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.

2015 Leadership Stark County’s Government Academy Schedule Announced

Leadership Stark County is seeking applicants for its 10th Annual Government Leadership Academy. The Government Leadership Academy offers elected officials, appointed officials, aspiring candidates and civic minded citizens, leadership development skills and education about local and regional government.

The program will begin Tuesday, February 3, 2015.  The class takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays Feb. 5 through Mar. 5, meeting from 4 – 6 p.m. Cost is $395 per person and includes all materials. Classes meet at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and at Stark County District Library branches. EARLY BIRD TUITION is $350 for applications received by December 31, 2014. Partial tuition assistance is available for selected candidates from government, education and non-profit sectors.

The Academy, offered with support from the Stark County District Library, is designed to increase the understanding of local government and how it functions. The class is facilitated by Leadership Stark County with assistance from Professor Chet Bowling, The Ohio State University Extension. Participants meet and work with community leaders, focus on regionalism, and assess personal leadership practices. The curriculum includes:

  • Leadership skills, styles, and effective decision making
  • Local and regional economic development trends
  • Ohio Ethics training
  • Communication: working with citizens and with  the media

Past participants include:

Keith Bennett, Stark County Engineer

Tom Bernabei, Stark County Commissioner

Janet Creighton, Stark County Commissioner

Richard Currie, Mayor, Village of Hartville

Candace Daniels, Manager, Customer Services, United States Postal Service

Branden Dickerson, Assistant Prosecutor, City of Canton – Law Department

Anthony Flex, Plain Township Fiscal Officer

Frank Forchione, Judge, Stark County Court of Common Pleas

Julie Jakmides, Alliance City Council

C. Todd Locke, President, CEO, WRL Advertising

Michael Lynch, Nimishillen Township Trustee

Nancy Marion, North Canton School Board

Steven Meeks, Director, Jackson Belden Chamber of Commerce

David Myers. Project Manager/P.E.,P.S, Dawood Engineering

Chris Smith, Canton City Council

Mary Strukel, Massillon City School Board

Steven Tharp, Council, Village of Brewster

Tena Wilson, Executive Director, Stark County District Library

Patrick Wyatt, Senior Investigator, Nationwide Insurance

Applications for the Government Leadership Academy are now being accepted. For more information, contact Fran Wells, director, Leadership Stark County, at (330) 458-2094. Applications and more information about the program are available at

AultCare Fast Break Breakfast Announces Dynamic 2015 Line Up

FastBreakLogo.2**Valuable Discounted Season Passes Also On Sale Now for 2015**

The 2015 AultCare Fast Break Breakfast Series season has been announced, and discounted season passes are on sale now. The Canton Regional Chamber’s monthly AultCare Fast Break Breakfasts are held the second Friday of each month, when guests gather to hear compelling speakers, meet new business contacts and enjoy a hot breakfast buffet. Plus, each attendee has the opportunity to network and promote their business.

AultCare Fast Break Breakfasts are open to the public and held at the Courtyard by Marriott, 4375 Metro Cir. NW in Canton, from 7:30 to 9 a.m., with registration beginning at 7 a.m.

Buy a Season Pass and save $36 on a year’s worth of programs!

The $180 Season Ticket Books are an excellent value. Season passholders will pay just $15 per program ($3 off per ticket), the equivalent of attending two breakfasts free of charge. Beyond the discounted rate, season passholders are eligible for a special drawing each month, have access to the attendee contact list upon request, receive two complimentary guest passes for a friend or colleague, and receive special perks throughout the year.  

The 2015 AultCare Fast Break Breakfast Season Series (Jan – June) includes this dynamic lineup:

January 9: Selfies – You Win from Within!
Presented by Marvin Montgomery, the “sales doctor,” author/motivational speaker/trainer 

February 13: The Leadership “Color” Profile: What Your Color Says About You
Presented by Fran Wells, director, Leadership Stark County 

March 13: A Hall of Fame Team
Presented by David Baker, president/executive director, The Pro Football Hall of Fame  

April 10: Your CAK Game Plan for Staying Connected
Presented by Kristie Van Auken, senior vice president/chief marketing and communications officer, Akron-Canton Airport 

May 8: Leadership: The Difference Maker
Presented by Maria Stevens, owner, Stevens Coaching & Consulting LLC   

June 12: Marketing Our Region to Attract Business & Talent
Presented by Rick Batyko, president, Cleveland Plus

Visit to purchase a season ticket book, or contact Monique Thompson, events assistant, at or (330) 458-2070 for more information.

