Our readers’ picks of the region’s top business and lifestyle choices.
by Rick A. Richards
All businesses strive to be the best at what they do. Companies create a culture to nurture excellence in hiring the right employees and providing the services and products customers want, but they seldom receive unsolicited validation that what they’re doing works.
Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly’s annual reader’s survey does that. Our readers take a look at the region’s “Best” in several categories, and for the companies chosen, it’s a welcomed surprise and nice morale boost to everyone involved.
Best Companies to Work For
Winners: Centier Bank, Munster; Citizens Financial Bank, Valparaiso; Franciscan Alliance, Crown Point; Horizon Bank, Michigan City; Porter Health, Valparaiso; and Peoples Bank, Munster.
“We are proud to be recognized both locally and statewide as a great place to work,” says Mike Schrage, president and CEO of Centier Bank. “Being named as a Best Company to Work For by the readers of NWIBQ, and as a Best Place to Work by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce for six years in a row, is an honor for our family organization.”
“This is a very humbling honor,” says Daryl Pomranake, CEO of Citizens Financial Bank. “For me, it brings a high level of satisfaction because it means the team we have put together has embraced our strategies and they’re working.”
Gene Diamond, regional CEO for the Franciscan Alliance, says the recognition is a tribute to employees. “We have a very strong mission, we give our employees challenging work and they rise to the occasion.”
“It’s an honor for readers to acknowledge what we do,” says Craig Dwight, president and CEO of Horizon Bank. “This provides an immense amount of pride for everyone here.”
“I am absolutely elated at the results,” says Jonathan Nalli, CEO of Porter Health in Valparaiso. “This is a really nice honor. It’s phenomenal and it underscores our belief in the emphasis on service we’ve put in place.”
Dave Bochnowski, chairman and CEO of Peoples Bank in Munster, says the honor is gratifying because it represents all of the things the bank believes in as a company. “I’m very proud of the award. This validates what we do.”
BUSINESS MEETINGS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Best Meeting Site for Small Groups (under 100)
Winner: The Inn at Aberdeen, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Harre Student Union, Valparaiso; Strongbow’s, Valparaiso; Gamba Ristorante, Merrillville; and Gino’s Steakhouse, Merrillville.
Best Meeting Site for Large Groups
Winner: Star Plaza, Merrillville
Runners-up: Center for Visual and Performing Arts, Munster; Avalon Manor, Hobart; and Blue Chip Casino Hotel & Spa, Michigan City.
“This helps solidify everything that we do,” says Deann Patena, director of sales and marketing for the Star Plaza. “We take great pride in serving our guests.”
Best Convention Site
Winner: Star Plaza, Merrillville
Runners-up: Porter County Expo Center, Valparaiso; and Blue Chip Casino Hotel & Spa, Michigan City.
“We’re honored to be selected by the local community,” says Patena. “We definitely stress service and quality. We’re not always the cheapest, but we won’t compromise on service and quality.”
Best Site for a Corporate Retreat
Winner: Blue Chip Casino Hotel & Spa, Michigan City.
Runners-up: Inspiration Wood, Michigan City; Sand Creek Country Club, Chesterton; and Swan Lake Golf Resort, Plymouth.
Best Casino for Business Parties and Events
Winner: Blue Chip Casino Hotel & Spa.
Runners-up: Ameristar, East Chicago; Horseshoe Casino, Hammond; Four Winds Casino, New Buffalo, Mich.; and Majestic Star Casino, Gary.
“We’re honored to receive these awards, and it’s especially gratifying because they were based on votes from Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly readers,” says Ted Bogich, vice president and general manager of Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa. “Groups of all sizes are able to enjoy our luxury accommodations, state-of-the-art facilities and vast array of guest amenities. We know Blue Chip’s team members will be delighted that the Northwest Indiana business community has recognized their efforts.”
Best Restaurant for Business Entertaining
Winner: Gino’s Steakhouse, Merrillville and Schererville.
Runners-up: Gamba Ristorante, Merrillville; Lighthouse Restaurant, Cedar Lake; Lucrezia’s, Chesterton and Crown Point, Don Quijote, Valparaiso.
Best Accounting Firm
Winner: Terry McMahon & Associates, Munster.
Runners-up: Laciak Accountancy Group, PC, Valparaiso; Swartz Retson & Company, Merrillville; Rowley Bushue, Michigan City; and Prasco & Snearly, Crown Point.
Best Advertising Agency
Winner: Group7even, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: AC Inc., Valparaiso; Morse & Company, Michigan City; and Via Marketing, Merrillville.
