The Leadership Institute and Society of Innovators at PNW have named the 2024 Women on the Rise. The list includes leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs who are making an impact across Northwest Indiana.

These are the women shaping business, guiding communities and encouraging economic growth in our region’s communities. They achieved success in 2023 and are bringing that dynamic momentum with them into the new year.

 

Kylee Fraze Norman (La Porte, Ind.)
PARTNER
CLH, CPAS & CONSULTANTS

Approachable and outgoing, Kylee has over 15 years of experience in the accounting industry and is known for building a strong rapport with clients and the firm’s team. With a keen interest in taxation, Kylee serves as the company’s tax department lead, including overseeing research and application of tax regulations, implementing and managing tax department protocol, upholding quality control standards, administering tax software and coordinating staff development and training in areas of taxation. Having joined CLH initially as a senior staff accountant in 2015, Kylee advanced into the position of director and later a partner in the firm.

The Northwest Indiana Influential Women Association (NWIIWA) named Kylee their 2022 Supporter of the Year, the same year she was also nominated as a NWIIWA Influential Women Finalist in Finance in recognition of her contributions to the accounting industry, including mentorship of young professionals. As a partner, Kylee looks forward to extending her involvement in coaching the firm’s accounting professionals and helping to shape their future careers.

One of the firm’s Michigan City natives, Kylee graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Purdue University in 2006 and earned her CPA credential in 2009. She’s invested in the local community by serving as treasurer for the Boys & Girls Club of La Porte County since 2015 and is an Ex-Officio Executive Committee Member of Northwest Indiana Influential Women Association as of 2020.

When she’s not at the office, Kylee enjoys a variety of fitness pursuits and spending quality time with her husband and daughter.

 

Gretchen Kalk-Castro (Michigan City, Ind.)
PARTNER
CLH, CPAS & CONSULTANTS

As a Michigan City native, Kalk-Castro graduated from Ball State University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and, in 2001, graduated with a Master of Science in Accounting. She initially joined CLH, CPA’s and Consultants in 2000 through an internship and along the way served as a project manager before becoming a director and most recently a partner of the firm. She is excited for the continued opportunities to mentor others and develop the firm’s team and culture.

Kalk-Castro was selected to join the Indiana CPA Society (INCPAS) Leadership Council, which is a two-year continuing education program to develop leadership skills in the accounting field.

Kalk-Castro has serviced numerous community organizations, including currently serving as treasurer of Paladin, Inc., an advisory committee member of the Michigan City Area School Vocational Building Trades and as a board member with Leadership La Porte County. She is also a member of the professional organizations of AICPA and Indiana CPA Society.

 

Excerpted from “2024 Northwest Indiana Women on the Rise.” Purdue University Northwest.  February 1, 2024: https://www.pnw.edu/2024-northwest-indiana-women-on-the-rise/

Two local accounting leaders have recently been promoted to director roles at CLH, CPAs & Consultants. For over a decade, both Angela Grothaus and Lisa Human have been making an impact in the accounting field and the regional community through service with multiple organizations.

“This is exactly what we want to see in our firm development.  You discover, support, and encourage talented professionals and enable their growth and achievement. Both of our new directors, Angela and Lisa, are highly competent accounting experts who also serve their communities generously,” remarked Gretchen Kalk-Castro, CPA and Partner.

Agreed Tony Gillisse, CPA and Partner, “In their nearly 10 years with CLH, both Angela and Lisa have taken on a variety of new roles and responsibilities and have contributed such value to our firm.  They’re excellent role models for our team and we look forward to the next chapter of their growth.”

Angela Grothaus, CPA, CVA, will continue serving with the firm from the Valparaiso location of CLH and looks forward to contributing to the team and the company’s growth in new ways.  “This is an exciting development in my career and I’m proud to represent CLH as a Director.  I’m honored to be taking on new opportunities and having an impact on the future of the firm.”    Angela initially joined the company as a senior staff accountant in 2014 and later advanced to the position of senior manager. Her work primarily focuses on conducting business valuations and managing income tax, assurance, and financial reporting projects. Grothaus has a meticulous, thorough approach that is appreciated by her clients.

Outside of work, Grothaus has created numerous key relationships with members of the Northwest Indiana business community. She serves as the Treasurer for the Art Barn School of Art and the Chesterton Gymnastics Club, and is also a member of the AICPA, Indiana CPA Society, and National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts.

