partner, Stueve Siegel Hanson
Partner in a firm specializing solely in litigation of complex commercial cases, Stueve has been recognized by peers as one of the top commercial trial lawyers in the country. He has prosecuted claims in federal and state courts nationwide in the areas of antitrust, intellectual property, securities fraud, and other commercial torts against some of the largest businesses in the world, as well as several national and statewide class actions against large global firms.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, Benedictine College; J.D., University of Kansas School of Law
LEGAL INNOVATOR: Stueve helped start a business litigation law firm from scratch using a unique economic model based on the results achieved for clients rather than the traditional hourly billing model that law firms have used for decades.
DATA DEFENDER: The firm has established a national reputation for its class-action work in cases of major corporate data breaches. Most recently, it produced a whopping $190 million settlement over a major breach of Capital One’s records.
LIVING ITS VALUES: The firm demonstrated its commitment to a more diverse legal sector last fall when it made a $1 million gift to the University of Missouri. That created a pair of matching scholarship funds, one for black students at the law school. The other will promote studies in press freedom through MU’s journalism school.
Office Brokerage Director, Kessinger/Hunter
This commercial realty pro wants to help people get back to work. “We realize that some industries, or segments thereof, may never come back,” Greg Swetnam says. “However, we also are hearing and seeing companies who want their culture back.” He helps by securing space for companies: “Sharing ideas, training, and an open dialogue of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, that is so difficult to duplicate over the phone or on a video call.”
COLLEGE: B.A., Agriculture, University of Missouri
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “Depending on the task, some of our positions have gone to a hybrid work week. From the sales side, it has become more of a challenge—people checking in and out trying to be safe in and around clients and colleagues.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Hopefully—wishful thinking—organic growth will continue to fill in the gaps between our sub-markets and townships so that the entire city can win as a whole! With the low density in population when compared to vast amounts of area in the metro, a state line, roughly 10 different townships, and the distance from one to the other, the competition for residents, amenities, businesses, employees, stadiums, arenas, etc., it can be incredibly fierce competition with sometimes little for the entire metro to gain.”
The folks at American Century are keeping an eye on some $229 billion in assets these days, which comes with a responsibility Jonathan Thomas doesn’t take lightly. “Our impact on global health puts us in a category of one in the asset management industry,” he said. Thomas acknowledged the role of a well-treated work force in living up to that responsibility: “That attracts people who want to make a positive impact on the world.”
COLLEGE: B.A., University of Massachusetts; MBA, Boston College
MORE ON TALENT: “We have renovated our physical spaces to create intentional opportunities for collaboration and creativity, like a game room and golf simulator. We are also building a doggie daycare, opening in 2022 for employees at our Kansas City campus. Employees in our Emerging Professionals business resource group have taken it upon themselves to sponsor a social media/career fair video inspired by why they love working at American Century. I believe we’re doing something right when our people proactively take the lead to help attract talent!”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “This season is sure to be a winning one for the Chiefs based on the competitiveness I saw from Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce at the American Century Championship charity golf tournament this past July. The team has the heart and passion to win. I predict a 14-3 record.”
President, CBIZ Employee Benefits
It’s not a big verbal leap from physical health to fiscal fitness, but Polly Thomas comfortably made the move from her physical therapy training to the world of benefits consulting and now leads a major player in that space with CBIZ. At the Plaza-based company, where she started as a benefits consultant in 2009, she helps companies keep a healthy bottom line by managing the costs and attributes of employee benefit plans.
COLLEGE: B.S., Physical Therapy, University of Missouri-Columbia
LIFE LESSON: “I had a high school English teacher who was extremely candid. Her candor has influenced me as a leader by viewing feedback and candor as a gift to help a person reach their full potential.”
CHILDHOOD HEROES: “I really enjoyed reading about Anne Frank and Rosa Parks. They both had so much courage.”
