Our Team

Driving Economic Growth & Prosperity | Supporting the Success of the Business Community Convening Stakeholders on Key Issues Facing the Region.

Our Team

Driving Economic Growth & Prosperity | Supporting the Success of the Business Community | Convening Stakeholders on Key Issues Facing the Region.

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Brian Anderson

Vice President, Polymer Industry Cluster

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Brian Anderson

Vice President, Polymer Industry Cluster

Brian Anderson is the Vice President of the Polymer Industry Cluster for the Greater Akron Chamber. Brian leads the Polymer Industry Cluster Initiative of Northeast Ohio, as well as the data and regional economic analysis functions of the organization. Prior to the Chamber, Brian worked at a wearable technology start-up and a Fortune 500 company. He decided to make a move because he wanted to contribute to an organization that he felt could improve the region and the lives of its residents.

 

Brian received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Emmanuel College in Boston where he was also a three-sport collegiate athlete. From there, he attended The University of Akron for his MBA, and University of Texas – San Antonio for his master’s degree in finance.

 

Brian and his wife Casey like to travel, cook, and are dedicated fans and season ticket holders of the University of Akron men’s soccer team.

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Emily Baarson

Manager, Projects and Initiatives
ConxusNEO

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Emily Baarson

Manager, Projects and Initiatives, ConxusNEO

Emily Baarson brings a unique range of experiences to ConxusNEO as Manager, Projects and Initiatives. Her 20-year career has been shaped by enabling community change through planning and economic development. In recent years, her work has focused on enhancing access to opportunity and improving workforce mobility. She is a creative collaborator who thrives on engaging with community partners to solve complex challenges and find creative funding to do so.

As the spouse of a retired military officer, Emily has lived and worked in many interesting places. While living with constant change could seem overwhelming to some, Emily saw her family’s moves as opportunities to learn, and flourished in the midst of change and the challenge of adapting to new situations.

Having experienced such a range of places and work environments, she gained first-hand knowledge of the importance of workplace policies that support adaptive thinking and life-work balance. In an era when more women hold advanced degrees than men, Emily sees a critical need to provide meaningful and flexible ways for women who frequently relocate or have changing family needs to contribute to the economy.

Originally from Northeast Ohio, Emily earned a Bachelor of Science in Botany/Environmental Science from Miami University (Ohio) and a Master of Urban Planning, Design and Development from Cleveland State University. After many years away, Emily and her family relocated to Ohio in 2019 to be closer to extended family and enjoy the great quality of life and incredible educational opportunities offered in the Buckeye State.

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Jean Barbato

Senior Manager, Manufacturing Sector Partnership
ConxusNEO

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Jean Barbato

Senior Manager, Manufacturing Sector Partnership, ConxusNEO

Jean brings 15 years of experience in higher education working with recruitment, advising and retention for non-traditional, adult completion programs, and grant management in workforce training and apprenticeships. She also has 35 years of experience as a small business owner and understands the difficulties and the importance of training and retaining employees. 

At ConxusNEO, Jean is the Senior Manager of the Manufacturing Sector Partnership with oversight of the sector partnership, the U.S. Department of Labor Scaling Apprenticeship grant and the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Good Jobs Challenge program. Her responsibilities include collaborating with local community-based organizations who serve underrepresented, underserved people in the greater Akron region to provide training and to gain quality job opportunities for career growth. 

Jean earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management and a Master of Business Administration from Walsh University in North Canton, OH. She is on the Advisory Board for the Stark County’s Greater Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank Community Harvest program, is a member of the Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital Service League, and is the chair of the grant writing committee for Another Act of Kindness. 

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Alyssa Carpenter

Director, Economic Development

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Alyssa Carpenter

Director, Economic Development

Alyssa Carpenter has a unique role, serving in a dual capacity as the Director of Economic Development for the Greater Akron Chamber and the Director of Business Development for Team NEO, focusing on the rubber, plastic and polymer industries serving Stark and Summit Counties. Alyssa views the work of economic development much like a puzzle with intersections of building relationships, problem solving, and pulling the partners in the public and private sectors together in order help our companies and communities grow and prosper.

For her work professionally, Alyssa earned the Ohio Economic Development, Ohio Certified Economic Developer certification. She also frequently presents as a guest speaker as part of the Ohio Economic Development (OEDA) programing on topics of economic and professional development, as well as more locally, via Team NEO’s NODE program.

Most of her time outside of work involves her kids, Caroline and Grant, and their school activities. Alyssa also enjoys entertaining and being outdoors.

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Surendra Chawla

Polymer Consultant

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Surendra Chawla

Polymer Consultant, ConxusNEO

Surendra Chawla retired from The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company as a Senior Director of Global Innovation in 2018 after 40 years of service in different roles and responsibilities. He joined Goodyear in 1978 as a Senior Research Engineer in Corporate Research and rose through the ranks to Director and Head of the Goodyear Corporate Research from 2003 to 2008. In 2009, he was given the responsibility to lead Goodyear Open Innovation initiative. In this role, he championed the culture of open innovation in Goodyear, to explore, assess and internalize external technologies for sustainable product leadership and create new business opportunities in mobility solution space of Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electrical (CASE) vehicles. He created a global R&D network of world-class universities, research institutes, national laboratories, open networks, suppliers, customers and start-ups; and successfully integrated dozens of new programs into Goodyear technology and product platforms. He is one of the founders of the Goodyear Institute of Technology (GIT) – “forum for tire related technologies”. Hundreds of Goodyear associates around the world have benefited from this opportunity to expand their knowledge and skill base. In January 2021, he joined Greater Akron Chamber as a consultant to support the Polymer Industry Cluster Initiative.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from India, Master’s and PhD from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago, USA.

