Economic Development

Niles Awaits Decision on Regional Chamber Move

NILES, Ohio – Niles City Council President Robert Marino says he hopes to hear soon from the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber about the possibility of the organization relocating its main office to the city.

Marino made the comment at the close of the Regional Chamber’s Good Morning, Niles! Breakfast Friday at the Eastwood Mall.

“I look forward to the decision on the Regional Chamber possibly relocating to Niles. It’s an exciting opportunity,” Marino said, just after presenting a key to the city to the retired president of the Cafaro Co., Anthony Cafaro Sr.

Cafaro’s recognition was one of three honors presented at the event in the mall’s center court. The Niles Community Spirit Award was presented to Home Federal Savings & Loan and the Business Pride award was presented to Farmers National Bank.

The Cafaro Co. developed and owns the Eastwood Mall Complex. The mall developer and real estate management firm moved its headquarters last year from Belmont Avenue in Youngstown to a new office building constructed at the Eastwood site.

The chamber is based in downtown Youngstown in the First National Tower with a secondary office in downtown Warren. Its lease in the Youngstown building ends in June, and the chamber received an offer from the Cafaro Co. to relocate to its Eastwood Mall Complex here, James Dignan, its chief operating officer, said.

“We’re looking at all the opportunities that are out there,” Dignan said. “We’re still in information-gathering mode and we’ll see what other opportunities are out there and what makes sense for our members, what makes sense for the regional chamber, and make sure that we can get the best value for our customers and our clients.”

The Cafaro Co. would refurbish space at the mall complex to offer the chamber office space, as well as conference rooms, he said.

“We haven’t had any serious discussions along those lines yet but it’s something to consider,” said Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the Cafaro Co. The chamber would be “perfectly welcome” at the mall complex, which has “a lot of acreage” where construction could take place. Space is also available at the 105-acre Enterprise Park project north of the mall.

Cafaro, in brief remarks after accepting the key to the city from Marino, echoed sentiments he expressed in October 2014, when the company announced it would move to Niles from its longtime Youngstown headquarters.

The company left Mahoning County after a long feud with county officials over their decision to relocate the Department of Job and Family Services from the Cafaro-owned McGuffey Mall. The company’s efforts to oppose that move resulted in criminal indictments of  Youngstown Mayor John McNally, at the time a Mahoning County commissioner, and former county auditor Michael Sciortino.

“The people in Niles don’t criticize us for our success. They join in our successes. They congratulate us for any success,” Cafaro Sr. said. “We are among friends – true friends.”

During the program, Bell outlined developments for the mall complex. “This place is evolving. It’s been evolving since it was built in 1969,” he said.

He noted that At Home, a home décor superstore, would be taking over nearly 85,000 square feet of space now occupied by Burlington Coat Factory, which will move elsewhere within in the complex.

The store, slated to open in mid-2018, will be the only one within 75 miles, Bell said.

“We’ve had to push back the date on it several times,” he said. “We’ve been very deliberate in trying to find the right operator for it.”

 

During the breakfast, councilman-at-Large Ryan McNaughton addressed the city’s efforts to emerge from fiscal emergency.

“For the past 21 months we have worked hard — excruciatingly hard — to right this ship,” he said. “As I stand before you today, I can proudly say that I believe Niles is in much better shape today than it was two years ago.”

All of the city’s major funds are in the black, a fiscal recovery plan is in place and the city is investing money in long-term capital repairs, he said. And the city has an economic development contract with the chamber, McNaughton noted.

The chamber is engaging local businesses through retention and expansion visits to determine what needs they might have and connect them with the resources they need, Dignan said. It’s also working to identify commercial properties for marketing on the chamber’s website and to brokers, said Sarah Boyarko, the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber’s vice president for economic development.

“We are aggressively seeking new opportunities in the market, mostly land opportunities for future development that we may not have identified and that we would list on our website and the state’s website,” she said.

Pictured: James Dignan, chief operating officer of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, said the chamber is “looking at all opportunities out there” regarding sites for the organization’s main office.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.