Business System Solutions Inc.

The IT company has created sister nonprofit staffing agency designed to help disadvantaged young people.

Good Works honors notable commitment to the community achieved through charitable, philanthropic, volunteer or other efforts to engage a workforce for HR purposes.

It takes a bit of time for BSSI founder and CEO Diana Spurgus to run through the list of company employees who do good deeds in their community. Their efforts range from pitching in at places such as Ronald McDonald House and local food pantries to creating a basketball program for youths cut from their school teams but still wanting to play in a league. Some do church work or are involved with fundraising events for cancer, autism, Alzheimer's disease and other causes. One employee is active in her local school's academic boosters organization. Another helps international students with their English-speaking skills.

Their good works reflect Spurgus' own long-running community commitments. She has been involved on several fronts, helping struggling teens and young adults, victims of domestic violence and sexually abused children in Fairfield County, where she founded the information technology company in 1997.

“Those who are blessed in the community have an obligation to share their skill sets and resources and pay forward for the blessings in their lives,” she says. “There are a lot of people who helped us get to where we are today.”

BSSI specializes in serving as an outsourced information technology department for small companies that can't afford to have their own IT department or don't want the hassles of operating one. It has 20 employees, with offices in Lancaster and Columbus' Short North district.

BSSI's philanthropic work first kicked into gear in 2003 with the creation of TeenWorks, a nonprofit temporary staffing agency designed to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds develop work skills and improve their academics. Spurgus says the idea for TeenWorks came about when the local Jobs and Family Services office, a BSSI client, issued a request for proposals to manage a youth program in Fairfield County.

“I looked at that RFP and thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, what do I know about these children?' ” she says. “But as I was reading it, I decided I wanted to do this. I knew we had a lot we could give back to the community and a lot of skill sets we could use.”

TeenWorks has emerged as a sister organization to BSSI, sharing the company's offices and drawing on its resources. It has evolved into a program that serves young people ages 16-24 who typically don't live at home or are not connected to a school.

Participants learn work skills, including through employment with local nonprofits and businesses. They also sharpen their schooling to earn a high school diploma or pursue other educational opportunities such as college and professional certifications. TeenWorks serves about 60 young people a year and another 50 during the summer.

“Diana is very invested in our participants,” says TeenWorks Executive Director Angela Harris. “She comes to our graduation parties and asks for updates about how they are doing. We wouldn't be here without her passion from the very beginning.”

Spurgus' efforts as a volunteer at the Lighthouse Domestic Violence Shelter of Fairfield County have led to BSSI supporting programs there. The company is creating a training program to help women served by the shelter develop computer skills. In addition, BSSI employees have purchased and delivered Christmas gifts to women and children at the shelter for several years.

BSSI also has become a supporter of Harcum House, which helps Fairfield County children who have been victims of violence or sexual abuse or both. Spurgus has served on the organization's board of directors, and her company sponsors a table at Harcum House's Egg Hunt, an annual fundraising event.

Additionally, BSSI has been a United Way of Fairfield County sponsor for 20 years, and its employees pitch in as volunteers for the local Meals on Wheels 5K run and fundraiser. “We're always looking for opportunities to get involved as a team,” Spurgus says.

Jeff Bell is a freelance writer.

Good Works, Finalist

Romanoff

Faced with a tight labor market—especially in the construction the field—Romanoff CEO Matt Romanoff suggested the HR team build stronger ties with career and technical schools. Romanoff Raving Fans, the new hires recruited through this community-minded initiative, have become a key resource for ensuring a sustainable future.

“In the construction industry, we simply do not have the time to wait on an answer from anyone other than ourselves,” wrote nominator Heather Larkin, vice president of safety and human resources at the Gahanna company. “That means, as a leading electrical and HVAC company, we must be the architects of change.”

The educational partnerships offer a four-year apprenticeship program to high-school students enrolled in career technical programs. Participants receive a paid education in either the electrical or HVAC trade through an accredited apprenticeship program, coupled with on-the-job training, benefits and free housing. Though upfront costs are substantial, executives believe the long-term benefits are worth the investment.

The partnerships retain 88 percent of the career technical students that Romanoff hired out of high school, creating a promising class of new hires with skills, no school debt and the ability to save money for themselves.

“The relationships we are building—along with the strong foundation of base-level knowledge—is helping us to move forward rather than stand still,” Larkin says. “Our ability to help build the next generation of apprentices is not only penny smart in the long run, but we are creating a new culture within our company walls that sets us apart from our competitors.”