Commentary: Both PPPs Are Essential

By Edward P. Noga
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Paycheck Protection Program was a lifesaver during the pandemic. The COVID lockdowns were devastating to businesses large and small.

Many businesses that we know and patronize kept their doors open (so to speak) because of the infusion of PPP monies.

Using the PPP acronym, I’m going to go in a different direction but return to these three letters.

Those who keep up with statistics tell us that there are approximately 276 million registered vehicles in the United States. This comprises automobiles, trucks, motorcycles and buses.

It’s no wonder that building and maintaining roadways is such big business. As a nation, we are wedded to our cars. This dependence makes good roadways and adequate parking an absolute necessity. In smaller communities, parallel or diagonal parking often handles the need, supported, of course, by some surface lots.

The larger the community, the larger its parking needs. As we maneuver through our region, our destination includes a need for parking. Whether it’s a friend’s driveway or a parking lot next to a sports field or entertainment venue, getting to our destination is one thing.

Parking our car is equally important and often taken for granted. As our municipal entities upgrade, revitalize and develop, parking considerations are a MUST in planning.

Certainly, the renewed interest in downtowns such as Warren and Youngstown has provided dreamers and planners with opportunities that were overlooked for generations. Our travels today often are determined by the quaintness, innovation and attractions of areas that in the not-so-distant-past were unrecognized.

Living in downtown Youngstown the past three years, I have been amazed to watch what has happened. Fewer than 20 years ago, there was no Covelli Center. Now it has been complemented by Huntington Alley under the Market Street Bridge and the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre. Twenty years ago, Youngstown State University could house 960 students. Today, that number is 2,260.

Last month, Stambaugh Auditorium and the main branch of our library system welcomed the community to ribbon cuttings that celebrated more than $30 million in improvements. Add to that the opening of Penguin City Brewery in downtown’s east end, the continued growth of the Youngstown Flea and the most recent announcement that the Steelite Corp. will bring 75 jobs to downtown (with more to come). It is increasingly incumbent on community leaders, institutional managers, educational providers and businesses to work together to ensure there is a coordinated effort to provide for current (and future) parking needs.

For sure, this reality is happening in the other communities in our Mahoning Valley.

Interesting, too, that planners must deal with the ecological consequences of parking lots. We all too often have to deal with flooding following rainstorms because water rolls off pavement and cannot soak into the ground.

There is a price to be paid for progress and it begins with planning, planning and more planning. Planning includes soliciting comments and discussion with those who benefit from the plans for progress. Yes, there are times that such discussions might be contentious. But knowledge gained can be helpful as we decide what kind of communities we want to call home.

For instance, discussions in river communities such as Lowellville and Struthers have already been beneficial to the residents who live there. Such creative thinking bodes well

Back to the beginning. I opened with a grateful acknowledgement that PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, was life saving in the past two-plus years.

How about also using the acronym to help us look beyond the pandemic as we slowly get back to normal? Maybe we can also use PPP as a way of challenging all of us.

Please Plan Parking might be a new mantra. To those who spend countless hours researching and planning for parking issues, thank you. To those who ensure parking for the handicapped, thank you. To those who realize that parking issues are more than asphalt and fencing, thank you.

In these days of modern business and gatherings, it’s not unusual for a greeter to thank us for attending an event, buying goods, entering a museum, worshipping, participating in a fundraiser and so on. The personal touch is always helpful.

Well-planned, designed and maintained parking is an important tool in saying Welcome!