Trio of entrepreneurs get leadership awards

Chamber of Commerce cites 3 for contributions to their communities
BY SUE M. MORGAN Staff Writer

Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — Three civic-minded entrepreneurs have been recognized for their successes and their contributions to the communities they serve.

Robert Downey, a general contractor, Sayreville; Neil Kerman, owner and operator of Summer Hill Nursing Rehabilitation Center, Old Bridge; and Richard Lerner, owner of Allcare Medical, which has four locations, including South Amboy and Old Bridge, were named the 2004 Business Leaders of the Year by the Old Bridge-Sayreville-South Amboy Chamber of Commerce during its Oct. 27 dinner, held at the Grand Marquis, here.

An honoree from each of the three municipalities served by the chamber are chosen annually from a group of nominations submitted by organization members, according to the chamber.

Honorees are selected based upon how much they give back to the municipalities where they operate their businesses, how they function cooperatively with other entrepreneurs in those communities, and how they relate to and manage their employees, said Beverly Messinger, a member of the chamber’s board of trustees.

Altogether, about 200 business owners, local dignitaries, and guests attended the 12th annual event. The membership of the chamber includes more than 150 businesses within Old Bridge, Sayreville and South Amboy.

“The chamber itself is growing,” said Messinger, of South River-based Digit Payroll Corp. “We’re always looking for new members.”

Each honoree received a plaque from the chamber and a proclamation from the governing body of the municipality where they work. Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D-19), Sayreville Mayor Kennedy O’Brien, and Old Bridge Mayor Jim Phillips recognized the honorees from their towns.

Downey, a Sayreville native, is president of Robert Downey General Contractor, which specializing in building new homes and additions.

A 1984 graduate of Sayreville War Memorial High School, Downey worked in the construction industry with his father on weekends and during the summer from the time he was a young teen.

Home-building is a “creative process,” Downey said in a chamber press release.

“I enjoy going from design on paper to the finished product — from old to new — helping people achieve their dreams and needs,” he said.

Downey, a member of Sayreville’s Environmental Commission, recently built his company’s new office building at 515 Washington Road. He expects to redevelop other properties he owns in the borough as well, according to the press release.

Kerman, a New York City resident, employs more than 140 people at Summer Hill, located on Old Matawan Road in Old Bridge. Some of those employees have been on the home’s payroll for more than 25 of the 32 years that Kerman has owned and operated the facility, according to the press release.

Summer Hill is known for its free health care screenings and community involvement. Kerman lectures and consults throughout the country on various nursing home and rehabilitation topics.

Kerman, a weekly newspaper columnist for The Jewish State, is renowned for designing individualized activity and recreation programs to benefit the elderly, according to the chamber.

Kerman and his wife, Barbara, a social worker, are involved in numerous charities and community organizations as well.

Lerner, of Edison, bought Allcare Medical, a home medical equipment company based in Old Bridge, in 1995, according to the press release.

The company now provides home medical equipment and supplies to patients residing throughout New Jersey and in the Philadelphia area.

Under Lerner’s ownership, the payroll has grown from 10 employees to 110 employees among the four locations, according to the chamber.

Allcare has provided financial support to not-for-profit organizations, area hospitals and nursing homes and other health care-related businesses, according to the chamber.

The son of a Union-based pharmacist, Lerner is a graduate of Cook College, part of Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

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