2007 40Under40 Winners
Marc Burkholder, 36
Vice President, Burkholder Construction
Leadership comes naturally for Marc Burkholder. The former University of Michigan football player is now the VP of sales and operations of his family-run construction business and the president of the local University of Michigan Alumni Club.
He is on the Board of Directors for the Grand Traverse Area Home Builders Association (HBA) and participates on the Expo (Past Chairman 2006) and Public Relations committees for the HBA.
He also remains true to his sporting roots, serving on the Leadership Board of the Fourth and Goal Capital Campaign to complete the renovations and enhancements of Thirlby Field. He is also a Leadership Grand Traverse graduate.
“Marc Burkholder has repeatedly demonstrated his unwavering commitment to the building industry,” says Kathy Maisonville, executive officer of the area HBA. “He is dedicated to our Traverse City region volunteering his time in many different venues-not because he will glean any financial benefit or personal recognition, but merely because he believes it’s the right thing to do. Marc is a consummate professional and just an all-around quality human being.”
Chris Bzdok, 35
President, Olson, Bzdok & Howard, P.C.
Chris Bzdok certainly qualified as a “young influencer” in the Grand Traverse region-and that was before he became a City Commissioner.
Bzdok heads a local law firm that’s gained national notoriety for its work in environmental, land use and Indian law.
Along with the firm’s Tracy “TJ” Andrews, Bzdok is currently representing the gateway community of Southwest Detroit, which teamed up with the City of Windsor, Ontario to fight Grosse Pointe billionaire Matty Maroun’s attempt to build a second span of the Ambassador Bridge.
Bzdok and his colleague Jeff Jocks are handling the case of 60 Manton residents whose household wells have been contaminated by the Wexford County Landfill.
In addition to private practice, Bzdok is an Adjunct Professor at Michigan State University College of Law, where he teaches Environmental Law and Water Law. He is also a member of the Governing Council of the State Bar of Michigan’s Environmental Law Section. In January of this year, he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the City Commission in Traverse City. Chris is now running for the two years left on the seat he was appointed to.
“As principle in the leading environmental law firm in the state, he is helping set policy and precedent on many influential cases involving use and misuse of natural resources, farming, citizen input, and privatization issues,” said Sarna Salzman, executive director of SEEDS.
Matt Case, 34
Director of Support Services, Schmidt Real Estate; Associate Broker, Coldwell Banker Schmidt – Benzie County office
An up and comer within the Coldwell Banker organization of 40 offices in western and northern Michigan and the incoming president of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors (TAAR), Matt Case is considered a valuable asset in the industry.
“Matt represents all that is good in the new business generation: he is technology skilled, well-educated, efficient with his time, honest and collaborative,” said Judith Lindenau, outgoing executive vice president, Traverse Area Association of Realtors.
In his new position of Director of Support Services, he launch initiatives impacting all of the company’s business units, including Coldwell Banker Woodland Schmidt serving Western Michigan, Coldwell Banker AJS Schmidt serving the Greater Grand Rapids market, and Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors serving Northern Michigan and the UP.
He has served as director of TAAR since 2005, as well as treasurer and on the Executive Search Committee. He is past president and charter member of the Benzie Sunrise Rotary Club.
Jim Casler, 39
President, Pinnacle Financial Corporation
Executive Director, Divorce Connections LLC
Jim Casler is not one to wait for something to happen; he gets it done.
Founding Chairman of the Northern Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association, Casler has served on the Board of Governors of the Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association in 2003 and 2004 and is currently a member of the Finance Committee of the Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools. He serves as Committee Chair and Pastoral Council Member of St. Joseph Catholic Church and is a volunteer coach at the YMCA.
He has written several industry articles and is the host of northern Michigan’s first and only mortgage and real estate podcast and blog, “The Pinnacle Radio Report.” He also developed a proprietary “paperless” loan process, “The Perfect Loan Process.”
As the head of “Divorce Connections,” he leads a team of legal, emotional and financial experts that help people with the “Cooperative Divorce” process and hosts a company podcast called “Divorce Talk.”
Judy Robinson, a realtor who’s had many dealings with Casler, says he “exemplifies true professionalism with his friendly approach and attention to detail.”
Kandace Chapple, 32
Co-publisher, Grand Traverse Woman Magazine
Co-founder, Grand Traverse Mom Network
As publishers of Grand Traverse Woman Magazine, a bi-monthly magazine by and for women in northern Michigan, Kandace Chapple and her twin sister, Kerry Winkler, are tuned into what women are talking about.
Chapple serves as editor and designer for the magazine, now in its fifth year. GTWoman recently expanded its distribution beyond the Grand Traverse area to also include Petoskey and Charlevoix. Total circulation is up 20 percent to 12,000 copies.
