Hey Bob, bring on the wow factor

Johnson City Press • May 21, 2019 at 7:30 AM

Admittedly, Bob Cantler was not among the people on our radar as the local Chamber of Commerce searched for a new president.

There were other business and organization leaders whose involvement in community affairs, foundations and events made their names immediately come to mind.

But once Cantler’s name was announced, we recognized that good sense had prevailed. Imagine a collective “doh” with a smack on the forehead. Cantler’s affable traits, coupled with his extensive experience in the hospitality sector, make him an excellent choice to move the Chamber ahead.

Having grown up in Johnson City and attended East Tennessee State University, Cantler knows this community backward and forward. He also brings experience from larger markets, as he spent about 16 years working in Memphis, Atlanta and Nashville before returning home in 2001.

That perspective is key to his new role, as he should understand both what makes the greater Johnson City area tick and what ideas from outside might increase opportunity here.

A Chamber of Commerce’s central mission is to support and promote the business sector, thereby facilitating a healthy economy. To that end, an effective Chamber plays a role in nearly all aspects of life in a community. It is directly involved in economic development, tourism and leadership development, but it also works with local governments and other organizations in such areas as transportation, education and health care.

Under Gary Mabrey’s leadership for the last 31 years, the local Chamber has displayed a solid foundation in all of the above. When he steps into Mabrey’s shoes July 1, Cantler will inherit an organization with a firm grasp of that mission.

Cantler’s task will be to pump up the wow factor. The Chamber must become the most visible presence in town, illustrating why this can be an even better place to live, work, play and spend money. We think he is up to that challenge.

And like the label or not, Cantler and his wife, Dianna, are the very definition of a power couple. Dianna is downtown development director for Johnson City Development Authority, a component in the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership.

Yes, work and home have their necessary dividing lines and the two organizations have separate functions. But as a pair, the Cantlers will occupy two key positions in the economic development of this city and the region as a whole. They are uniquely suited for those roles, and they will have ample opportunity to work toward common ends.

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