Nevada has always been a state that fosters business and encourages
innovative thinkers. Nevada Business Magazine’s annual 20/20 issue
includes 20 visionaries that have exhibited foresight in their
businesses and have made the current economic climate work for them.
They see the good in a bad situation and turn downturns into
opportunities. These executives don’t look at a recession and cringe;
rather they see a recession as an opportunity for better business.
Nevada Business Magazine reached out to business executives in
our communities and asked them to tell us about business leaders they
felt truly defined a visionary.
Each of the following 20 executives are not only weathering the
economic downturn; they are adapting their methods, adjusting their
tactics and ensuring that their organizations ride through the storm at
the top of their game. Each executive has exhibited an ability to
creatively work through tough situations and succeed, no matter the
President, Faciliteq Architectural Interiors
While necessary tools for every business, there isn’t a whole
lot that is innovative about office furnishings. However, creating
office interiors that can move and adjust as the company moves and
adjusts is an innovative idea. Originally Facilitec, a distributor of
Haworth office furniture, began as a company that sold and installed
commercial furnishings. When Quentin Abramo bought the company in 2005
and changed the name to Faciliteq, he had a different vision.
Abramo wanted to create a company that not only provided office
furniture, but was also able to create interiors that can change with a
company. The intent was to allow companies to move their cubicles,
even whole office and conference rooms, as needed. In today’s economy,
with companies having to cut back on their staff, these interiors are
Today, Falititeq’s business is split. While the company still
provides office furnishings, half of its business is providing
companies with sustainable interiors. Abramo’s vision has allowed his
company to do well, even in this down economy.
General Manager, Vegas PBS
Vegas PBS is a well-known name in Southern Nevada. The public
broadcasting station provides educational programs for children and
informational programs for adults. When Tom Axtell began with the
station 15 years ago, he knew it was time to move the station into the
future. In 1999, when the Federal government compelled all
broadcasting stations to move to the digital format, Vegas PBS was
still using old technologies.
Today, Vegas PBS is unrecognizable from the Vegas PBS of the
past. The company is no longer simply a television station. The
station recently moved into a Gold LEED Certified building that is the
first MISREC compliant building in the nation. Southern Nevada’s local
PBS is being used as an example across the nation of how public
broadcasting should be run.
The station now has the capabilities to provide everything from
online distance education, to real time building plans and critical
information to emergency technicians in the field. As Axtell said,
“We’ve gone from being a television station to a public service media
corporation.” Since Axtell began with the station, revenues have
increased from $3.5 million to $14 million and every year for the past
several years, they have rolled out at least one new technology or
President, Cenicola-Helvin Enterprises
Web design is by no means a new concept. Since the beginning
of the internet, people have been creating ways to build better and
more innovative websites. In fact, virtually the only hiccup for a
company wanting to create a dynamic website is the cost. When Mark
Cenicola founded Cenicola-Helvin Enterprises the company was primarily
Cenicola realized that all companies need websites but not all
can afford the expensive fees to create one. Before the economy turned
south, he introduced a model for website leasing. Similar to leasing a
building or other tools companies need to thrive, Cenicola created a
method whereby companies can have a website and lease it on a per month
basis. The leased website allows companies to take advantage of a site
without the up-front costs. There’s even a buy-out option at the end
of the rental period.
Having the foresight to recognize this need in the online
marketplace and to introduce a unique product displays 20/20 vision.
Eventually, Cenicola says he wants to take the company public and from
there, the sky is the limit.
Terry Copeland, PhD
President & Chief Executive Officer, Altairnano
One of the companies leading the charge to provide clean,
efficient power is Altairnano. Driving that charge is Terry Copeland,
PhD, president of the company. One of the energy components Altairnano
creates is an advanced lithium-ion energy storage and battery system.
These batteries are able to out perform many of their counterpoints in
both life-cycle and power capacity, making them the wave of the future.
Copeland joined the company in 2007 and has been introducing
this technology around the world. He feels that our world cannot
continue to sustain for the future if it remains mired in the energy
uses of the past. Some of the technologies Copeland and Altairnano
have been working on include smart-grid technology, renewable
integration, military uses and transportation solutions. When future
generations are flying around in their battery-operated cars, chances
are those batteries will be provided by Altairnano. Sharing them with
the world is Copeland’s job.
President & Chief Executive Officer, Nathan Adelson Hospice
Hospice care requires some of the most difficult work in the
healthcare industry. The work at hospices can be both sad and
grueling. There are a number of misconceptions about what a hospice is
and what it does. When Carole Fisher began at Nathan Adelson four
years ago, she knew all of this but also knew that some changes could
be made to alleviate that perception.