GTWoman offers monthly networking events for women, both socially and professionally, including business luncheons and network nights. They also publish the GTWoman in Business Guide, an annual directory of local women in business.
New this year, Chapple launched a second company, the Grand Traverse Mom Network, with Winkler and Angeline Duran Piotrowski of MomstyleNews.com. They offer a laidback network for working and stay-at-home moms in the area through playgroups, Moms Nights Out, and more.
Gerald F. Chefalo, 36
Owner, Law Office of Gerald F. Chefalo
You’ve seen his ads, now meet the attorney. Gerry Chefalo has worked with two circuit court judges and has written several opinions in the areas of criminal, divorce and civil litigation.
He has also defended numerous life offense cases in Antrim, Leelanau, Grand Traverse as well as other northern Michigan counties.
He was voted one of the top three criminal attorneys in the Traverse City region by readers of the Traverse City Business News in a 2007 survey.
He recently purchased the building on the corner of Eighth and Railroad for his new office. He is currently rebuilding on this location in hopes of improving the area for his clients and residents of the area.
He is a sponsor of the National Cherry Festival as well as various other events in the area. He especially takes pride in sponsoring various events for Trigger Boxing and the youngsters who participate in those events.
“I have known Gerry since he began his practice in Traverse City,” said Judge Philip E. Rodgers, Jr. “He served capably on our defense roster for a number of years handling felonies as serious as premeditated murder. Gerry is a husband and fairly new father who has built a successful practice to support a fine family and staff. He is ethical and respected by bench and bar alike.”
Paul Danielson, 39
Proprietor, Trattoria Stella
Celebrating the bounty of northern Michigan farms in their high-end Italian-inspired cuisine, Trattoria Stella is committed to helping preserve local agriculture. Just ask Patty Cantrell.
“Paul Danielson walks each and every word of his talk on buying local foods for great tastes and strong communities,” said Patty Cantrell, program director for the Michigan Land Use Institute. “With his wife and business partner Amanda, and executive chef Myles Anton, Paul offers customers a ‘taste of the local difference’ that not only distinguishes their meal but also opens their eyes to the people and the land behind each ingredient.”
Their relationships with 30-plus local suppliers extend beyond their own kitchen, as Paul and staff are working to develop other markets for the farmers to sell their goods.
Annual sales around $2 million last year at Stella are trending about 15 percent higher this year and in its third year the restaurant has reached its goal of donating one percent of sales to local nonprofits.
And taking care of customers starts with taking care of staff. The restaurant is now offering health insurance to all its hourly employees, a rarity in the restaurant industry.
Chad Dutmers, 36
Regional President – Northern Michigan
Commercial Banking Division Manager
Chad Dutmers carries on the strong family traditions of bank management and community service built by his father, former Empire Bank CEO Jim Dutmers. For the past six years, Chad Dutmers has managed the corporate banking operations for National City Bank in northern Michigan and serves as the Regional President for northern Michigan.
He’s a very familiar face on several community-focused committees, including the Executive Committee of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce (Treasurer). He chairs the City Opera House Heritage Association and serves on the Northwestern Michigan College Foundation Board of Directors. He also sits on the Board of Directors for the National City Community Development Corporation.
“Chad’s combination of professional, civic and philanthropic leadership in the region makes him ideally suited as one of the region’s top leaders,” said Laura Oblinger, Senior Vice President of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
Kevin Endres PE, 32
Owner, Three West, LLC, and Big Rock Realty
At age 28, as a civil engineer and shareholder with Gosling Czubak, Endres was one of the lead engineers for Copper Ridge, a fast-growing, professional development that melds Traverse City access with over 55 acres of natural environment.
Voted “Young Engineer of the Year” in 2004 by the Northern Chapter of the Michigan Society of Professional Engineers, Endres left Gosling to create Three West LLC to provide expertise on real estate developments, and Big Rock Realty. For years he co-owned the Village Bean with wife, Stephanie, which they just sold.
“Kevin’s development designs and execution are creative and well thought out,” said Connie Deneweth, who is developing Copper Ridge with husband, Rick. “He’s a hard-working entrepreneur who happens to be an engineer.”
Not just an engineer and developer, but a leader, to boot, Endres serves on the Board of Directors for the Traverse City Economic Club and BATA, is Secretary of the East Bay Township Planning Commission and is Past President of Business Network International 2004-05.
Erik Falconer, 34
President, Chief Investment Manager,
The Falconer Group
Along with his wife, Leslie, Erik Falconer owns Falconer Group, which offers investment management and philanthropic planning services to non-profits, professionals, heirs, and entrepreneurs. This past year, the Falconers also purchased Mother Goose Time, an Interlochen-based educational company.
As a national speaker on the next generation of philanthropists, Erik consults and leads think-tanks in professional circles, as well as for heirs and celebrities. Erik and Leslie established their own family foundation in 2003. This year the foundation awarded its first Momentum Award, given to a local nonprofit that develops an innovative way to engage the public around their mission. Erik serves as the Treasurer on the board of Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan.
