Entrepreneur of the Year
Throughout his career, Leo has been very well received in the community. He brings cutting edge details to projects that enhance landscapes to their fullest potential. Following many jobs created directly and indirectly through Leo’s efforts, in 2008, the Rotary Club of Lawrence County Pennsylvania recognized Leo as Entrepreneur of the Year. Friends and family came to celebrate the event, including friends and clients from as far away as China.
National acclaim was the result of Leo’s notable creativity in the Condominium Development market. One of his projects was featured in Breaking New Ground, a publication by Design Basics, Inc. The article Standing Tall in the Shadows of Goliath explains how, as a small town local developer, Leo’s project stood tall and outsold competition by a large national builder.
While exploring new business opportunities, Leo set his sights on the Quick Service Food Industry. He researched the best fit for his company and selected Yum! Brands as the franchise to pursue. At the time, Yum! consisted of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s, KFC and A&W Restaurants. The interview process was intensive, and high standards had to be met to become a franchisee. For those with no restaurant experience, Yum! advised it would be very difficult to be approved. Leo’s company was one of only 21 new franchisees approved in 2003, and the only franchisee approved without prior restaurant experience. Yum! indicated the company’s business knowledge far outweighed its lack of experience in operating a restaurant.
In 2007, Tony and Rhonda Masone sought Leo’s assistance in relocating from Los Angeles to New Castle, Pennsylvania, to bring to reality the dream of owning their own business. With 20 years of experience working for large companies across the United States in Regulatory Compliance/EMC and product safety testing, Tony and Rhonda had the hands-on experience but lacked business expertise and capital. Within four months Leo designed and renovated a 7,200 square foot building into a state-of-the-art testing facility. Leo also partnered with Tony and Rhonda in providing capital, helped build a solid management team and successfully launch the company. Today, Keystone Compliance is one of the most successful testing labs in its field in the United States. Once confident in the future of the company, Leo negotiated and executed an equitable exit strategy. http://www.keystonecompliance.com
USBA – Guidance Across Borders
Leo and his colleague Thomas Ha created the United States Business Alliance in 2008. Tom has operations and business interests in Los Angeles and Beijing, China, and his clients in China were looking for a U.S. contact to provide business management skills to developing companies in China. Impressed by Leo’s ability to bring a startup company like Keystone Compliance to reality in such a short time, Tom tapped Leo to assist his clients. Beyond providing business management expertise, Leo’s contacts across the United States also afford him the resources to provide new technologies to Chinese companies through technology sharing and partnerships. Clients frequently visit Leo in the United States, and Leo has been a keynote speaker at the largest manufacturer’s convention in Haikou, China. One of Leo’s latest projects through the Alliance is helping one of China’s largest automobile manufacturers obtain process procedures and technology for building high quality stretch limousines.
In 2006, at a meeting in Columbus, Ohio, inventor William Mook was intrigued by Leo’s business sense and asked him to help launch his new solar technology. Leo brought his resources to the table, along with international players from McKinsey & Company, ch2mhill, Accenture, the Governor of Pennsylvania and U.S. Senators. Leo provided leadership through the due diligence and proof of concept phases, as well as obtaining office space and staff during the first year of the startup. http://www.mokenergy.com/
The GSIP Project was a unique situation in which Leo represented an anonymous party in putting together a large and complex land deal. It was important that the current owner/seller not know whom the buyer was, and that the deal be completed in a compressed timeframe. For Leo, significant due diligence was required, as were price negotiation with the current owner, setting up a new entity and acting as manager for the new corporation. The transaction closed successfully and on time with complete anonymity for the buyer.
The Keys to Economic Development
Leo knows what makes an economic development corporation successful. He spent two and a half years researching it through community service as Marketing Chairperson for The Economic Development Corporation in Lawrence County Pennsylvania. Leo questioned how a county can be marketed without knowing exactly what it possesses, and how it compares to the competition. Leo’s quest led to interviews with flourishing counties, and how they attract and grow business. Leo learned there is not much difference, whether developing a neighborhood community, a business park or an entire county. A county must look at infrastructure, access, competition and unique assets. It must hire the right people, create a vision and execute it. Working within a bureaucracy can be challenging; however, Leo knows logic ultimately prevails through persistence. He found that successful economic development corporations have a visionary somewhere in the system, and know how to work with and around politics. Successful counties also understand the importance of projecting a one-stop shop, which creates a business friendly and welcoming environment for businesses going through a site selection process. Struggling corporations operate more like facilitating organizations that wait for something to happen, and merely walk interested businesses through the process when they show up on the county’s doorstep. Weak corporations often do not communicate well internally, which negatively impacts impressions, relationships and new business development.
Leo welcomes inquiries on how to build a strong economic development corporation. Contact Leo by phone or e-mail for a PowerPoint presentation or to arrange a time for a deeper discussion.