Though economic challenges have created some roadblocks for local manufacturing, the industry is still alive and breaking barriers in the Tristate "” and the MANNY Awards are here to celebrate that fact.

This year, we once again honor outstanding local manufacturing companies for their innovation and best practices. On the following pages, we profile 15 Greater Cincinnati companies of all sizes, ages and ownerships that have exhibited success in the areas of creating great workplaces, designing new products, making breakthroughs, charting growth and committing to green initiatives. (An independent panel representing various sectors conducted judging for the MANNYs.)

Winners will be honored at a banquet on June 2 at Xavier University's Cintas Center. (Seats are still available at $60. Tables of eight may be reserved for $450.
Call (513) 297-6218 or visit www.cincymagazine.com.)

In the fourth annual MANNY Awards, we highlight not only the winners listed here, but also our winners from past years.

 
To read more about the  2010 MANNY Awards please visit the links below.
 
Best Place to Work
 
Ghent Manufacturing
 
LOCATION: Lebanon
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1978
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 123
CEO/PRESIDENT: George Leasure
WEB ADDRESS: http://www.ghent.com
MANUFACTURES: Visual communication products

Family-owned Ghent Manufacturing is a leading producer of communication products, and that commitment to interaction isn't lost on the internal operations.

The company treats employees like family, giving excellent benefits, awarding workers for annual milestones, throwing parties and creating a yearbook.

Workers are honored for years of service at an annual luncheon, and bonuses are given after certain milestones are hit. But the company doesn't necessarily need a milestone to celebrate "” pizza, ice cream and cookouts are known to sporadically pop up at Ghent's offices.

"Our team members are very important to us, and we certainly feel it is important to tell them so," says Executive Vice President G. Mark Leasure.

The company keeps continuous communication going with newsletters and a yearbook, which includes full-color portraits of all employees.

"The yearbook was initially created to help put a face to a name," Leasure says. "As years passed, the yearbook evolved and now includes themes and milestone anniversary photos as well as an index listing employees and their occupations, locations and years of service."

Richards Industries

LOCATION: Hyde Park/Oakley
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1948
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 120
CEO/PRESIDENT: Bruce Broxterman
WEB ADDRESS: www.richardsind.com
MANUFACTURES: Specialty industry valves

While some bosses send employees out on their coffee runs, those at Richards Industries are invited to share a cup and conversation with President Bruce Broxterman.

But coffee breaks aren't the extent of corporate relations at RI. The benefits package rivals larger companies', and business events are made to remember.

Even when many companies are experiencing layoffs, RI committed instead to their 50-plus years of no layoffs or shortened work weeks, giving wage increases and bonuses, and continuing to invest in employees through retirement plans, wellness efforts and new machines.

"I'm so thankful that I work for a stable and thriving business where the benefits mirror those of a bigger company and the management genuinely cares about the employees," says Cheryl Koopman, vice president for human resources.

Once they're part of the team, RI employees can look forward to annual recognition dinners (think home run derbies at Great American Ballpark and kicking field goals at Paul Brown Stadium), an annual golf league and company picnics at Kings Island.

 
Mesa Industries, Inc.
 
LOCATION: Cincinnati
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1967
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 75
CEO/PRESIDENT: Terry Segerberg
WEB ADDRESS: http://www.mesa-industries.com
MANUFACTURES: Products for petroleum & construction industries

At Mesa Industries, the key to success is keeping an open dialogue.

Since 2007, the company has utilized strategic planning groups, which pair employees from different areas to collaborate on issues affecting the business. "I believe that we benefited as much from these groups of people working together as we did from the results they achieved," says CEO Terry Segerberg.

Mesa also strives to keep open lines of communication. Newsletters, frequent announcements and complimentary group lunches keep everyone on the same page. Rather than covering up economic challenges, Segerberg even brought in employees for a straightforward discussion. "I can now add that it was probably one of the smartest things I could have done," she says.

 
 

 
New Product Development / Innovation
 
CONTECH Construction Products, Inc
 

LOCATION: West Chester
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1986
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 1,443
CEO/PRESIDENT: Ronald Keating
WEB ADDRESS: http://www.contech-cpi.com
MANUFACTURES: Civil engineering site solutions products

 
It is crucial for CONTECH Construction Products to provide the best bridge, drainage, erosion control, retaining wall, sanitary, soil stabilization and storm water solutions on a national scale.