Commenting on Falconer’s leadership in the community, Rotary Charities Executive Director Marsha Smith said, “It is exciting to see homegrown, energetic, smart and entrepreneurial young people like Erik Falconer returning to Traverse City. Erik blends his values and commitment to social responsibility naturally into his business. He is a great thinker and role model.”
Leslie Falconer, 33
Owner, FLY Enterprises and
Mother Goose Time, Inc.
Leslie Falconer owns FLY (Financially Literate Youth), a financial literacy program that integrates financial and character education by taking children on make-believe adventures around the world.
In January 2006, FLY opened its doors in Traverse City and now incorporates a team of professionals that includes music producers, curriculum specialists, a creative director, illustrator, and a retail/business manager. The program serves children and parents at its downtown location as well as teachers and home schooling parents through teacher tools, family kits, and fieldtrips. Through a partnership with TCAPS and two internationally-based organizations, FLY will pilot a new model targeting teens this fall.
Falconer also recently completed a new children’s book which will be released early next year.
Leslie is also working on expanding curriculum offerings at Mother Goose Time, which she and her husband, Erik, acquired earlier this year.
Commented Rotary Charities Executive Director Marsha Smith, “Leslie Falconer is a fun, bright innovator who walks her talk. She demonstrates how daily decisions impact our local and global economy. Leslie teaches adults and children alike how to take small steps to make the world and our community a better place.”
Robin Grubbs, 34
Habitat for Humanity-Grand Traverse Region
Under Robin Grubbs’ leadership, Habitat has increased its volunteer base, financial stability and the number of homes they build per year.
In April, she was presented with the “Affiliate of the Year” award from Habitat for Humanity of Michigan for being the top affiliate out of 83 offices across the state.
In July, First Gentleman Dan Mulhern requested Habitat build a home in the parking lot at the Grand Traverse Resort during the National Governor’s Convention. Alongside the governors and volunteers, Habitat built the complete exterior of a home within three days. The project was a “huge success and significant in bringing the need for affordable housing to light,” Grubbs said.
Grubbs spent three weeks last year building Habitat homes in Kyrgyzstan, a tiny country in central Asia. Working in a small rural village with no running water, she and other volunteers pressed bricks to construct new homes.
“Robin’s energy, vision, and savvy in dealing with people of all walks of life have played an enormous role in making Habitat for Humanity-Grand Traverse Region what it is today, the ‘Habitat Michigan’s Affiliate of the Year,'” said Board Chairman Jonathan J. Siebers, an attorney at Brandt, Fisher, Alward & Roy, P.C
Ron Harris, CPA, 34
Owner-Managing Partner, Harris Group CPA
As many of his clients will attest, Ron Harris has never fit the mold of a traditional accountant. At the age of 28, he moved to Traverse City to purchase a local accounting firm. Since then, Harris Group has nearly quadrupled in size and Ron has added an office in Petoskey to serve clients in Emmet and Charlevoix counties. He has served on the BATA Board of Trustees and is a two-time past president of a local chapter of Business Network International.
“Ron has been our CPA since the inception of our company,” said Safety Net co-founder Kevin Bozung. “He has been a sounding board for many of the challenges we’ve faced operating our business, and provides great advice to us when key financial decisions need to be made.”
Charles King, 39
Owner, Team Bob’s – Benjamin Franklin Plumbing
You can call him The King of heating, cooling, and plumbing in the region. Charles King has doubled the size of Bob’s Furnace Service, Inc. since purchasing it in 2001. He’s proud to now employ 22 people and generate local payroll of $1 million. Last year he had $3 million in sales.
He also owns a real estate company, King Land Co., in which they have a handful of commercial and residential rental properties.
Team Bob’s runs two food drives each year for Father Fred and King is very involved with Christ Community Church, which he and his family attends.
Deb Lake, 36
Festival Director, Traverse City Film Festival
If Michael Moore has become Celebrity Number One in Traverse City, that makes Deb Lake one influential executive and gatekeeper. Lake was hired in 2005 as the Traverse City Film Festival’s sole full-time employee, and as the Fest’s prominence rises in the community, so does Lake’s profile and influence.
“Deb is a dynamo! She can stay focused on many details at any one time and make it look easy,” said John Robert Williams, one of the Festival’s founders. “She has just the right amount of passion and commitment to make an event of this magnitude happen so smoothly.”
Bryan L. Lawton, 39
Vice President, Grand Traverse Construction
“Bryan is truly dedicated to his profession, and has earned the respect and appreciation of clients, suppliers, subcontractors and the community,” said Butch Broad, owner of Team Elmers.
The past year has brought its share of change and growth in Lawton’s life. In December 2006, Farrington Construction, LLC purchased Grand Traverse Construction from Team Elmer’s.
