In celebration of Northern Kentucky’s heritage of business accomplishments, NKY Magazine, in partnership with the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, has created the Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame to recognize the rich tradition of success and civic involvement in the region’s business community. The Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame honors men and women who have made a lasting contribution to the community in economic, cultural and civic endeavors.

Inductees will be honored at the second annual Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame event at the Radisson on March 11. This event is sponsored by Ultimate Air Shuttle, Northern Kentucky University’s Haile/US Bank College of Business, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and the Radisson Hotel Cincinnati Riverfront.

Registration and networking begins at 5 p.m., with the program and dinner starting at 6 p.m. RSVP by March 5 to celebrate with our honorees in person.

Gerald “Jerry” Deters
Posthumous Award

Gerald “Jerry” Deters could be considered the “father” of tourism in Northern Kentucky.

Mr. Deters, who died in 2013 at the age of 85, developed and operated the iconic former Drawbridge Inn and Convention Center in Fort Mitchell, once the largest meeting facility in Northern Kentucky and for decades the place for events.

Mr. Deters, who had an affinity for medieval England, liked to point out that the traditional English pub was the center of community activity, says his son-in-law Jim Willman, “and he wanted everything in Northern Kentucky to happen in his place.”

He was one of the moving forces in the formation of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau, serving as its first chairman for five years. He helped create the Northern Kentucky Home Builders Association, and was one of the principals behind Covington’s MainStrasse Village. He also was a founder of Tri-County Economic Development Corp. (Tri-ED) and an early member of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport board.

“He was a leader in everything he did, and he worked harder and smarter than everybody else,” says Eric Summe, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The consummate entrepreneur, Mr. Deters preferred collaboration to conflict, says Willman.

“He thought if people worked together, they could always accomplish a lot more,” he says.

With his brother, Charles, Mr. Deters started Deters Brothers Builders in the 1950s, constructing homes in Taylor Mill and Lakeside Park. He stumbled on to the hotel business by accident while attending a builders’ convention, says Willman.

He built the original 140-room hotel off Buttermilk Pike in 1970 under the Rowntowner Motor Inn badge. But as its popularity grew, he changed the name and expanded it into the Drawbridge Inn. By the time he sold the business in 2004, it had grown to about 500 rooms and 30,000 square feet of convention space. — Mike Boyer

Jerry Carroll
Real Estate Developer

A real estate developer, says Jerry Carroll, is only as good as his last deal.

There’s no denying Carroll’s projects—from Turfway Ridge Office Park, transforming old Latonia race track into internationally known Turfway Park, to building the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta—have had a lasting impact on Northern Kentucky.

A southeast Indiana native who came to Northern Kentucky in the late 1980s after an impressive record of office development in Nashville, Carroll says he saw something here others didn’t see.

“I was told I was stupid by Northern Kentucky people for building the buildings I built,” he says. “But I had a strong belief in Northern Kentucky and still do. It’s a unique part of the state.”

He says he’s proud of bringing outside investors into the region and helping Northern Kentucky think big.

“There’s no use being a developer and thinking small,” he says. “Then you’re a small developer.”

Not all his ambitions came true, of course. He unsuccessfully sought to bring casino gaming to Turfway Park years before it became a reality in Indiana or Ohio. Gaming was only a small part of the complex he envisioned at Turfway, including a 540-room hotel and two sound studios, creating what he calls “Nashville North.”

When he could convince the politicians to accept gaming, he turned his attention to NASCAR and developing and owning the $178 million Kentucky Speedway on 1,000 acres off Interstate 71. But to realize his dream of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Speedway, he had to sell the track to current owner Bruton Smith.

Today, Carroll, 70, says he regrets what might have been, but isn’t looking back.

He’s looking for his next project. “I’ll know it when I see it. I’ll know in my gut.” — MB


Judy Clabes

Journalism and philanthropy have been a central part of Judy Clabes’ life.

The native of Henderson, Ky., says journalism “always resonated with me, and I loved to write” even as a teenager on her high school newspaper. Her father encouraged her to pursue a teaching certificate, so she majored in English, journalism and education at the University of Kentucky.