“Certainly this is exciting news for us,” says Michelle Andres, president of Group7even. “It’s flattering to find people think you’re the best when you’re a relatively new company. I feel like, gosh, we’re doing the right thing.”
Best Website Design Company
Winner: AC Inc., Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Atom Groom Design, LLC, Crown Point; The Grossbauer Group, Chesterton; and VIA Marketing, Merrillville.
Best Commercial Printer
Winner: Accucraft Imaging, Inc., Hammond
Runners-up: Home Mountain, Valparaiso; Largus Printing, Munster; and Lithographics Communications, Munster.
Best Bank for Business
Winner: Centier Bank, Merrillville.
Runners-up: Citizens Financial Bank, Valparaiso; Horizon Bank, Michigan City; Peoples Bank, Munster; JP Morgan Chase, Crown Point; Fifth Third Bank, locations in 13 communities; and First Midwest Bank, locations in three communities.
“Centier is honored to be recognized by the readers of NWIBQ for 10 years as the area’s Best Bank for Business,” says Mike Schrage, president and CEO. “We are proud to help grow, support and maintain strong businesses throughout Northwest Indiana.”
Best Bank for Customer Service
Winner: Peoples Bank, Munster.
Runners-up: Centier Bank, Merrillville; JP Morgan Chase, Crown Point; Horizon Bank, Michigan City; Citizens Financial Bank, Valparaiso; First Financial Bank, locations in four communities; Fifth Third Bank, locations in 13 communities; and First Midwest Bank, locations in three communities.
“We have a tremendous amount of pride in ourselves on being a local company,” says Bochnowski. “That means doing the things our customers expect and having our employees deal with customers on a one-on-one basis.”
Best Bank for Obtaining a Business Loan
Winner: Citizens Financial Bank, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Centier Bank, Merrillville; Horizon Bank, Michigan City; Peoples Bank, Munster; and JP Morgan Chase, Crown Point.
“We always ask ourselves how successful we are in delivering our products and services. This honor helps answer that question,” says Daryl Pomranke, CEO of Citizens Financial Bank.
Best Credit Union
Winner: Tech Credit Union, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Advance Financial Credit Union, Hammond; Federal Credit Union, Merrillville; Allegius Credit Union, Michigan City; First Trust Credit Union, LaPorte; and Members Advantage Credit Union, Michigan City.
Best Investment Financial Advisory Companies
Winners: Centier Bank Investment Services, Merrillville; Edward Jones, locations in 12 communities; Horizon Trust and Investment Management, Michigan City; and Peoples Bank Wealth Management, Munster.
Best Commercial Construction Company
Winner: Larson Danielson Construction Inc., LaPorte
Runners-up: Tonn and Blank, Michigan City; Berglund Construction, Chesterton; and Hasse Construction, Calumet City, Ill. and Hammond.
“We are certainly honored to be chosen by your readers,” says Tim Larson, president and CEO of Larson Danielson. “I think this sends a strong message that we’re providing great service.”
Best Commercial Architectural Design Company
Winner: Design Organization, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Carras-Szany-Kuhn, Crown Point and Schererville; and Gerometta and Kinel, Chesterton.
Best Commercial Real Estate Company
Winner: Commercial In-Sites, Merrillville.
Runners-up: Century 21 Middleton, Michigan City; Coldwell Banker, Michigan City; and Prudential Executive Group, Valparaiso.
Best Commercial Landscaping Company
Winner: RV Property Enhancements, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Lakeshore Landscaping, Valparaiso; Hubinger Landscaping, Crown Point; Tim’s Landscaping, Griffith.
Best Caterer for Business
Winner: Comforts Catering, St. John.
Runners-up: Bistro 157, Valparaiso; Lucrezia, Chesterton and Crown Point.; Great Lakes Catering, Michigan City; Strongbow, Valparaiso; and Strack & Van Til, locations in 11 communities.
Best Corporate Law Firm
Winner: Burke Costanza Carberry, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Hoeppner Wagner & Evans, Valparaiso and Merrillville; Krieg DeVault, Schererville; Newby Lewis Kaminski & Jones, LaPorte; Hodges and Davis, Merrillville and Portage.
Best Law Firm for Business Acquisitions and Mergers
Winner: Burke Costanza Carberry, Valparaiso
Runners-up: Hoeppner Wagner Evans, Valparaiso and Merrillville; Krieg DeVault, Schererville; Hodges and Davis, Merrillville and Portage.
Best Law Firm for Litigation
Winner: Burke Costanza Carberry, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Hoeppner Wagner Evans, Valparaiso and Merrillville; and Krieg DeVault, Schererville.
