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25 people to watch in 2018


Delaware Business Times asked industry leaders to identify people to watch in their respective sectors. While there are many worthy candidates, we present 25 individuals to watch in the new year.

David Leo Banks – Executive Chef and Owner of Harry’s Seafood Grill

Chef David Banks in October became the sole owner of Harry’s Seafood Grill, which he’d opened in 2003 with former partner Xavier Teixido, and Harry’s Fish Market + Grill on the Wilmington Riverfront. He was previously the corporate executive chef for Harry’s Hospitality Group, which includes Harry Savoy Grill, which he helped open in 1988, Harry’s Savoy Ballroom and  Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal House & Saloon.

The Culinary Institute of America graduate, who honed his skills at the Hotel du Pont, is known for his formal attire – you’ll seldom see him without a tie, black pants and black shoes – and his innovative streak. It will be interesting to watch him take the full reins at Harry’s Seafood Grill.

Colm Connolly – Managing Partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius

President Donald J. Trump has nominated Colm Connolly, managing partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius’ Wilmington office, for a federal judgeship on Delaware’s U.S. District Court. Action on the nomination is expected early this year. Connolly was nominated during the Bush administration, but both U.S. senators from a nominee’s home state must sign off on the nomination, and only Sen. Tom Carper did in 2008.

This time around Connolly has both senators’ backing.While he is best known locally as the federal prosecutor who helped convict Tom Capano in the murder of Anne Marie Fahey, Connolly donates many pro bono hours to help victims of domestic violence and he serves on the boards of Delaware Hospice and the Ministry of Caring.

Karen Fletcher – CEO RAPID Manufacturing Institute of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers

Karen Fletcher, a former DuPont Co. executive, took leadership last year of this new national program, which will leverage the expertise of a consortium of companies in the chemical process, pulp and paper, and metals industries, as well as government laboratories and academic partners.

Sheila Bravo – President and Chief Executive Director of Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement

Sheila Bravo called strengthening Delaware’s nonprofit capacity to deliver quality services the biggest issue this year for the alliance, which has 400 members. To that end, she organized nonprofits to fight for grant-in-aid money in Dover last June. She said this includes strengthening nonprofit and government partnerships by advocating for investment in nonprofit services, such as grant-in-aid, contracts and state grants.

David Curtis – Best Practices/Innovation Specialist for the City of Wilmington

David Curtis is Wilmington’s first manager of innovation, with three big projects highlighting his first year on the job. A group that he led reviewed parking regulations citywide, came up with the mobile pay system for downtown and the Riverfront and has more ideas on the way.

He’s also leading a drive for outcome-based departmental analytics, for instance, saying that the licenses and inspections department will review all permits within 30 days, down from 60 – and be tracked on that new standard. And he’s tasked with creating a 311 call center that can handle all calls about municipal services, replacing the need to stumble around multiple units.

Jeff Flynn – Director of Economic Development for the City of Wilmington

A hallmark of Flynn’s work over the years is matching people and resources with opportunities and structuring successful deals around the match, often with help of private and state partners.

The results can breathe new life into vacant city sites. Two examples to watch for in 2018: The renovation of the long-vacant Harper Thiel site on Miller Road, which will be home to the Wilmington Brew Works, and construction of the 20-acre South Wilmington Wetlands Park, a complex project converting a former dump into a natural-resource area.

Bill Freeborn – Vice President of the Delaware Contractors Association

Bill Freeborn, the dynamic executive vice president of the Delaware Contractors Association, has the expertly rounded resume to go anywhere. Freeborn was an early expert on the registered agent services industry, who still serves as advisor to companies.

He headed the sales team and product development efforts at Corporation Service Co. during its 1990s growth spurt. A former Wilmington city councilman and an assistant secretary of state under Gov. Mike Castle, he knows his way around Dover.

Dr. Laverne Harmon – President of Wilmington University

Dr. Laverne Harmon became president of Wilmington University on July 1, 2017, taking charge of a school that has expanded from 2,000 student to 20,000 over the past 20 years. Indeed, Harmon has a similar background to many of those students: She started working at the school 28 years ago without a degree. She then went on to earn her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate. As president, she has prioritized reaching new student populations that will build upon the region’s workforce.

Carrie Leishman – President & CEO of Delaware Restaurant Association

Few advocates for Delaware’s hospitality industry are as passionate as Carrie Leishman, a dynamo with a seemingly unflagging spirit. Before coming to the Delaware Restaurant Association nearly 20 years ago, she was president of the Maryland Restaurant Association. Few would deny that she’s expanded both the organization’s impact and its membership. She is an advocate for the industry and a vocal proponent for culinary education and continued training.