Keeping on top of this national market was made easier with the creation of DuroMaxx steel-reinforced polyethylene pipe. The revolutionary product supplies strength, long-term service and durability and sets a new standard for pipe durability in the industry.

The patented pipe is lightweight, low-cost and easier to install, and has a smooth inner wall for high hydraulic capacity. DuroMaxx can be used for culvert, detention, storm sewer, sanitary sewer, irrigation and more.

The product has helped transition CONTECH's product line from its previously dominant corrugated steel pipe technology. It hopes to see DuroMaxx become a vehicle for revenue growth over the next five years.

Others have taken notice, as DuroMaxx was recognized as a finalist in the New Product Contest "Specialty" category at the Irrigation Association Show in San Antonio this past December. So far, more than 30 miles of DuroMaxx pipe have been successfully installed in 30 states across the country.

 
Enerfab

LOCATION: Cincinnati
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1901
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 300
CEO/PRESIDENT: Wendell Bell
WEB ADDRESS: www.enerfab.com
MANUFACTURES: Steel-plated process systems
 
 
Anyone enjoying a cold glass of juice with breakfast may have encountered a new, innovative creation by local process systems manufacturer Enerfab.

The company specializes in renovating existing equipment with engineering capabilities. Recently, Enerfab and Purdue University developed a unique sterilization method for not-from-concentrate juice, fresh fruits and vegetables. Known as Aseptic Bulk Storage Technology, it allows for the safer storage and transfer of not-from-concentrate juice, fruits and vegetables throughout the world.

"It will let them sterilize equipment in one day instead of a week, it's a green product, and it lowers cost," says Jeff Raasch, executive vice president. In 2009, Enerfab became the first and only company to use chlorine dioxide gas technology in the sterilization process.

"The juice producers are all aware of it and are scheduling installation of the equipment," Raasch adds.

 
The Hillman Group

LOCATION: Cincinnati
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1964
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 468
CEO/PRESIDENT: Richard Hillman, Max Hillman Jr.
WEB ADDRESS: http://www.hillmangroup.com
MANUFACTURES: Hardware-related products

 The Hillman Group has found the key to success "” well, the key machine to success, that is.

Axxess Laser Key Machines have become a valuable creation for the company and its customers. The state-of-the-art, patented, dual laser and digital key identification process makes key duplication more accurate, with 99.5% cutting accuracy.

The process is not only efficient, but also inexpensive, as employees are less likely to incorrectly cut keys.

The Laser Key system identifies an exact matching blank key and gives a correct blank the first time. It also identifies "trick keys" and hard-to-find keys with generic head shapes and no markings.

The system is offered in various retail channels.
 
 


 
Top Growth
 
Intelligrated

LOCATION: Mason
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 2001
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 500
CEO/PRESIDENT: Chris Cole
WEB ADDRESS: http://www.intelligrated.com
MANUFACTURES: Automated material handling solutions
 

Intelligrated had 17 employees when it started in 2001. Today, that number is up to an astounding 1,500-plus worldwide.

Intelligrated is an automated material handling company with operations in various sectors, such as retail and wholesale distribution, food, beverage, apparel, postal and pharmaceutical. In addition to its headquarters in Mason, Intelligrated now operates in 10 states, Canada and Mexico.

"Fortunately, our customer base had programs that they continued with during the slow down or at least did not significantly postpone or stop completely. Additionally, the acquisition of FKI helped to add more customer programs," says Jim McKnight, vice president of systems sales and marketing.

Revenue has also skyrocketed, from $38 million in 2005 to $264 million in 2009. Even with the worldwide success, Intelligrated has committed to its original home in Ohio, seeking to retain 537 full-time jobs and create 267 more over the next three years.

"Our ability to service the customer remotely through software products," McKnight explains, "makes it advantageous for companies to purchase from Intelligrated."

 
 
StratusGroup, Inc.

LOCATION: West Chester
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1992
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 123
CEO/PRESIDENT: Robert Curran
WEB ADDRESS: http://www.stratusgrp.com
MANUFACTURES: Printing, packaging and labeling products

Whether its work shows up on spirits bottles, food containers, beauty products or pharmaceuticals, StratusGroup Inc. is making an imprint on its industry and the local economy.