Best Estate Planning Practice
Winner: Burke Costanza Carberry, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Hoeppner Wagner Evans, Valparaiso and Merrillville; Krieg DeVault, Schererville; Horizon Trust and Investment Management, Michigan City; and Peoples Bank Wealth Management, Munster.
Upon learning that his law firm had swept the four legal categories in the annual readership survey, George Carberry searched for words. “This is very humbling. It’s validation of and a testament to the hard work that everybody at the firm puts in,” says the partner with Burke Costanza Carberry in Valparaiso. “A lot of it has to do with the people we attract. I’m so very proud of the people we have here. This honor is like icing on the cake.”
Winner: Porter Health, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Community Hospital, Munster; Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point; Franciscan St. Margaret Mercy-Dyer and Hammond; and St. Mary’s Medical Center, Hobart.
“This is another milestone for us,” says Jonathan Nalli, CEO of Porter Health. “We’re all about service to patients and this speaks well that they have spoken up about what we do.”
Best Urgent/Immediate Care Clinic
Winner: Franciscan Express Care, Franciscan Point, Crown Point.
Runners-up: Care Express, Porter Hospital, Valparaiso; and Franciscan Hammond Clinic.
Best Specialty Health Care Clinic
Winner: Franciscan Hammond Clinic.
Runners-up: Cancer Health Treatment Centers, Valparaiso and Chesterton; Medical Specialists, with clinics in Dyer, Munster, St. John and Schererville.
Best Insurance Agency for Business
Winner: General Insurance Services, Michigan City.
Runners-up: State Farm Insurance, Merrillville, Griffith, and Hobart; Farm Bureau, locations in 15 communities; and American Family Insurance, locations in eight communities.
Best Commercial Interior Design Company
Winner: HDW Commercial Interiors, Schererville.
Runners-up: Design Organization, Valparaiso; Kramer & Leonard, Chesterton; and McShane’s, Munster.
Best University to Obtain an MBA
Winner: Purdue Calumet School of Business, Hammond.
Runners-up: Indiana University Northwest, Gary; Mendoza School of Business, Notre Dame, South Bend; and Valparaiso University, Valparaiso.
Best University for a Technology Degree
Winner: Purdue Calumet School of Technology, Hammond.
Runners-up: Ivy Tech Community College, Gary, Hammond, Valparaiso, and Michigan City; Indiana University Northwest, Gary; and Valparaiso University, Valparaiso.
Best University Business Online Degree Program
Winners: University of Phoenix, Merrillville; and Indiana Wesleyan University, Merrillville.
Runners-up: Purdue Calumet, Hammond; and Indiana University Northwest, Gary.
Best Place to Purchase Office Equipment and Supplies
Winner: McShane’s Business Products & Solutions, Munster.
Runners-up: Kramer & Leonard, Chesterton; Office Depot, Michigan City, Merrillville and Highland; and Office Max, Michigan City, Merrillville and Highland.
“This is the eighth year in a row we’ve won, but we certainly don’t take it for granted,” says Brian McShane, president and CEO of McShane’s Business Products and Solutions. “This is a great reflection on our employees and we’re honored to receive this award. It keeps us on our toes and raises the bar for us each year.”
Best Place to Purchase Office Furniture
Winner: Kramer & Leonard, Chesterton.
Runners-up: McShane’s Business Products & Solutions, Munster; and HDW Commercial Interiors, Schererville.
“We are so grateful to our customers for expressing confidence in us and voting for us,” says Mary Leonard-Fox, CEO of Kramer & Leonard. “We’re terribly pleased with this. This is something we strive for and we think it represents why our designers are the best in Northwest Indiana.”
Best Local Telecommunications Company
Winner: Midwest Telecom of America, Merrillville.
Runners-up: AT&T; Comcast; Frontier; and Verizon.
Best Chamber of Commerce
Winner: Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce
Runners-up: Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce, Merrillville; and Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, Hammond.
“We’re really humbled that your readership feels that way. We have an outstanding staff and we feel we’re responsive to the needs of our members, 85 percent of whom are small businesses,” says Valparaiso Chamber President Rex Richards.
Best Business Leader Advocates
Winners: Cal Bellamy, Krieg DeVault; Jon Schmaltz, Burke Costanza Carberry; Mike Schrage, Centier Bank; James Jorgensen, Hoeppner Wagner & Evans; Gregg Holley, Citizens Financial Bank; Jonathan Nalli, Porter Health; and Mark Maassell, Northwest Indiana Forum.
Best Woman-Owned Businesses
Winners: Group 7even, Valparaiso; HDW Commercial Interiors, Schererville; Life Strategies, LLC Schererville; Morse & Company, Michigan City; and VIA Marketing, Merrillville.