Eric Kmiec, Ph.D. – Director of the Gene Editing Institute at the Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham
Cancer Center & Research Institute

Partnerships led by Eric Kmiec are advancing work at Christiana Care’s Gene Editing Institute to develop therapies for cancer and other diseases. A new $1 million National Science Foundation grant will help develop a curriculum at Delaware Technical Community College. The institute also recently signed a three-year agreement to provide genetically modified cell lines to Analytical Biological Services Inc. of Wilmington for replication to researchers worldwide.

The institute has licensed its gene editing technology to Jerusalem-based NovellusDx to improve cancer screening and is planning to use gene editing for a clinical trial on lung cancer, the No. 1 cancer killer nationwide.

T.J. Hanna – President of Harvey Hanna & Associates

T.J. Hanna, president of Harvey Hanna & Associates, runs a company known for hot properties at both ends of the state – the three million-square-foot former GM plant site in Newport and the glitzy Lighthouse Cove project on a prime block in Dewey Beach.

He’s a Tower Hill grad who lives in Greenville, but his parents’ roots are in the Newport area and Harvey Hanna’s Delaware KIDS Fund helps kids there, where 71 percent of elementary school students live at or below the poverty line.

Nick Lambrow – President of M&T Bank

Nick Lambrow leads 2,000 employees as president of M&T Bank’s Delaware division. His bank is a lender almost everywhere you look in 2018 – from the scaffolding around the Hotel du Pont to the new buildings rising at UD’s Star Campus.

In addition to running the state’s largest commercial lender, Lambrow is a key member of the new Delaware Prosperity Partnership. He’s also a trustee at Winterthur and Christiana Care and on the board at the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement.

Sarah A. Long – President, CEO and Treasurer of the Delaware Bankers Association

One way that Sarah A. Long hopes to keep the financial services industry strong for Delaware’s 38,000 banking employees is by attracting fintech companies to the state and having them partner with banks. Also on her agenda for the year is talent development, such as the partnership with the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics, the first university in the nation to offer a minor in trust management.

Kathleen S. Matt, Ph.D. – Dean of the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences

Kathleen Matt is the leader of the University of Delaware’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research Campus. Its 10-story tower is due for completion this fall, and ground has been broken for Chemours and National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals facilities.

The college’s strategic plan shows impressive growth since 2010: 34 percent in undergraduate students, 45 percent in faculty, 52 percent in graduate students and 382 percent in research expenditures. The 272-acre site is also luring businesses and neighbors, she said, citing Christiana Care’s medical aid unit; UD facilities for primary care, physical therapy, speech, language and hearing; and workshops, speakers, cook-offs and wellness programs.

Kathleen Furey McDonough – Chair of Potter Anderson & Corroon

Kathleen Furey McDonough is the new chair of Potter Anderson & Corroon’s executive committee – the first woman in that job in the firm’s 192-year history. McDonough, who leads the firm’s labor and employment practice, is counselor to some of the state’s largest employers.

She won the Delaware State Bar Association’s community service award in 2017 for decades of volunteer work that stretches from Girls Inc. to the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. She is on the board at Christiana Care and former board chair at the Delaware Community Foundation.

Luke Rhine – Director of Career and Technical Education/STEM Initiatives at the Delaware State Department of Education

Luke Rhine leads the development, implementation and continuous improvement of the statewide system of career and technology education in Delaware’s secondary and post-secondary institutions as well as science, technology, engineering and math initiatives in grades K through 12. As such, the former public schoolteacher works closely with the members of the Delaware Manufacturing Association. The state says it’s “uniquely positioned to be a model for the nation” in aligning instruction for the needs of the economy and creating a systemic process for career preparation.

Anahi Santiago – Chief Information Security Officer at Christiana Care

Anahi Santiago, chief information security officer at Christiana Care, is a national leader in the cybersecurity industry and an expert on the importance of patient privacy and security. She has a BS in electrical and computer engineering and an executive MBA from Drexel University. She learned project management while working for Unisys, a global technology company, where she became fascinated with information technology and security.