When she became CEO of the hospice, she had three goals in mind, to
make Nathan Adelson the hospice of choice, the employer of preference
and a training center of excellence. She has tirelessly worked to
achieve those goals and the respect she has earned from her peers is
When the economy began to shift she realized that there would be
tough times ahead. Last fall, she began the process of consolidating
job duties and worked to minimize the impact to patients and
employees. The result is a loyal staff and no decrease in the level of
care patients receive. Fisher attributes her success to several
things; an open line of communication with her staff, the fact that she
hates to fail and that she can’t stand to let people down.
Mayor, City of Las Vegas
It’s indisputable that Las Vegas’ mayor, Oscar Goodman is a
visionary. He has walked and talked his vision every day of his career
as mayor. Goodman wants to make sure the world loves his city as much
as he does. To that end, the changes he has put into effect have been
substantial. Goodman determined that he wanted to revitalize downtown
and the downtown of today is vastly different from the downtown of 15
years ago. He’s committed to bringing a sports team to Las Vegas and
expects to have a basketball team in the next couple of years and a
hockey team immediately following.
Mayor Goodman came to our city in 1964 with his wife and $87
dollars in his pocket. He and his wife realized that Las Vegas was
where they wanted to make their home. They have raised four children
that live and are successful in Las Vegas. Goodman has been mayor for
10 years and calls himself the “happiest mayor in the universe”.
Founder and Part-Owner, Stoney’s Rockin’ Country
Stoney Gray is a man living his dream. Previously the manager for
Gilley’s, a saloon style dance-hall in Las Vegas, Gray saw it’s closing
not as negative, but as a catalyst for his ambitions. Two years ago,
he founded the first Stoney’s Rockin’ Country and has since added
another location in Southern Nevada and one in Indiana. All this comes
during a time when most entertainment businesses are struggling or
closing their doors completely. He say’s that eventually he wants to
take Stoney’s nationwide.
Gray is enjoying his success and continues to enjoy the
challenge of running a business. “We love what we do,” he said, “Our
customers are the best.” Gray’s goal to make a dance hall for locals
to enjoy has certainly paid off. In addition to Stoney’s, Gray is also
a partner with Wicked HP, a company that builds and sells racing
engines. His entrepreneurial spirit is evident and his success, while
certainly not the norm for this economy, is the result of his vision.
President, Nevada Title Company
Anything related to commercial real estate in Nevada is
struggling. It’s common knowledge that the market is experiencing the
worst downturn in recent history. What is surprising is Jeffrey
Harris’ attitude towards a declining economy. As president for Nevada
Title Company, Harris has been front and center for some of the most
significant changes the market has seen. He has used the downturn to
focus the title company’s goals and reorganize it in such a way that it
continues to thrive despite the economy.
“Business has improved more as a result of our getting focused
and becoming a leaner company,” he said. Harris’ goal is to see Nevada
Title Company out service their competition in all major market
segments. Today the company captures between 65 and 70 percent of
market share. The economy has allowed the title company to take
advantage of market segments that are doing well, such as
foreclosures. In addition, it has facilitated creative ways to obtain
new revenue streams.
Michael Harter, PhD
Senior Provost and Chief Executive Officer, Touro University
Dr. Michael Harter has been with Touro University since it’s
inception in 2004. Harter has built the university to fit the needs of
Southern Nevada, primarily to meet the demand for qualified healthcare
professionals. Since the beginning, Harter recognized the shortage of
healthcare professionals in Southern Nevada and he has been working to
fill that shortage. A surprising 70 percent of healthcare
professionals trained at Touro, stay in Southern Nevada.
In order to encourage his students to remain in the area, Harter
has developed partnerships with Valley Hospitals for internships and he
carefully recruits each student to ensure that they reach the schools
standards of excellence. The school is still going through a period of
growth. In the next few years Harter plans to open several new
programs and recently opened an Autism Center to provide an array of
services for autism patients. Harter knows that he doesn’t know
everything. “I utilize the knowledge and expertise of a larger number
of people to help plan and implement programs,” he said. His vision
for Touro is manifested in the growth the school continues to achieve.
Senior Vice President One to One Interactive
David LaPlante started a company called Aztec with Martin
Gastanaga in 1995. In 2002, right at the beginning of the “dot com
bomb” he merged with Twelve Horses, an internet marketing firm.
LaPlante knew even in ’95 that the future was online. Twelve Horses
has certainly made a mark in Nevada, but LaPlante’s ambitions extend
even further. He wanted to be able to serve clients in the entire
nation. To that end, Twelve Horses recently merged with One to One
Interactive, Inc. and in one fell swoop, LaPlante now has the resources
of a global company behind him.
