Canton Regional Chamber Announces New Executive Management Structure

The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce has announced the approval and initial implementation of a new Executive Management Structure. The revised organizational structure comes as a result of Chamber’s recent Strategic Planning efforts.

Some positions remain virtually unchanged, while others look markedly different. No staff positions were downsized during the process; this was solely a realignment of skills and talents to best serve the organization and community at large.

  • Denny Saunier will continue to serve as President & CEO, focusing heavily on economic development, major community initiatives, governmental and peer stakeholder relations, and strategic plan oversight.
  • David Kaminski has been promoted to Vice President of Public Policy and Energy, helping lead the Chamber’s public policy agenda while continuing to manage oil and gas programming.
  • Joanne Murray has been promoted to Vice President of Community Events & Sponsorships. In her role leading the newly created Events Department, she will continue to oversee the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival, as well as the Chamber’s downtown and business events. She will also manage sponsorships for all events.
  • Chris Gumpp will continue to assist Joanne Murray in all aspects of the Events Department as Director of Community Events & Sponsorships. Her role includes oversight of cash and in-kind sponsorships as well as heavy involvement in all event planning activities.
  • Mike Gill has been promoted to Vice President of Economic Development and will lead the Economic Development Department. His role includes oversight of downtown and regional economic development.
  • Eric Smer will assist Mike Gill in economic development efforts as Director of Community and Workforce Development.As part of this role, he will continue to oversee ystark! (the Chamber’s young professionals initiative).
  • Collyn Floyd will serve as Director of Marketing & Public Relations, directing and implementing marketing strategies, public and media relations, and advertising campaigns on behalf of the Chamber.
  • Denise Burton will serve as Director of Membership Programs & Services, focusing on growing Chamber membership and engaging existing members through programs, events, and membership benefits.
  • Kathy Irwin will serve as Director of Finance & Accounting. Her role is to perform and oversee accounting functions for the Chamber and its related entities.

In 2013 and early 2014, the Chamber held a series of conversations with its members, board of directors, and business and community leaders to discuss how the organization could better serve the region. This collaborative planning process resulted in a forward-looking five-year plan for the Chamber, comprised of six broad goals that would lead the organization toward a strong future.

With those goals now serving as a guide, the staff has realigned to best achieve the objectives within each goal. The new structure also helps deliver more efficient and effective programs and services, while advancing the Chamber’s mission.

The Chamber currently has two vacant leadership positions: Executive Director of the Canton/Stark County Convention & Visitors’ Bureau and Director of Leadership Programs, both of which the Chamber hopes to fill in the near future.

“A search is underway for the position of Executive Director of the CVB,” said Saunier. “Tourism plays a crucial role in regional economic development, so the selection of an experienced individual is a top priority for this growing business segment.”

“Also, Stephanie Werren, Assistant Director of Leadership Stark County, has taken on additional responsibilities following the departure of Fran Wells in mid-February. In coming weeks, I will be working with Darren Faye, chairman of Leadership’s board, to find a permanent replacement for the position of director,” added Saunier.

Eric Smer to Receive Distinguished Sales and Marketing Award

eric smerThe Akron/Canton Affiliate of Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI) will recognize Eric Smer at its 43rd Annual Distinguished Sales & Marketing Award Program on February 24, 2015, at Tangiers in Akron.

Smer is director of community and workforce development at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. He joined the Chamber in 2012 as director of ystark!, and as such, led the organization in its mission of attracting, retaining and most importantly, engaging Stark County young professionals.

As part of the Chamber’s strategic plan, Smer’s role has recently expanded to include economic development, entrepreneurship, workforce development, mentoring, education collaboration, public policy, and community development.

A Stark County native, Smer was raised in Jackson Township and received a dual-major bachelor’s degree in business administration in marketing and business management from Kent State University, graduating with distinction and honors. Prior to joining the Chamber, Smer was executive director of Stark County Hunger Task Force, the leading countywide anti-hunger non-profit in the region. Smer’s community involvement is extensive but his proudest accomplishments are: Leadership Stark County Spotlight graduate; Twenty under 40! recipient; President of the Kent State University Alumni Association Stark Chapter; founding board member of Friends of Plain Township Parks; chairman of the North Canton Jaycee Fair.