ON LIFE’S UNFAIRNESS: “I lost a good friend my freshman year of high school, and it was a perfect example of sometimes life isn’t fair.”
ANOTHER TIME TO LIVE?: “Living during the time of the forming of the United States would’ve been pretty special.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF: “Curious.”
HOW WOULD FRIENDS DESCRIBE YOU: “Loyal.”
SOURCES OF PRIDE: “My husband and kids.”
Command Deputy, Fort Leavenworth
The gravitational pull of Fort Leavenworth on the regional economy can’t be overstated. With nearly 5,400 active-duty personnel and global visitors to the Command and Staff General College, the aviation traffic alone has a major impact at Kansas City International Airport. Commanding officers are routinely rotated in and out, but much of the operational responsibility lies with the civilian deputy to the commander; in this case, Gregg Thompson.
COLLEGE: B.S., Economics, University of Nebraska; M.A., National-Louis University, Chicago; M.S., Strategic Studies, U.S. Army War College
JOB DUTIES: Assisting the Combined Arms Center’s commanding general with the administration of programs to advance institutional leader development at all levels. He also helps manage three major subordinate organizations, five direct reporting units, and 12 supporting agencies located at Fort Leavenworth and the Presidio of Monterey in California.
SERVICE RECORD: A 30-year Army veteran, he’s been posted in Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Korea, Germany, and Hawaii, and his awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, and Defense Meritorious Service Medal.
Chairman/CEO, Country Club Bank
Country Club Bank’s long tradition of focusing on people and community was in full force as Paul Thompson guided the organization out of lockdown. “Reinvigorating our organizational energy as we returned to the office with a thoughtful, flexible work balance. It’s a perspective the bank routinely maintains. We paid an “inflation bonus” to associates whose discretionary income was being disproportionately eroded by this recent and near unprecedented levels of inflation,” said Thompson.
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance, Creighton University; M.B.A., Rockhurst University
RECESSION THREAT: “Somewhere between somewhat to highly likely, particularly in light of Fed Chair Powell’s comments at Jackson Hole. Fed Chairs do not use the word ‘pain’ lightly. … That said, with regard to their predictive success, the Fed also said this inflation was going to be ‘transitory’ or temporary. That turned out NOT to be the case.”
COVID: “We responded appropriately to and consistent with the public-health directives. We reassured associates that their health, and that of their families, is our primary concern. Now that COVID is endemic, we must get on with our lives while remaining vigilant about smart health protocols.”
NEXT BIG THING: “To focus on our ‘infrastructure’—human and physical. We need to be sure we are fairly providing the opportunity and preparing the next generation to be a well-educated, trained and available while simultaneously providing a safe and enjoyable environment in which to live, work, and play.”
Kansas Secretary of Commerce/Lt. Gov.
If the role of a lieutenant governor is to make the governor look good, give David Toland high marks for a mission accomplished. He played an integral role last winter in securing legislative approval for a monster incentive package that ultimately swayed Panasonic Energy to commit to build its $4 billion battery-production plant in Kansas, allowing Kelly to claim a major win heading into a re-election cycle.
COLLEGE: B.A., Political Science, M.A., Public Administration, University of Kansas
DEEP ROOTS: They don’t come any more Kansan than Toland, whose family runs seven generations deep in the Sunflower State.
ON FAMILY HISTORY: “I grew up three doors down from my grandparents. It has a grounding effect, knowing that people who came before you were so involved in the community and that those who come after will, we hope, contain the same values.”
COMING HOME: After a career turn in the nation’s capital, Toland came back to his native Allen County to serve as director of economic development. Kelly summoned him to a state-level role as Secretary of Commerce after her 2018 election and added his duties as her executive wingman last year.
