Packer Thomas marks major milestone

Public accounting firm celebrates 100 years

CANFIELD — Packer Thomas, the Canfield-based tax, auditing, accounting and information technology services firmed, started humbly in 1923 in downtown Youngstown as a three-man organization in what is now the Chase Tower building.

Fast-forward one century and the firm has grown into a staff of nearly 60 and two brick-and-mortar offices — one in Canfield and the other in New Castle, Pa., with clients from the region and elsewhere across the U.S.

“It’s a milestone. The significance of it is Packer Thomas has been doing quality work for a long, long time, and we’re just the folks here to continue that,” Rick Schafer, principal officer, said. “For a CPA (certified public accounting) firm … if you’re not performing quality work for an extended period of time, you’re not going to exist. That’s the satisfaction I take, is this company has been around for so long because of the work and people who do it.”

This year, the firm marks 100 years in business.

To celebrate the momentous achievement, Packer Thomas in partnership with 898 Marketing, also in Canfield, to tell the story of the firm through the eyes of former and current employees and clients, including one that has been with the Packer Thomas since the very beginning.

On the last Thursday of the month, the firm releases a 60- to 90-second video on social media sites to highlight key characteristics that have led to the success and growth of the firm.

“The posts are designed to honor the firm’s rich history and express gratitude to their clients, employees, and partners who have been instrumental to their success,” a press release states.

There also have been celebrations for employees, with more planned later this year.

“We’re trying to make sure they realize what an achievement this is for a company,” Schafer, in his 36th year with Packer Thomas, said. “There aren’t very many companies to make 100 years, and it’s because of them. We do have a great staff and that’s what we want to celebrate.”

The staff of 57 swells to nearly 70 during the busy months of January through April; the extra employees are interns from Youngstown State University.

Packer Thomas, with 13 principal officers, has a client base that is mostly in the eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania region, most of which is locally- and family-owned companies, but it has clients elsewhere in the nation.

Schafer said the firm has “been blessed” with a stable staff of employees who have grown up with Packer Thomas. A number of them, he said, have been with the firm anywhere from 10 years to 20 years or longer.

“People who come here, like to stay here, and that’s what we like to see,” Schafer said.

Said John Cournan, principal officer, “from a cultural perspective, if you talk to many CPA firms right now, there is a pretty common trend of staffing shortages. We’ve been blessed as of the last several years, our turnover has been lower than normal and staffing shortages, really, we haven’t had to face those. We think those are a function of the culture we’ve tried to build.”

Packer Thomas has “always had a rich history” of quality client and customer service, Cournan said; it also places a high emphasis on employee satisfaction.

Evidence of that was shown when the trade magazine Accounting Today named Packer Thomas among the top 100 accounting firms to work for in the U.S. Seventy-five percent of the survey, Cournan said, was based on responses to employee experience questions.

In 1993, the firm acquired the Youngstown branch of Ernst & Young. It was among the more notable acquisitions that has helped the firm grow in a slow- to no-growth market that at one point was heavily dependent on the steel and other manufacturing, the latter of which is beginning to turnaround.

Packer Thomas, because of the trust and friendships it has developed in the industry, is often the firm that’s called when owners of another are ready to retire to inquire about buying.

Other key acquisitions and mergers include 2003 with the acquisition of a practice in New Castle, Pa., establishing the firm in Pennsylvania. It was followed two years later with a merger of another New Castle practice.

In 2016, Packer Thomas acquired the accounting firm of Reali, Giampetro & Scott and in 2017, it acquired the accounting firm of Anness, Gerlach & Williams.

“Acquisitions for us in a slower-growth market have really been instrumental in helping us grow,” Cournan, with Packer Thomas for 31 years, said.


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