The SMEI Distinguished Sales & Marketing Award® was established to recognize the best in the sales and marketing profession. With standards of sophistication and skill in the sales and marketing professions continually improving, the wider business community has become increasingly aware of the value and role that these professionals play in the achievement of business success. These highly demanding functions of the business process are arguably the critical success factors for most organizations.

About Sales and Marketing Executive International
Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI) is the worldwide organization dedicated to ethical standards, continuing professional development, knowledge sharing, mentoring students and advancing free enterprise. Since no other worldwide executive sales and marketing associations exist, SMEI fills a void by providing a personal and professional community devoted to providing knowledge, growth, leadership and connections between peers in both sales and marketing. With over 10,000 members around the world, members benefit from both the strength of an international organization and the resources that a local chapter provides through ongoing seminars, lectures and networking opportunities.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to Speak at Chamber’s 101st Annual Dinner

NFLCommissionerRogerGoodell.10.06The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce will welcome National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to the 101st Annual Dinner on Wednesday, Feb. 25 at the Canton Memorial Civic Center (1101 Market Ave. N, Canton).

The evening’s format will be interview-style with Commissioner Goodell taking questions from Hall of Fame Gold Jacket and Canton native Dan Dierdorf. Dinner guests will hear Goodell share his perspectives on the game, its values and the future of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Canton has a rich football history as the birthplace of the NFL, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the annual Enshrinement Festival, and future home of the Hall of Fame Village,” said Dennis P. Saunier, Chamber president and CEO. “There is no speaker more relevant to the regional conversation than Roger Goodell.”

“The Canton Regional Chamber strives to bring in speakers each year that are engaging and timely for our membership,” said William C. Shivers, chairman of the Canton Regional Chamber board. “We are thrilled to welcome Roger Goodell to the ‘Cradle of Football’ on the heels of Super Bowl XLIX as we explore what the ‘Village’ could mean for local economic development and tourism.”

The gavel will be passed at the dinner from outgoing Board Chairman Philip Fracassa, chief financial officer of The Timken Company, to Shivers, the 2015 Board Chairman. Shivers is the president, Greater Akron/Canton Region, Huntington Bank.

The evening will begin with a cocktail reception from 5:30-6:30 p.m. followed by dinner and the program. Registrations can be made online at or by calling (330) 458-2070.

Tickets for the event are $100, and tables of eight are available. Guests do not have to be a Chamber member to attend. All registration payments must be received in advance and reservations must be received by Feb. 18. Register now, space is limited.

About Roger Goodell
Roger Goodell became the eighth chief executive officer of the National Football League on Sept. 1, 2006. The Commissioner has successfully focused on making the game safer and better and has grown the league’s popularity. Fan interest in the NFL is at an all-time high and includes the largest television audiences in league history as well as enormous growth in online and social media engagement. His leadership resulted in a landmark 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association in 2011, long-term extensions to the NFL’s television contracts, and programs to support and assist players and former players.

The Jamestown, New York native graduated magna cum laude from Washington & Jefferson College with a degree in economics. He joined the NFL in 1982 as an administrative intern. After spending one season as an intern with the New York Jets, he joined the NFL as an assistant in the public relations department in 1984. He quickly climbed the ranks of the NFL office and in 2001 was appointed the league’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

About Dan Dierdorf
Dan Dierdorf was drafted out of the University of Michigan in the second round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. The Canton, Ohio native used his speed, skill and intelligence to become an equally effective run and pass blocker en route to becoming one of the finest offensive tackles of his era. He was named All-Pro five times, elected to six Pro Bowls and enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Dierdorf’s post-playing career consisted of three decades in television broadcasting as he served as an analyst for NFL games for ABC’s Monday Night Football from 1987 to 1999 followed by a tenure with CBS Sports through the 2013 NFL season. Today, Dierdorf serves as part of Michigan football’s radio broadcast team.

Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Queen Pageant Signals Start of 2015 Celebration

The Pro Football Hall of Fame and the annual Enshrinement Festival will be celebrating 52 years of excellence in 2015, with the first event being the Queen Pageant on May 7.  Applications and tickets will be available at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, Enshrinement Festival department, 222 Market Ave. N., in downtown Canton, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Monday, Feb. 9.

In addition, applications are available on-line at The deadline to submit the application and a $70 fee is Monday, March 9, by 5 p.m. Candidates cannot be younger than a high school senior and 18 years old by May 1 or more than 23 years of age before Sept. 1. Candidates must reside and, if employed, work within a 30-mile radius of Stark County.

While not mandatory, all potential candidates are invited and encouraged to attend the fifth annual “Screen the Queen Pageant” session which will take place Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce from 9 to 11 a.m. This session will help young ladies decide if they would like to enter the Pageant, and to give them a better idea of what to expect if they do. Participants will have the opportunity to review the 2014 Queen Pageant DVD, learn about the judging experience from past years’ judges, hear from a past queen who will share her memories, and ask questions about the process. This informative, casual session is FREE, but reservations must be made in advance by calling Kathy Lindenberger at (330) 458-2056 or e-mailing her at:

The Queen Pageant on Thursday, May 7 will begin at 7 p.m. at The Canton Palace Theatre. All seats are reserved at $20 each, and tickets can be purchased at the Canton Regional Chamber, and online at

At the conclusion of the Pageant, a Queen and five court members will have been selected on the basis of personality, poise, beauty, communication skills, academic achievement and service to community.  The Queen and her court will serve as role models and goodwill ambassadors throughout the community.

For more information regarding applications, tickets or sponsorship opportunities, contact Kathy Linderberger at (330) 458-2056 or visit the Enshrinement Festival Web site at

Canton Regional Chamber Says Farewell to Two Senior Staff Members

The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce will say goodbye to two longtime senior staff members over the next few weeks: Steven J. Katz, senior vice president, and Fran Wells, director of Leadership Stark County. Katz is set to retire effective Jan. 30, while Wells will vacate the full time directorship on Feb. 17, remaining in a part-time capacity through the conclusion of Leadership’s 28th Signature Class Program in June.

Katz has served as senior vice president of the Canton Regional Chamber for 14 years. His primary responsibilities have included economic development, government affairs, human resources and management of internal operations alongside the president and CEO. His oversight has also included some aspects of events, finance and information systems. Katz joined the Chamber in 1982 as manager of Government Affairs and has also served as vice president of Economic Development and Government Affairs.

Katz graduated from Kent State University with a master’s degree in public administration. He recently served on the boards of Ohio Means Jobs, Canton Community Improvement Corporation, Stark County Minority Business Council, and the Stark Development Board Finance Corporation.

Katz is looking forward to spending more time with his family and pursuing personal interests.

“Steve’s leadership, strategy, guidance, and friendship will be greatly missed,” said Denny Saunier, president and CEO of the Canton Regional Chamber. “Steve has managed our economic development program, served as the Chamber ‘face’ for business and manufacturing, worked hand-in-hand with the City of Canton, and led our Mills Business Park efforts. His impact through the years is truly extraordinary.”

Stepping into Katz’s role is Mike Gill, who has been promoted to vice president for economic development. “I can’t think of a more qualified or capable person to follow Steve,” said Saunier. “This is an extension of the economic development work that Mike has been doing downtown for years.”

Wells, a graduate of Leadership Stark County’s 14th Signature class, has served as director since summer 2002. Under Wells’ direction, Leadership Stark County added the annual Local Government Leadership Academy for elected and aspiring officials, as well as a short-course for young professionals, Spotlight Stark County, in 2006. Most recently, Leadership Stark County has begun offering customized training for businesses and organizations.

An honors graduate from Indiana University’s School of Education, Wells taught at the elementary school level for five years. In 1979, Wells and her husband, Dr. P.J. Wells, moved to Canton when her husband established a Dentistry practice in the Canton South area. Prior to Leadership Stark County, Wells served as an instructor substitute for the Stark County Board of Mental Retardation for 12 years, followed by seven years as a Learning Resource Specialist at Canton Country Day School.  Wells is looking forward to spending more time with her family, including her young grandson.