CEO, Dimensional Innovations
It’s been an introspective year for Tucker Trotter’s industrial design group. “We revisited Jim Collins’ famous ‘hedgehog’ concept and took a deep dive into the critical elements of knowing what you are really great at doing,” he said. That helped DI “decide what areas of the business we want to invest and grow in.” That meant introducing new safety and health measures and adding new workspace for privacy and collaboration, to create the best possible on-site work experience, he says.
COLLEGE: B.A., Industrial Design, University of Kansas
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Our community continues driving innovation and technology, serving as a centralized hub for design, architecture, and engineering. Based on the incredible exposure and desirable living conditions, I also think we see an influx in tourism and relocation from the coasts. We couldn’t stay a hidden gem forever!”
ON RETAINING TALENT: “Our team gets to work on diverse and exciting projects. That alone is very attractive to any potential team members, regardless of their passion, profession, or location. Our focus has been on positively impacting our employees’ lives, both here and at home, through free training classes, professional coaches, added perks, reduction in medical premiums, and a revamped wellness program.”
When the bank he runs leaned hard into mortgage lending a few years ago, revenues went off like a rocket for nbkc bank. Much of that increase was driven by an expanded presence in the home-lending space, but not all of it—the company’s venture into financial technology also helped produce an almost unheard-of 14.79 percent return on assets (when 1 percent is generally a sign of a healthy return).
COLLEGE: B.S., Journalism/Advertising, Kansas State University
INNOVATORS: The bank flexed its innovation muscle in 2018 when it rolled out the first financial technology accelerator in the region. That helped introduce the term “fintech” into the local banking vernacular.
TOP BOSS: Glassdoor.com, the employment-themed Web site, has ranked Unruh No. 22 on its list of the nation’s best CEOs in the small and mid-size category, and the company has won multiple awards for best employment practices.
RETENTION POWER: Even before the labor market became tighter than a drum, Unruh was known for his focus on attracting and retaining employees. That was a goal in mind when the bank remodeled, adding collaborative spaces and places for its 315 employees to relax or engage in activities.
TO NBKC: He started with INTRUST Bank, rising to VP, then at Heritage Bank. He joined nbkc in 2008.
Mike Valentine’s career has been a textbook case of success through a blend of entrepreneurship and smarts, and he navigated that into a role in which he affects the well-being of countless thousands. Netsmart provides technology that helps to ensure accurate operation in an incredible range of fields, including pediatrics, geriatrics, addiction treatment, autism, and many more. North of 25,000 organizations entrust their health IT needs to Valentine and Netsmart.
COLLEGE: B.S., Industrial Engineering, Kansas State University
THE PATH TO NETSMART: Valentine previously spent 12½ years at Cerner, eventually rising to become its chief operating officer.
EARLY ENTREPRENEUR: His experience in the startup world came with Maryville Technologies, an integrated IT solutions company he co-founded and managed.
CIVIC-MINDED: Valentine serves on multiple boards of prominent companies and organizations, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, the American Heart Association, American Royal, his alma mater in Manhattan, and the Wildscape Foundation.
HONORS: He’s been recognized by Ingram’s as both a member of 40 Under Forty (Class of 2002) and Rainmakers (2010).
Nicole Van Denabeele
KC President, Bank Midwest
Parent NBH Bank went with a proven numbers person two years ago when it needed new leadership of the Bank Midwest and tabbed certified public accountant Nicole Van Denabeele as its new president. Operating under the Bank Midwest brand, NBH brought her on board in 2018 as chief accounting officer. With nearly $7 billion in assets, it’s well within the Top 10 in this market by size.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting and Business Administration, M.A., Accounting and Information Systems, University of Kansas
DOUBLE DUTY: In addition to being the organization’s president, Van Denabeele is also chief accounting officer for the parent corporation.
DEPTH: Van Denabeele is a seasoned executive in public company accounting and financial reporting within the financial services sector and made the leap to banking from financial oversight within the legal sector as controller of Kansas City’s Polsinelli, PC. Her resume also includes a stint as assistant controller for UMB Financial Corp. and six years in public accounting with Deloitte.
