Chamber president speaks to Keystone business group

Jon Cantrell, Photo: Clay County Chamber of Commerce.


Telegraph Staff Writer

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS— Clay Chamber President Jon Cantrell headlined the May meeting of the Lake Region Prosperity Partners at Keystone’s Beach Pavilion on Thursday, May 25.

Cantrell told the business group about his career and reviewed some principles he learned throughout his 37-year pilgrimage in the newspaper business.

“We talked about integrity and a lot of leadership-skill-level things,” he said after the meeting, “about being honest and being kind to people, about problem-solving, coming up with solutions, not just complaining.”

Cantrell added that he also emphasized values he believes will bring long-term benefits to business owners, including reliability and professionalism.

He also warned the group against using profanity in business situations.

Cantrell launched his media career in 1985 at the Sterling Gazette newspaper in Illinois. As a classified ad clerk, he took phone calls from classified advertisers and typed the information for publication.

“So, back in 1985, realtors, car dealers, people generally in your community came to the paper with their classified ads,” he said. “I was the guy receiving the ads and typing them into a little computer.”

Cantrell said one of the early business lessons he learned in the entry-level job was to treat everyone with respect and kindness and to be an eager learner.

“I learned everything I could about the business,” he recalled, “and somebody actually thought I was one of the owner’s sons just because I treated them kindly.”

After a year and a half in Sterling, Cantrell moved to Iron Mountain, Michigan, with the Thompson newspaper chain as advertising director.

“I was there 10 years,” he recalled. “Ogden Newspapers bought it, and then the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel found me, recruited me, and moved me to Clay Today.”

Cantrell continued publishing the weekly for 25 years until last July when the Clay Chamber hired him as its president.  

“I’d been on and off the chamber board, so I knew they had an interest in getting somebody in there,” he said. “And I knew so many people in Clay County; I thought that maybe that would be a fit.”

Cantrell said the chamber is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re working on gaining our numbers back right now,” he said. “I lead by example. I didn’t choose to hire a membership person, so I’m kind of taking on that piece.”

He added that Vice President Kathryn Wills and Executive Assistant Kellie Chambless are also involved in member recruitment and retention, thanking prospects for attending chamber events and selling business owners on the benefits of membership in the organization.

“COVID had a lot to do, I think, with our numbers,” he said. “Now people are coming back and getting on board, and we’re excited about what we’re seeing.”