Vice President, Polymer Industry Cluster
Brian Anderson is the Vice President of Research 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.
Manager, Projects and Initiatives
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.
Senior Manager, Manufacturing Sector Partnership
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.
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.
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.
Michelle Cassetty Collins brings 20 years of leadership experience in higher education where she led initiatives related to the recruitment and retention of students. Her experience working with academic programs in a consortium is foundational to the value she places on collaboration to reach shared outcomes. She has a deep desire to improve the quality and effectiveness of an organization, a process or a system.
At ConxusNEO, Michelle manages research initiatives, coordinates with College and Career Academies of Akron, spearheads pilot projects, and supports the organization’s leadership and staff.
Michelle earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Bible from Kentucky Christian College, a Master of Science in Higher Education degree from The University of Akron, and a Master of Education in Cultural Foundations at Kent State University where she studied marginalization and inequalities in education through the lenses of sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and history.
Gregg P. 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.
Coordinator of 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.
Manager, Business Operations
Heather is the Manager of Business Operations at the Greater Akron Chamber. In this role she handles many responsibilities ranging from bookkeeping for the organization, human resource support for staff, as well as general office management. A couple years ago Heather chose to make a change in careers and join the Chamber after seeing the positive impact being made by the team in this region. She wanted to be a part of the change the Chamber was making in the community.
Heather is a proud Veteran of the United State Marine Corps, having served for eight years from 2004 – 2012, during that time she received various Medals and Letters of Commendations. Heather has a bachelor’s degree in social psychology from Park University and is a Certified Notary Public for the State of Ohio. She is also a graduate of Torchbearers Class of 2019 and served as the Co-Chair for Membership in 2020.
Outside of work her favorite things to do include hiking and reading. In 2020 she read over 140 books! She also likes to find volunteer opportunities she can share with her kids to get them immersed in their community. Heather lives in Copley with her husband, their three children, and their dog.
Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications
Halee Gerenday is the Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications for the Greater Akron Chamber. In this role, she brings visibility to the work of the Chamber and our regional partners, and ensures our members stay connected to information that will support and strengthen their businesses. She chose to work at the Chamber because she wanted to support community growth and utilize the power of storytelling to showcase the people and businesses here in Greater Akron.
Halee received her bachelor’s degree in digital media journalism & sport communications from Ashland University. Professionally, she is a proud recipient of a first-place award for Best Reporter in Ohio by the Society of Professional Journalists in 2017 for her work with the Medina Gazette.
For Halee, home is in Medina County with her husband and son. She enjoys traveling and being outdoors – whether it’s reading a good book on her patio, camping at one of Ohio’s State Parks, snowboarding or walking the trail with her dogs.
Vice President, Investor Engagement
Sante is the Vice President of Investor Engagement for the Greater Akron Chamber. In this role he works to support our members goals, ensuring our members are connected, engaged, and supported in our shared work and mission. Sante chose the Greater Akron Chamber because he has a passion for supporting the business community and the region. His favorite part of his job is getting to know and working with people, he is always learning something new from everyone he meets.
Professionally, Sante has a unique background having previously working in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. He is particularly proud of his time working for The White House as well as raising money for pediatric cancer patients and survivors. A few awards he has received as recognition for his work have been 2014 COSE Staff Service Award, 2018 Catalyst of Leadership & Excellence (CLE) Award, and he was a member of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2020.
Sante has a wife and two daughters that inspire him daily. While it’s his family that inspires him the most, he also enjoys golfing and traveling to anywhere that has a beach.
Senior Manager, Healthcare Sector Partnership
Ameeca is an Akron native and comes from a local hospital with 11 years of experience. Ameeca is passionate about community outreach efforts and has led many grant initiatives related to youth development, education, and public health issues focusing on maternal and child health. All of her previous work experiences have awarded her the knowledge and skills to raise awareness and facilitate beneficial programming in adverse communities.
Ameeca received her bachelor’s and Masters of Arts from Kent State University. At ConxusNEO, she will manage the Healthcare Sector Partnership and continue to foster and promote relationships in the community with local healthcare facilities to support workforce development opportunities.
Manager of Member Engagement
Al is the Manager of Member Engagement at the Greater Akron Chamber. He works to support current and potential members, acting as a connector between our members, our mission, and our resources. Al has long been involved in the small business community in Akron and wanted to continue pursuing his passion of business support through the Chamber.
Al has over 8 years of experience hosting networking events for businesses in Northeast Ohio. He has also participated on several boards and enjoys volunteering. One of his greatest professional achievements was receiving a proclamation from the City of Akron recognizing December 16th as “Al Jones Marketing Networking Day”.
Outside of work, Al loves spending time with his family. He is a father of 3 boys. In his spare time, he also enjoys reading and traveling.
President & CEO
Steve Millard is President and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber. Steve was attracted to the Chamber in 2018 to become a part of an emerging new collaboration among economic development partners led by the County of Summit, the City of Akron, the GAR Foundation, and the Chamber’s Board leadership. The promise of an enterprise approach across disparate ecosystem partners to increase jobs, investment and opportunity for the region was a bold idea for the region and the business community that he wanted to be involved in creating.
That bold idea became the unique collaboration that is working to advance economic development in Greater Akron called Elevate Greater Akron. The commitment by more than 20 ecosystem partners working together to do the right things to drive growth and success for the region has allowed for stronger collaboration and impact for the region.
Prior to joining the Chamber in 2018, Steve spent more than 20 years leading in various roles in economic development including as the President and Executive Director of the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) and the Executive Vice President of the Greater Cleveland Partnership.
Professionally, Steve is a Certified Chamber Executive and has been recognized in a variety of ways for community leadership, Board service and professional contributions. Steve holds a B.S. in Finance, a B.S. in Transportation and Distribution Management from Syracuse University, and an M.B.A. from Case Western Reserve University. Prior to his work in Economic Development, he spent time at both GE Medical Systems (now GE Health Care) and Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in supply chain operations and strategy consulting roles.
Steve currently serves on several boards including Leadership Akron, Summit Education Initiative, TeamNEO, ConxusNEO, Business Volunteers Unlimited, Downtown Akron Partnership, Downtown Akron Development Corporation and Medical Service Company.
Steve and his wife, Lisa, are proud to have a daughter, Lexie, who is a high school English teacher and a son, Ben, currently attending Marietta College. They live as the guests of three cats and two dogs who go out of their way to be perfectly good at doing absolutely nothing. Steve has no impressive hobbies or world adventures to brag about, but does have some bad habits like good bourbon, great scotch, and an occasional cigar that he is happy to share.