BOARDS: She sits on the boards for the Greater KC Chamber and the finance committee for Ronald McDonald House Charities of KC. Before those roles, she had served as a board member for the Jo Bryant Memorial Foundation and Mighty to Serve, which promotes family participation in community service.
President/COO, Sunderland Foundation
The Sunderland Foundation is a philanthropic juggernaut with a mission “to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve, with attention to those populations with the greatest need.” Its own foundation rests on the legacy of Ash Grove Cement, which was in the family for generations before its sale in 2018. More than a third of the proceeds from that sale went into beefing up the foundation that Vance—former Ash Grove CEO—oversees.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, MBA-Finance, UMKC
MISSION FOCUSED: The foundation supporting such cause as higher education, human services, arts and culture, and health care and hospitals, primarily by providing much-needed funding for major capital and construction projects.
SUDDEN IMPACT: The $3 billion sale of the company instantly infused massive assets into the foundation, rocketing it to the No. 3 position among non-profit entities. In recent years, it has made spectacular commitments to the construction of Children’s Mercy’s research tower ($75 million) and the Cambridge Tower addition at the University of Kansas Hospital ($66 million).
CAREER PATH: Before Ash Grove Cement, Vance’s CV took him through stints with Commerce Bank, Farmland Industries, interstate bakeries, and Hostess Brands.
LEGACY: Ash Grove Cement was in the Sunderland family for more than 100 years.
Julia Vander Weele
Managing Partner, Spencer Fane
Last year, Julia Vander Weele said the pandemic taught her the importance of listening in getting people through a tough situation. Listening seems to have worked again, as she looks back happily on “re-engaging our workforce and navigating a hybrid return to the office.” Vander Weele sees in the experience a reflection of something bigger. “Our culture has always been important to us, and the pandemic just enhanced our commitment to preserving it.”
COLLEGE: B.A., J.D., University of Iowa
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Talent acquisition and retention. Our culture continues to be our most valuable retention tool.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “The construction of the riverfront stadium for KC Current over the next few years will bring a new and exciting element to downtown.”
CHIEFS PREDICTION: “15-2.”
As it barrels ahead toward its 100th birth at the start of 2023, North American Savings Bank will have a new chief executive on hand to blow out the candles. Wagers was named to succeed Paul Thomas earlier this year, and he brings to those duties a deep understanding of the bank, after nearly a decade there, and the careful calculation of numbers one might expect from a Certified Public Accountant.
COLLEGE: B.A., Accounting, East Tennessee State University
NEW DUTIES: He’s now responsible for providing mortgage and banking products and customer service with the executive and senior leadership team. He’s overseeing a workforce of roughly 525 for an institution with nearly $2.5 billion in assets and $1.4 billion in deposits.
BEATING THE INDUSTRY: For most banks, a 1 percent return on assets is considered a sign of healthy financial performance; publicly owned NASB exceeds that threshold by half again, according to FDIC data.
BEFORE NASB: Wagers worked in banking leadership roles at Atlantic Coast Bank in Jacksonville, Fla., including nine years as CFO and a stint as interim CEO.
LENDING POWER: NASB offers traditional banking and mortgage products, including conventional, FHA, and VA loans, plus non-recourse and bank-statement loans for self-employed borrowers.
Head of Field Sales, Sun Life
Marc Warrington was serving as president of Assurant Employee Benefits when Canadian-based Sun Life came calling with $940 million in hand and acquisition on its mind. And the new owners decided that Warrington, who had overseen a workforce of 1,700 serving 30,000 clients nationwide, would become a vital cog in their success here, designating him as head of field sales. His work helped produce an increase of 64 percent in 2021 income for Sun Life, hitting nearly $4 billion.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business/Managerial Economics, Cornell University
ABOUT SUN LIFE: One of the largest public companies in Canada, this financial-services giant focuses on helping clients with fiscal and physical health, the former by targeting financial security, the latter through living healthier lives.