Under the leadership of former Farrington president Byan Lawton and partner Steve Fournier, the new Grand Traverse Construction was born of two long-time Traverse City-based commercial construction firms.
A member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Grand Traverse Construction is a leader in using environmentally and socially responsible building practices that improve our community’s quality of life.
Bryan is active in state and local building organizations, and in the Grand Traverse Hockey Association.
Justin Looyenga, 26
President, Larkin Insurance Group, Inc.
While many GenXers are still trying to find themselves, Justin Looyenga is out running one of the most well-respected insurance companies in town. Looyenga, along with business partners Bryan Taggart and Daniel White, head Larkin locations in Traverse City and Lake Leelanau. In the last 15 months of ownership, they have grown the business by over 30 percent and increased their workforce by the same percentage. They merged with a Suttons Bay agency and relocated their second office from Leland to Lake Leelanau, and now employ 16.
They recently hired employees with expertise in group and individual health insurance, along with financial planning and brokerage services.
Looyenga is a TC Elks Club member, a regular blood donor and active contributor to youth activities. He is also one of 22 ambassadors who represent the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Justin was accepted into the program and immediately hit the ground running,” said Tammy Durfee-Brandon, membership director for the TC Chamber. “I’m extremely impressed with Justin’s achievement in running such a large insurance company at a young age. He has impeccable business and personal ethics.”
Benjamin Marentette, 27
Deputy City Clerk, City of Traverse City
He may not see himself as “influential,” but this energetic Deputy City Clerk works collaboratively with business owners and members, community and regional residents, elected and appointed officials and staff regarding Traverse City issues of interest. He also works jointly with the City Clerk to oversee the administration of all elections held in Traverse City.
“He is a gentleman, infinitely kind and patient, equipped with knowledge and commitment upon which residents, elected/appointed officials, and co-workers have come to rely,” said City Clerk Deb Curtiss when asked to describe Marentette’s service to the City of Traverse City.
If he’s not at his desk, you’ll find him volunteering at the Traverse City Senior Center, during Boardman River cleanup days, for the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative, the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.
He was president of the Holiday View Condominium Association for two years.
Kim Lovell Marian, 36
Management Supervisor, Greenlight Marketing
During the day, Kim Marian takes charge of strategic planning, brand planning, project management, client relations, media planning/buying and process management for Greenlight Marketing.
At “night,” she throws herself into just about any community service group you can name, from the Cherryland Humane Society and Munson Regional Health Foundation to the Women’s Resource Center and Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan.
This year she co-chaired Festival of Tables, which benefits Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan, she’s a Great Lakes Children’s Museum board member, National Cherry Festival ambassador since 2001, is part of the U of M Alumni Association and the Grand Traverse Spirit Group, has been a volunteer for TSO, Traverse Area Community Sailing and Habitat for Humanity and even helped build homes for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2006.
She is an avid supporter of downtown Traverse City and lives and works downtown.
“Kim has her own unique style and energy,” said Laurie Wildman, owner of Laurie Wildman-Designs. “She has been active in the community since she moved to the area with her husband, Dr. Rob R. Lovell. She puts 100 percent into everything she does.”
Zach Matheson, 33
Zach Matheson is a firm believer in keeping it local, keeping it green and leading by example.
“We would definitely like the local business community to buy local as much as possible,” he said. “Going green, going online, buying local, and saving money so businesses can hire more employees are things Ten-Keys.com thinks about everyday.”
In fact, he believes his online payroll and human resource firm headquartered in Elk Rapids is growing because of their focus on green office technology, business practice improvement, and buying local.
Ten-Keys.com includes Amie Matheson, Paul Matheson and David Smith. Clients include employers as small as three employees on up to 650 employees. They do business with several large automotive suppliers and nationwide logistics firms.
He is also the president of GLIMANorthwest, which promotes technology growth through education, networking and outreach and by serving as a technology forum for business, government and education within the community.
“Zach Mattheson is a dynamic, energetic and talented individual,” said Chris Hanna, owner of Digi-Moto Inc. “His awareness of the need for community in our ever-expanding digital age draws people to him.”
Jason Myers, 38
Owner/Physician, MembersHealth Medical Center and Defy Aesthetic Club
“Cutting edge” perhaps best describes Jason Myers’ influence on the local medical scene lately. Over the last few months, Myers has split the former Bay Pointe Family Care and Laser Skin Clinic into two separate entities and launched two new medical business models.
Defy Aesthetic Club will open later this month in Building 50 at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons and offer memberships to current and new clients seeking laser treatments and other aesthetic services-a concept that may be the first of its kind in the country. Myers is a nationally recognized expert in aesthetic and laser medicine and plans to conduct training programs at Defy for others in the industry.
