OBERLIN, OH -- The Natural Stone Institute’s Person of the Year award is presented annually to an individual who has provided extensive support to the association’s executive team. As a dedicated leader and tireless volunteer, Buddy Ontra of Ontra Stone Concepts is recognized as the 2022 Person of the Year.
Buddy served as the 2022 Natural Stone Institute board president and was a member of the Natural Stone Foundation fundraising committee. However, these roles were only a portion of how Buddy contributed during the year.
CEO Jim Hieb explains why Buddy was this year’s choice. “Coming out of COVID Buddy understood how important in-person events were to the industry and that it was vitally important that key volunteers be seen by the membership. Buddy not only attended the events expected of a board member, but so many others as well. In short, Buddy was everywhere!” Ontra attended three times the number of events expected of him, as well as helping with several key initiatives.
Ontra truly understands the value in giving back. When asked about why he spends so much time contributing to the industry Ontra shared: “I can’t keep what I have unless I give it away. I don’t think about it as what I’m going to get out of it. There is a bigger picture.”
An avid baseball fan, Ontra would often explain complex industry topics using baseball analogies. He applied that same principle to his involvement with the association’s philanthropic arm, the Natural Stone Foundation. Similar to how a company might make a donation for each homerun hit during a ball game, he applied that principle to select stone projects, making a donation to the Foundation for each project completed. That simple strategy now has Ontra outpacing other companies his size and serves as an inspiration for what can be accomplished over time with small contributions.
His long list of 2022 industry involvement also includes participating in the new Environmental Product Declaration for natural stone countertops, advocating for NSI involvement with the natural stone hardscape industry, leading several conversations with fabricator associations/buying groups to discuss common goals, and helping guide the key relationship between the Natural Stone Institute and the Natural Stone Foundation.
Hieb described Buddy’s leadership style as open, inclusive and always ready to listen.
When asked to reflect on his year of volunteer leadership and involvement, Ontra responded, “I’ve enjoyed giving back to the industry which has put food on my family’s table for so many years. The efforts to expand the presence of natural stone at both StonExpo and Hardscape NA tradeshows should yield dividends for the future. While I’m proud of this and so many industry initiatives undertaken, the true reward has been the friends you make along the way.”
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