StratusGroup specializes in pressure-sensitive labels, printing and paperboard technology. The company was started in 1992 by father-son team Robert and Curtis Curran.

In the past few years the company has experienced unprecedented growth. Stratus Group has vastly increased revenues, with gross revenue going from $10 million in 2004 to $21.3 million in 2009. This has allowed StratusGroup to take on new employees as well. In 2004 the company employed 60, and today they have increased that number to 123.

This has allowed reinvestment in property and equipment to add capacity, utilize new technology and invest in green initiatives when possible. StratusGroup has already invested over $7 million in capital equipment and facilities, in addition to contributing to nonprofits such as the United Way.

 
 
Servatii
 
LOCATION: Cincinnati
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1965
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 200+
CEO/PRESIDENT: Gary Gottenbusch
WEB ADDRESS: www.servatiipastryshop.com
MANUFACTURES: Baked goods
 

When local bakery chain Servatii felt the heat of declining sales a few years ago, it didn't get out of the kitchen.

Instead, the company opted to change its strategies to work with clients' healthier lifestyles and the increasing cost of flour. For a snack with less guilt, Servatii patented its own "easy-tear" pretzel stick, and also started making bread without trans-fat. A type of purple wheat high in antioxidants was also added to the bakery's pantry.

Servatii kept costs in check by helping to found a purchasing association to reduce the prices on commodities such as flour and shortening by buying them in partnership with other companies.

These changes have permitted the company to open new retail spaces. "We looked at the opportunities of retail spaces in high-traffic areas, avoided wasting space by having smaller spaces, and have them closer to people so we can bake them fresh food daily," says owner Gary Gottenbusch.

The changes have worked. Servatii has had its best years in a decade, with sales increasing 15% and 16-17% in the past couple years, respectively, to over $10 million. "We work together to make the best products for our customers," Gottenbusch says.
 

 
Green Award
 
LSI Industries
 
LOCATION: Blue Ash
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Public
FOUNDED: 1976
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 400
CEO/PRESIDENT: Bob Ready, Scott Ready
WEB ADDRESS: http://www.lsi-industries.com
MANUFACTURES: Corporate visual image solutions

In cartoons, ideas pop up in the form of light bulbs. At LSI Industries, ideas come in the form of energy-efficient light bulbs in just about every setting.

The Crossover LED Lighting Fixtures were developed for superior lighting performance using less energy than traditional lighting sources. It truly is a "crossover," as a transition to a new era of energy conservation in lighting. The company believes it will become an ever-increasing percentage of the lighting industry's production, relieving the load on the country's energy grid and reducing the amount of mercury committed to landfills with the disposal of old technology lamps.

LSI has a comprehensive product line, with fixtures designed specifically for roadways, parking lots, wall mounts, in-ground landscaping, signs, architectural features and more. In less than three years, over 100,000 Crossover LED fixtures have been installed, and that number is growing.

Every one installed reduces energy consumption by 40% to 80% (depending on the fixture) when compared to a traditional alternative. This has a similar impact on the environment to removing 10,000 cars from the roads each year.

LSI is an ENERGY STAR partner, and Convenience Store Petroleum Magazine has recognized the Crossover LED as a 2008 "Best New Product."

 
Pro Mach, Inc.

LOCATION: Loveland
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1998
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 7
CEO/PRESIDENT: Mark Anderson
WEB ADDRESS: http://www.promachinc.com
MANUFACTURES: Packaging machinery solutions

For packaging company Pro Mach Inc., less is more for the products they create.

To commit to environmental initiatives, Pro Mach, which has 800 employees nationwide, has piloted several packaging changes aimed at reducing waste in consumer products.

The company paired up with Nestlé Waters North America to engineer a capping solution to reduce packaging material and maintain line speeds. Since the changes, Nestlé estimates that it uses a third less plastic than before, translating to a 95 million-pound reduction and $60 million of savings.

Pro Mach's PolyPro division also makes stamped single and multi-pack handles for the beverage industry that use less resin and are completely recyclable. More of these handles can be packed onto a pallet, which decreases shipping costs, fuel consumption and cardboard use.

Finally, in the transport of fresh produce, product trays can come loose, causing food product loss and damage. Pro Mach developed a solution to automatically wrap trays of varying heights and products with split rolls of film and software programming. This reduced food product loss and material costs.

