Chamber Members Arrive in Cleveland for RNC Events

By Gail Hettrick

CLEVELAND — As the business leaders from the Mahoning Valley gathered at the Courtyard Marriott in Canfield this morning before boarding the bus to the Republican National Convention, the excitement in the room was palpable.

Among the more than 75 attendees was Chuck Whitman, owner of the year-old hotel. “It should be a fantastic day,” he said. “The chamber did a great job pulling this together.”

Whitman, developer of the Westford Lifestyle Community, was accompanied by his corporate attorney, Chris Gagin, who is also chairman of the Belmont County Republican Party. “Given the tit for tat yesterday between the Trump campaign and Gov. Kasich, it should be a very interesting day,” Gagin said. “I think it was a mistake for the Trump campaign to go after the governor. He’s very popular in Ohio. It’s a battleground state and Trump’s going to need Ohio to win.”

Gagin was referring to Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who blasted the governor Monday for not endorsing the presumptive nominee and declining to attend the convention (READ STORY).

The business leaders will attend a luncheon at The Calfee Building in downtown Cleveland and then a tribute to Kasich this afternoon at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

For two years, the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber has been organizing events to showcase the Valley in the midst of the worldwide media attention surrounding the RNC, said Kim Calvert, vice president of marketing and communications for the Regional Chamber.

The potential impact was not lost on this group of business leaders, who viewed the occasion as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Frank Hierro, Mahoning Valley regional president of Home Savings, didn’t hesitate to sign up for the trip. “I think it’s a great opportunity to watch our democracy in action and see first hand what goes on at a convention. We’re fortunate to have it in Northeast Ohio and I wanted to be a part of it. It’s a pretty cool opportunity.”

Hierro praised the chamber for organizing the trip. “I’m glad to see the chamber engage in the process and get the membership engaged.”

Steven Snyder, Talmer Bank managing director, also praised the chamber. “I thrilled to be a part of it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wouldn’t miss it.”

Chris Jaskiewicz echoed the sentiment, “ As soon as I found out the chamber was getting involved, I signed up,” he said. “I just wanted to go because it’s in Ohio, it’s once in a lifetime, and I’m excited about it.”

Martin Abraham, vice president of academic affairs and provost at Youngstown State University, says if the chamber hadn’t organized the bus trip, he would not have fought the traffic and congestion to attend the convention, even though YSU’s STEM College has a vested interest in the convention.

“We printed the head and the hair of the Trump bobblehead at YSU.” The seven-foot tall 3-D-printed statue is creating quite a stir at the RNC. “ It was a great opportunity for us to be involved and show off the capabilities we have at the university and represent YSU to a large contingency.” Abraham shared. “I shows how we’re engaged in developing new technology and new opportunities for students.”

Tom Fleming, owner of Aim National Lease and his wife, Mary, jumped at the opportunity to experience the Convention.

“We thought it would be exciting to get up to Cleveland with the convention going on. We wanted to see the bobblehead up close,” Fleming shared. He also had a vested interest in the Trump bobblehead. “We transported it to Cleveland,” he said.

During the luncheon, chamber members will hear from Hugh Hewitt, a native of Warren whose radio program airs nationwide, and David E. Gilbert, president and CEO of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.