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These five local leaders in the business community do more than just grow their own businesses—they contribute to Madison’s extraordinary history of doing well by doing good.
Madison Magazine has always recognized the impact that our region’s business community has had on life in our city. The very pages of this magazine each month have reflected that intersection of lifestyle and business and the many ways each enhances the other. As we enter our 40th year of telling the stories that define that unique relationship, we add five more names to the list of 71 Best of Madison Business honorees.
Their business acumen, stewardship and community trusteeship have contributed to Madison’s extraordinary history of doing well by doing good. In 2018, we recognize Gary Gorman’s commitment to sustainable, responsible, affordable housing; Robert N. Trunzo’s vision for a consciously capitalist financial services company; Susan and Jonathan Lipp’s family-driven philanthropy and contributions to education, music and early development; and Greg St. Fort’s passion for innovation and community building. They encompass today’s Madison business climate and culture. Each in their own individual way is the Best of Madison.
Gary Gorman founded Gorman & Co. in 1984 with a single, 24-unit housing project. Today, as Gorman prepares to hand the reins of the business to his successor, his company employs roughly 273 people in five states and has built more than 5,000 affordable apartment buildings nationwide. An example of his commitment to affordable housing that makes Gorman such a change-maker includes the 90 affordable units recently completed at Carbon at Union Corners in Madison, a former industrial site transformed into an urban village.
Gorman had his issues with the unpredictable and sometimes contradictory city of Madison planning process and did most of his developing elsewhere for a while. But the opportunity to do what he does best brought him back.
Gorman’s residential developments around the country are designed with a community’s needs in mind, and can include components such as access to health care facilities and mass transit, social incubators, and hiring and training formerly incarcerated local residents. Gorman & Co. was No. 10 on Affordable Housing Finance’s Top 50 list of Affordable Housing Developers in 2016. We name Gorman a Best of Madison Business.
Robert N. Trunzo has roots in Kentucky, private insurance, state government and baseball, to name a few. But his leadership of CUNA Mutual Group, including serving as president and CEO since 2014, and his contributions to Madison and Dane County since joining the company in 2005, have all the markings of a lifelong, deep and genuine affection and appreciation for this community.
Trunzo has positioned CUNA Mutual, the leading provider of insurance and financial services to credit unions and their members, as an innovative business that promotes diversity and inclusion and equity for its customers and employees. He understands the startup ecosystem and has made CUNA Mutual a player. He accepted and embraced the opportunity to chair the 2017 United Way of Dane County campaign and did it with enthusiasm.
CUNA Mutual’s support for Dane County nonprofit organizations and charitable civic enterprises is widely respected and valued. A perfect example was the exemplary donation of $100,000 to keep Porchlight Inc.’s Safe Haven transitional housing center open. It’s easy to find Trunzo’s fingerprints all over these efforts.
Full Compass was as cool as it got in 1971, when Jonathan Lipp founded the professional sound studio. Booking time at Full Compass put your band on the map. Scoring a live radio gig at the studio was a career highlight for some. He then founded Full Compass Systems Ltd. in 1977, when his wife Susan Lipp joined the company. Business grew nationally, and so did the couple’s renowned philanthropic giving.
While Susan is quick to include Jonathan in every mention of Full Compass’s generosity, and rightfully so, it is her name that rises to the top when business and nonprofit leaders are asked to name business people they respect. Together they have built a resume of giving and advocacy that has won them a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Madison chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and recognition for contributing to the designation of 25 Wisconsin districts as “Best Communities for Music Education” by the NAMM Foundation.
The Lipps partner with Full Compass employees to support a wide variety of groups through the company’s Charitable Contributions Committee, including the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, the Foundation for Madison Public Schools, the Jewish Federation of Madison and virtually every music education and performance group you can think of. Susan and Jonathan Lipp are an important part of the foundation of philanthropic business life in Madison and Dane County. And 47 years later, Full Compass is still as cool as it gets.
Greg St. Fort’s path to Madison is well-worn. Countless New Yorkers over the years have matriculated to Madison for school or work or quality of life and simply never left. We hope St. Fort stays as well. His business, LetsKeepBuilding Inc., is an example of his passion for building community and fighting for social justice through entrepreneurship.
And it is for that forward-thinking, creative commitment to a better Madison that we honor him with the Brian D. Howell Excellence in Innovation Award. St. Fort is also the executive director of the nonprofit, co-working space 100state. With more than 300 members, it’s the largest co-working space in Wisconsin. Under St. Fort’s leadership, 100state members are invited to participate in community problem-solving events and to support other civic initiatives.
St. Fort models inclusion and champions the arts. He’s exactly the kind of person our late friend and Madison Magazine editor Brian D. Howell so enjoyed recognizing in promoting innovation throughout Madison’s vibrant business sector. We’re pleased to honor St. Fort in Howell’s name and memory.
Neil Heinen is editorial director of Madison Magazine and WISC-TV. Heinen has been involved with the Best of Madison Business awards since its start in 2000. This year’s recipients join a list of 71 past honorees.