Lisa Human, CPA, will continue in her position as Director from CLH’s Michigan City location and is excited to both further the firm’s initiatives and continue to build into the CLH team.  “It’s been an amazing experience to advance my career in public accounting with the firm these last 10 years.  I’m so pleased to have the firm’s confidence to serve in this leadership role and I await both the successes and challenges that will come.” Lisa also joined CLH as a staff accountant in 2014 and later advanced to the role of senior manager. Human provides a range of professional accounting services to clients, including advising clients on tax implications of organizational decisions and assisting business owners to develop best practices, including policies and internal controls.

Additionally, Human serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations in the NWI region, including serving as Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect of the Duneland Chamber of Commerce and on the Advisory Board of Ivy Tech Community College, and is also a member of the AICPA and Indiana CPA Society.

Congratulations to Ashley Boyan, recognized as January 2024’s R.I.K.I. Spotlight Award winner! 

The R.I.K.I. Spotlight is a monthly, team member-nominated recognition program to honor staff members who emulate CLH’s core values (relationships, integrity, knowledge, and innovation).  We’re proud to celebrate our team members who exemplify the values that keep our organization grounded and centered.

Three up-and-coming professionals recently came on board as staff accountants this year at CLH, CPAs & Consultants. The company is pleased to announce that Jordan Sheets, Victor Hernandez, and Ryan Cetnar are not only serving their wide client base, but as young professionals, they are also working to enhance their skillsets through CLH’s talent development initiatives.

“Our company is firmly committed to generating the next generation of skilled professionals for our industry,” said Tony Gillisse, CPA and Partner. “By creating an environment of support, combined with a high-quality career path, our firm is at the forefront of next-level talent.  Added Robert Lange, CPA and Managing Partner, “These three young accountants are proof of that notion, as each has been improving their abilities and learning through our staff development initiatives. We’re proud to have Jordan, Ryan, and Victor on board with us, and we look forward to watching their careers grow.”

Jordan Sheets

In their new roles, the trio will be working with clients on a range of engagements, including tax preparation and planning, business accounting, and a variety of other accounting services CLH offers.  All three are also certified as QuickBooks ProAdvisors and are prepared to assist businesses with their bookkeeping needs.

Jordan Sheets’s first exposure to the financial industry began when she worked as a student aid in the finance office at Valparaiso University. Later, in 2022, she accepted an internship position with CLH; today she works as a staff accountant while also studying for her CPA exams.  Part of the reason she’s pursuing her CPA license is to bring more awareness to accounting fraud that can have an impact on client success. Sheets graduated from Valparaiso University in 2023 as Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

Victor Hernandez

Victor Hernandez is passionate about learning new things in the accounting industry. He enjoys building relationships with clients and making meaningful connections to gain a deeper understanding of their accounting needs. Hernandez says his efforts to build those connections enable him to provide high-quality service for CLH’s clients. He joined CLH in 2023 after completing an internship and graduated from Purdue University Northwest (PNW) with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. 

Ryan Cetnar

Ryan Cetnar’s professional experience includes tax preparation and QuickBooks roles for various organizations. His easy-going personality helps him to build rapport both with clients and other CLH team members.  Cetnar is actively pursuing his CPA credential and spends much of his free time hitting the books.  He looks forward to serving CLH clients in a variety of areas as he grows in his role. He joined CLH in 2023; he earned his undergraduate degree from Purdue Northwest is currently enrolled in a grad school program.

Gretchen Kalk-Castro, CPA, and Kylee Fraze Norman, CPA, of CLH, CPAs & Consultants have both recently been promoted to become the newest partners at the NWI-based business consulting and public accounting firm.  Having assumed their new leadership roles, both professionals have fresh ideas on how to develop the company’s team and its culture.

Kalk-Castro is a veteran of CLH, having been with the company for 23 years since she launched her career at the firm as an intern.  Over the years she has invested in fostering a team spirit and helping to develop the company’s culture.  “We’re not your traditional, stereotypical accountants,” Kalk-Castro laughed.  “We’re not holed up in our offices, isolated from the outside world.  We love the vibrant company culture that’s developed over the years.  I’m proud to have had a hand in helping CLH shift from a more conventional business environment to one that’s more modern, comfortable, and one that is active in the community.”

For over 20 years, Kalk-Castro worked side by side with former CLH partner Linda Hough, CPA, Retired, as Hough devoted part of her partner role to establishing a dedicated HR department and engendering CLH’s collaborative approach.  “Linda’s mentorship was invaluable to me,” said Kalk-Castro.  “She was instrumental in assisting me to acquire key leadership and business management skills so that I could be better prepared for the role I’ve taken on now as a new partner.  I look forward to building on her legacy.”

