MOGADORE -- Once a baseball star with the Cleveland Indians, Andre Thornton has become a star in the business world, operating one of the largest minority-owned firms in Ohio.
As President and CEO of ASW Global, a third party logistics company, Thornton provides vital services to scores of other corporations, helping them store, track, and distribute their products all over the world.
"We like to think we might not be the biggest player in town," the former home run hitter smiles, "but we are vital to the economy here in Northeast Ohio."
That may be something of an understatement. Under Thornton's leadership ASW Global, headquartered in Mogadore, just outside Akron, has grown very large. The company employs 150 people and warehouses and distributes products from across the globe.
ASW Global manages one million square feet of warehouse space in Ohio and Michigan, moves about $2.5 billion worth of products per year, and has a large enough footprint to service 100 semis and 100 rail cars. One warehouse is so large it spans two cities.
"This company has the ability to grow and to create jobs and have a vital impact upon this community," Thornton proudly predicts. He is always exploring ways to grow in a managed, yet aggressive manner.
As a minority business owner, Thornton knows the extra challenges and pressure he says come with that fact. He also think this region has not tapped into the richness of its diversity.
"Diversity in Northeast Ohio is vitally important to its success and I think at times we've understood that," he says, from his modestly appointed office, which surprisingly displays few mementoes from his baseball playing days.
"But I'm not sure we have taken full advantage of that. There's much more we can do. When I came here 35 years ago, there were not many minority owned companies of our size within the region. There still are not as many as I'd like to see."
He has earned the trust of giant companies, like Sam's Club and WalMart, handling logistics and moving products for dozens of their outlets in multiple states across the Midwest.
He believes ASW Global can be a valuable resource to many more Northeast Ohio companies than he now serves, and says he would welcome their business.
Thornton can boast of a very successful Free Trade Zone, an area inside one of his vast warehouses in which imported products and parts can be stored duty-free until they are shipped to a final destination.
The man Indians fans used to call "Thunder" during his playing days from 1977 to 1987 is still fit at 61, and still keeps an eye on his former team, always wishing them success. But his main focus is on Northeast Ohio, the place he has called home since he was traded to the Indians.
"Here I am, 35 years later. My children have grown up in this region. My wife and I have lived in this region and have been involved in this community over that length of time. And it's a blessing to us."