Carlton Highsmith


  • Appointed by The Community Foundation's Board of Directors for a term of seven years beginning January 1, 2015
  • Committee Membership: Community Strategies and Knowledge; Executive; Finance; Investment (Chair)

Carlton founded Specialized Packaging Group (SPG), a package design and package engineering firm in New Haven, Connecticut in 1983. By 2009, Carlton had built SPG into one of the most innovative designers and largest manufacturers of paperboard packaging for consumer products in North America. His company designed and manufactured packages for some of the world’s leading consumer brands. He employed over 600 at design centers and manufacturing facilities in Toronto, Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City and 7 other cities across North America. In 2009 Carlton’s company was recognized as the largest minority-owned firm in the State of Connecticut and was also ranked as high as #26 on Black Enterprise Magazine’s prestigious BE 100, an annual list of the largest and most successful black-owned businesses in the United States.

In 2009, Carlton merged his company with PaperWorks Industries, the third-largest vertically integrated recycled paperboard manufacturer in America. Carlton served as vice chairman of the board of the merged company until his retirement in March 2010.

Carlton currently serves on the board of directors of Cleveland, Ohio-based KeyCorp, the 13th largest financial services company in the United States. He serves on both the Risk Committee and the Nominating/Governance Committee at KeyCorp. His prior corporate board experience include New Haven, Connecticut-based NewAlliance Bancshares (2007-2011) and Buffalo, New York-based First Niagara Bank (2011-2016)

Carlton is founder, and currently serves as board chairman of the non-profit, Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology (ConnCAT) in New Haven. ConnCAT is a world class workforce development center, offering training programs in medical billing/coding, phlebotomy and culinary arts.

Carlton is vice-chairman of the board of trustees at Quinnipiac University. He also serves on the Yale New Haven Health System board of trustees. He also chairs the Investment Committee of the Board at the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

Carlton is a past member of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank New England Community Advisory Board, where he served 4 years.

Carlton is recipient of many prestigious national awards and honors, including the Manufacturer of the Year Award from the United States Department of Commerce MBDA; the Black Engineer of the Year Award from Black Engineer and Technology Magazine and the University of Wisconsin Distinguished Alumni Award.