Family-Owned Business Recap

The Regional Chamber, in collaboration with ScaleCo, Huntington and HBK, honored 20 family-owned businesses at the Valley's inaugural Family-Owned Business Recognition Dinner on Friday, March 11, at the Lake Club in Poland. The event was a continuation of the Family-Owned Business Program, an informative panel series that launched in 2021.

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HBK Growth Story


The HBK Growth Story Award is presented to a family-owned business that took its enterprise to the next level.

Nominees in this category are:

  • Dinesol Plastics. The company that has grown and evolved into one of the nation’s premier custom injection molding service providers started in 1976 as small plastic injection molding company operating in a 12,000 square-foot facility in West Farmington. After being acquired by Steel City Manufacturing, Dinesol moved to a 50,000 square-foot facility in Niles before expanding to 150,000 square feet to meet increasing demand.
  • REM Electronics Supply Co. In 1955, Robert E. Miller started the company that sold and serviced TV antennas and hi-fi equipment. Today REM is a full-service general line distributor, with over 75,000 square feet of space in Warren, and a global leader in the distribution of electronic components and services. Distribution sales were up 31% in 2021, and REM surpassed the year’s forecast by three-quarters of a million dollars.
  • Buckeye Dealership Consulting. In 2008, this Poland-based business started with a vision. Today, it’s a reality due to knowledge, experience and focus. Buckeye Dealership Consulting, founded by Rob Fox, Sr., is a leading provider of reinsurable F&I products and training in the automotive space, delivering real results to thousands of dealers and reinsurance companies across the country, including ‘buy here, pay here,’ retail and independent finance companies.
  • Quality Switch, Inc. This Newton Falls company manufactures de-energized tap changers and electrical switches used primarily in transformers and load centers. Horace Sewell founded the company in the 1950s, but by the mid-1990s, the company had stopped growing and was quickly becoming non-profitable. Refocusing on its product mix and developing new products have since resulted in the company’s growing six-fold.


HBK Growth Story Award Recipient: Quality Switch

Quality Switch started by selling products to two local companies in Warren, Ohio and Sharon, Pa. in the 1960s and ‘70s. Business outside the area was limited, and growth stopped by the mid-1980s. By the 1990s, the company had fallen into a non-profitable existence. In 1995 the company took a close look at its product mix and began to focus on where it would be able to  make a profit. The decision was made to change the product mix, develop new products, and focus more directly on the customers. With an increase in overall sales dollars, and a return to profitability, today about 40% of the company’s business is export. The prime countries for export are Canada, Mexico, Korea, China, Brazil, Columbia, and Australia. The domestic market has grown along with the export business, too.

As an indication of the global reach of the company, several countries, including Australia, China, and Columbia, have made annual purchases without ever having direct face to face contact with anyone from Quality Switch. That business was due to referrals spreading through the industry. The company is also very active writing international standards, both IEEE and IEC, that are used worldwide in the electrical transformer industry. The business has grown more than 6-fold since 1995 and invested in CNC equipment, worker training and two building expansions. One of those building expansions was a high-voltage test lab with capabilities up to 1.2 million volts.

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Huntington Social Impact Award 

The Huntington Social Impact Award focuses on a family-owned business that went above and beyond to support the community while leveraging the business. 

Nominees in this category are:


  • Cafaro Company: William Cafaro created the Cafaro Family Foundation in 1996 after he and his wife Alyce had spent years quietly giving to our community. The foundation has donated more than $20 million to worthy causes, including annual scholarships given to students in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys.
  • Thompson Insurance Group: The Thompson Insurance Group has been community-focused since 1947. Father-Son Owners David and Andrew Thompson have supported nearly 140 organizations and served on numerous non-profit boards, such as the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation and American Red Cross, and chaired several fundraisers.
  • Dr. Rajiv Taneja, a dentist at Austin Square Dental, didn’t remain idle when Covid temporarily shut down his office. He took hot meals to hospitals, nursing homes and other medical outfits to help the staff fighting against Covid. He also volunteered as an emergency dentist and helped at food pantries and kitchens.
  • Iron & String Life Enhancement: Jim Sutman and Jill Perencevic started Iron and String Life Enhancement, Inc., in 1998 to provide a variety of services and programming to developmentally disabled individuals and those with special needs in our region. During Covid, their clients needed them more than ever, and Sutman and Perencevic worked to ensure they were as unaffected as possible.


Huntington Social Impact Award Recipient: Iron & String Life Enhancement

Since 1998, Iron & String Life Enhancement’s—or ISLE’s—mission has been to sustain the wellbeing of adults with disabilities by promoting fulfillment in a pleasing and caring environment. The organization provides residential, respite, transportation, advocacy, vocational services, and day habilitative programming to more than 150 disabled adult clients in Mahoning, Trumbull, Lawrence and Mercer counties. In 2003, Purple Cat, a division of ISLE, was started to offer day-programming alternatives for clients.

