Dan Colantone, who has led the Greater Akron Chamber for the last 17 years, is leaving his position at the end of May.

Colantone announced his resignation as the chamber’s president and chief executive officer at a meeting Wednesday with the chamber board, said Donzell Taylor, board chairman.

“Dan served the chamber for 17 years and did a great job,” Taylor said.

He said he was not expecting Colantone’s resignation. “Dan made that decision on his own,” Taylor said.

Colantone’s upcoming departure now provides an opportunity for the chamber to make changes of its own, too, Taylor said. He noted that the Akron area has undergone recent significant leadership changes at its local hospitals, county and city governments and other places.

“The one constant is change,” Taylor said.

The chamber put out a news release saying Colan­tone is leaving effective May 31. Colantone has led the business organization since Feb. 1, 2000.

“I have been privileged to serve the members of this great organization and to have worked with the city of Akron and Summit, Medina and Portage counties to help promote regional economic development and to help build a stronger Greater Akron region,” Colantone said in a news release. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished but feel it is time for a change. I look forward to the new opportunities and challenges that are in front of me but will always have the best interests of the people and businesses of this great community in mind.”

Colantone did not return a phone call seeking comment.

New direction

Colantone’s resignation provides an opportunity for the chamber to move in a new direction that focuses more on regional collaboration and economic development, said Marc Merklin, an Akron lawyer who will succeed Taylor as the chamber’s board chairman next year.

“Dan decided he wanted to resign, and the board will look for a new kind of leader,” said Merklin, managing partner at law firm Brouse McDowell.

The board and Colantone had been having discussions on how to move the chamber forward, Merklin said.

“I think Dan’s done a great job, but think of this as a good opportunity for new direction,” Merklin said. “Sometimes, you just need change. Sometimes, it’s an opportunity.”

The board is happy with the chamber staff and how the organization provides services to its members but sees challenges on how the organization approaches economic development and how to do things better, Merklin said. That includes working with other regional business and economic development organizations, he said.

“I think the opportunities will be to be more collaborative and more forward thinking,” Merklin said. “I think it’s clear the board wanted a change in direction and focus.”

The chamber will start a national search for a new CEO, said Taylor, head of Welty Building Co. and the husband of Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

Skills and leadership

The board will begin having discussions on what kind of skills and leadership style it wants in a new CEO, Taylor said.

The board also will look at whether it makes sense to make structural changes to the chamber’s organization, he said.

Taylor noted that at the Greater Akron Chamber’s annual meeting several weeks ago, the organization announced it will work with the Akron mayor and Summit County executive offices on how best to do economic development with little to no redundancies.

“We appreciate and thank Dan for his efforts on behalf of the our members, the city of Akron and the Tri-County area,” Taylor said in a news release. “He led the chamber during a time of challenge and unprecedented change. Our search will begin immediately for a CEO who possesses the leadership skills and the ability to build the kind of relationships that will help us succeed in an ever-changing environment and drive economic development and prosperity for the people of the Greater Akron region.”

The chamber board has not yet decided if it will need an interim CEO or if the organization can continue to operate with current staff until a new CEO is hired, Merklin said.

He noted that Colantone will still be CEO for two more months.

Chamber members include global manufacturers, universities, local medium-sized and small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The chamber traces its roots to the Akron Chamber of Commerce in 1907; the Area Development Committee in 1954; Area Progress Board, 1968; and the Akron Regional Development Board, or ARDB, in 1975.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ  on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