FBB 2015

HOF Enshrinement Festival Announces Photo Contest Winners

In the 26th annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Contest sponsored by Western Reserve Group, professional photographer Dennis Valentine of Louisville won the coveted $250 “Best of Show” award for his shot of the Ultimate Fan Association in the TimkenSteel Grand Parade. Valentine also earned a $100 first place prize for his photo.

Valentine, Dennis - Best of Show TimkenSteel Parade

Other professional photographers winning prizes included Doug Froelich of North Canton, with a $100 first place photo of the Balloon Classic/Jackson-Belden Food Fest & Fireworks.

Tedd Perkins of Canton won $100 for his Drum Corps International Competition Tour of Champions first place photo. Perkins also earned a $25 honorable mention for his photo of the Balloon Classic/Jackson-Belden Food Fest & Fireworks.

Deb Penland of North Canton won $100 for her Ribs Burnoff first place photo and $25 honorable mention for her photo of the TimkenSteel Grand Parade.

Scott Morrison of Bowerston earned $50 from his honorable mention photos of the Ribs Burnoff and the Drum Corps International Competition Tour of Champions.

The non-professional category was led by Doug Froelich of North Canton who received $125 for his first place photo of the Pigskin Run and honorable mention for his Concert & Fireworks photo.

Stephen McNulty of North Canton received $200 for his first place photos of the Community Parade and Concert & Fireworks.

Doug Perry of Canton won $25 honorable mention for his photo of the Pigskin Run.

The winning photos (below) will be on display at the Joseph Saxton Gallery of Photography, located at 520 Cleveland Ave. N in downtown Canton, from Dec. 5 through Dec. 29. The photos are also showcased on the Enshrinement Festival’s Web site at

2014 HOFEF Photo Contest_Facebook Cover

16 Blocks of Family Fun at Light Up Downtown on Dec. 4

Light Up Downtown CantonLight Up Downtown, the annual holiday ELFstravaganza in downtown Canton, is happening on Thursday, Dec. 4, from 5:30-8:30 pm. Presented by the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, Light Up Downtown provides fun for the whole family, as 16 city blocks come alive with holiday-themed attractions, entertainment, refreshements and fun for children of all ages.

This year’s Light Up will feature Christopher Pop-In-Kins, every child’s favorite elf, in a musical main stage show that is sure to light your spirits. In addition, the show will feature community musical and dance acts, fantastic fireworks, and a very special visit from Santa.

More than 100 local performers will take to the stage along Market Square (301 Market Ave. N in downtown Canton). The event pre-show, sponsored by Mix 94.1, will run from 5:30-6:00 pm, with the stage show and fireworks immediately following.

After the show concludes, families can walk up and down Market Avenue, as local businesses open their doors to provide live entertainment, refreshments and activities.

Street Closings and Parking:
Light Up Downtown will run until 8:30 p.m. and will be held snow, rain or shine. Market Avenue will be closed from 7th Street S. to 6th Street N. to vehicle traffic from 4:30 to 10 p.m.

There will be plenty of free parking, both on-street and in the Timken High School and Stark County District Library parking lots, as well as parking in various decks and lots throughout downtown for a nominal fee, including: Millennium Parking Deck, located on the west side of Walnut Ave., between 2nd and 3rd St.; City Centre Parking Deck, located at 120 Cleveland Ave. S; and New Market Deck, located at 233 Market Ave. S.

Hat and Mitten Donations:
During the event, the Canton City Fire Department will distribute hats and mittens to children in need. Donations of new children’s hats and mittens should be dropped off at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, or other downtown Canton locations, between now and the Light Up event. Visit for a list of all donation locations.

Event sponsors include Key Bank along with AEP Ohio, Aultman, Quonset Hut, the City of Canton, Kenan Advantage Group, Downtown Canton Special Improvement District, H-P Products, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Chit Chat Coffee Shoppe & Cafe, Metro PCS, Motter & Meadows Architects, The Repository, Mix 94.1 and News-Talk 1480WHBC AM and PPI Graphics.

Visit for more details. Light Up Downtown is also on Facebook.

About Christopher Pop-In-Kins™ and Imaginatives®
Christopher Pop-In-Kins, written and published in 1985 by Flora Johnson of Atwater, Ohio, is the award winning story of Santa’s “very first Children’s Elf.” Imaginatives is the creative team behind Christopher Pop-In-Kins. Located in Alliance, Ohio, Imaginatives specializes in the development, marketing and distribution of children’s books and toys. For more information, visit Christopher Pop-In-Kins online at