“During Fran’s 12 years as director, she has elevated Leadership Stark County’s Signature class to a highly regarded program in our community and beyond,” said Saunier. “She has expanded Leadership’s brand and programming to include Spotlight Stark County, Government Academy, and custom leadership training. I wish her the best as begins a new chapter of life.”

Darren Faye, chairman of the board for Leadership Stark County, added, “Leadership programs around the country and locally have molded some of their programs to mirror what Fran has developed right here in Stark County.”

Saunier and Faye will be working together in coming weeks to secure Wells’ replacement.

Deadline Nearing for Business Excellence Award Nominations

2015 BEA logoNominations for Stark County’s most prestigious business awards are due by Jan. 23, 2015. Help the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce recognize area leading companies by nominating them for the preeminent business awards in the region.The Business Excellence Awards recognize businesses that go above and beyond providing jobs and fundingour economy, are on the cutting-edge of emerging technology, making capital investments to our area, dedicating resources to the community, and helping to make our region more appealing to business growth and relocation.

Awards Eligibility: To be considered as a nominee for any of the 2015 Business Excellence Awards, businesses must be for-profit, non-publicly traded, and meet the criteria for the three award categories as noted below:

  • The Business Excellence Award salutes companies that have distinguished themselves with longevity, growth, innovation, and consistent involvement in the community. To be considered, the business must have a significant presence in and/or provide substantial benefit to the citizens and economy of Stark County.
  • The Business of the Year Award honors a single winner that has experienced growth in sales, employees or overall operations in the last full calendar year.
  • The Emerge Award for Entrepreneurs celebrates a single outstanding entrepreneur who has been in business for five years or less in a new or innovative endeavor.

For full eligibility information, or to nominate a company, please visit

If you have questions regarding eligibility or the nomination process for the Business Excellence Awards or the Emerge Award, or are interested in sponsorship opportunities for this event, please contact Melissa Elsfelder, interim event manager, at or by phone at 330.458.2073.  Honorees of this year’s awards will be recognized during the awards dinner scheduled for Tuesday, May 5, 2015, at The Conference Center at Kent State Stark. Sponsors to date include Day Ketterer LTD, Stark State College, Westfield Bank, and The Repository.



ystark! Announces 2015 Executive Committee Chair and Vice Chair

photoystark!, a program of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce focused on young professionals, is excited to announce that Cheli Curran, CEO, Domestic Violence Project, Inc., will serve as the 2015 chair of ystark!’s executive committee. Seth Turner, supervisor, Hall, Kistler and Company LLP, will serve as vice chair.

Cheli Curran has been a ystark! member since 2011 and most recently served as the chair of a special ystark! urban core initiative, incorporating YPs into a segment of the Chamber’s strategic plan. Her personal accomplishments have been at length, including About Magazine’s “Movers and Shakers” of 2013 and a member of the Twenty under 40! class of 2011. Cheli is a graduate of the Leadership Stark County Spotlight Program and the Government Academy. She received both her BA and MBA from Walsh University. Her professional experiences have led from case manager, to specialist, to program director and now CEO, all within varying non-profits to assist families with community or workforce barriers. Cheli and her husband John live above the Joseph Saxton Gallery with their daughter Connor; combining Cheli’s passions for Downtown Canton, the Arts District and family. These experiences will aid in Cheli’s ability to contribute to our executive committee in 2015 and beyond.

PROFILESSeth Turner joined ystark! in 2013 and quickly become an elite-engaged member, attending (literally) all ystark! events and joining its executive committee as membership chair. He graduated from Stark State College and holds a license as a certified valuation analyst. Seth and his wife Susan live in Alliance with their daughter Chloe and son Trent. When he’s not professionally auditing or reviewing, he’s personally out reviewing his many favorite places in Stark County. With this, Seth brings a dynamic and complementing regional perspective to our volunteer leadership team.

For additional information on ystark! and the 2015 Executive Committee leadership, please contact Eric Smer, director, at 330.458.2302.