fast-growing companies creating jobs in northeast ohio

Last week, the economic development groups that make up the Regional Competitiveness Council (RCC) unveiled their "Go Big" strategy to accelerate the pace of job growth in Northeast Ohio. In doing so, business leaders acknowledged that Northeast Ohio is lagging behind the rest of the country in job creation.

RCC co-chair Ward J. "Tim" Timken, Jr., chairman, CEO and president of TimkenSteel Corporation, recently said Northeast Ohio can be proud of the progress the region’s made, but also stated we would have 400,000 more jobs today if Northeast Ohio kept pace with the national average over the past two decades.
However, there are industries that remain bright spots in our region's economy. “The industry trend shows the private services sector and professional technology services are strong here,” says Jacob Duritsky, Team NEO’s managing director of research. “Healthcare is a significant employer and year after year manufacturing remains strong. We created 1,000 jobs in manufacturing last year.”
Demand for talented employees remains strong in many areas. “We’re looking at record growth in healthcare with 25,000 jobs; business and support services with 20,000 jobs; sales with 10,000-15,000 jobs,” says Duritsky. “And that’s just new job growth.”
Those numbers don’t factor in the looming mass retirement expected in the next 10 years, which will further contribute the need for skilled and talented people. “One-third of workers, or 750,000 people are leaving the Northeast Ohio workforce,” says Duritsky. “And generally people look at manufacturing as flattened out, but we will need 50,000 replacements in the next 10 years. Jobs that aren’t industry related like sales, food prep, administrative will need 240,000 workers.”

Duritsky says Team NEO is studying the skills gap now, but needs continue to be prevalent in skilled manufacturing and IT. “Those are the two areas we hear about most,” he says.
Many of the companies and industries that are thriving in Cleveland are also growing. As they expand, they are also hiring. Here are five employers in the area who in serious hiring modes as business booms.
Jason Therrien started thunder::tech in 1999 as a one-man marketing agency, then took it full-time in 2002 with two people. Therrien added two more people in 2003 and grew slowly and steadily over the years, developing a full-service integrated marketing agency with 50 employees.
“We’re always looking for good talent,” says Therrien. “We really haven’t come out of hiring mode for the last few years.” Not only has thunder::tech experienced solid retention, they have grown in staff because of their solid work and commitment to customer service.
“In the marketing and professional services industry, you have to have a heavy emphasis on customer service,” says Therrien. “It doesn’t win you work, it keeps the work. Then you grow on that success year after year.”
Thunder::tech constantly has its eye out for potential employees. “Your hear people talk about the war for talent,” Therrien says. “I chuckle at that statement. Any good company, especially in professional services, is always concerned with talent because that’s all you have.”
Therrien reports an increased number of employees transplanted from other cities lately. And they want to come to Cleveland. “We always look local, but if someone is the cream of the crop, we want them,” he says. “We haven’t had to have that conversation in the last two years about the battle of new grads moving to the big city. Now they’re asking, what apartment can you get me downtown?”

Currently, thunder::tech has six positions open, from graphic designer to web developer/programmer. The company is always accepting applications in web development, iOS and Android developers, copywriters, media planners /buyers, search engine experts, and multimedia. Go to thunder::tech’s careers page to see and apply for all of the open positions.

Explorys is a 2009 healthcare innovation spinoff out of the Cleveland Clinic that provides the healthcare industry with cloud-based analytics platform. Its platform enables the country’s leading provider organizations to more effectively leverage their data to improve care quality and patient satisfaction and deliver value-based care.