“Over the past several years, Dr. Myers has become one of the most sought after national speakers in the arena of medical aesthetics with a particular focus on cosmetic laser procedures,” said Peter Mara, vice president of Candela Corp., the world’s largest manufacturer of medical/cosmetic lasers.
Later this fall, Bay Point Family Care will become MembersHealth Medical Center and will offer an alternative to standard insurance-based healthcare that won’t accept insurance, but will charge a monthly fee for primary health services.
Jason and his wife, Tracy, sponsor several area youth and adult athletic teams and donate services to local schools and charity auctions.
Laura Oblinger, 37
Senior Vice President, Traverse City Area
Chamber of Commerce
Traverse City native Laura Oblinger leads the efforts of the five-county Chamber, serving more than 2,600 business members in the areas of communications, branding, marketing, workforce development, data management, and strategic planning.
It’s a role that puts her in front of all the business leaders in the region, and one that makes her influential in many ways.
“Laura’s quiet leadership and strong management skills make her indispensable to the Chamber and an asset to every business in the five-county region,” said Doug Luciani, president & CEO of the Traverse City Chamber.
Oblinger is also an experienced professional in the field of marketing, advertising, public relations and business development.
Colleen Paveglio, 29
Marketing Director, Traverse City DDA/DTCA
From behind the curtain, Colleen Paveglio helps make sure that downtown Traverse City is “the” place to shop and eat. As marketing director she handles the marketing and promotions for the entire downtown Traverse City business district (think Friday Night Live, Santa, three art fairs, etc.) and manages the Downtown Traverse City Association, which supports the downtown merchants.
But she does more than market ideas, she creates them-many that are shaping the way outsiders view our region. To promote the local arts in the Grand Traverse region, for instance, she initiated the Downtown Art Walk in downtown Traverse City. To support the area’s non-profits and promote shopping local, she organized the first Shop Your Community Day event, where the DDA and DTCA gave back $10,000 to the local community in one day of shopping in downtown Traverse City.
A 2007 Leadership Grand Traverse graduate, she is on the Cultural Organization Coalition Committee, a committee made up of the cultural organizations in the area that meets once a month to discuss a cultural plan for the region as well as current news regarding each organization.
“Colleen has had an amazing impact in keeping on-going events and marketing initiatives alive while working hard to build strong collaborative efforts with like-minded organizations in the community for new programs,” said Bryan Crough, executive director of the DDA. “She continually looks for creative and fresh approaches to make downtown the most exciting civic, cultural and commercial center in all of Michigan.”
Peter Payette, 33
News Director, Interlochen Public Radio
Among his duties directing the news at 91.5 FM, Peter Payette is working to make public radio more of an asset to the community, not just a news source.
“Peter and IPR have helped the Land Information Access Association (LIAA) develop a series of radio shows and presentations over the years that explore various aspects of community development and change,” said Joe VanderMeulen, LIAA’s executive director. “LIAA’s radio contributions wouldn’t have been possible without Peter’s commitment to the community and truly public radio.”
To some 18,000 listeners on any given day, the radio station delivers in-depth reporting with an eye on the region in a way that no other media outlet in the area does. Payette joined IPR when Interlochen Center for the Arts was launching the news radio station in 2000. Under his direction, the station has won several awards, most recently three 2006 Broadcast Excellence Awards from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, and has had at least a dozen stories aired on National Public Radio.
Listeners regularly hear Payette’s voice as host of the weekly call-in program Points North in addition to occasional reports from the field. Outside of the station, Payette is currently president of the Traverse City Cooperative Preschool board of directors.
Jason C. Piedmonte, 33
Financial Advisor, Financial Planning Specialist
As a Smith Barney Financial Advisor since his return to Traverse City, Jason’s practice has continued to show tremendous growth. This past year was no exception.
His passion is making TC a better place for his growing family to live. Earlier this year, he was elected Vice-Chairman of the Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority by his fellow authority members, and also serves on the Grand Traverse County Economic Development Corporation board.
“Jason does his homework and stands up to the pressure that’s put upon us,” says Pete Strom, chairman of the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. “He has insightful ideas and is an intelligent young man who’s doing a great job.”
Piedmonte just completed his term as president of the Traverse Bay Twilight Rotary Club, during which the club successfully completed their first large fundraising event, in addition to several community service projects.
In 2005 he achieved the Financial Planning Specialist designation for completing advanced training and satisfying a continuing education requirement.
Brad Platt, 36
Owner, Century 21 Northland
Brad Platt, along with his wife and business partner, Julia Lilley, and their business partner and broker, Jason Kudary, opened Century 21 Northland in March of 2006. They’re already ranked 23rd among 189 Century 21 offices in the Great Lakes Region and currently have the highest per person productivity in northern Michigan.
“Brad and his team have made an aggressive and admirable mark in the real estate market of northern Michigan,” said Jennifer Allen, co-owner of Tandem Design.