Fraze Norman joined CLH in 2015 and she, too, says she has learned a great deal from the high standards of all the CLH partners, past and present.  “I love being a part of a firm that empowers women professionals not just within the CLH offices, but in the greater accounting industry in our region.”  Fraze Norman continued, “As a new partner, I am also committed to shaping the positive, team-oriented culture of CLH and uphold the standards of excellence set by all the partners of CLH.  It will be exciting to see both Gretchen and I build on the foundation established by the partner group who managed the firm through its first 31 years,” referring to John Craighead, CPA, the firm’s founder and former partner, Robert Lange, III, CPA and Managing Partner of CLH, Linda Hough, CPA, Retired, and Tony Gillisse, CPA, Partner.

Both Kalk-Castro and Fraze Norman are committed to staff development, demonstrating how a career in accounting is more than spreadsheets and numbers, and continuing the firm’s tradition of involvement in local community organizations.  “I think a lot of people continue to believe that accounting is a ‘stuffy’ job,” commented Fraze Norman. “But it’s more about problem solving, demonstrating competence and leadership through your technical skills, and helping business owners to improve their own companies.  We also have incredible opportunity to build into the surrounding community by serving with nonprofit organizations and putting our professional skills to use there.”

Kalk-Castro concurred, “We’re definitely not a dull crew at CLH!  CLH has fostered a more forward-thinking perspective on careers in accounting and I’m excited to show our younger staff how this industry can offer them an enriching future.  There’s so much more to the career than just crunching numbers.”

Kalk-Castro added, “Over the last few years, there’s been a major shift toward finding deeper satisfaction and purpose in work.   A career path in accounting can offer great job satisfaction, plus work-life balance, and we get to help our client companies achieve their goals and give back to our community through engagement, volunteering, and active support.”

Fraze Norman also remarked, “Whatever you’re most passionate about in life, a career in our industry will only enable you to take that passion further.  There are also big opportunities for women professionals in this industry.  I’m proud to be a partner at CLH where having a women-owned firm is the historical precedent.”

The other senior leaders at CLH also expressed their enthusiasm for the induction of the new partners and for the accounting field overall.

“Our two new partners, Gretchen and Kylee, represent a new generation in accounting leadership that we’re very excited to support. We’re so proud of both of them, and we know they’ll serve as great ambassadors for accounting as our firm works to train and develop emerging talent,” commented Bob Lange, CPA, and Managing Partner at CLH.

Tony Gillisse, CPA, and Partner of CLH agreed.  “That’s a major focus for CLH. We’re not just seeking to build a talent pipeline for our own firm’s growth. We’re looking to take our entire industry to the next level by showing people how much opportunity exists in accounting careers.”

 

Gretchen Kalk-Castro is a certified public accountant who has been with CLH since 2000. She first joined the firm as an intern, a common occurrence of the company’s current employees, as a majority of CLH’s team begin careers there as interns and choose to stay on with the company long-term.

Kalk-Castro is a member of the AICPA, the Indiana CPA Society, and is highly active in several community and professional organizations, including the Indiana CPA Society Leadership Council, an association that advocates for the accounting industry through education, ethical standards, and government relations. She also has served as treasurer of Paladin, Inc., and as a board member with Leadership La Porte County, Michigan City Area School Vocational Building Trades, and with the Exchangettes, which is the women’s branch of the Exchange Club.

 

 

Kylee Fraze Norman is a certified public accountant who initially joined CLH as a senior staff accountant in 2015.  She serves as another example of how the team is able to advanced their careers at CLH, as she progressed into the role of director and tax department lead before becoming a partner. In those roles, she oversaw the tax department’s protocols and was responsible for coordinating staff development and training in areas of taxation.

Outside of work, Fraze Norman is also active with several nonprofit organizations. She’s a member of the AICPA, the Indiana CPA Society, and has served as the treasurer for the Boys & Girls Club of La Porte County, and as an ex-officio executive committee member of Northwest Indiana Influential Women Association (NWIIWA).

Indiana just passed legislation authorizing specific pass-through entities to elect to pay tax at the entity level based on each owner’s total share of adjusted gross income.

Check out the BOBCAST to learn more.

 

 

 

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CLH, CPAs & Consultants is pleased to announce the addition of Kevin Ostafinski as a new Staff Accountant and QuickBooks ProAdvisor in the firm’s growing roster of talented professionals. Ostafinski has a unique background of military service and academic achievement in accounting and will now be serving clients from the firm’s downtown Valparaiso office.