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Michele Cook

Executive Assistant

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Michele Cook

Executive Assistant

Michele Cook is the Executive Assistant for the Greater Akron Chamber. In her role, Michele works closely with GAC President & CEO Steve Millard to assist in keeping the executive committee and other leaders engaged, informed, and prepared for the Chamber’s work each day. This includes maintaining accurate contact records for the organization's boards, committees and task teams, as well as writing meeting minutes, and overseeing the distribution of materials in advance of board and committee meetings. She was driven to work for the Chamber because of their efforts to support the business community and her ambition to inspire kindness; both important aspects to her personally and professionally.

The City of Cuyahoga Falls once presented a hero award to Michele for an instance in which she utilized CPR to assist a man who’d fallen in the road after experiencing a heart attack. in the middle of the street. Michele stays in contact with the man today, demonstrating her affinity for compassion.

Michele likes to spend as much time outdoors as possible but doesn’t complain when she is stuck inside snuggling with her dog and cat. Family is very important to her, and she spends each Sunday together with them for family breakfast. She is most proud of her son, who is currently studying at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

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Gregg P. Cramer

Vice President, Economic Development

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Gregg Cramer

Vice President, Economic Development

Gregg Cramer is the Vice President of Economic Development for the Greater Akron Chamber. In this role he manages the day-to-day economic development operations, including Attraction and Business Retention & Expansion. Gregg also works with our Elevate Greater Akron partners to oversee the collective effort to meet with 300+ companies on an annual basis. Along with the County of Summit and City of Akron, he also co-chairs the “Akron, USA” domestic/international marketing initiative.

Gregg is inspired by the fact that his father worked at B.F. Goodrich for 25 years in the same office complex currently occupied by the Chamber; he literally looks out the window at his father’s office every day. Gregg truly believes we are a unique community with a rich history and have a great story to tell.

Professionally, Gregg received his Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) certification from the National Development Council. He also honed his public speaking skills during his run for public office. For the record, his family prayed he would lose the race; he lost the race.

Without question, the defining characteristic of his life has been raising a child with Special Needs; in countless ways - personally and professionally - it has made him a more appreciative, better, and focused person. Other than chocolate, Gregg’s only vice is American muscle cars. 

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Sarah Deitrick

Project Manager

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Sarah Deitrick

Project Manager

Sarah Deitrick is the Project Manager of the Polymer Industry Cluster for The Greater Akron Chamber. In this role, Sarah advances the work of the region’s industry partners by coordinating the Polymer Industry Advisory Council’s engagement in various economic development operations. This includes executing promotional events and conferences for the cluster, as well as surveying the Greater Akron business community to gather insights, perspectives, and challenges that help to shape the organizations’ efforts. She loves playing a part in meaningful work and chose to work at the Chamber in order to drive economic growth and prosperity within the community.

As a 3rd generation Akronite, Sarah is deeply connected to the region. She is most proud of founding her grassroots organization, Friends of Keyser-Swain Farmhouse in 2021, which advocates the historical significance, preservation, and selective restoration of the building. She is additionally proud to serve as President of Progress Through Preservation of Greater Akron, a volunteer non-profit organization.

When not at work, Sarah finds comfort in spending time with her daughter watching movies, exploring the trails of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, visiting museums, and attending concerts.

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Natalie Diekman

Coordinator, Membership Services

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Natalie Diekman

Coordinator, Membership Services

Natalie is the Coordinator of Member Services for the Greater Akron Chamber. In this role, Natalie serves the day to day needs of our members and prospective members and works maintain accurate information in our membership database. Natalie has always had a lot of pride in Greater Akron so she is happy to be working at an organization where she can contribute to the betterment of the region.

Natalie graduated from the University of Akron with her bachelor’s degree in the Spring of 2022.

Natalie loves living in Akron. She regularly visits the gorgeous parks we have scattered throughout the area, whether it’s to go for a run or to photograph nature. Also, when she has the time, she loves cooking and playing the piano.

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Robyn Durlin

Manager, Digital Marketing and Web Design

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Robyn Durlin

Manager, Digital Marketing and Web Design

Robyn Durlin is the Manager of Digital Marketing and Web Design for the Greater Akron Chamber. In this role, Robyn creates graphics, designs, and other visual materials for the Chamber to use in its marketing and communications efforts. Robyn joined the Chamber team after 15 years in digital design for the retail advertising and marketing industries. She decided to step away from the corporate marketing world to join an organization where she could make a difference in her local community.  

Originally from Maine, Robyn attended Lyndon State College (now Vermont State University) where she earned bachelor’s degrees in digital media and graphic design, before moving to Greater Akron in search of a more robust job market.  

She now lives in Portage County with her husband and three cats, where she enjoys spending time outside kayaking, beach combing, hiking, and camping. Robyn also frequents concerts and likes to take trips to visit her family in New England. 

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Heather Flohr

Manager, Business Operations