Economic Development

First Phase of Firestone Farms Nears Finish

COLUMBIANA, Ohio – For decades, the Firestone farmstead on the outskirts of Columbiana was a center of innovation and a place where some of the country’s most influential people met.

Today, Tom Mackall sees his development on the site, Firestone Farms, as the new center of business for the city. The first phase of the development opened in December and work is being completed on the last storefronts before businesses move in. Rounding out the first group of businesses, Mackall said, is a restaurant, a chiropractor, a real estate agency, a winery and a gym.

“There are a lot of people who drive from Columbiana to Boardman. We want to give them the options. Why drive all the way up there?” he said. “And we’re trying to make it attractive so the people from North Lima and New Middletown will come here too.”

Mackall, also president of East Fairfield Coal Co., bought the 884-acre site in 2012 for $4.9 million. The site also has a residential subdivision and a golf course, the Links at Firestone Farms.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said he fields questions from constituents about when they’ll see developments like what’s seen further north in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Firestone Farms, which he toured Monday afternoon, is a major step spurred by Columbiana County’s oil and gas boom.

“We beginning to see the results of the energy development, the oil and gas boom. The opportunities are coming our way by being in an energy-rich part of our country,” he said. “This is great news. This is good stuff going on here.”

Already open at the center is a branch of Salem Regional Medical Center, optometrist Dr. Julie Mackall, Wink Eyeware, Stone Fruit Coffee Co., Orange Leaf frozen yogurt, Prudential Financial, Finer Things Boutique, Madison Corner and Moondance Boutique. Having such a variety of services – Mackall has begun planning to build a grocery store and fast-casual restaurants across the street – will be a welcome addition to the county, Johnson continued.

“You’ll draw all walks of people who come from all over for various reasons. Maybe it’s a health care appointment or to Orange Leaf for some yogurt or even just kids here at night,” he said. “This is a great example of progress and I’m proud of Tom Mackall and the people who’ve put this together.”

The Orange Leaf at Firestone Farms, Mackall notes, is the chain’s top-selling store of the 300 nationwide. It opened five months ago.

The second phase of the development will bring apartments to Firestone Farms. Work on that portion won’t begin until Phase I is completed and more infrastructure is complete, Mackall said, adding that no timetable has been set.

While not part of the complex, upgrades are coming to the intersection of state routes 7 and 14 – Firestone Farms sits on the northeastern corner – including the addition of turn lanes. A 2013 report by the Ohio Department of Transportation, the most recent available, found about 12,000 cars cross the intersection daily, a number Mackall expects to rise as more businesses open in his development.

“There are already traffic jams on Fridays right now,” he said. “It’s a growing area.”

And as tribute to Harvey Firestone – Columbiana native, founder of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., and “one of the greatest businessmen in the history of our country,” Mackall said – a small amphitheater will feature a replica of the old farmstead that will serve as a backdrop.

This weekend, the stage will host The Gage Brothers as part of Autumn Splendor at Firestone Farms, a two-day festival with food trucks, music and family activities. This past weekend, the complex hosted a car show with upward of 200 cars and scores more visitors.

“We’re trying to do things to draw people here. This is a destination,” Mackall said. “Columbiana is a great community and we asked them to come down and be part of our vision. There’s a bright future here. I grew up here and there’s a great small-town atmosphere. We can continue that.”

Pictured at top: Tom and Jeremy Mackall greet U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson Monday at their Firestone Farms development.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.