Entrepreneurs / Small Business  April 30, 2009

Business Hall of Fame inducts seven

LONGMONT – The Boulder County Business Hall of Fame inducted seven men at its 17th annual luncheon ceremony Thursday at the Radisson Conference Center in Longmont.

This year’s class of inductees include William Boettcher, owner of B.C. Services and leader at Longmont United Hospital and its foundation; real estate developers Lou DellaCava and Jerry Lee; Jay Elowsky, owner of Pasta Jay’s restaurant; Richard Herring, founder of Earthwatch Inc., now DigitalGlobe Inc.; and Jerry W. Lewis and Jeff Schott, former publishers of the Boulder County Business Report.

Each one’s story is different but carries the common theme of the willingness to take risks with the personal confidence and perseverance to make their choices work.  

The hall recognizes businessmen and women who exemplify business, cultural and philanthropic achievements that serve as the foundation of communities in the county.

Formed in 1992, the hall as inducted more than 100 individuals who have been pivotal in shaping and supporting Boulder County’s business community.

William Boettcher

For William Boettcher, his personal road brought him from Nebraska to Boulder – almost by accident.

“There are many roads of life; you choose to go down one road – and it seems your whole life is built around it,” he said. “But in reality, one road leads to another one – and that’s how you find the thing you really like to do.”

After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, Boettcher went to college on the GI Bill, majoring in finance. While on his way to a job interview in California, he made an unexpected stop in Boulder. Liking the city, he applied at the Credit Bureau of Boulder, where he was hired on the spot.

After purchasing the company in 1972, Boettcher devoted himself to bringing modern technology into the local credit industry. Thanks to Boettcher, state of the art devices such as hand held calculators and, eventually, computers, replaced manual files and ancient key punch adding machines.

Over the past four decades, Boettcher has been a board member of many organizations, including the Boulder Jaycees, where he served as president, the Longmont Chamber of Commerce, and both Longmont United and Longmont Community Hospitals.

Today, Boettcher – along with his wife, Anne, and their sons, John and Steve, – owns B.C. Services Inc., a business-oriented financial management company.  Boettcher and his wife live in Longmont, where they have raised their four children. The couple also owns 1,600 acres of farmland in Nebraska and Iowa, where they raise soybeans and corn.

“There’s no big secret to success,” Boettcher said. “The main thing is to be honest with yourself, your customers and employees, and always deal in an upright manner. And you should always follow your dreams by finding what you have a passion for and giving yourself to it. After all, we’re only here for a short time, and this is our life – it’s not a dress rehearsal.”

Lou DellaCava

The road of life led Lou DellaCava to Boulder in the early 1960s to work at IBM. As a child growing up in the Bronx, DellaCava spent his weekends working construction with his father, who instilled in him the work ethic he abides by to this day.

“My dad taught me to respect the working man,” he said. “The people I met on those construction jobs were earning a living to support their families, and their work ethic was strong – not just because it was noble in its own nature, but also because it was necessary to provide the wherewithal for families to make a living.”

In what he calls a series of “fortuitous accidents,” DellaCava paid his way through college by working on constructions sites. After serving in the U.S. Army, he was directed by friends to the IBM recruiting office, where he was hired for his accounting skills. Eventually, IBM paid for DellaCava to go to graduate school in New York, and then sent him to fill a position in Boulder.

During his years with IBM, DellaCava became a key contributor to the company’s growth in Boulder County, where he managed a $500 million line of products pivotal to the early Internet Technology industry. In the late 1970s, DellaCava made another defining decision in his life by involving himself with real estate development during the formative years of Boulder’s business community. These projects led him to eventually leave IBM and form his own company, LJD Property Management and Development, where he has continued to develop major commercial real estate projects pivotal to the growth of Boulder County.

DellaCava and his wife, Melodie, live in Boulder. The couple has been married for more than 30 years, and they have two children.