Todd Stonesifer – President of The Moving Experience

Todd Stonesifer grew up in Dover and began selling real estate there in 1999. He was recognized as his company’s rookie of the year his first year out. Now, he runs The Moving Experience, a non-franchise real estate agency with 19 agents all focused on Kent County. Somehow, he’s also found time to serve as a past president of the Delaware Association of Realtors, to start Destination Downtown Dover and to volunteer with groups supporting business and the arts. Speaking of the arts, he still plays guitar and sings at private parties and local events.

Dennis O’Brien, Ph.D. – Founder of China Marine

Dennis O’Brien has a $100 million idea to create 2,500 units of affordable housing, built in a Chinese factory, for battered neighborhoods in Wilmington and Baltimore. An industrial micro-econometrician who co-founded the Wilmington venture capital firm InfoVest, he and his colleagues at China Marine, a new InfoVest subsidiary, are also suggesting building modular dormitories at the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Syracuse University and Wesleyan University, and they want to help rebuild war-torn sections of East Ukraine.

Doug Ruley – Vice President of Culinary Operations of SoDel Concepts

Chef Doug Ruley spent 10 years at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, but he’s made his imprint on the Delaware hospitality scene at SoDel Concepts, which he joined in 2006. Along with overseeing 10 restaurant kitchens, Ruley represents the hospitality group out in the community. He’s cooked at James Beard’s former home in New York four times. One more invitation from the prestigious James Beard Foundation will break the record for the number of times a chef has cooked at the former home of the culinary legend.

Hanifa Shabazz – Council President at City of Wilmington

Children are at the top of Hanifa Shabazz’s lengthy agenda, and she wants Wilmington to do more to protect them from the epidemic of violence that has bedeviled the city – and cut the violence, too. Her answer is “a change in mindset.

As any family, we always find the resources we need. We’re spending tremendous dollars doing it the wrong way, and we’re working with the governor to reappropriate funds and do it the right way.”

Shabazz engaged Delaware’s Congressional leaders to support her request to the Centers for Disease Control to conduct a study of gun violence in Wilmington.

Rustyn Stoops – Executive Director of Delaware Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Rustyn Stoops oversees a field staff of experts in the federally and state-funded nonprofit organization, under the arm of Delaware Technical Community College, whose purpose is to help Delaware manufacturers improve their global competitiveness.

Since 1994, it’s been “delivering proven solutions and resources to innovate, eliminate waste, reduce costs and drive growth.” Recent success stories from partnership programming include how Delmaco Manufacturing in Georgetown rebuilt after storm damage and how FMC Corp.’s BioPolymer Division in Newark streamlined operations.

Eric Sugrue – Managing Partner at Big Fish Restaurant Group

When Eric and brother Norman Sugrue opened Big Fish Grill on Del. 1 in Rehoboth Beach in 1997, they were doing what came naturally. Big Fish Restaurant Group now has four Big Fish restaurants, from Ocean View to Glen Mills, Pennsylvania. But it made big waves in 2017 with the purchase of the late Darius Mansoory’s properties: Mikimotos Asian Grill and Sushi Bar and Washington Street Ale House in Wilmington and Stingray Sushi Bar and Asian Latino Grill in Rehoboth.

Bryan Tracy, Ph.D. – CEO & Co-Founder of White Dog Labs

In addition to heading this New Castle startup biotechnology company, which is developing technologies to address global challenges, including food sustainability and climate change, Bryan Tracy has been very active in Delaware organizations that foster innovation initiatives and a positive growth environment for business startups. White Dog has for two years received federal funding on biofuels, and it says is “MixoFerm platform improves the efficiency of fermentation processes by 50-100 percent, thus improving the economics of bio-products, from fuels and chemicals to protein-rich feeds.”

Mark Turner – President of WSFS

Mark Turner is president, CEO and chairman of the board at WSFS at a pivotal point in the bank’s 182-year history. WSFS, Delaware’s oldest and largest locally managed bank and trust, isn’t just for Delawareans anymore. More than half of its loans last year were in Pennsylvania – including glitzy projects like Fishtown’s new Philadelphia Fillmore event space.

After building out for several years, WSFS now operates 76 offices from Delaware to Nevada. And WSFS is getting notice from Wall Street analysts who specialize in financial stocks. WSFS is funding projects aplenty in the first state too – Christiana Fashion Center, Delaware Technology Park, Wilmington’s Flats, Dover’s Liberty Court, Showfield in Lewes, Johnny Janosik’s new building in Camden and others.

Turner’s own volunteer efforts are still focused on Delaware. He was a key player in pushing the Delaware Growth Agenda that led to the public-private Delaware Prosperity Partnership. He’s active in everything from Teach for America to the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.

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