Wanting to become the first ‘green’ real estate brokerage in the greater Grand Traverse Region, Platt met with GT County officials to find out how to recycle all the materials they possibly could. As a result, Century 21 is able to include the County’s “Recycle Smart” emblem in their brochures.
“Brad recognized the financial savings, environmental benefits and the ease of taking a leading role in recycling,” said Kim Duane Ellliott, marketing/education specialist with GT County.
Century 21 Northland does volunteer work with the National Cherry Festival, Trout Unlimited, Paws Walk and Michigan Writer’s Group. They also make a donation of every closing to the Healthy Futures program through the Munson Healthcare Regional Foundation.
Platt’s first novel, “Deadstream,” is the first in a trilogy and was just awarded an honorable mention in the 2006 Independent Publisher Regional Book Awards for quality fiction.
Rachel Roe, 38
Attorney, Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge
Working as an attorney with two young sons hasn’t deterred Rachel Roe from putting tremendous time and energy into community service.
She is currently chair of the Women’s Resource Center; a volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northwest Michigan; a Zonta Club board member; a member of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra Personnel Committee and a volunteer attorney with Third Level Crisis Center.
“Rachel is a skilled attorney whose specialization in employment law provides her access to many business and governmental organizations throughout the five-county area,” said Charles B. Judson, senior shareholder at Smith Haughey Rice and Roegee. “She is seen as a person who can get things done…well.”
Wendy Sak, 30
Executive Assistant to the President of the
TC Area Chamber of Commerce
Wendy Sak is not only Chamber President Doug Luciani’s right arm, she is membership director for the world’s largest association for administrative support staff, the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which boasts approximately 40,000 members.
Sak grew the chapter 140 percent in one year, won the Star Performer Award and just recently the Essential Piece Award for the entire Michigan Division. She has been elected Vice President for the upcoming year.
Locally, she is involved in the Grand Traverse Area Jaycees and is the main liaison between the Silent Observer program and board, the Chamber, the Jaycees and the community.
An avid sportswoman, Sak helped revitalize the Grand Traverse Area Sport Fishing Association and directs the association’s annual Trout Tournament. She recently organized the first ever woman’s skeet league at the Cedar & Rod Gun Club and has served on the Lake Superior State University Alumni Board.
“Wendy provides a level of energy, passion, enthusiasm and leadership to whatever project she’s involved in that is simply a notch above most others,” states Doug Luciani, president of the Traverse Area Area Chamber of Commerce.
Matthew Schmidt, 38
Senior Account Manager, AT&T
Matthew Schmidt always seems one step ahead of change. Currently an elected Traverse City Commissioner and an appointed TC Light and Power trustee, he has forwarded policies favoring sustainable local economic development, affordable housing and greater efficiency in government operations. He is an active member of the Traverse Bay Sunrise Rotary club and the Community Housing Choices coalition.
Professionally, Matthew has received several sales awards for exceptional achievement working with healthcare providers in the AT&T Midwest region. Prior to returning to his home town of Traverse City, he earned a B.S. from Northwestern University and traveled abroad teaching English to hundreds of students in Europe and Japan (he speaks Czech and passable German.) He also founded, grew and sold the first American-owned company in Northern Bohemia, Czech Republic.
“Matt is very insightful and does a great job representing his constituents and the electric customers,” said Joe Winowiecki, a former TCL&P board member who owns Northern Contract Interiors.
Mike Schmidt, 33
President, partner and co-owner,
Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors
Talk about a current and future leader of the region…
As president of Schmidt Real Estate, Mike Schmidt is actively involved in all 42 of the company’s offices: Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors in northern Michigan, Coldwell Banker AJS-Schmidt in the greater Grand Rapids area, and Coldwell Banker Woodland Schmidt, doing business along the lakeshore area. All told, the company has nearly 1,000 Realtors and employees.
Mike oversees the AJS-Schmidt operation as well as the entire company’s commercial operations, is involved in the mergers and acquisitions of the company and strategic planning, is co-owner of the mortgage company SRC Mortgage, and still continues to list and sell real estate.
“Mike has a passion for the real estate business. He also has a vision for the business and for our company, and the ability to make that vision happen,” said Tom Gray, Chief Operating Officer, Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors.
Schmidt represents northern Michigan on the Michigan Commercial Board of Realtors (MICAR).
Kevin Schmuckal, 33
Vice President of Retail Operations,
Schmuckal Oil Co.
His last name says “leadership” to those who know Traverse City business history, but Kevin takes nothing for granted. He currently oversees the daily operations and marketing of the company’s 29 Shell and Marathon branded gas and convenience stores. He is also on the Michigan Petroleum Association board.
