Economic Development

City, Its Partners Seek SMAR2T Funding from Trump

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Given the Trump administration’s pledge to commit $1 trillion to improving the nation’s infrastructure, Mayor John McNally is hopeful that the city and its partners will have better luck the second time in getting federal funds it requested last year.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, will join McNally and other partners seeking a $15.5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery – or Tiger – grant at the Covelli Centre this morning.

Brown will highlight the proposed Youngstown SMAR2T Corridor project, passed over for a Tiger grant, “as he outlines a framework to rebuild and repair the nation’s infrastructure while creating millions of construction jobs,” states a media advisory from his office.

Brown and Senate Democrats released a roadmap to make Trump’s promised $1 trillion in infrastructure investment a reality. The plan also included Buy America language to ensure that American workers build the infrastructure using domestically produced iron and steel.

The proposal includes $10 billion in funding for the Tiger grant program, along with resources for repairing roads and bridges, modernizing water and sea systems, and improving public transportation.

In addition to McNally, representatives of SMAR2T partners Mercy Health, Youngstown State University and the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments are expected to join Brown at the press event.

The city’s corridor project application, if funded, would have supported upgrades to the corridors that connect major employers such as Mercy Health and YSU. It was not selected among the applications that shared in the nearly $500 million in Tiger awards announced in July.

About a month after the city’s application was rejected, McNally and Dominic Marchionda Jr., a planner in YSU’s Regional Economic Development Initiative who help draft the application, participated in a debriefing with members of the U.S. Department of Transportation who reviewed applications on behalf of former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“Quite frankly, they said it was a great application that had made it to the secretary’s desk,” he said. “Of the 40 grants awarded, we didn’t get to that top 40 number,” McNally tells The Business Journal.

Foxx received 200 applications.

The Transportation officials suggested the partners “move forward with trying to implement some of the things in the application” and reapply if there’s another round of grants, the mayor continued. He confirmed that Youngstown is proceeding with elements of the plan, including upgrades to Fifth and Mahoning avenues, as well as linking downtown to the Mill Creek Park bike trail.

Speakers at last week’s U.S. Conference of Mayors’ meeting, which McNally attended, included Mike Pence, just days before he took the oath of office as vice president.

“He talked about [the Trump administration] wanting to do infrastructure in a big way,” McNally recalled.

He also noted that President Trump has spoken of the needed $1 trillion in infrastructure improvements, but he also has seen reports about potential cuts to Transportation funding.

“We’ve got to wait to see the devil in the details,” he said. “He and his administration need to live up to that campaign promise to help rebuild this country. We expect he’ll live up to that.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.