 
Rumpke Recycling

LOCATION: Cincinnati
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1989
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 2,300
CEO/PRESIDENT: William Rumpke Sr.
WEB ADDRESS: www.rumpkerecycling.com
MANUFACTURES: Recycling technology

In 2008, the value of recycled commodities dropped 70 percent "” but that didn't stop Rumpke Recycling from investing about $6 million in its largest recycling facility.

For Rumpke, the cost is worth it for the environmental preservation opportunities created for future generations in years to come.

Rumpke decided to add Ti-Tech, a state-of-the-art sorting technology that will make it just one of 24 plants in the country utilizing the system. Ti-Tech allows participants to recycle more types of products, including all kinds of plastic bottles. (Previously just two could be recycled.)

Ti-Tech sorts materials by shape, size and plastic content, which increases Rumpke's sorting efficiency from 93 to 97 percent. The more materials the system catches, the fewer end up in landfills. Once materials are separated, they are compacted into bales that weight 800-1,200 pounds and are then sent to manufacturers that will use them to make new products.

 

 
Biggest Breakthrough
 
Melink Corporation
 
LOCATION: Milford
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1987
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 93
CEO/PRESIDENT: Steve Melink
WEB ADDRESS: www.melinkcorp.com
MANUFACTURES: Renewable energy solutions

The Melink Corporation is a certified HVAC commissioner and leader in renewable energy solutions. But in order to sell to customers, it had to walk the walk.

Melink took a huge step forward in an effort to become a leader in energy and environmental improvement efforts and products. Despite the poor economy, CEO Steve Melink challenged the company to reach LEED Platinum certification for its headquarters, which would make them the first organization in Ohio and one of 25 facilities globally to achieve the certification.

The company accepted the lofty challenge, implementing solar collectors, natural sunlight, automatic lighting systems, water recycling systems and offering employees incentives to buy green cars. Today, the building is estimated to be 75% more efficient than its conventional counterparts.

Melink's headquarters recently received 97 out of 100 for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Award. In January, the company also reached its goal of LEED Platinum certification. Melink has expanded its product line and vision to reduce energy consumption and take a more holistic approach to their services.

Now that the company has reached its green goals, it hopes to help customers do the same.

 
 
Graeter's Manufacturing Co.
 
LOCATION: Cincinnati
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 1870
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 325
CEO/PRESIDENT: Richard Graeter
WEB ADDRESS: http://www.graters.com
MANUFACTURES: Ice cream, food products

Irresistible. It's not just the slogan for Graeter's mouth-watering ice creams, but also how the company felt about recent expansion.

In 2009, the local food manufacturer was experiencing growing pains at its location on Reading Road. The space offered limited opportunities for growth, so Graeter's began the quest for a larger, more modern manufacturing facility and distribution center.

Paddock Road in Bond Hill proved to be the answer. The new facility will be devoted solely to ice cream production, utilizing the company's famed French Pot Process. It will also upgrade to a larger freezer, loading dock and a blend room to churn out delectable family recipes such as Black Raspberry Chip and other favorites.

Corporate offices will also move to Paddock Road, with some offices maintained on Reading. The expansion will allow for about 30 new jobs at the site.

"It's exciting to see one of our hometown, family companies grow and succeed, and I couldn't be happier that they chose to continue to grow it right here in Cincinnati," says Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory. "The city is pleased to partner with Graeter's to help build their new facility and create new jobs in our community."

 
Mil Air

LOCATION: Milford
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Private
FOUNDED: 2007
NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYEES: 28
CEO/PRESIDENT: Bruce J. Burton
WEB ADDRESS: www.milairinc.com
MANUFACTURES: Heavy-duty air conditioners


When Michigan-based Burtek Inc. saw a gap in the industrial air conditioning industry, it decided to enter the business itself. Its new location would need a research and manufacturing background with a talented workforce.

Cincinnati was a clear choice.

From there, Mil Air was born in 2007. The company began designing and building heavy-duty air conditioners for use in military and marine environments. Engineers started by conducting field studies to determine why units failed in desert environments.

Finding faults in refrigeration components, they used 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) to redesign them to reduce vibration and wear. They also used a CAD-directed tube-bending machine to make a continuous, uninterrupted piece of refrigeration tubing to eliminate weaknesses at solder points.