Before becoming the Newspapers in Education program coordinator in Evansville, Ind., she spent four years teaching at Henderson High School and Henderson County High, coming away with a keen appreciation for the skills teachers need.

“Preparing for your classes required multi-tasking before they called it that,” she says. “Being a teacher requires all the skills of a business executive.”

She was promoted to community affairs director and associate editor of The Evansville Press before being named editor of The Sunday Courier & Press in Evansville, the first woman news executive in the Scripps newspaper group.

She was named editor of the Kentucky Post in 1983 and later moved to the Scripps headquarters in Cincinnati in 1995 and was named president and CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation. “I was very fortunate to be able to give away somebody else’s money,” she says.

It also gave her a keen appreciation of the power of philanthropy and, after retiring from Scripps in 2007, she created the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative to support giving in key areas such as early childhood education and children’s health and welfare.

Concerned about the future of community newspapers, she and her husband Gene, a former newspaper publisher and editor, started KyForward, an online community newspaper for the commonwealth in 2011 and earlier this year they launched the online NKY Tribune. She’s also editor for NKY Magazine.

She is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the UK Hall of Distinguished Alumni and the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. — MB

Paul Verst
Verst Group Logistics

Paul Verst says he can’t imagine living without helping others.

It’s something the president and CEO of Verst Group Logistics in Walton absorbed from his father, Bill, and learned attending Xavier University, earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA.

“My dad taught us the value of ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’” he says.

Bill Verst was involved in nonprofit, business and political activities in Northern Kentucky while building his trucking and warehousing business. It’s an approach Paul, 57, has embraced since taking over the reins of the business in 1993.

Verst says the best advice his dad gave him was: “First, take care of the customers because they sign our paychecks; second, take care of the employees because they are the heart and soul of the company, and, third, take care of your siblings’ investment in the business because if you screw up one and two, they’ll help you seek opportunities elsewhere.”

Today, Verst Group Logistics has grown into a $175 million business with 1,300 employees and 5 million square feet of warehouse space. A contract packaging business it launched a few years ago is now the largest of its kind, labeling more than 300 million units last year.

Paul recently completed a term as chairman of the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA), an industry trade group.

Verst’s other community activities include Kenton County Airport Board, Gateway Community & Technical College Foundation, Dan Beard Boy Scout Council board, Xavier University Hall of Fame Nominating Committee, and Xavier University President’s Advisory Council. He’s also served as a lay minister with the Diocese of Covington and is active in the St. Joseph Parish in Cold Spring. — MB

Helen Carroll
Carroll Project Planning

Growing up in Georgetown, Ky., Helen Carroll didn’t have an inkling an auto company from Japan would open the world to her.

“Growing up, I thought the world sort of revolved around Georgetown,” says Carroll (no relation to Jerry Carroll).

But Carroll, who retired last year as community relations manager for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing in Erlanger, helped shape the automaker’s image in Kentucky and was the face of its community engagement efforts for 27 years.

After working in public relations for the old St. Luke Hospital in Fort Thomas, she was one of the first of the 149 employees hired when Toyota opened its sprawling plant in Georgetown in 1987 and established its community relations program.

“No two days were ever the same,” she says. “I loved what I did. I loved representing such a great corporate citizen in the community.”

She moved to the Erlanger headquarters in 2000. She was chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in 2005, the third woman to hold that role. She was one of Northern Kentucky’s 10 “Leaders of Distinction” in 2004, and co-chaired the Northern Kentucky Vision 2015 Education Excellence Implementation Team.

She’s also been active in educational leadership and the United Way, most recently as interim president of the United Way of Kentucky.

Through the United Way she’s been heavily involved in launching 33 Toyota bornlearning Academies across the commonwealth, offering early childhood parental education. She’s also a program facilitator for SOAR, a professional development and leadership program for young women.

“There were so many things Toyota exposed me to that became my passions, like education, United Way and working with young professional women,” she says.

She’s continuing to offer her expertise in community engagement to other nonprofits and businesses through her own firm, Carroll Project Planning. — MB