In his new role with CLH, Ostafinski will be conducting tax preparation and accounting services to both individual and business clients. He is also certified as a QuickBooks ProAdvisor and can assist businesses efficiently as they level up their finances through the platform.

“We’re delighted to have Kevin join the ranks of our accounting team,” said Robert W. Lange, III, CPA and Managing Partner of CLH. “Over the years, we’ve been honored to have several individuals with backgrounds in military service as members of our staff.  In our experience, these individuals have applied the same sense of commitment and personal drive to their careers as they demonstrated in their military service.”  Lange continued, “For our clients, that means they’ll have the opportunity to work with an accountant that’s dedicated to their growth and security, and that is very exciting for our company.”

Ostafinski is a proud Navy veteran and served as a Sonar Technician onboard a guided missile destroyer based out of Norfolk, VA. He is also a graduate of Purdue University Northwest where he earned a B.S. in Accounting.

Lisa Human, CPA

Lisa Human, CPA, senior manager and QuickBooks ProAdvisor with CLH, CPAs & Consultants, was recently elected to serve as Treasurer for the Duneland Chamber Board of Directors. She was elected at the board’s annual membership meeting this year, after previously serving as an at-large member of the Executive Committee.

“The Chamber does incredible work to enhance the lives of residents in our area and to promote economic growth throughout the community. It’s an organization that I’ve been proud to serve for some time now, and in this new role of Treasurer, I’ll be working to ensure the Chamber remains well-positioned to continue its work for the future of Northwest Indiana,” Human said.

The Duneland Chamber of Commerce serves just under 400 local members. The Chamber’s work is focused on advocacy, community building events, networking opportunities, and many other avenues of sustainable economic growth.

Serving the Duneland Chamber is a natural step for Human, as she has a long history of community volunteerism, including having served Homeward Bound, an organization dedicated to creating community through affordable housing in La Porte County. She also serves as a member of the Advisory Board of Ivy Tech Community College’s School of Business.

Professionally, Human provides a range of accounting services to clients at CLH, including advising clients on tax implications of organizational decisions and assisting business owners to develop best practices, including policies and internal controls. She also prepares financial statements and provides oversight of the payroll and bookkeeping departments.

“When our professionals engage the community in unique ways, as Lisa does with the Duneland Chamber, great things happen for our communities. We’re so honored to see yet another of our talented accounting experts find even more ways to strengthen NWI,” said Tony Gillisse, CPA, and Partner at CLH.

CLH, CPAs & Consultants hosted an open house and ribbon cutting to celebrate their newest location at 127 East Shore Parkway, Suite E, in La Porte. Equipped with a heated tent from La Porte’s Kabelin Ace Hardware, s’mores and mini campfires, a full-size fire pit, and appetizers and beverages catered by Al’s Supermarket in La Porte, CLH embraced the snowy weather to commemorate their latest office establishment.  To celebrate, the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership conducted a formal ribbon cutting for CLH.

 

Tony Gillisse, CPA and Partner, said, “We’ve been keeping our eye on the robust economic and business development growth La Porte has experienced in recent years. While CLH has always had a presence in La Porte County, we are thrilled to have a convenient location in the City of La Porte itself to better serve our existing client base, expand our service territory, and provide informed insight and resources to locally owned businesses.”

 

CLH is a full-service CPA firm, with services ranging from client advisory & accounting services, business consulting, tax preparation, tax planning, estate planning, financial reporting, and succession planning, and business valuations, among other services.

 

“Launching an office in La Porte was a natural next step for the firm,” said Senior Manager Jeff Whittler. “We’re excited to establish a local presence in La Porte to provide the wide-ranging accounting, consulting, and business support services that our firm is known for that La Porte companies need to thrive and grow. The CLH team is passionate about serving La Porte’s community beyond our office doors.”

 

The ERC is a refundable tax credit for businesses who continued paying wages to employees while they were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic or if they had substantial declines in gross receipts from March 2020 through December 2021.

The IRS is warning employers to be cautious about 3rd party companies advising businesses to claim the ERC when the businesses may not qualify. Some third parties are taking improper positions related to taxpayer eligibility for and computation of the credit.

CLH encourages employers to be cautious of advertised schemes and direct solicitations promising tax savings that are too good to be true. It is expected that the IRS will audit ERC claims aggressively. Improperly claiming the ERC could result in taxpayers being required to repay the credit along with penalties and interest.

Please reach out to CLH with any questions or concerns regarding the ERC. We are happy to provide initial analysis regarding the ERC eligibility and prepare amended payroll tax returns to claim ERC credits.