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'Behind-the-Scenes' Group Meets to Talk Future of Canton, Stark County

By Alison Matas, The Repository

They encouraged the adoption of Canton's comprehensive plan and the passage of the city's parks and recreation levy.

They've talked about workforce development, tourism, Hall of Fame Village, and young professionals.

Last year, a group of business, nonprofit and government leaders began meeting to learn about several long-range plans unfolding in Canton and Stark County. Since then, they've decided to work together to achieve goals that will contribute to the community's success.

"They're really a pretty powerful behind-the-scenes type of group," said Fonda Williams, Canton's economic development director.

How it started

Dennis Saunier, president and CEO of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, asked his staff members to count how many organizations had strategic plans or were completing them, thinking that some groups' goals probably would affect other organizations in the county.

"And if we weren't aware of that, then we would be running parallel," he said. "It would be better to know, 'Where do these intersect?'"

There were 27 plans in progress.

Saunier, with Stark Community Foundation President Mark Samolczyk and Canton Repository Publisher Jim Porter, arranged a meeting of the minds.

The conversations happening now are among representatives from the city of Canton, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the United Way of Greater Stark County, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Akron-Canton Airport, led by a representative from the Fund for our Economic Future, which is a group of foundations working to strengthen job preparation, creation and access in Northeast Ohio.

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