Founded by Stephen McHale and two others, the company hired about eight people in its first year. Today, Explorys has a staff of 140 and has grown in bursts over the past five years. “Every year we’ve grown, but we’ve had a couple of moments when we’ve hired big chunks of people when large customers come on,” says McHale.   
2015 is going to be one of those high growth spurts. “We’re coming into 2015 with a lot of opportunities,” says McHale. “Business is growing pretty fast.” In fact, the company just hired two senior positions and anticipates hiring another two soon.
McHale sees Cleveland as an ideal setting for a healthcare and technology company. “We’ve built technology companies here in Cleveland, with really strong people,” he says. “It’s a nice environment for those types of resources.”
Furthermore, McHale sees a good pool of talent here – one that wants to stay or come to Cleveland. “The top tier schools, the top talent, want to stay in the Midwest,” explains McHale. “We’ve had folks come in from the Bay Area. They’re coming from all over the place.”
Explorys currently has 16 job openings on its careers page, from office coordinator and project manager to engineers.
OnShift, which provides online staff scheduling and labor solutions for the healthcare industry, is the only company in the Software as a Service (SaaS) business to provide web-based staff scheduling software focused entirely on the long-term care and senior living industry.
That niche market has proven lucrative for the company. Founded in 2007, OnShift launched its first product in 2009 and two employees. Today, 82 are on staff. The company hired more than 20 people in 2014, most of them between January and May. “Business was really heavy,” says CEO Mark Woodka. “We more than doubled it in the first five months of the year.”
In fact, OnShift recently took over the entire third floor of the historic B.F. Keith building to accommodate the growth. “We have room for 100 now,” says Woodka. “That will last us until the end of 2015 before we run out of room again.”
Woodka says business isn’t going to slow down in the long-term nursing industry. “It’s labor’s number-one cost in our business and historically they’ve been not great at managing it,” he explains. “Our customers have to get much better at managing labor and they can’t do it on a piece of paper.”
Cleveland is a great location for OnShift, Woodka says, because of the cost advantages and the talent available here. “There’s good talent coming out of the local schools and an abundance of tech talent those schools are producing,” he observes. “Cleveland has all the attractions of a major metro area and downtown living is a good environment. It’s the right place.”
Things aren’t slowing down for OnShift in 2015. Woodka predicts he will hire 10 to 15 people in the second quarter. The company has six open positions currently in development, inside sales and training. Check out OnShift’s careers page for more information.
Quasar Energy Group
Quasar Energy Group
Founded in 2006, quasar energy group is anaerobic digestion renewable energy company. The company designs, builds, owns and operates facilities that convert organic waste into renewable energy and valuable nutrients.
The company has grown to 13 operating facilities in Ohio, New York and Massachusetts and almost 125 employees. Quasar’s anaerobic digesters can be deployed in agricultural, municipal or industrial applications, working with farmers, local wastewater treatment plants and food processors.
“At quasar, we aren’t just building a company, we are building a new industry,” explains Caroline Henry, quasar’s vice president of marketing. “When we started the enormity of the effort in front of us seemed daunting.  In hindsight I actually think we were quite naïve about how daunting it was really going to be.”
Cleveland's history of innovation has helped the company grow. “Cleveland has always been home to innovative thinkers – entrepreneurs from our early industrial period that envisioned a better way of life,” says Henry. “It’s an attitude that is part of this region’s history and its future. Advanced energy is the wave of the future and new industries require out of the box, innovative thinkers – Cleveland is poised to address this need.”
Quasar energy group recently filled positions in project development, accounting, engineering, human resources and operations.  The company is currently recruiting for a project development analyst, materials coordinator, accounts payable, civil engineer, and designer/drafter. “Multiple additional new positions are also under consideration and will most likely be posted within the coming months,” says Henry. “We will definitely continue hiring throughout 2015.  It is difficult to estimate how many new employees we will be hiring but we are anticipating a continuation of our significant growth.”
Quasar usually advertises its jobs on Monster, Indeed and Linkedin. “Interested candidates can also contact our human resources department with inquiries,” says Henry. “At quasar, we recruit for talent, not position.”
Cleveland Whiskey 
Cleveland Whiskey
Cleveland Whiskey has seen wild success with its varieties of whiskey made by pressure aging the whiskey for superior quality in a short period of time. Founder Tom Lix started the company in 2013 after moving here from Boston eight years ago.
In addition to the original blend, Cleveland Whiskey also offers 87, a slightly lower proof version, and an annual Christmas Bourbon featuring a new collectible bottle each year. And Lix is constantly working on new products. “I’m always working on different infusions,” he says. “I just keep trying different things. I have 100 different experiments at any given time.”
The company has 10 full time employees. Lix stopped using part-time workers as he streamlined his operation. “We’ve automated a bit so we’re more efficient than we used to be,” he says. But he is also quick to point out that he’s moved most of his outsourced operations to local companies. “Our direct hiring is not as big as some manufacturers, but our labels and bottles are both printed locally,” he explains. “Our labels were printed in California last year and our bottles were printed in British Columbia. Now they’re printed right here in Cleveland. The impact is more than just the people I’ve hired here.”
Additionally, Lix formed partnerships with many local food companies, such as Fear’s Confections and Mason’s Creamery. In fact, Cleveland Whiskey hosted a holiday open house this past Saturday feature some of the treats made by local food producers with Cleveland Whiskey flavors.
Cleveland Whiskey now produces 16,000 cases, or 192,000 bottles per year and is in seven states. Lix just announced that Cleveland Whiskey is about to be available in Germany and plans are in place to be in Asia and the United Kingdom next year. Cleveland Whiskey made it into Fortune’s list of top 11 holiday gifts for drinkers.
The majority of Lix’s business occurs between October and December so he doesn’t yet have concrete numbers on 2014 sales. But he knows business is going well and that most likely he will be hiring in 2015.
“Things are going pretty well but we’re still a small organization and there’s only so much we can do,” he says. “We’ll probably hire again in the summer, it depends on the export stuff.”

Photos Bob Perkoski except where noted

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.