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Celebrating our heroes

Celebrating our heroes

By Linda McMahon, SBA Administrator
Published: July 25, 2017 Updated: November 7, 2017

When President Trump asked the members of his Administration to tell him about the American heroes we have encountered in our Cabinet roles, one family instantly came to mind.

Rob Leonardis is President of Ember Industries in San Marcos, Texas. It’s a family-owned business he runs with his brothers – Frank, the VP of Finance and Administration; and Greg, the engineering manager. On May 25, 2015, the nearby Blanco River flooded during a powerful storm. Their building flooded – water was 32 inches deep. The surging water destroyed a third of Ember’s inventory as well as office furniture, computers and high-tech production equipment.


“It was pretty devastating,” Frank Leonardis said.

“To be honest, I was sick to my stomach for a long time,” Greg Leonardis said.

Their father, who had previously run the company, questioned whether they should even try to rebuild.

After the flood waters receded, a core crew of employees – some of whom had lost their own homes in the flood – came to Ember Industries and worked with the family to clean up the debris. Rob encouraged his workers not to give up and to visualize a return to normalcy.

And even more impressive – he continued paying his employees even though the company couldn’t operate.

“My family at home means a lot to me. I have a wife and two kids,” Greg Leonardis said. “And my family here at work is just as important.”

This week the White House is honoring military members, first responders and others as part of a celebration it calls “American Heroes Week.” Certainly in a time of crisis, the immediate actions of men and women in uniform save lives. But employers like Ember Industries and the Leonardis family save livelihoods. Employees were able to keep a roof over their heads, feed their kids, and pay for their own emergency needs thanks to the paychecks they received even while the flood’s damage prevented them from actually doing their jobs. I can only imagine the gratitude those families felt – to an employer who went above and beyond during a time of tremendous need.

James Rivera, Rob Leonardis, and Administrator McMahonI got to meet Rob Leonardis in May when the SBA honored Ember Industries with its Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery. The SBA helped the business get back up and running with a $2 million disaster loan. Six weeks after the flood, Ember Industries was back to full production and planning for its future – Rob and his team revamped their business continuity plan to offset losses from future disasters. 

Rob saved his company, which saved the jobs of 60 employees and protected each one of those families from the risk of financial ruin. He may not wear a mask or a cape like the superheroes we see in the movies, but he is no doubt a superhero to his company and his community – saving people from despair, offering help and hope when they were needed most.

About the Author:

Linda McMahon
Linda McMahon

SBA Administrator

Linda McMahon serves as the 25th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As a member of President Trump’s cabinet, she advocates on behalf of the 30 million small businesses in America, which employ nearly half of all American workers and account for 56.8 million jobs.