$155.7M Grant Request Advances Regional Priorities

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Just a glance at U.S. Route 422 in Girard will show the need for improvements. Sidewalks and curbs are badly in need of replacement. Electrical upgrades for streetlights are needed as well.

Funds for making repairs to an approximately half-mile segment of Route 422 and adjacent streets is one of two requests totaling $4.2 million pertaining to Girard that is part of a $155.7 million application to the Appalachian Community Grant Program

They are among the 41 items contained in the application that Eastgate Regional Council of Governments submitted for consideration Dec. 8. The application encompasses projects worth more than $431 million in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties.

“I really believe they are strong projects,” says Kathy Zook, Appalachian Regional Commission program manager at Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. Eastgate, the regional infrastructure planning agency for Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties, was the lead applicant on the grant application.

Approximately $500 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds was earmarked for Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties by the Ohio General Assembly and Gov. Mike DeWine with the passage of House Bill 377 in June 2022.

Eastgate submitted the application on behalf of a regional partnership that included Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Western Reserve Port Authority, Columbiana County Port Authority and Ashtabula Port Authority.

To qualify for the grant program, projects must address at least one of three priorities identified in H.B. 377: infrastructure, workforce or health care.

Additional criteria include having a transformational impact on their communities, being responsive to issues caused by the pandemic and being feasible for completion by October 2026.

“It’s hard to balance what’s transformational to some communities with translational to the region, but I think we got a good mix,” says Jim Kinnick, Eastgate’s executive director.

One project is identified as an all-county project. The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber is seeking $562,500, with a match of $661,000, to support development of what is described as a four-county workforce talent retention and attraction ecosystem.

Local governments and private entities in Mahoning County are seeking funds for 17 projects. They include the Youngstown Business Incubator, which is seeking $10 million for a graduate additive manufacturing facility; and Oh Wow! Children’s Center, which wants $913,489 for Phase 4 of its renovation.

The Western Reserve Port Authority is requesting support for two projects: a Mahoning Valley workforce welcome center and redevelopment of a Belmont Avenue building into a center for veterans services.

Requests by local governments in Mahoning County include streetscape, corridor, riverfront and façade enhancements in several communities, including Youngstown, Lowellville, Struthers and Milton Township.

Mahoning County requests also include upgrades at the Youngstown Flea building, Mercy Health – Youngstown, QuickMed’s redevelopment of the former Silver’s Vogue Shop building in downtown Youngstown, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.’s Revitalize Glenwood, and Mahoning Valley Historical Society, which recently acquired the former IBM Building downtown and is seeking nearly $3 million.

Youngstown Flea founder Derrick McDowell, who purchased the former industrial property at 365 E. Boardman St., three years ago, requested $5.2 million to see the building reach its full potential as a mixed-use community space.

“We’ve realized that we’ve got quite a gem here in this 150-year-old historic building,” McDowell says. “It’s only right that we pursue the opportunity to open this place up and allow the community to experience the wonder that it has.”

Mercy Health – Youngstown has applied for $5 million to upgrade from a primary stroke center designation to an advanced certified thrombectomy-capable stroke center in 2024.

“Specifically, these grant funds would enable Mercy Health to add additional infrastructure and technology to care for more patients in need of complex stroke treatments,” says John Luellen, M.D., president of Mercy Health – Lorain and Youngstown.

The 10 applications for Trumbull County projects include $5.5 million for renovation of the Brite Energy Innovators incubator, $2.5 for the port authority’s aviation education campus at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and $4 million for the Trumbull County Historical Society’s science fiction and fantasy museum.

The city of Warren is seeking more than $28 million for redevelopment of the “peninsula” area near downtown. Other Trumbull County projects include a boat launch at Commerce Park in Newton Falls, downtown riverfront revitalization in Niles, Western Reserve Greenway trail and bridge renovations, and Cortland downtown revitalization.

The $3.5 million being sought by Niles for downtown riverfront revitalization will go in part toward a canoe-kayak launch area, as well as for creating a downtown entertainment area. The grant also would provide funds for engineering work on the former Masonic temple building, which was recently acquired by a private developer.

“The goal is to create an appealing entertainment area right in the heart of the downtown area, so that when you enter Niles via the viaduct, there is something that is appealing, that is eye catching, and that makes a statement,” says Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz.

Columbiana County Port Authority’s $8 request for Rivertown center funds represented the sole request for that county. The port authority is seeking the funds to convert the former Motor Lodge Hotel in East Liverpool along state Route 11 into a facility that would offer treatment, supportive housing and workforce training for individuals suffering from substance abuse.

The grant application also includes requests for 12 projects in Ashtabula County, including funds for “critical infrastructure” at an Ashtabula mega site requested by the Ashtabula County Port Authority and an access road for a Conneaut mega site.

Funds also are being sought for downtown Ashtabula placemaking and revitalization and Spire, an athletic, academic, personal and career development organization in Geneva.

In Conneaut, funds are being sought for waterfront and port district redevelopment and for the twin bridges kayak launch and water trail. Geneva-on-the-Lake is requesting shoreline restoration help at Geneva Township Park.

The local partners on the application worked with consultants for about a year to determine what proposals would be included in the application. Any projects that had right-of-way or environmental concerns that could affect the ability to meet the October 2026 deadline were left off, Kinnick says.

“We didn’t want to send down to Columbus anything that couldn’t fly,” he says.

The collaborative effort among the agencies that participated in the joint application demonstrates that what is being requested is what the participating communities want, according to Zook.

“It is not being dictated as to what is good for Appalachia,” she says. “This collaboration shows this is what Appalachia supports and this is what we want to improve our communities.”

Pictured: Derrick McDowell requested $5.2 million to see the Youngstown Flea building reach its full potential as a mixed-use community space.