MERRILLVILLE | People ask Centier Bank Chief Executive Officer Michael Schrage if he’s really, truly serious about his bank’s well-known “not for sale” pledge.
“Come on,” they say, “what if someone offered you a billion dollars? You mean to tell me you wouldn’t sell it?”
“That’s what I mean to tell you,” Schrage said before a packed ballroom at the Radisson at Star Plaza in Merrillville on Tuesday. “I have 750 associates. They are family. You can’t put a price with family.”
Schrage and the four other inductees in the Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame were quick to credit others – especially family and colleagues – for their success. The class of 2015 was comprised of Schrage, Schepel Buick-GMC Inc. president and owner Richard Schepel, HealthLinc CEO Beth Wrobel, Berlin Metals CEO Roy Berlin, and retired Tonn and Blank Construction Vice President of Operations Joe Coar, who won the Partners in Progress award.
The Times established the Hall of Fame in 2008 to recognize those who have left an indelible mark on Northwest Indiana’s business community. Inductees include such luminaries as the late developer Don Powers, billionaire hotel and billboard magnate Dean White and Peoples Bank Chief Executive Officer David Bochnowski.
This year’s ceremony was sponsored by NIPSCO, Franciscan Alliance, ArcelorMittal, Peoples Bank, and Horseshoe Casino.
Schrage credited employees and others with helping him through valleys in his life, such as when he suffered chronic fatigue syndrome. And he credited employees and others with helping him exceed his ambition of making Centier Lake County’s largest bank. Today, it has 53 locations across Northern Indiana and is the largest privately held bank in the state.
“We are the future of community banks: a private, independently owned bank with a focus on the communities we serve,” he said. “We’re not bossed around by New York stock analysts. If our quarterly earnings are down a few cents, we can still have a great party to celebrate our 120th anniversary.”
Wrobel, the founder and CEO of HealthLinc, with facilities in East Chicago, Valparaiso and Michigan City, thanked her family for all its support. Her late parents always pushed her to succeed.
“I am so blessed to have some of the HealthLinc board and my coworkers here today,” she said. “You make my job easy and make me look good every day. This award is shared with all of you today.”
Coar, who’s still a consultant with Tonn and Blank Construction, said his wife Betty stood behind him in every effort. He said building deep relationships with business associates over the years greatly helped him take the company to the next level. A strong work ethic also didn’t hurt.
“I’m a true workaholic,” he said. “I believe you earn what you want to get out of a life.”
Schepel built up the largest Buick dealership in Northwest Indiana and all of Chicagoland by sticking to the simple philosophy of treating others how he would want to be treated, said Bert Wories, chief financial officer of Schepel Auto Group. He also worked hard.
“You don’t build a successful business on a 40-hour work week,” Wories said. “It involves much sacrifice of self and family.”
Berlin has worked hard to build the reputation of family-owned Berlin Metals, which his father Melvin established in 1967 and which American Metal Market named the best service center in the country last year.
“He’s always tried to be fair to employees, business partners and associates,” Vice President of Finance Bill McDunn said. “He said to us back at Berlin Metals that this is really an award for the company.”
From the Northwest Indiana Times. Written by Joseph S. Pete.