A bevy of local, national firms help keep Northern Ky.’s economic engines churning

By Abby Laub

MCM CPAs & Advisors is the largest CPA firm in Kentucky. It also has a Cincinnati office that serves Northern Kentucky clients.
MCM CPAs & Advisors is the largest CPA firm in Kentucky. It also has a Cincinnati office that serves Northern Kentucky clients.

A steady influx of new businesses and residents means Northern Kentucky companies need smart growth strategies – from communications, to financial planning and IT services. There is a diverse community of support and services firms providing it.

MRNK-tag-artOne such entity is the regional CPA firm MCM LLP, which provides specialized services to a broad range of clients from its two Cincinnati offices. Among the notable needs and trends among MCM’s Northern Kentucky clients, according to Crystal Faulkner, Cincinnati market leader and partner, are expanding operations and sales beyond American borders to participate in increasing levels of international business.

The firm has nearly 350 employees across five offices, including locations in Jeffersonville, Ind.; Louisville and Lexington; and Cincinnati; and recently merged with Indianapolis-based CPA practice K.B. Parrish & Co. MCM is large but serves businesses big and small in Northern Kentucky.

Strategic Advisors LLC helps people launch their businesses and get connected on a local scale. Patrick Crowley, a partner, noted the strength of Northern Kentucky’s business community and said “you have to know this community, you have to know the people in it, and it’s about relationships in the counties.”

Getting linked into local networks is key, said Crowley, who gain an understanding about being connected by spending much of his professional life as a reporter. His firm uses communication “surgically” to get messages out and help companies outside of the region figure out the best way to get to know people.

“We actually get hired a lot of times by companies outside of the region – downstate and in Cincinnati,” he said. “One thing that’s great about today’s world is you can reach people with so many methods of communications, but you want to be strategic. We find out what people are up to and take them around to business, education and community leaders.”

Crowley said he is encouraged by the amount of attention that Northern Kentucky is gaining from leaders in Frankfort, and the collaboration among local officials.

For Brian Ruschman, newly minted president at C-Forward Information Technologies, getting and staying connected technologically speaking is his IT firm’s focus, but when people hire IT firms these days the number one focus is increasingly cyber security.

“Cyber security is the crux of everything we do,” Ruschman said. “We typically take a multipronged approach to it.”

Covington-based C-Forward attacks cyber security with tried and true anti-virus software, anti-malware, precautions at the firewall level and utilizes new tactics with training staff to be more aware of spamming and targeted phishing efforts.

“There are training products that will send spam messages to employees, and it will report back to who clicks on what,” Ruschman said. “We can set them up to do this once a week or once a month. It allows us streamline whom we need to focus on; not to scold them but just educate them. Ninety-one percent of viruses and malware still come through email.”

C-Forward also provides system audits and provides a third set of eyes on networks, even if there is an in-house IT provider.

“I think in industries like banking and legal, they’re getting pressured to have another set of eyes on their network, so we get called in,” Ruschman said, adding that some insurance companies are even requiring this extra detail and that C-Forward stays completely up to speed on new tactics and trends.

In Northern Kentucky specifically, Ruschman noted that he’s finally seeing people coming out of college who have education specifically based around cyber security as opposed to the more broad programming.

Education is one of the keys to success for UpTech, Greater Cincinnati’s accelerator for data-driven startups. Also located in Covington, UpTech was recently named one of the top national accelerators by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project (SARP), a joint effort from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rice University. With support from Northern Kentucky University’s informatics program, UpTech takes applications from across the nation and is a partner in the Kentucky Innovation Network.

Program Director J.P. Woodruff works hard to educate startups on best practices to get launched. UpTech is in its sixth year and has eight participating companies this year. New this year is a partnership with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, which is a first of hopefully many more engagements with local corporations.

“Startups need funding, which we’ve always been able to provide, and they need guidance, which is something we believe we’re good at, and then in terms of a third thing is customer connections,” Woodruff said. “We’ve been OK with that, but if we can be more strategic in having these corporate partners in place, we have a direct line to mentorship in industry, opportunity for pilots and potentially paid engagements and investments.”

This model also assists with corporate innovation, he noted, and helps startup entrepreneurs begin thinking differently. The success of UpTech’s accelerator program continues to rise, and has clients from all over the world. Last year five international companies went through the program. For these startups to make money through acquisition, merger, private equity or IPO.

Established businesses and startups alike can benefit from the region’s vast network of services. For example, TiER1 Performance Solutions can help improve the effectiveness of key personnel and allow companies to grow further.

Based in Fort Thomas, the award-winning KLH Engineers is responsible for many major projects around the United States for clients like The Home Depot, Under Armour, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Nike and Newport on the Levee.

In business since 1892, Waltz Business Solutions began as a typewriter repair center in Cincinnati but is now centered in Crestview Hills, and specializes in “document creation to document destruction.”

Another longtime business is VonLehman CPA & Advisory Firm. Since 1946 it has deftly guided businesses, nonprofits and governmental entities through ever-changing terrain and has an office in Fort Wright. In nearby Fort Mitchell is another CPA firm, Clark Schaeffer Hackett, a top 100 CPA and advisory firm with more than 400 shareholders and staff and seven offices throughout Ohio and Kentucky.

Moody Nolan brings its international architecture expertise close to home in Cincinnati and Covington. And in Covington, Hub+Weber Architects is a full service architecture and interiors firm, helping clients from early stage pre-development through construction administration.

To help manage all of the wealth generated by doing business well in Northern Kentucky is Cincinnati based Horan, specializing in health benefits, wealth management, and life and disability insurance.

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