Aqua Ohio Unwraps New Castlo Building
STRUTHERS, Ohio – Officials with Aqua Ohio pointed to its new Mahoning Valley operations center in Castlo Industrial Park as an example of its commitment to the communities it serves here. At the same time, Castlo’s operators say it shows how it can promote development in the industrial park.
Community leaders joined Aqua Ohio officials to unwrap the front door – covered with wrapping paper in the spirit of the holidays – off the company’s new building at Castlo Wednesday morning. Those attending included Mahoning County Commissioners Carol Rimedio-Righetti and Anthony Traficanti and representatives of the 10 communities in the county that the water company serves.
Aqua Ohio broke ground in June on the $2.5-million, 14,000-square-foot building, which consolidates office and field operations personnel from two locations. The move “allows us to serve our 20,000 customers in the Mahoning Valley much more efficiently,” said Aqua Ohio area manager Jennifer Johnson.
Last week, Aqua offered to purchase the city of Youngstown’s water distribution system for $50 million, an offer that officials with the company characterized as a starting point for discussions. Company representatives said Tuesday Youngstown’s system likely would be managed utilizing its existing physical assets in the city.
The division and Aqua Ohio have been part of the Struthers community for more than a century and the new building represents the company’s continued investment and commitment to the next century of service, she added. Of the division’s 21 employees, 14 will be housed here, she said.
“We made sure that we built the facility large enough to accommodate our current staff as well as any additional staff we may need, as Aqua is always interested in growing and expanding our service into other areas,” she said.
“We’re excited that they chose to stay and do economic development in Castlo,” Struthers Mayor Terry Stocker said. “They give back to communities like no other utility.” The company’s presence in the industrial park will only encourage other businesses to develop there as well as into the adjacent downtown, he added.
The company had owned the building where its State Street office had been located since the early 1900s and leased garage space in Castlo since the 1990s, Johnson said. “So this is a long time coming,” she said.
Aqua Ohio’s expansion here encourages other business development, Traficanti said. “There’s two things companies want – they want sewer and they want water,” he said.
The project represents a portion of the more than $10 million Aqua Ohio spent on upgrades in Mahoning County in 2017, Johnson said. Another $13 million in spending is planned for 2018, including a “major upgrade” to its Poland Township treatment plant.
Wednesday morning also provided an opportunity to showcase Castlo and the Western Reserve Port Authority, which held its monthly meeting at Aqua Ohio. The port authority held its monthly board of directors meeting yesterday in the new building.
“We were glad to play a role in helping make this possible,” WRPA chairman Martin Loney said. Castlo, which the port authority began managing last year, sold five acres of land in the park to Aqua Ohio to construct the building.
“The history of Castlo is one of changes because it’s a living laboratory,” Sarah Lown, public finance manager with the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, the port authority’s economic development arm, and executive director of Castlo.
“Castlo’s vision for this park and what that development means for the Valley weighed heavily in our decision to remain in the city of Struthers to purchase the land and build our facility here,” Johnson said.
Castlo in recent years shifted from leasing the park’s existing former steel mill buildings to tearing them down and remediating sites for new builds using Clean Ohio funds, Lown said. About half of the 120-acre park is available, she said.
“In the last year we have succeeded in selling one building and getting the new construction of the Aqua facility in place, which now makes the third new tenant at Castlo in a retrofitted or new building,” she said. “With our dual Class I rail access, we are aggressive in marketing the open acreage with a rail user.”
Lown reported during the port authority meeting that Castlo is working to finalize a lease with Iron and String Life Enhancement to use the garage recently vacated by Aqua Ohio to use as a maintenance facility for its vehicles.
Stocker said he is working with Lown and with the port authority on properties outside the industrial park, in part because the port authority’s operation of the park has “made a difference,” he said.
In addition, the mayor said he met with his counterpart in Youngstown, John McNally, and that city’s attorneys to discuss how they might acquire vacant downtown properties through condemnation or eminent domain.
The city is targeting downtown “because we believe this is where it all starts,” he said.
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