In 2005, Touch the Moon Candy Saloon was founded to support Purple Cat and provide viable employment for adults with developmental disabilities. The saloon in downtown Youngstown specializes in retro and regional candies. And, in 2010, the unique Golden String Radio station was also founded to give these clients an opportunity to operate the station and serve as DJs, clerical staff, creative directors and technical support.

COVID was a very difficult time for many of ISLE and Purple Cat clients. They were unable to work and get out of their homes. A large majority of the clients did not understand why things changed. Through this entire period, Owners Jim Sutman and Jill Perencevic managed their business and their clients in a way that allowed the clients to still live fulfilling lives, even amid a global pandemic. This was not an easy feat. Jim and Jill often serve as medical advocates for clients. The pandemic’s inherent difficulties including mask mandates and restrictions on gathering compounded the challenges. Through everything, Jim and Jill’s primary focus was always on the clients.

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Scaleco Success in Succession Award 

The Scaleco Success in Succession Award recognizes and highlights a well-executed and unique succession plan that occurred in recent years. 
The nominees in this category were: 
  • Cafaro Company, a third-generation family-owned retail development business headquartered in Niles. Started more than 70 years ago by William Cafaro, the company today has a portfolio that encompasses more than 50 properties in 14 states.
  • Livi Steel, Inc., a third-generation family-owned business that began as a structural steel fabricator, founded by Donald Livi in 1977 in Warren. Livi Steel continues to grow and has been, and will continue to be, a large employer in Trumbull County.
  • ms consultants, inc. opened its doors in Youngstown in 1963. The engineering and architecture firm started by the Mosure family also includes three generations of leadership and a succession plan that was recently implemented at the company.
  • Power Tool & Supply Co., Inc., formed in 1961 in Youngstown to supply local industry and contractors with tools necessary to operate their businesses. The company started by the Jones brothers has operated as an employee-owned and operated company that has spanned the generations.

    Scaleco Success in Succession Award Recipient: The Cafaro Company

The Cafaro Company is now in its third generation of family ownership. This seldom-seen feat was accomplished through a careful, deliberate process initiated by founder William M. Cafaro. As he was building his shopping center development company into a nationally recognized firm in the 1960's, he made sure that his sons and daughter started learning the business from the ground up. This meant that from the age of 12 or 13, they spent their summers working in maintenance or janitorial jobs at the company's Eastwood Mall in Niles. Gradually, they were exposed to entry-level tasks in each of the various departments of the company. This served as a means to determine the natural strengths each sibling possessed. By the time those siblings had attained their college degrees, they were ready to step into lower-level positions where they were mentored by experienced employees.

By the time the second generation, Anthony, John and Flora Cafaro, reached upper management positions in the company, they were already repeating the process with their own children. While this "organic" succession training was going on, CEO William was creating an ownership structure that would not be weakened if any one successor would leave the business. By the time the third generation came of age, it was clear that only Anthony Cafaro's sons, William and Anthony, Jr., would actively lead the company. Today, they serve as Co-Presidents. Because of William's acumen for finance, he directs the investment, accounting and related cash management functions of the company. Anthony Jr. focuses on leasing and development of the portfolio of real estate holdings. Now, a fourth generation is in training.

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Local To National Presence Award 

The Local to National Presence Award is presented to a business that has managed to develop a national or global presence while remaining family-owned.

The nominees in this category are:
  • American Business Center, also known as ABC. This 40-year-old Boardman business founded by Bob Wagner is an independent sales, service, supply, and support organization for office equipment, solutions, and software needs. ABC primarily represents Ricoh, a Global Fortune 500 company. Ricoh has repeatedly recognized ABC as a national leader and authorized the company to use and market its name on their products, which is rare for independent dealers.
  • Aim Transportation Solutions. This nationwide provider of B2B transportation services was born in Youngstown and started by J.V. McNicholas as a horse-and-buggy hauling business in 1903. The business would evolve into a truck leasing business, with 25 trucks on hand. Today, Aim has more than 100 operations scattered throughout the U.S. As one of the largest full-service leasing companies in the nation, Aim maintains over 11,000 vehicles.
  • Thompson Insurance Group. is a subsidiary of the Thompson Insurance Group that specializes in insurance for pet business professionals such as groomers, mobile groomers, kennels, pet stores, pet trainers, and veterinarians. Pet Biz has now grown to be of the nation’s leaders in providing the pet business industry with insurance solutions over the years. Since 1986, Pet Biz Insurance has helped just shy of 9,000 pet industry professionals.
  • Humtown Products. Humtown Products has grown and thrived under three generations of Lamonchas. A small pattern shop opened in 1959 would eventually become sand core and mold production. With the exploration of 3D printing, Humtown’s growth would explode, and the resulting Humtown Additive division has revolutionized the foundry industry. With nine 3D sand printers at its Leetonia facility, Humtown boasts the most under one roof in North America.