MONETARY MIGHT: The Kansas City office is primarily engaged with the benefits side of the company’s insurance products, but the parent is also a wealth-management monolith, with more than $1.3 trillion—that’s with a ‘T’—in assets under management.
DOWNTOWN FIXTURE: The sign above may have changed following the Assurant acquisition, but Sun Life is a significant Downtown employer, with 440 people attached to that office.
CFO, Euronet Worldwide
It takes a sharp CFO to keep an eye on the finances at a company like the one Rick Weller works for. Money needs to move fast in this day and age, and Euronet is providing technology and tools to make that happen. With $3 billion in 2021 revenue, the team is quite successful at it. Euronet processed 7.6 billion transactions in 2021, reached 3.7 billion bank accounts, as well as 439 million mobile wallet accounts. Plus, it owns and operates 48,000 ATMs worldwide.
COLLEGE: B.S., Accounting, Central Missouri State University
TRULY WORLDWIDE: Euronet serves 190 countries (that’s most of them on this rock, by the way).
RESILIENCE: 2021 revenue represented a 21 percent increase over the previous year, despite the continued heavy impact of COVID.
GROWTH: With increasing demand for Euronet’s REN payment technology solutions, the company has signed agreements expected to deliver $78 million in revenue over the next six years.
PRODUCT OF VISION: The company was founded by Mike Brown, who foresaw an opportunity to meet increased demand for access to cash upon the downfall of socialist countries in the 1980s.
Chairman/Managing Partner, Spencer Fane
At one of the region’s biggest law firms, long-time chairman Pat Whalen continues to exert an outsized influence on the business community and civic life in Kansas City—he’s that engaged. That’s the local angle. On a national scale, the firm’s managing partner is regarded as one of the top legal minds in matters of cybersecurity, cybercrime, and intellectual-property law.
COLLEGE: B.A., Economics, University of Kansas; J.D., University of Texas School of Law; MBA, University of Texas Graduate School of Business; C.M.E., Harvard Business School
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Retaining and recruiting top talent in an increasingly competitive environment.”
RECESSION OUTLOOK: “Regrettably, a national recession is at least somewhat likely in the next 12 months.”
COVID IMPACT: “We have been much more intentional in how we foster social connection, a sense of belonging, and pathways for collaboration inside and outside the firm.”
CIVIC-MINDED TIMES TWO: In addition to board roles with the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City and the Kansas City Area Development Council, he’s served on the Heartland Civic Collaborative Committee and in the St. Louis Regional Chamber.
President/CEO, Greater Kansas City Community Foundation
Debbie Wilkerson’s job is to help some of Kansas City’s most fortunate residents do good for others. “Our team helped donors make over $691 million in grants last year,” she told us. “That’s the most in our history.” Pretty good results in these days of economic uncertainty for so many, and that’s largely because Wilkerson gives great advice.
COLLEGE: B.A., Psychology, J.D., University of Kansas, KU Law School
ADVISING THROUGH A DOWNTURN: “What we do is prepare philanthropists for economic downturns,” she said. “Donors contribute to their donor-advised funds during good economic years, so they can continue granting to charities during bad economic years.”
ABOUT THE FOUNDATION: With more than $5 billion in assets at last count, Wilkerson’s charge is the largest non-profit organization in the Kansas City area by far.
HUMBLE START: The foundation was formed when civic leaders passed the hat and raised the princely sum of $200 to start a philanthropic fund.
BEFORE GKCCF: Wilkerson practiced at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, specializing in charitable-giving and estate planning services.
Executive Director, Heavy Constructors Association of Kansas City
Bridgette Williams leads an organization affectionately known as “The Heavies”—made up of about 150 contractors and product and service suppliers responsible for constructing the region’s critical public and private infrastructure. That includes roads, highways, bridges, airports, reservoirs and major utility corridors. Williams has been with the association since 2010, becoming CEO in 2017.