LaPlante redefines the term “adjusting to the market”. A highly
skilled and creative marketing professional, LaPlante has made a career
out of recognizing what is next on the horizon and building his
business to succeed. “I’m not afraid of stirring it up,” LaPlante
says. “I’m not afraid of being the idiot everyone laughs at because
the people that do ridicule me eventually end up asking for my
advice.” He has a dream for Northern Nevada and encourages each of his
employees to share their own visions. LaPlante is proud of his
companies’ reputation of being ahead of the curve every step of the
Anthony Marnell, III
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, M Resort
Opening a luxury hotel and casino in the middle of a recession
is quite a feat. Opening one that caters to both locals and tourists
on the very South end of the strip and making it successful is a feat
for a Marnell. Anthony Marnell, III has had an interesting and varied
career and his most recent achievement is the M Resort. Marnell was
born and raised in Las Vegas and, aside from a stint playing for the
San Diego Padres, has lived most of his life in Southern Nevada where
“Marnell” is a household name.
The Marnell family has a history of bucking the trends in their
projects and aspirations. The M Resort opened March 1st of this year
and is quickly taking its place among the elite hotels and casinos that
grace Southern Nevada. Marnell’s hard work in making this hotel/casino
a reality has paid off. Marnell decided to push forward with the M
Resort, even though the economy was worse than anyone expected. His
confidence has rippled through the Valley. “Be realistic,” advises
Marnell. “Blind entrepreneurs wind up dead. You need to do your
homework but you can’t be afraid to take risks. Everyone needs to get
through this period,” he adds.
President & Chief Executive Officer, Three Square
When Julie Murray began working on creating a food bank for
Southern Nevada, she knew she wanted to achieve two things. First and
foremost, she wanted to relieve hunger. The second focus was to create
an environment in which the community can come together. Three Square
began with Julie Murray, the non-profit now has 52 employees, 2,500
volunteers, 2,300 donors and 266 agency partners; all of this about two
years from when it opened. The food bank broke records it’s first year
and is being used as a model across the nation.
Today, the need for a solid food bank is greater than ever and
Murray stays focused on that need. When Murray realized that the
economy would bring a shortage of food, she created partnerships with
other cities whereas the food banks trade truckloads. For example, a
city near large farming communities would have an abundance of food but
would be in short supply of paper products, which we have. This
out-of-the-box thinking is what is making the food bank thrive today.
Murray also recognizes the need for Southern Nevada to feel like a
community. To that end the food bank just opened a community room
designed to hold meetings. All of the proceeds from the meeting room
go back into the food bank and it gives businesses an opportunity to
get involved with their community.
President, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer MGM Mirage
One of the most recognizable names in the hotel and gaming
industry, MGM Mirage is one of the largest entities of its kind around
the world. The man that holds the reins to that type of company, by
necessity, must be innovative and visionary. James Murren has both of
those traits in spades. Named chairman of the board and CEO for MGM
Mirage in late 2008, Murren knew he was walking into a sandstorm.
With CityCenter in the works but experiencing funding issues,
Las Vegas collectively held their breaths to see what would happen next
with the multi-billion dollar project. Confidently and quickly,
Murren, and his partners, worked through the myriad of issues to get
the needed funding for the project. CityCenter made it through the
crisis and will have openings throughout the next few months. The
largest project the Valley has ever seen, it took no small amount of
innovation on Murren’s part to keep CityCenter on track and even more
surprisingly, on time. At a time when Las Vegas’ residents desperately
need jobs, Murren plays a large role in helping to provide them.
Group Vice President, Valley Health System
Whether economies go up or down, people still need medical
care. Unfortunately, in down economies, that medical care isn’t always
backed by an insurance company to pay for it. Karla Perez has been
with Valley Hospitals long enough to know how to plan for these
situations. She started as a clerk 26 years ago when the five-hospital
system only had one hospital. She has seen the growth the hospital has
managed in that time and was able to push for some growth of her own.
Valley Hospitals recently opened Centennial Hills Hospital and
is in the process of expanding its Summerlin Hospital. “There is a
need for additional services, the hospital is at full capacity” Perez
said. “The project started before the economy turned, we couldn’t stop
just because it went south.” The 210,000 square foot expansion is
expected to be complete by January. In the meantime, she has managed
to maintain the quality of care even while working on a tighter
budget. “When you provide a great deal of charity care, you need to
look for ways to be more efficient and productive,” she said. “We tend
to run lean anyway.”
Perez surrounds herself with people that are just as driven and
focused as she is. She is committed to ensuring the Valley Health
System is an integral part of Southern Nevada.
Nevada President Northern Trust
Seeing a commercial loan get approved in today’s economic
climate is like watching a magic trick, everyone wants to figure out
how it’s done. According to Reed Radosevich at Northern Trust, no
magic is involved; it is simply a matter of lending prudently and
sticking to your principles.
