The Frederick County Office of Economic Development (OED) received 146 nominations for lead executives, founders, entrepreneurs and company owners of for-profit and not-for profit organizations for Frederick’s Top 50 CEOs. The final list included criteria based on the CEO’s individual responses on the following: Strategic leadership concepts, Significant growth under his or her leadership, Number of employees, Tenure, Company’s turnover rate, Company’s median salary, # of times CEO was nominated, and the CEO’s involvement in the community.
Get to know four of the top 50 this month:
Ernest W. Angell is the President & CEO of Homewood Retirement Centers. During his tenure since 1997, each of the Homewood campuses experienced substantial growth through new development and expansion. At the helm, he led Homewood from $90M in assets to its present day $350M asset portfolio. Today, Homewood employs 1,300 people across all communities including and serves over 2,100 seniors. His nomination comes from the entire Homewood Board of Trustees, Homewood at Frederick Board of Directors and Homewood’s senior executive team.
A partner and founder in 2002, Jon-Mikel Bailey is a successful entrepreneur in a competitive, fast-moving industry, developing custom websites, marketing campaigns and digital media for businesses and organizations with his company, Wood Street Inc. Jon has built a solid and stable team, elevated that team to focusing on exceeding customer expectations, delivering high quality every time, and achieving continuous personal growth as creative experts.
For the past 12 years through the Jorgensen Family Foundation, Dr. Scott Barao has built Hedgeapple Farm into a working model for sustainable farming. He has shared his expertise with hundreds of farmers locally and throughout the Northeast. He is a sought-after speaker nationally for his expertise in building profitable and sustainable farming systems through innovative livestock, forage and pasture management.
Jeff Barber expanded Playground Specialists in Thurmont in 2017, starting as a one person business that has grown into one of the largest playground equipment distributors on the East Coast, providing products with excellent customer service. He has empowered his staff to be great stewards of the company and to possess the knowledge needed to be successful as well. Barber is respected in the industry, by his employees and the Thurmont community.
What brought you to Frederick County?
Ernest: Opportunity to work for Homewood Retirement Centers and to live in the beautiful city of Frederick. Past experience as in Faith based Continuing Care Retirement Communities.
Jon-Mikel: I was born in DC and grew up in Rockville. At age 10, my family moved to a farm in Walkersville that we still own today. I have lived in DTF since 98 and Wood Street has been in Frederick since its inception. I will be taking over the family farm this fall. It's the circle of life!
Scott: After retiring from the University of Maryland-College Park as a full professor in 2005, I came to Frederick County to assume the day-to-day leadership of the Jorgensen Family Foundation and Hedgeapple Farm.
Jeff: My parents moved me here from our family farm in Durham NC when I was 14 years old. Lived in Northern Frederick county ever since - Lewistown, Emmitsburg, Thurmont.
Please describe your personal values or your strategic leadership ideas for your company.
Ernest: These 21 years my goal was to help make each of the four Homewood retirement communities in MD and PA the communities of choice for area seniors.
Jon-Mikel: I believe in the importance of family. I also believe that everyone deserves a chance to shine. Those two principles are the basis for everything I do here at Wood Street. We focus on building a family with our team and an extended family of clients. And we focus on doing what needs to be done to support the growth of our team Wood Street family.
Scott: My personal conviction about leadership could be summarized as an unwavering commitment to be a good listener, take wise counsel, and exhibit a genuine love and concern for the people and resources under my stewardship. I work hard to lead by example with humility, honesty and personal integrity in all things and at all times.
Jeff: Hard work! Started the company at age 22 with just one employee and huge SBA loan. Had to work around the clock. Every detail mattered. Still does. We pride ourselves on going beyond being the best recreational contractor and we want to be the best company that any customer has ever worked with. Engaged, responsive, and working to give back to our community and industry are all goals for our entire team.
Since you founded or started with your company, what innovative new ideas or concepts did you implement? What has your sales growth been like and is there a turnaround story?
