Economic Development

City, Businessmen Launch Fund for Warren’s Future

WARREN, Ohio – When Warren Mayor Doug Franklin showed up to a meeting earlier this year with Dennis Blank, his opponent in the 2015 mayoral race, AVI Foodsystems Inc. President and CEO Anthony Payiavlas wasn’t sure what to make of it.

I said, ‘Do I need to call security?’ ” Payiavlas recalled with a laugh.

That meeting several months ago at the AVI headquarters was among the early steps leading up to yesterday’s announcement of the Fund for Warren’s Future, a new entity to support development projects in the city.

The city of Warren will provide $50,000 to the fund, matched by Payiavlas and Sam Covelli, CEO of Covelli Enterprises. Additionally, the two Warren businessmen have agreed to provide up to $50,000 to match contributions from individuals, businesses and institutions, providing an initial $200,000 for the fund.

The impetus for the fund came from the recent campaign to increase the city’s income tax, which Blank supported, Franklin said. Another opponent might have opposed such an initiative, the mayor said, especially when the proposal came from a political rival. Discussions about putting together the Fund for Warren’s Future began in January.

Running for mayor against Doug was one of the more interesting things I’ve ever done in my life,” said Blank, who will serve as the fund’s volunteer administrator. “Two years later, we can probably make a list as long as this table of things we disagree on. Doug and I both chose not to think about those things and to find something we did agree on and work on that for the betterment of the community.”

Covelli and Payiavlas, who live within the city limits and whose companies are based here, praised the initiative. Both will be hitting their Rolodexes to call business leaders for contributions to the fund, they said.

We’re glad to see both of you working together, particularly on this,” Covelli said. “We just hope that the whole community, including the business community, gets behind the projects that we’re going to put together.”

Added Payiavlas, “There’s nothing better than when you get two folks who might have differences of opinion on certain issues coming together for the betterment of the community.”

The goals of the fund are:

  • To encourage direct purchase of, or investment in, industrial, commercial and residential properties in the city.
  • To encourage people to visit Warren to build on its position as Trumbull County’s entertainment and dining capital.
  • To promote and support entrepreneurial activity in the city through educational programs and infrastructure development.
  • To create a proactive culture in the city which acknowledges that growth is critical to the city’s future.

The fund, which will be housed at the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, is finalizing documents and assembling its board, which Franklin expects will be completed by the end of the year.

That board will evaluate projects and proposals it receives, including more than a dozen recommendations from past public studies.

Anthony Trevena, director of economic development for the Western Reserve Port Authority, praised the establishment of the fund, which he described as another tool in the community’s economic development tool box. “We work with larger economic development projects so it’s exciting to add something that could help those smaller $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 projects,” he said.

Pictured: Fund for Warren’s Future board administrator Dennis Blank, AVI Foodsystems President Anthony Payiavlas, Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, Covelli Enterprises CEO Sam Covelli and Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley President Shari Harrell announced the development fund Tuesday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.