“The secret of my life has been luck,” he said.  “I didn’t have to live in the depression or go to war, and I was lucky enough to work with a company that was growing dramatically. I never had the disadvantages that other generations have had, and I’m very grateful. I just rolled up my sleeves and went to work. You do it out of survival – and then, luck takes over.”

Jay Elowsky

The road toward Jay Elowksy’s destiny started in the kitchen of his aunt and uncle’s pizza restaurant in San Clemente, where he worked his way up from washing dishes.

It was there that his Uncle Sonny shared with him the recipes of his own mother, whose grandmother cooked for the King of Italy.

Elowsky made the biggest decision of his life by leaving the family restaurant and buying his own location at 9th and Pearl streets in Boulder in 1988. He admits he first fell in love with Colorado thanks to the John Denver specials he watched on television.

In the early days of Pasta Jay’s, Elowsky did all the cooking, taking naps in a coat closet between shifts.

Within weeks of opening, Pasta Jay’s received a four-star rating, and the crowds came rushing in. Soon, Elowsky was cooking for visitors from all over the country, and for celebrities from the Dali Lama to the Grateful Dead.

Perhaps his longest standing relationship has been with the University of Colorado athletic department, which named Elowsky its unofficial “Team Owner.”

Not only is he invited to every staff meeting, but he also has a permanent seat on the team plane. He was even given a track and field championship ring when the team won the national title last year.

Elowsky lives in Boulder, where he raises his two children. Throughout the year he provides food and fundraising venues for homeless shelters, churches, police departments and charitable organizations. At fundraising events in the past year, Pasta Jay’s fed more than 5,000 workers and attendees for free. Since the opening of his restaurant, he has run a soup kitchen for the impoverished of the neighborhood.

“It’s a competitive business,” he admitted. “We’ve got all those things going for us, but so do a lot of restaurants. Our key is that we treat our employees and our customers like family and make them feel good about themselves. And also, I think God has been very good to us.”

Richard Herring

Richard Herring’s road of life began on a railroad track, where his father worked in Allentown, Pa.

After receiving valuable career advice from his father’s fellow railroad workers, he majored in engineering at Lehigh University.

A spring break visit to Boulder inspired him to turn down scholarship offers from eastern colleges and attend the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he got his doctorate in chemical engineering. After college, Beech Aircraft hired him to work in his specialty, cryogenics, where he helped develop the liquid oxygen tanks used in the Apollo Space missions.

Subsequently, Herring moved on to become a president at Ball Aerospace and Technologies in Boulder, where he developed new satellites, including one that assisted U.S. troops in Operation Desert Storm.

After more than 25 years at Ball Aerospace, Herring went on to become the first chief executive officer of DigitalGlobe Inc. in 1997, from which he retired in 1999 to become the chief technical officer of Vu1, a company that manufactures environmentally safe, nontoxic, energy-efficient light bulbs.

As one of the nation’s leading chemical engineers, Herring continues to live by the words of wisdom he learned from a Lehigh professor.

“People try to come up with a complex solution to things, but it’s better to break everything down into little pieces, bring a lot of simple solutions together to make things work,” he said. “The more simple you can make a solution, the better it is.”

In addition to serving on engineering committees at the University of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines, Herring also helped to create the nonprofit organization Engineers Without Borders.

Herring lives in Longmont with his wife, Barbara. The couple has four children – of which two have followed in their father’s footsteps to become engineers.

Jerry Lee

For real estate developer/entrepreneur Jerry Lee, the first important fork in his road of life came when he chose take a job with W.W. Reynolds and move to Boulder from Illinois, leaving behind not only his parents, but 14 brothers and sisters as well.

“Our family is very close, so it was difficult,” he said.

Working as an accountant for the company, Lee took lessons in real estate development from his boss and mentor, William Reynolds, and was named company president in 1983. As a continuation of his partnership in real estate development with Reynolds, Lee created his own company, Lee Real Estate, in 2000.