A Leadership Grand Traverse graduate and Sunrise Rotary Club member, Kevin has been involved with NMC capital campaign committee and sits on the capital campaign cabinet for the Father Fred Foundation. A St. Francis graduate, he supports the Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools by serving on Gladhander auction committees, alumni fundraising campaigns and in various athletic department fundraisers.
“Kevin is clearly among the next generation of leaders at the Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools (GTACS),” said Wayne Mueller, development director at GTACS. “He’s a hard-working guy doing great things with his business and in the community. He helps out GTACS in many ways by serving on multiple committees and projects. He’s a wonderful asset to our community.”
An avid runner, Kevin ran the 2005 Phoenix Rock n’ Roll Marathon with Team in Training, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Juliette Schultz, 36
Juliette Schultz’s get-things-done attitude affects dozens of business people in the Grand Traverse region. She serves as Chair of the Traverse Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council, is a SCORE Counselor and is the SCORE Marketing Committee Chair.
She is an avid supporter of women in business, serving as a co-sponsor of “Future Women in Business,” through Marigold Over Lunch, as an Athena Awards sponsor and Girl Scouts of America volunteer.
“Juliette is a savvy, strong, helpful-to-all-business woman,” said Candie Conat, owner of Baskets Full of Gifts. “She is right there when someone has a business issue, problem, etc. ready to help solve it; ready with positive influence. She looks out for others first, without concern for what it will bring to her financially. She works tirelessly with the Chamber and SCORE to help many area business people-new and veterans.”
Michele Shane, 36
Head of School, The Children’s House
Michele Shane has helped guide many young students who have passed through her classroom over the last several years. Now, she leads them. Shane was officially named Head of School at The Children’s House this past June after working collaboratively for over a year with founding Head of School Gretchen Uhlinger, now retired.
Celebrating its 24th year, The Children’s House in TC is the area’s only independent Montessori school. As Head of School, Shane is responsible for the leadership and management of the school’s 200-plus students and its staff, including 11 full-time teachers and six administrative employees.
Shane first joined the school in 1999 as a primary teacher (ages 3 to 6).
“Michele’s strength as an administrator lies in her consistent leadership by example and her ability to make decisions which are true to the school’s mission yet open to the changing social-economic climate of the times,” said Colleen Christensen, director of operations and admissions at The Children’s House.
Nick Trahair, 29
General Manager, AmericInn of Traverse City
“They always say ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person.’ This is your guy, simple as that. Nick is there when needed,” states Edward Lunt of Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf in Traverse City, located next to the AmericInn.
Trahair has been at the helm of the hotel since he was only 24 and continues to get kudos as president of the Grand Traverse Area Hotel/Motel Association.
“He took our association from a basic organization to a real education opportunity for hotel owners and managers,” said one member.
He also serves on the Managers Advisory Board for AmericInn International, the Silent Observer board, and is often seen pitching in to help the YMCA, Traverse City Film Festival, National Cherry Festival and other organizations.
“Nick has been able to pull various avenues of the tourism industry together along with other community sectors and work toward the bigger picture,” said Wendy Sak, executive assistant to the president of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. “He is always willing to give a helping hand and will continue to be a leader in this community. Nick is not afraid to jump in on a project and is respected for always following through from start to finish.”
Chris Treter, 32
Co-founder, Higher Grounds Trading Co.
Chris Treter is co-owner and co-founder, with his wife Jody, of Michigan’s only 100 percent fair trade and organic coffee roasting company. Just this month, Higher Grounds opened the Coffee Bar and Roastery, a European-style coffee bar, at the Village of Grand Traverse Commons (Building 53).
Chris serves on the Board of Directors of the Oryana Food Co-op and on the Green Bean Sourcing Committee of Cooperative Coffees, which helps its roaster members source a greater variety certified-organic and fair-trade coffees and, in the process, establish more direct, transparent connections with farmers.
Chris and Jody also pioneered the Oromia Photo Project, working to document the lives of coffee farmers from Yrgacheffe, Ethiopia and raising funds to build a library and secondary school for the children of Negelle Gorbitu, a coffee growing cooperative the Treter’s purchase coffee from.
“The Treters did not go into the coffee business and later incorporate a social justice component,” said SEEDS Executive Director Sarna Salzman. “The business is secondary to their desire to better local communities around the world and Higher Grounds Trading Co. is a means toward that end.”
Through speaking engagements at universities, high schools, and grade schools and by leading trips of area residents to Mexico and Ethiopia, the Treters spend a considerable amount of time studying and educating people about global trade policy.
Jody Treter, 31
Co-founder, Higher Grounds Trading Co.
Jody Treter has probably done more for impoverished people in her lifetime than most people twice her age.
She is not only co-owner (and head of human resources, customer service, public relations and retail operations) of Higher Grounds Trading Co., which offers fair trade, organic coffees from around the world, she is the chairwoman of the board of Cooperative Coffees, a fair trade, green coffee importing cooperative.