Best Automobile Leasing Company
Winner: Enterprise Leasing, Merrillville, Valparaiso and Highland.
Runners-up: Art Hill Ford, Merrillville; Bosak Honda, Highland; and Schepel Buick GMC, Merrillville.
Best Automobile Dealer For Business Executives
Winner: Schepel Buick GMC, Merrillville
Runners-up: Art Hill Ford, Merrillville; Bosak Honda, Highland; and Christenson Chevrolet, Highland.
“Recognition like this is affirmation that we’re meeting our customers’ needs as we should be,” says Tom Van Prooyen, dealer/operator at Schepel Buick GMC. “When we get recognition like this, it means we’re accomplishing what we should be in sales, service, parts and our body shop.”
Best Residential Home Builder
Winner: Olthof Homes, St. John.
Runners-up: Katona Builders, Munster; Cook Builders, St. John; Coolman Builders, Valparaiso; and Wagner Homes, Valparaiso.
Best Home Remodeling Company
Winner: M&M Home Remodeling Services, Crown Point.
Runners-up: Above Board Construction, Chesterton; Schilling Construction, St. John; and Steel City Home Improvement, Merrillville.
Best Golf Course
Winner: The Course at Aberdeen, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Sand Creek Country Club, Chesterton; Pottawattomie Country Club, Michigan City; Lost Marsh, Hammond; Briar Ridge, Schererville; Innsbrook Country Club, Merrillville; Youche Country Club, Crown Point; and White Hawk Country Club, Crown Point.
Best Golf Club for a Charitable Business Outing
Winner: Briar Ridge Country Club, Schererville.
Runners-up: The Brassie, Chesterton; The Course at Aberdeen, Valparaiso; Pottawattomie County Club, Michigan City; Sand Creek Country Club, Chesterton; Youche Country Club, Crown Point; and White Hawk Country Club, Crown Point.
Best Place for a Vacation Getaway Weekend
Winner: Marina Grand Hotel, New Buffalo, Mich.
Runners-up: Star Plaza, Merrillville; Serenity Springs, Michigan City; and French Lick Resort.
Best Health and Fitness Facility
Winner: Franciscan Omni 41 Health and Fitness, Schererville and Chesterton.
Runners-up: Duneland Health and Wellness, Chesterton; Valparaiso Family YMCA; Fitness Point, Munster; and Porter Adult Fitness.
“We’re very excited over this honor,” says Marci Crozier, regional director of marketing and sales for Omni 41 Health and Fitness. “This takes us to another level. I’m proud of our club and this is validation for our Thin and Healthy program that’s encouraging people to walk through the door.”
Best Executive Men’s Store
Winner: David’s Men’s Clothier, Valparaiso.
Runners-up: Cicco’s Menswear, Merrillville; L.R. Clothier, La Porte; Zandstra’s, Highland; and Men’s Wearhouse, Hobart and Merrillville.
Best Executive Women’s Store
Winners: Seasons on the Square, Valparaiso; and Macy’s, Chicago and Merrillville.
Runners-up: Ann Taylor, Lighthouse Outlet Mall, Michigan City; and Fashion Affair, Merrillville.
Best Collegiate Spectator Sport in the Region
Winner: Valparaiso University Basketball.
Runners-up: University of Notre Dame Football and University of Notre Dame Women’s Basketball.
Best Professional Spectator Sport in Northwest Indiana
Winner: Gary Southshore Railcats
Runners-up: Chicago White Sox; Chicago Cubs; Chicago Bulls; and Chicago Bears.
Best Up and Coming Architectural Interior Design Company: Design House Studio, Valparaiso. “Small company that offers A+ Service.”
Best Automobile Repair Shop: Bob’s Auto, Hammond. “Excellent service, knowledgeable and honest.”
Best Collision Repair Business: Tom & Ed’s Autobody, Merrillville and Schererville. “Quality of work is excellent, repair costs as estimated or lower.”
Best Chamber for Business Networking: Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce, Merrillville. “This is very true indeed.”
Best Computer Repair Company: Three Dog Net, Hobart. “Great customer service and affordable repair rates.”
Best Title Company: Professionals Title Services LLC, Merrillville and Valparaiso. “Everyone gives 110 percent and goes beyond the call of duty.”
Best Clinics for Occupational Health: WorkingWell, Michigan City, Crown Point, Hammond, Munster, and Valparaiso. “Simply the very best in NWI.”
Best Professional Staffing Company: Staff Source, Hammond. “Employs over a thousand people a year throughout Northwest Indiana.”