Honoring 2016’s Financial Executives of the Year

Seven of the Corridor’s leading CFOs were named Financial Executives of the Year. From left in back row: Casey Drew, Gary Ortale, John Rhomberg and Jim Balvanz. In front, Kenneth Fisher, Bonnie Beardsworth and Michelle Byard.


By Dave DeWitte

You won’t hear about them in the daily news, but their financial insight and analysis skills have saved, revitalized or expanded the reach of many a Corridor organization.

As the Corridor Business Journal’s 2016 Financial Executives of the Year class demonstrates, they aren’t just ‘budget hawks’ or ‘bean counters.’ The winning nominees have made contributions ranging from helping the Corridor’s largest city recover from a major flood to rescuing an engineering firm from financial pressures that threatened its independent existence.

The Financial Executives of the Year award was founded in 2015, with five Corridor executives receiving the honor. This year, the competition was expanded to include honors in seven categories, including awards for the Best Turnaround and Community Service.

“Our goal for this morning is to recognize chief financial officers who have made an outstanding contribution to their companies’ performance over the past year and foster the development of more exceptional CFOs in the Corridor,” CBJ Publisher and CEO John Lohman said during the awards breakfast, held June 1 at the Coralville Marriott.

The 2016 honorees include:

  • Casey Drew, director of finance for the city of Cedar Rapids (government/education)
  • Jim Balvanz, CFO of HH Ventures LLC (private company)
  • Michelle Byard, CFO of HR Green (turnaround)
  • John Rhomberg, CFO and treasurer of the National Resilience Institute (small nonprofit)
  • Gary Ortale, CFO of MidWestOne Bank (public company)
  • Kenneth Fisher, CFO of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (large nonprofit)
  • Bonnie Beardsworth, CFO of Entrepreneurial Services Group Inc. (community service).


Receiving the awards inspired several honorees to share lessons they’ve learned along the way during their acceptance speeches.

Mr. Fisher urged financial executives to understand the industry they are in and “be passionate about it.” He shared UI Health Care’s gains in delivering financial statements more quickly each month, and in providing the level of detail needed to improve operations.

“Financial statements are not the end result,” Mr. Fisher said. “It is the operations of the organization that are the end result. We have to make financial statements useful for the operators to be successful as an organization.”

With such intense professional demands, several honorees discussed the importance of making time for family, for God and for community.

“Sometimes you can do a little; sometimes you can do a lot – just do it,” said Ms. Beardsworth, who serves on the board of directors for St. Pius X Elementary School, Regis Middle School, the Boys and Girls Club and the Cedar Rapids Symphony, in addition to serving as treasurer for the Girl Scouts.

Honorees had many ways of giving back. Mr. Balvanz has helped more than 20 entrepreneurs build companies in the Corridor through his consulting firm, while Mr. Rhomberg helped launch One Mission Fundraising, a company that helps nonprofits meet their fundraising goals. Mr. Drew serves on the boards of Area Ambulance Service, and as treasurer of Horizons: A Family Service Alliance.

Not a single honoree failed to share the credit with their team, which in many cases included the spouses who take up the slack of family duties, as well as the employees who report to them.

“They make me look good, and do all of the heavy lifting for me,” Mr. Drew said of his Cedar Rapids Finance Department team.

For Mr. Ortale, this year’s award was especially meaningful. He is retiring from MidWestOne after 47 years in banking and accounting, and while he wowed his employers by being able to reconcile the accounts of the business swiftly after a big merger, he hadn’t received such an honor before.

“This is kind of the icing on the case as far as my career,” Mr. Ortale said in receiving the award.

More than 180 people attended the June 1 awards breakfast. Sponsors of the CBJ’s 2016 Financial Executive of the Year Award are United Fire Group, Marco, the University of Iowa Community Credit Union and The Overture Group.