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Posted: December 02, 2008

2008 CEO of the Year finalists

Mike Taylor

*John Griffith, Alpine Waste & Recycling* A CEO of the Year finalist in 2007, Griffith has guided Alpine Waste & Recyling from a one-truck operation starting out in 1999 to more than 36 trucks and 90 employees, with more than 3,000 clients. Late last year, Griffith launched Altogether Recycling, a single-stream recycling center located at a former Montgomery Ward warehouse off 53rd Avenue and Interstate 25 next to railroad tracks to facilitate moving the sorted recyclable materials to various processors. Griffith, 38, also has initiated a compost-pickup service and landed clients such as Whole Foods and Wynkoop Restaurant Holdings. Alpine was this year’s ColoradoBiz Top Company winner in the services category. *Mike Gilliland, Sunflower Farmers Markets* Emphasizing fresh produce and private labels at low prices, Sunflower Farmers Markets has grown to six stores in Colorado and 17 stores overall - in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, plus Las Vegas and Dallas. Sunflower has sought to capture what Gilliland sees as a huge middle market for healthy foods, as reflected in the store’s slogan "Serious food … silly prices." The chain aims to position itself as a lower-cost alternative to Whole Foods Market. Gilliland, 50, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, previously co-founded Wild Oats Markets with then-wife Libby Cook in 1988 and was that company’s CEO before leaving to launch Sunflower in 2002. *Yvon P. Cariou, Dynamic Materials* The maker of explosion-melded metal plates for such industrial uses as oil refining and aluminum production was the only Colorado company that made Fortune’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies list this year (at No. 44). Cariou, 63, has served as president and CEO of this Boulder-based company since 2000. Dynamic Materials’ earnings-per-share growth average over the past three years is 58 percent, and its revenue growth for that period was 44 percent. Its total return beat the S&P 500 by 20 percent. In June, Cariou received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 Award in the Manufacturing and Energy category in the Rocky Mountain Region.

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*Mariner Kemper, UMB Financial Corp.* UMB operates 135 banking centers throughout Colorado, Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Arizona. Under Kemper’s leadership, UMB has weathered the credit crisis with a strong price-to-earnings ratio of 24. The Wall Street Journal’s SmartMoney magazine recently named UMB among the strongest, best-capitalized banks in the country "primed to lead the way in a financial-sector recovery." The editors of American Banker chose Kemper, 36, as one of three executives who will be honored this month with the Community Banker of the Year Award. "While most banking companies have been reporting sharp declines in earnings this year, UMB’s profit was up 32 percent through the first three quarters," American Banker noted. *John Ikard, FirstBank Holding Co.* Ikard has led the largest locally owned banking organization in Colorado since 1999. Lakewood-based FirstBank Holding Co. reported third-quarter financial results in October that said the company’s net income surged to $95.1 million for the nine months ending Sept. 30, up 29 percent over the comparable period in 2007. During the third quarter alone, FirstBank reported net income of $27.8 million, up 7.3 percent from the comparable quarter of 2007. FirstBank was not exposed to the subprime mortgage chaos - and has touted its strength to customers via a note sent out with bank statements. Ikard, 52, is a past chairman of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and sits on the group’s board of directors. *Kevin Reddy, Noodles & Company* With Noodles and Company’s recent string of store openings, you might wonder if anyone bothered to tell them there’s a recession going on. Over the past month, the Broomfield-based pasta chain has opened new restaurants in Indiana, Ohio and North Carlolina. Under Reddy, a veteran of McDonald’s and Chipotle, Noodles earned a ColoradoBiz Top Company award this year in the tourism/hospitality category. Noodles has grown to more than 200 company-owned and franchised locations in 18 states since its founding in Boulder in 1995. Over the last three years, same-store sales are up over 20 percent, says Reddy, 50.

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Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at

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