Kansas City Business Kudos

Recent business promotions, awards, new hires and special announcements

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Spencer Fane

Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP announced the addition of an associate to its Kansas City office. Chinenye Okafor will join the firm’s Intellectual Property Practice Group where she will focus on patent and trademark acquisition as well as intellectual property litigation matters.

Okafor’s experience as an intellectual property attorney is uniquely informed by her background in engineering. After graduating from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Okafor worked for several years as a systems engineer for an avionic technologies corporation in Dallas. She also served as an electrical engineering patent examiner for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office while simultaneously earning her law degree from George Mason University School of Law.

Spencer Fane also recently launched its new charitable giving program with the mission of renewing the firm’s commitment to the arts and innovation community while maximizing the impact of its annual giving. The program will pilot in the firm’s Kansas City offices and later debut in its Springfield, Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, and Denver offices. The Spencer Fane Charitable Giving Program will provide significant support to select local nonprofit arts organizations through a $50,000 donation to each over the course of three years.

The inaugural program recipient for 2015 will be the Kansas City Art Institute. While the firm evaluates candidates to enter the program in 2016 and 2017, it will continue its support of two organizations as honorary program recipients due to the firm’s history of involvement with each. The Kansas City Repertory Theatre will be a program participant until 2016 and ArtsKC – Regional Arts Council will be placed in the program until 2017.

“Spencer Fane has a long history of supporting the arts and innovation community in Kansas City,” says Firm Chairman Pat Whalen. “It’s one of our passions and the firm is deeply committed to growing the city’s cultural life.”


Thomas O’Grady, PE, has been named to the new role of HNTB corporate president. O’Grady most recently served as Central Division president and has held numerous positions throughout his 23-year tenure with the firm, including Houston office leader and south central district leader.

Based in Kansas City, Missouri, O’Grady reports directly to CEO Rob Slimp and will ensure HNTB continues its long history of outstanding project and profitable operating performance. He will confirm the firm’s best processes, organization and resources are in place to support consistently outstanding, high-quality delivery to the firm’s clients. O’Grady’s focus in this area will complement the firm’s ongoing focus on driving growth of the organization across the United States. O’Grady also has been elected a director of HNTB’s board.

“As Tom continues his service to the firm as corporate president, his dedication and sense of commitment, coupled with client and industry relationships, will contribute to our success on a national scale as we work to improve our country’s infrastructure,” Slimp says.

Intouch Solutions

Intouch Solutions has announced the promotion of Michael Blake to vice president of quality services. A leading marketing agency serving the pharmaceutical industry, Intouch has seen rapid expansion over the past five years and actively promotes experienced leaders from within the 600-person firm.

Blake began his career at Intouch 10 years ago working as a software developer. During his tenure, Blake started the company’s business systems analysis group, which is responsible for creating the solution specifications used by the company’s development and quality control groups to build and test software. He has also played an instrumental role in helping define and roll out many of the company’s internal process improvements.

The company also promoted Jim Haupt to vice president of Intouch Science. Haupt joined Intouch in 2013 as a medical director and has since built a team of talented content creators and experts who service the company’s medical marketing needs across all three of their offices. Haupt played a key role in creating Intouch Science, a group specializing in clinical guidance, by coalescing a core unit of skilled writers and consultants with postgraduate degrees in diverse subjects, including medicine, medical and molecular genetics, biological sciences and neuroscience. 

Gragg Advertising

Fred Frantz and Cathryn Vaughn have taken on new roles at Gragg Advertising as executive vice president and director of the digital marketing group, respectively, which position the agency and its clients for accelerated growth.

Frantz has held a leadership position in two of the agency’s largest departments, with a successful track record of growing both. He’s helped identify areas of efficiency and new revenue for the agency and will now be responsible for working across all departments to continue driving growth. Vaughn and her team have rapidly achieved outstanding accomplishments, including the agency’s strategic partnership with Google and success of the recent Digital Breakfast. Though this leadership role, she will continue driving digital marketing success for the agency and its clients.

McCarthy Building Companies

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. has been named General Contractor of the Year in the Large General Contractor category by the American Subcontractor Association’s (ASA) Kansas City Chapter, a non-profit trade association focusing on advocacy, leadership, networking and education for construction subcontractors and suppliers. The award, accepted by Barry Sutherland and Mark Heit of McCarthy’s Kansas City office, was presented during the Kansas City Chapter’s Industry Awards Banquet at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City.

“We are honored to receive this award as it recognizes the value we place on partnering with our subcontractors,” said Heit, McCarthy vice president of operations. “Our subcontractors are an integral part of our team and we are grateful for their trusted collaboration.”

Youth Entrepreneurs

Students and teachers from Greater Kansas City area high schools participated in Youth Entrepreneurs’ (YE) annual event, The Flyers, on April 27. Through curriculum, scholarships, grants and competitions, YE teaches students free enterprise fundamentals through hands-on experiences. Featuring a business plan competition, The Flyers Awards celebrate YE students and their projects. Sherri Becker, president and founder of The Marketing Department, was awarded the 2014-15 Business Plan Advisor (BPA) of the Year award. Students soared to victory at the event. Taking the top spots in the Kansas City Metro 1 division of the business plan competition were Carlos Cubas, Vontazia Gutherie and Vanessa Ramirez (pictured below). Zach Johnson won first place in the Kansas City Metro 2 division of YE’s The Flyers business plan competition with his business, Complete Ice.

Midwest Whole Hardware

Midwest Wholesale Hardware announced that its Board of Directors named Chris Casazza as the company’s chief executive officer.

“Chris’ skill set and broad industry experience is in direct alignment with MWH’s goal of becoming the preeminent wholesale distributor,” says Joseph Thornton, executive chair of the board. “He is an extraordinary leader with vision, focus and a wealth of knowledge at growing security and access control businesses, penetrating new markets, capturing competitive share and developing great teams.”