10 notable suburban business people of 2014

  • Edith Flanigen

    Edith Flanigen

  • Seattle Sutton

    Seattle Sutton

  • Jiaqi Tang

    Jiaqi Tang

  • James Rohleder

    James Rohleder

  • Wilbur You

    Wilbur You

  • Bruce George

    Bruce George

  • Sanjib Sahoo

    Sanjib Sahoo

  • Angie De Christopher

    Angie De Christopher

  • Rebecca Darr

    Rebecca Darr

  • Eric Blaskey, a fitness coach at Midtown Athletic Club in Willowbrook, helps Erin Doyle of Downers Grove during a workout.

    Eric Blaskey, a fitness coach at Midtown Athletic Club in Willowbrook, helps Erin Doyle of Downers Grove during a workout. COURTESY OF DAVE SILBAR

 
 
Updated 12/29/2014 12:11 PM

Not too many jobs allow you the golden opportunity of talking to so many innovators. This year, I've had the honor to talk with many, including these 10 notable people:

•Edith M. Flanigen, an 85-year-old consultant and retired award-winning chemist with UOP LLC in Des Plaines, had the opportunity of a lifetime when she was feted at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, D.C., in November. It was just after she met President Barack Obama, who bestowed on her the National Medal of Technology and Innovation Award. She was one of eight recipients of the award, which recognizes people for lasting contributions to America's competitiveness, quality of life and technology. During her 42-year career, she invented more than 200 different synthetic materials, wrote more than three dozen publications and earned 109 patents. She is one of just a few women chemists of her generation. She synthetically manufactured molecular sieves, or zeolites, which are porous crystals capable of separating and purifying complex chemical mixtures and enhancing chemical reactions for oil refining and petrochemical manufacturing. This work led to the advancement of water purification.

 

•Another successful woman in her 80s, eat-right guru Seattle Sutton is a nurse-turned-entrepreneur who now helps numerous people stick to a diet. She has built an empire that includes a third generation of her family and recently opened a new distribution center in Schaumburg. The company, based in Ottawa, Ill, also has distribution centers in Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Palatine and Streamwood. She started the business at age 53, defying the myth that entrepreneurship is only for the young. And despite losing her beloved husband last year, she has no plans to slow down.

•Jiaqi Tang carved out a career in the hospitality industry in China and now in the United States, becoming the new director of food and beverage at Le Meridien Chicago-Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook. About a dozen years ago, she left her native Shanghai, China, by herself and only knowing fluent Chinese and Japanese. Now, she is fluent in the English language as well as in business.

•Jim Rohleder, owner of McHenry-based J.A. Rohleder & Associates Inc., has been the contracted project manager for such major players as Baxter International, DHL, Cabot Electronics and Grainger. That's his so-called second act. Back in 1988, he joined then-named Motorola Inc. as a staff project manager and became director of facilities, engineering and construction during the heyday when Motorola built campus after campus around the suburbs. He defined an era of growth in local technology and became the symbol of a legendary company's expansion with campuses in Arlington Heights, Libertyville and elsewhere.

•Not many create a company, continue to expand, serve major clients and make worldwide connections at the age of 23. That's what Wilbur You did after he founded Youtech & Associates Inc. He started with just $600 and a driving force to succeed. That company has since grown to about 10 employees, recently moved to larger offices in Naperville and is handling such clients as Follett Higher Education Group, InterPark Holdings, LA Tan, Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson and "Inside the Bears" TV co-host and former Chicago Bear Anthony "Spice" Adams. You's parent are from Beijing, China, but they lived for a time in San Paolo, Brazil, where Wilbur You was born. When he was 2 years old, his father died. In 1993, his mother came to the United States because her father, Zhu Xiang Wang, was a nuclear scientist at Fermilab.

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•Bruce George, president of Naperville-based Charles Vincent George Architects, has been a part of many residential, commercial and other building projects nationwide. He and his firm are known for their work on the DuPage River Sports Complex, the Naperville Fire Station No. 10, the Lisle Administrative Building and Naperville South Commons, as well as the Naperville Riverwalk. But a Navajo hogan in Bluff, Utah, was the first for this son of the firm's founder. It was also among the most spiritual. Hogans are specially designed, sacred dwellings of the Navajos and must have specific features. George was the lead designer for a hogan built for the wife of the late Navajo bishop of the Episcopal Church in Bluff, Utah. George, along with about 25 youth members and the pastor of Grace Episcopal Church in Hinsdale were in Utah in June to work on the hogan.

•Sanjib Sahoo of Naperville went from living in a remote area in India, where education was a privilege, to becoming an awarding-winning chief technology officer for Chicago-based TradeMonster, an online retail options and stock broker. Sahoo, 36, has helped TradeMonster become one of the top online trading firms. He also has won several industry awards. And it all started from humble beginnings. He was born in a remote area outside Kolkata and near Haldia in India. When Sahoo was 10, his father, who was a survey commissioner in India, died from cancer and his mother then raised him and his brother.

•Angie De Christopher has always felt that being a carpenter was a natural path for her. It was tough, but she persevered, often as the only woman on a work crew. De Christopher is a licensed carpenter and spent 18 years as a union carpenter. Over the last five years, she has been part of a team at Adventist GlenOaks Hospital in Glendale Heights. She is the only female member of the work crew at GlenOaks and helps to lead various departmental renovations at the hospital.

•Rebecca Darr is now on the front lines of expanding WINGS, or Women in Need Growing Stronger, into Chicago as well as nationwide. The executive director of the advocacy group for victims of domestic violence, which has operations in Palatine and Rolling Meadows, had worked with Chicago's Metropolitan Family Services and the Greater Southwest Development Corp. to build a shelter on Chicago's South Side. But her eye remains on the long term as she aims to establish a national program in coming years.

​•In the blink of an eye, or a text of a word, Erin Doyle of Downers Grove saw her life change forever, all because of a texting truck driver. The senior manager of specialty implementation at Deerfield-based Walgreens endured a horrific car accident in 2009 and has since worked to rebuild her life. She continues to work out regularly, strives to keep moving ahead and has overcome the fears associated with the accident.

•There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people that make business work. Send news about people in business to akukec@dailyherald.com. Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.

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