COLLEGE: B.A., Communication, Pittsburg State; B.A., Liberal Arts, Ottawa University; MBA, Helzberg School of Management, Rockhurst University
LOCAL HEART: The association mainly comprises local family-owned businesses, working closely with city, county, state, and federal elected officials and civic leaders to build the infrastructure that is foundation of the KC Metro.
WORDS TO LIVE BY: Her organization’s motto is “Making It Better…” exemplifying the vibrant spirit of members rising to meet the challenges of improvement for Kansas City and the states of Kansas and Missouri.
You have to credit Chad Williams for his commitment to the enterprise: A lot of us would be on a Caribbean beach if we’d negotiated a $10 billion sale, as Williams did last year when the investment powerhouse Blackstone came calling. He’s still there, though, overseeing one of the nation’s biggest and fastest-growing data-center service providers, where he had led the strategic investment in product and asset acquisitions, site selection, design, development, and construction initiatives.
ELITE LEADERSHIP: Williams is a member of the Potomac Officers Club—and no, that’s not a sailing thing. It’s a collaboration of corporate leaders whose companies are in the government contracting sector, largely with federal agencies in D.C.
TOUGH START: While he was still in high school, Williams was thrust into business leadership, stepping in at the family’s auto-salvage business when his father ran into health issues.
BEFORE QTS: Williams brought CEO-level experience to his new venture after leading QGC, the Quality Group of Companies. That holding company’s interests included commercial real estate, design-build development, commercial interiors, and vehicle and technology leasing.
ABOUT QTS: The company operates more than 6 million square feet of data-center space combined at 25 sites. That’s a long way from a single, 35,000-square-foot facility Williams started with in 2005.
CIO, Creative Planning
Jim Williams works for an organization that specializes in helping people dream big. And the past year has been no exception. “The last year has been extraordinary for Creative Planning, with the assets we are advising on topping $200 billion,” he told us. Williams credits that in part to the team never breaking stride during the pandemic. “We have always had a work force that has been both in the office and remote,” he said.
COLLEGE: University of Missouri-Kansas City
COVID: “We have always had a work force that has been both in the office and remote. The evolving nature of remote/office is something we were able to work through without missing a beat.”
ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: “The Federal Reserve has been clear that they are going to raise rates until inflation is contained. The good news is the economy is still relatively strong. I believe the most likely result is a relatively mild recession.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Hopefully, an NBA franchise.”
NEW NO. 1: Last year, the workload doubled for his firm when Creative Planning acquired Lockton Retirement Services. Creative had recently passed the $100 billion AUM threshold itself, but infusing Lockton’s $110 billion in account value pushed Creative Planning to the head of the pack for wealth-management firms in this region.
Senior Vice President, TVH Americas
Belgian-based TVH couldn’t offer Simon Witdouck the world as an employer, but it did come through with half a planet last fall when it put him in charge of the western hemisphere from its Olathe headquarters for TVH Americas. He joined the industrial parts supplier a decade ago as a corporate development manager and now oversees operations that generated $419 million last year.
COLLEGE: Master in Law, Ghent (Belgium) University; M.S., London School of Economics and Political Science; post-graduate studies, University of Leuven
BEFORE: Witdouck came up through the ranks working as a corporate development manager, including TVH Brazil and Bepco Group, the agricultural division of TVH Parts Holding. His duties also included COO for Bepco, before he was assigned to the KC area as vice president of operations.
OTHER DUTIES: Witdouck is also a member of the parent company’s Global Management Team.
FAMILY OWNED: It’s not often you find a family business that operates on six continents, but TVH Parts is just that. For a decade, the Olathe operation was run by Els Thermote of the ownership family.
CASHING IN: Last year, TVH sold a 40 percent stake in the company to a Brussels-based conglomerate, a deal that placed the value of the family’s enterprise at $3.65 billion Euros, or about $4.2 billion in U.S. currency at the time of the sale.