    Local To National Presence Award Recipient: Aim Transportation Solutions

    Aim Transportation Solutions, with dual headquarters in Youngstown and Girard, experienced record-breaking revenue in 2021. The business, started by J.V. McNicholas to haul meat and luggage from the rail yards in Youngstown became a successful hauling business, and then in 1980, McNicholas Transportation branched into leasing trucks. J.V.’s grandson, Tom Fleming, managed this division, known as the Aim Leasing Company, and would purchase it two years later. In addition to its 11,000 vehicles and operations across the country, Aim employs more than 1,200 people—nearly 400 of them in our Valley.

    The Aim Leasing Company has evolved into Aim Transportation Solutions, the parent company that encompasses not only Aim Leasing Company but Aim Integrated Logistics, the division of Aim that offers dedicated contract carriage, 3PL brokerage services, and other supply chain solutions. Aim Integrated was listed as number 22 nationwide in Transport Topics ‘Largest Dedicated Fleets’ list in 2021 and continues to make waves throughout the country as the national truck driver shortage crisis tightens and causes businesses to look for alternative distribution solutions. 

    Tom Fleming has grown Aim into a successful business, a nationwide provider of service, and an important link in America’s supply chain over the last 4 decades. He currently holds the title of Chairman and CEO of Aim and runs the business alongside his two sons, Scott Fleming and Geoff Fleming, who both hold the title of Co-President. 
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Family-Owned Business Advocate of the Year 

The Family-Owned Business Advocate of the Year award is given to a business or an individual involved in an initiative that supported the family-owned business ecosystem locally. 

Nominees in this category are:
  • Chuck George, owner of HAPCO in Kent and Strangepresse, headquartered at the YBI, has been a stalwart advocate for all things business in the Valley for many years. He has recognized the economic value of the arts industry and been a champion for cultural institutions and museums. He understands the unique, competitive advantage the Valley has in additive manufacturing and has evangelized this to both government officials and private sector manufacturers. 
  • HBK CPAs & Consultants began in 1949 when accountants Roland Hill, William Barth and Wally King formed a partnership in Youngstown. What started as one office has become a Top 100 CPA firm in the U.S., with more than 500 employees at offices in four states, that provides small to mid-market business and personal financial solutions. Forbes named HBK among the best tax and accounting firms, and the State of Ohio named HBK a Best Employer.
  • Valley Economic Development Partners, located in Youngstown, has been helping businesses grow, expand and thrive in our region for the past 44 years. The organization offers more than 15 different loan programs in 8 counties in Ohio and 4 in Pennsylvania and has assisted hundreds of businesses in obtaining millions of dollars. Over the past couple of years, Valley Partners has focused even more of its efforts on helping businesses through the pandemic.
  • Dr. Rajiv Taneja of the Austin Square Dental Group may be a dentist by trade, but another of his passions is commercial real estate. He helps his tenants when needed, and his most recent endeavor in opening Choolah Indian BBQ in Boardman resulted in the creation of several jobs and added a new flavor to the community of restaurants in the Valley.

    Family-Owned Business Advocate of the Year Recipient: Valley Economic Development Partners

    Valley Economic Development Partners was created in 1978 and then known as the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation. The agency is a certified development corporation approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration to administer federal loan programs and is also a certified community development financial Institution focused on efforts to help underserved communities in the region.
    In 2020, the organization changed its name to Valley Economic Development Partners to better reflect its expanded service area and growing partnerships. 
    Through all of their efforts, the team at the agency experienced a record-breaking year in 2021. Through SBA lending, partnering with the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners and various lending programs, Valley Partners processed and closed 914 loans and grants to support small businesses that are working through the pandemic.

    Under the direction of Executive Director Theresa Miller, and with her team of 7, the agency’s mission is to develop employment opportunities by providing access to capital with specialized flexible lending solutions. 
    And in 2021, the focus was also on offering short-term, lower-interest rate financing to help companies get through the pandemic-induced economic crisis. Valley Partners was able to help bring $66.9 million into the regional economy and help to create or retain over 500 jobs.
    Last year Valley Partners added a business coach to its team to provide technical assistance to companies, and classes for entrepreneurs will begin this year.