Pat Tiberi was voted by peer CEOs as CEO of the Year in the small nonprofit category for 2019.
Pat Tiberi’s story couldn’t be much more American. The son of a steelworker, he grew up in an Italian immigrant family that took its Catholicism seriously. His first job was at McDonald’s when he was 16. He loved playing the trumpet and sports while he was going to Northland High School, and ran for class president on a lark—and won. But it wasn’t until a political science class with Herb Asher at Ohio State University, where Tiberi had gone to play in the marching band and get a journalism degree, that he really clicked with politics.
“He was awesome,” Tiberi says. “And, in fact he laughs at this—I’ve said this publicly—I was a registered Democrat when I went into his class, from a Democrat family. I am the only kid in his class who went in as a registered Democrat and left as a registered Republican.”
After an internship for Congressman John Kasich, Tiberi was asked to stay on part-time during the school year. He quit his job at TJ Maxx on Morse Road and worked in Kasich’s office until he graduated from Ohio State, becoming the first in his family to hold a postsecondary degree. After spending time as an agent with a Re/Max office based in Lewis Center, Tiberi ran for a newly created seat in the Ohio House of Representatives in 1992. He went on to serve in the Ohio legislature until 2001, when he succeeded Kasich as Ohio District 12’s representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. He won eight subsequent elections to the seat and resigned in January 2018 to become CEO at the Ohio Business Roundtable.
Here are the other CEOs of the Year for 2019.
That time spent as a real estate agent, essentially working for himself—and paying the extra taxes—gave Tiberi a perspective that he brought to his seat in the House. His experience in Congress bolstered it. “Over the course of 17-plus years, having been on committees that routinely dealt with entrepreneurs and CEOs, I learned a lot,” he says. As chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, he had a front-row seat to the machinations of economic policy in the most powerful country in the world.Interviews with the region's most important business leaders. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.
Which brings us to the business climate in Ohio and why Tiberi was tapped to stay home and revive an organization that had lost relevance following too many years of insularity. The Ohio Business Roundtable was founded as a group of CEOs who joined forces to advance the state’s prosperity by working in a nonpartisan way with the legislature and governor’s office. “What sold me on it was two things,” Tiberi says. “First, there is no other statewide association in Ohio that is CEO-based that is as diverse in terms of the types of companies that are involved. Second, we are all in alignment (on the issues).”
What are those issues? Economic development and workforce. Ohio needs to keep attracting new companies and new jobs, and it needs to have the skilled workers to fill the jobs. There are 190,000 fewer Ohioans in the workforce today than there were at the beginning of the Great Recession—yet there are 330,000 more jobs. “That’s a huge problem,” Tiberi says. So he’s engaging educational institutions and helped create Ohio Excels, which works with state leaders to craft policies that support a robust educational system.
“Pat brought the same thoughtful, innovative and collaborative leadership he exhibited in Washington to the Roundtable,” says Huntington Bancshares CEO Stephen Steinour in a statement. “In the short time he has been here, he has grown the size and influence of the organization, but more importantly, he has had an immediate and profound impact on our fundamental issues— economic and workforce development. His energy and drive to get things done have not only shaken up the dynamics on Capitol Square, but his advocacy for economic growth will help Ohio’s families and communities prosper.”
Since Tiberi took the helm of the Ohio Business Roundtable, it has grown from 56 member organizations to 90. The organization was active during last summer’s state budget process advocating for policies that support growth. “I tell our members, we need to be nonpartisan. We need to fight on the merits of the issue and explain in a bipartisan way why we are for what we are for,” Tiberi says.