CEO, Security Benefit Corp.
The torch has been passed at Security Benefit, and now Doug Wolff is the man tasked with bringing both heat and light to the retirement-services world and its tech platforms. In June, he succeeded Mike Kiley, who turned it from a firm with $10 billion in assets under management into one with $50 billion. In Wolff, the firm opted for leadership consistency; he had been president of the Security Benefit Life arm since 2011, a year after Kiley came on board.
COLLEGE: B.S., Finance/Actuarial Science, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
BEFORE SECURITY: Wolff’s career started with Ernst & Young as a consultant for eight years, then he headed to Allstate as director and actuary for nearly seven more. He’s been with Security Benefit Life for nearly 21 years.
LOOKING AHEAD: “As CEO, I plan to continue our trajectory of growth and have confidence in the people we have in place to execute on the tremendous opportunity we have before us,” Wolff said when the transition was announced.
HUMBLE ORIGINS: Security Benefit traces its roots back nearly 130 years to the Knights and Ladies of Security—11 people who chipped in a dollar each to create a fraternal insurance provider. The mission has evolved greatly since then, and it’s a major retirement-services company with a strong fintech presence.
President, Honeywell FM&T
Eric Wollerman’s group helps keep America safe in ways most of us don’t know about: The Kansas City National Security Campus, managed by Honeywell, is a key defense contractor. “During the pandemic, we supported the National Nuclear Security Administration in delivering two weapon programs into production in support of the U.S. Navy and Air Force,” Wollerman said. He credits that success to a team-wide, consistent focus on excellence in support of that mission.
COLLEGE: B.S., Industrial Engineering, M.S., Industrial & Systems Engineering, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison
ACQUIRING TALENT: “While our attrition rates are far below the national average, we know we can’t rest on our heels during a tight labor market or any other time. We continue to recruit for well-paying, stable careers at local high schools, community colleges, universities, and at career fairs.”
RETAINING TALENT: “It is important that we have good employee engagement, and we work to foster that by hosting intramural sports, e-sports leagues, and investing $1 million in our communities which provides our employees the opportunity to volunteer and give back to our communities.”
COVID PERSPECTIVE: “COVID-19 safety protocols forced all businesses, including us, to look at our remote work differently. Due to the nature of work, remote office work was the exception prior to the pandemic. For many of our non-manufacturing roles, we have been able to use IT and other tools to do our jobs in a hybrid model in the workplace.”Even with the switchover to hybrid office work, the KCNSC delivered on all our customers’ requests on time.”
He’s new to the Kansas City market, wrapping up the process of moving from Dallas, and here, Keith Zimmerman will oversee the market-leading hospital network in terms of staffed beds and one of the largest workforces in the region, with more than 10,000 providers and support staff. Across its 100 care sites, the health system had nearly 600,000 patient encounters last year, and with a $916 million payroll, it paid nearly $200 million in taxes.
COLLEGE: B.A., Business Administration, University of Louisiana-Lafayette; MBA, Regis University
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “In 2021, our health system was the only provider in the region with six hospitals to earn the highest patient safety and quality rankings by The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit watchdog organization that serves as a voice for health-care consumers.”
RECESSION PREP: “Throughout our history, whether during an economic downturn, natural disasters, and weather events such as floods or tornados, our health system has not only overcome challenges, but our employees consistently show up to support the patients and communities we serve.”
CHALLENGES AHEAD: “Hospital employment data indicates a critical shortage of staff necessary to meet that demand. While our health system is not immune to this trend, with the strategies we have implemented and with the strength and sharing of best practices across HCA Healthcare, we are poised to overcome these challenges while providing high-quality, compassionate patient care.”
KC’S NEXT BIG THING: “Multiple NFL Super Bowl wins for the Kansas City Chiefs!”