“Any bank can make a loan to someone,” he says, “but are you
willing to say no in order to protect a client’s best interest? We
take a holistic approach and sit on the same side of the table with our
customers. If it’s a viable project and it makes good sense, then yes,
we’re going to lend.” Lending prudently in both good times and bad has
served Northern Trust well. Radosevich started with the bank five and a
half years ago and has seen steady growth. Through the recession the
bank has actually expanded. Radosevich’s visionary approach continues
to serve the bank as well as his customers.
Dr. Harry Rosenberg
Founding President, University of Southern Nevada
When the University of Southern Nevada enrolled its first class
in January of 2001, Dr. Harry Rosenberg had a vision for the school.
He wanted the university to become a professional school that trained
healthcare practitioners. That vision has not wavered throughout the
years. Rosenberg built the school from its first pharmacy program to
include several healthcare programs including a nursing and
orthodontics program. “I realized there was niche here,” Rosenberg
said. “The state has grown and so have the healthcare needs.”
Rosenberg started with a unique education model. Students spend
six hours a day, completing one course at a time and they must pass
with at least 90 percent. Today the school has a graduation rate of 98
percent or higher and most students stay in Nevada, typically receiving
two or three job offers before they graduate. This model has shaped
the school into the respected institution it is today. The school
already has had a tremendous impact on Southern Nevada and Rosenberg
has plans to expand into new programs in the future.
General Manager Telesphere
Michael Simmons has had a varied and interesting career. He
worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for three years
before he decided to get into the technology field. Since joining that
field over 20 years ago, Simmons has seen and reacted to change before
it happens, giving him the edge in the telecommunications world.
Simmons was able to jump on the voice-over-internet-protocol
(VoIP) wave before it was mainstream. He worked with the National
Association of Cellular Agents to help develop software. Today,
Simmons works with Telesphere, a national telecommunications company
that provide VoIP services to over 40 states.
Simmon’s role at the company has been integral in giving
Telesphere the foothold it needs to survive in the Southern Nevada
market. With so many telecommunications companies in Nevada, success
here isn’t always guaranteed. Simmons has demonstrated his ability to
jump with the market and succeed where few others could. In fact, the
company launched here at the beginning in July of 2008 and has
succeeded in growing in this down economy above what even they
General Manager Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada
Jacob Snow has a difficult job to say the least. Ensuring that
Southern Nevada’s roadways remain safe for its residents is only part
of that job. The other part is finding creative ways to fix so many of
the problems that face the Valley’s freeways and roads. To that end,
it would appear that Snow’s creativity is boundless. He helped to
institute electronic signs on freeways that show how long it will take
drivers to reach certain points, thereby allowing drivers to make an
educated decision on what route to take. Snow has also worked
tirelessly on Southern Nevada’s mass transit programs to create a
better, faster system.
To that end, Snow and the Regional Transportation Commission of
Southern Nevada (RTC) is getting ready to roll out a new mass transit
program called ACE. The program is modeled after North Las Vegas’ MAX
program and will allow users to use buses to get further faster. Snow
plans to have ACE transits all over the valley in the next few years.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Understand.com
It seems like such a simple concept, the ability to have
knowledge before undergoing any type of medical procedure. However, so
many patients don’t fully understand, are afraid to ask or don’t know
what to ask before having medical procedures done. Darik Volpa
understood this disconnect while working with Striker, an orthopedic
device company. Volpa saw that while doctors were doing their best,
many patients were still confused and frightened by the procedures they
needed. In May of 2003, Volpa moved to Reno and set-up shop for
Understand.com, an online company that provides animated videos for
patients to better understand medical procedure.
The company started with Volpa, two contractors and no debt.
Today the company is still debt free, has 15 employees and a handful of
remote contractors throughout the world. Doctors license the content
for their websites as a service to their patience. His business model
is solid and his customer retention rate is over 90 percent. Even more
impressive, Volpa is hiring in the down economy and business is better
Dr. Stephen Wells
President Desert Research Institute (DRI)
The Desert Research Institute (DRI) was founded in 1959, but
has really gained its legs since Dr. Stephen Wells began with the
company in 1995. In the past several years, interest in creating a
sustainable world has grown exponentially, at the center of that growth
has been DRI. Since Wells has become president at the organization,
the world has begun to take notice. What started as a division of the
University of Nevada to conduct research in Nevada is now an
organization that conducts research around the world.
The institute has two major campuses in Southern and Northern
Nevada and over 500 employees with approximately $50 million in annual
revenue. Wells uses the history of DRI in tandem with the scientific
talent at the company to foster an environment of learning and helping
the world community as a whole. DRI can work on 300 projects at any
given time. It’s Wells’ job to ensure that the information needed to
make the world a safer, more sustainable place is accurate.