She also serves as secretary to the Chiapas Water Project, an organization dedicated to fundraising and educational events that support the construction of potable water systems in impoverished Mayan communities in Chiapas Mexico, where she and husband, Chris, work with coffee growing communities. In the past year, Jody and Chris have helped finance and facilitate the construction of three water projects and a community training program providing access to water for hundreds of families.
She and Chris are committed to “sharing the wealth” with the their community and have donated to a variety of local organizations, including Safe Passage, Inland Seas Education Association, Empty Bowls, Bioneers, the Traverse City Film Festival and many others.
The Treters are founding members of the newly-formed bike cooperative, the Broke Spoke, which will operate out of their loading dock at Higher Grounds Trading Co. The new location of Higher Grounds was slated to open Sept. 1 in Building 53 at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
Joyce Wittbrodt, 32
Executive Director, American Red Cross of Northwest Michigan
Joyce Wittbrodt has the honor of being the youngest executive director in the chapter’s history, which dates back 113 years. She is responsible for chapter endeavors and service delivery for Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties.
In just over two years, the chapter has tripled its volunteer base, expanded its Disaster Relief programs that now include both national and international services, along with enhancement of local response teams and capabilities. An important service of the American Red Cross is carried out by the Health and Safety Services component of the chapter, which under Wittbrodt’s leadership and direction, has doubled course offering opportunities. Also of honorable mention is the creation of an entirely new Armed Forces Emergency Services division.
She is currently serving as an Ambassador for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, has held volunteer leadership positions with Special Olympics, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the National Cherry Festival and Habitat for Humanity. She has also served on several area boards including The Council for Exceptional Children, Benzie County Visitor and Convention Bureau and the Association of Education of Young Children.
“Joyce Wittbrodt is a leader and a positive, enthusiastic force within our community. She gives readily of her time and energy, has a good sense of humor, integrity and is respected by all,” said her co-worker Jerry DeRousse.
Simon Wolf, 33
President/Founder Signplicity Sign Systems, Inc. and Wideoutput.com
Nationally recognized in the sign world, Simon Wolf continues to grow his business, adding two new employees this year and continuing to cook up a plan to franchise in the next five years.
He’s also helping to shape Benzie County, having been on the Almira Township Planning Commission for three years and elected vice chair last January. He’s been on the expo committee for the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce and the Traverse City Area Chamber’s Small Business Council.
Earlier this year he joined the Traverse Bay YMCA capital campaign committee to help raise monies for the New YMCA facility. He was nominated three times for the Traverse City Area Chamber Small Business of the Year Award.
“Simon has done the majority of signage here at NMC and he’s done a really good job. As far as service, he’s always been great meeting our needs,” said NMC Director of Campus Services Ed Bailey.
Raelene Wooden-Hall, 36
Founder/Creative Director, Idea Stream
Owner, Living Light Massage & Wellness Center
Raelene Wooden-Hall started with one local client in 1997. Her current client list now includes several long-established regional businesses as well as newer ones.
She grew Idea Stream from a home-based, one-person, one-computer operation to a modern office with eight of the “best account directors, designers and writers in the area.”
This past May, Wooden-Hall saw a great new challenge after one of her clients decided to close a business. She purchased Living Light Massage & Wellness Center, along with her husband, Chris Hall.
She is a member of the Women’s Resource Center board of directors and is on the committee for the Thrift Shop and annual Extravaganza. She sits on the NMC Career Tech Center advisory board and does student portfolio reviews. She is also a past member of the TC Chamber of Commerce board of directors and past co-chair of the Chamber’s annual dinner.
“I’ve watched Rae grow over the last 10 years and I’ve been amazed,” said Andrea Lindell, business coordinator at Idea Stream and Living Light Massage & Wellness Center. “I jumped at the chance to work with her when I heard she was hiring. She inspires those around her through her actions and presence to perform at their peak ability.”
AJ Yuncker, 39
President & CEO
Natural Gas Compression Systems, Inc.
AJ Yuncker and six other founders started Natural Gas Compression Systems (NGCS) out of a garage in Kalkaska in 2001. Today, it competes primarily with two publicly-traded multi-billion dollar market cap companies, Universal and Hanover Compression.
NGCS recently ranked No. 219 out of 500 entrepreneurial companies in Entrepreneur magazine’s Hot 500, a listing of America’s fastest-growing companies.
“This company is the fastest-growing full service compression company in North America and provides 42 good, quality jobs with outstanding benefits in the Grand Traverse area and another 10 quality jobs in other states,” said Connie Deneweth, co-owner of Copper Ridge in Traverse City, who nominated AJ for the 40 Under 40 listing.
Yuncker was the youngest CEO among the top 10 finalists vying for the 2007 Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Celebration award.
NGCS supports several youth athletic teams and various local charities.