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The educators at Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) make sure to put their focus where it truly belongs: on students, Superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop says. “My driving force has been making the lives of kids better and equipping them for the world they face,” she declares. “Our vision is to be a model for urban public education.”

Based in Roanoke, Va., the district is the second-largest employer in its home city, with 2,500 associates and approximately 13,600 students. Its system includes 17 elementary schools, five middle schools and two high schools. But RCPS’s reach does not stop there.

Plumas Bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Plumas Bancorp, a $600 million single bank holding company. It has grown via de novo branching and acquisitions, as well as by focusing on small business and agriculture.

A community bank that competes against large national and international banks, Plumas Bank aims to provide superior service and find profitable niches such as small business and agriculture. It invests significant resources into being a dominant competitor in its key niches.

“What sets us apart are our government guaranteed lending and our agricultural expertise,” President and CEO Andrew Ryback says. 

Marathon Health was founded on the principle that when employees are given the tools to manage their health wherever they work, their overall health improves, reducing healthcare costs for them and their employers. CEO Jerry Ford says the company’s mission since 2005 has been to provide those tools through its onsite health centers and other services. 

As Ford explains, the company’s success is rooted in its strong internal culture and the strength of its people. With its combination of rigorous processes and flexible customer service, Marathon Health continues to add to the more than quarter-million people it cares for across the country. 

It’s a question every new company faces: You’ve got an innovative product, but how do you get it in people’s hands? It’s not always enough to be better and more efficient than established competitors – sometimes a company has to rethink how its industry does business.

That was the dilemma Raymond Huggenberger faced when he took over as CEO of California-based Inogen Inc. in 2008. The maker of portable oxygen concentrators (POC) formed in 2001 out of a University of California in Santa Barbara business plan competition. 

Mary Ann Scully, CEO of Howard Bank, likes to think she’s been a banker through and through since childhood as she grew up in the hometown of “It’s a Wonderful Life” star Jimmy Stewart. Her entire working life has been spent in the banking industry. From managing regional banking divisions and corporate banking divisions, to running foreign direct investment divisions and international banking, Scully has done it all. 

 Based on their combined decades of experience, Scully and a few trusted colleagues came up with the idea for Howard Bank. The institution started with $16.75 million in capital and assets and opened in August 2004 in Howard County, Md. Over the course of 12 years, Scully and management has grown the bank organically and through acquisitions into a recognized brand operating locations in five counties and Baltimore in Maryland. The bank also has an acquired branch in Peach Bottom, Pa.

Harford Mutual Insurance Cos. President and CEO Steven Linkous believes the success of the 173-year-old company lies squarely in executing Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” philosophy of getting the right people (talent) in the right seats (operations) on the bus and pointing that vehicle in the right direction (mission and vision). “It’s really simple for me,” Linkous says. “As long as you give your employees the resources and flexibility to do their jobs, and you’ve clearly articulated what you want them to do and why they’re doing it, you’re going to be successful. The fact is simple – it works.

A background in farming is not a requirement for employment at GreenStone Farm Credit Services, but the financial services association finds most of its staff has experience in or an affinity for the agriculture industry. “At one point almost all our employees had farm backgrounds, but as the industry changes and there are fewer folks who live or work on a farm, so that number declines,” President and CEO Dave Armstrong says. “However, they all seem to share that same common appreciation for rural communities and have had some exposure to farming.”

A strong passion for the agriculture industry is just one of the reasons customers say the East Lansing, Mich.-based company is different from commercial banks. “Customers tell us they like the fact that we specialize in lending for rural communities and agriculture,” Armstrong adds. “Farming is a unique industry, and our customers appreciate working with loan officers who are experts in agriculture and understand their business. From lending to crop insurance and tax and accounting services – GreenStone has the ability to help with all of their financial needs.”

As the President and CEO of a publicly traded company, Joel Gay does not have to look very far to determine his effectiveness as a leader. “In the public realm, you know every day exactly what your worth and value is and how you’re impacting the company,” he says. “I adhere to the idea that a company’s main purpose is to deliver returns to shareholders; the share price when you arrived, and the share price when you leave a company is the only metric that really matters.”

By this measure, Energy Recovery Inc. – which Gay has led as the permanent president and CEO since April 2015 – is more than meeting its goals. A recent transaction overseen by Gay and formally approved last October nearly quadrupled the company’s trading price on the NASDAQ market from $2.50 to $9.50.

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