Ernest: I have been with Homewood for 21 years out of its 86 year history. We have grown from assets worth 90 million in 1997 to assets worth $335 million today. We have implemented great patient center programming with wellness centers, pet therapy, chaplains at each of our campuses and specialized areas for those residents suffering with Alzheimers and related dementias.
Jon-Mikel: Since our founding, Wood Street has been profitable each year. This is through the dot com bust and the great recession. We believe in smart growth. Again, we are a family here so we don't gamble with the farm, so to speak. We do, however, always looks for ways to improve our processes and efficiency. Since we started, we've managed to run a small team, produce outstanding work, and still clear a million in revenue year after year. We have produced a state of the art CSS framework and refined our process down to a well-oiled machine. We're more of a tortoise type company. Slow and steady wins the race. Sounds strange from a web design and development firm but it works!
Scott: We have established a unique and thriving food business that produces and sells locally-grown, healthy, nutritious and delicious beef. Our business model serves as a teaching tool to educate and inspire farmers across Frederick County and throughout the mid-Atlantic region toward the development of similar businesses with a focus on environmental and economic sustainability. Our vision is to see farms stay as farms in Frederick County by assisting the farm community to understand and implement farming and marketing practices from a whole-system perspective. We seek to excel and demonstrate/teach excellence and outstanding stewardship of the animals, land, water and other natural resources within the ecosystem of the farm with an eye toward the next 2 generations to follow.
Jeff: We started as just a simple construction company doing around $150k in first year for sales. Years 2-4 we doubled every year to gross over $1M. Then we started doing sales and design along with construction. Bringing us up to $7M by end of first 10 years. Now we have expanded to take over VA/DC area and finished 2017 at $17.5M in gross sales. Our next move is to possibly take over the Carolinas and with this projection we will be around $40M per year in next 5 years.
Who is the leader you most admire and why?
Ernest: The leader I admire most was the servant leader- Jesus Christ
Jon-Mikel: This will be a little unconventional but I have always admired Ian MacKaye, Fugazi guitarist/singer, and owner of Dischord Records. Ian has always stuck to his guns. He is fair and fights for the little guy. Even though some would call him subversive, I disagree. I think he is the ideal American. He is self-made, creative, principled, and a free thinker. He embodies what makes this country truly great. He is one of those people where I'll ask myself "would this pass the Ian MacKaye test of honor?" Is it shady? Don't do it. Does it unfairly advantage someone for no honorable reason? Don't do it. Is it honest and true to form? DO IT! You only get this when you make punk rock music inside the beltway. :-)
Scott: The Apostle Paul. I am in awe of his devotion to the cause of Christ and the spreading of the Gospel while always exhibiting love, grace and profound care for the people he encountered along the way right up until his death. I would like to finish the race just like he did.
Jeff: There isn't a leader that I admire most. I don't focus on one person or honestly read much. I admire anyone that can "lead from the trenches" and show their people that they will do anything for them. I always try to remember where I came from and stay true to my roots. Our group is very fortunate to be where we are. I appreciate leaders that don't mess with success and remember their climb to the top
What do you love to do for fun in Frederick County? On any given weekend, where could you be found?
Ernest: Strolling downtown Frederick any time is a joy especially with all the fine shops and restaurants
Jon-Mikel: We are so lucky to have this giant natural playground in our backyard. Just yesterday I took my dogs for a hike in the Frederick Watershed. It's absolutely beautiful up there and in a few minutes, all stress is gone. So, hopefully, on any given weekend, you'll find me in the mountains fueling up on some power!
Scott: I love to eat out and sample the diversity of cuisine available across the county. I can often be found somewhere in downtown Frederick with my family on weekends eating, people watching, and enjoying the shops.
Jeff: On every given weekend I can be found on my farm. We now have around 360 acres of farmland in Lewistown with 3 farms connected. There are always trees to plant, grass to mow, and animals to look after.