In recent years, Lee took another road by assisting local entrepreneur Danny Abshire in designing and marketing a new athletic shoe. First marketed in 2007, the Newton is an ergonomic, lightweight running show that mimics barefoot running while providing greater cushioning on impact. The Newton is a culmination of Lee’s passion for running, which has led him to compete in 15 marathons.

Lee’s philanthropic work includes serving on numerous committees for the city of Boulder, including serving more than a decade on the Boulder Urban Renewal Board.

Today, Lee runs Lee Real Estate and serves as chief executive of Newton Running Company. He also continues to partner in real estate projects with Reynolds.

Lee lives in Boulder with his wife, Donna. The couple has two children.

“I believe in the old adage of treating people the way you want to be treated. It’s super important and has been a key to my career,” Lee said. “And in order to be successful, sometimes you have to find out the hard way that there are things you think you know – but you really don’t.”

Jerry W. Lewis and Jeff Schott

For many years, business news in the Boulder Valley was relegated to a few paragraphs in the back pages of Section A in daily newspapers.

But by merging their individual roads in life, Jerry Lewis and Jeff Schott put regional business news in the spotlight when they bought the Boulder County Business Report and turned it into an award-winning business newspaper.

For University of Kentucky journalism graduate Jerry W. Lewis, the road toward success was fueled by a desire to live in the West. After a decade of working at the Denver Post while living in Boulder, Lewis wanted to focus on regional business reporting. At the very moment he decided to leave the Post, he was approached by Jeff Schott, advertising manager the Boulder County Business Report, which at the time was a fledgling business newspaper that was up for sale.

Along with investor and silent partner Jirka Rysavy, Schott and Lewis formed Boulder Business Information Inc. in 1989 and purchased the Boulder County Business Report.

Schott’s road to success originated from upstate New York. He grew up in a family of writers – his grandfather wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, and his father was a prominent magazine editor for several major publications. In his early career as a freelance writer, Schott wrote for several Colorado newspapers including the brand new Boulder County Business Report, which he joined full time in 1984.

In between writing assignments, Schott took it upon himself to contact potential advertisers for the fledgling paper. His efforts paid off. He not only had a natural talent for marketing, but a great liking for it as well, which led to his being named advertising manager.

“I saw how the paper was growing, and I always had this burning sense that the Boulder County Business Report could be successful and do a lot of great things,” he said. “I told people that a business newspaper is good for business, which is something I still believe.”

One key to the newspaper’s success, Lewis said, is its dedication toward covering the regional business news of Boulder and Broomfield counties, so that growing towns and cities such as Longmont, Lafayette, Erie and Nederland always got their fair share of business coverage.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Lewis said. “The 1990s proved to be a time when a lot of the county was developing, and we were able to cover all this new business taking place. And the new advertising helped grow the paper.”

For the next 18 years, the newspaper’s success was fueled by Schott’s advertising acumen and Lewis’ editorial savvy.

“As an editor, the one thing I stressed to all the business reporters was money,” Lewis said. “In every story, I wanted to know where and how a company was getting its funding and paying its bills – because without revenue, you cannot have successful business; it comes down to that simple fact,” he said.

Together, Lewis and Schott launched the Northern Colorado Business Report to cover Larimer and Weld counties and the Wyoming Business Report, which covers the state. In addition, the two publishers created several annual events in the business community including the IQ Awards, the Mercury 100 and Health-Care Heroes, plus partnering with the Millennium Harvest House Hotel in 1992 to establish the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame.

In 2008, Schott and Lewis sold their interest in the Boulder County Business Report to Ohio-based Brown Publishing Co.

“It’s fabulous how the new publisher, Chris Wood, has carried the torch so well – especially during such a tough time for newspapers in general,” Schott said.

Today, Schott continues his involvement with the Boulder business community, while Lewis, who still lives in Boulder with his longtime partner, Allison Gray, continues his local business interests, is a contributing column for the Business Report and writes a popular Internet blog.

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