YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Economic Action Group’s Mahoning Valley Main Street program, formed in 2020 to help small businesses get pandemic recovery funding, played a big role in obtaining the $185 million that local businesses received in federal Paycheck Protection Program loans.
It also built connections to other funding sources and fostered relationships between local governments and the business community, says Nick Chretien, EAG executive director.
Chretien says the revitalization group increased its partnerships in Youngstown and Warren in 2021, which includes conducting public engagement and data management for the American Rescue Plan funding each city is receiving.
“We have played a key role in the facilitation of ARP feedback sessions and surveys, collecting project proposals and analyzing feedback data,” Chretien says.
The EAG has seen significant growth within its community development program that revitalizes blighted commercial properties and strengthens neighborhoods, he continues.
In 2021, the program played a key role in Voyager Specialty Coffee & Teas planned $250,000 project at 1586-1588 Mahoning Ave. in Youngstown. EAG worked on this project with the Western Reserve Port Authority and other partners.
In the past year, WRPA and EAG facilitated the stabilization of the Mahoning Avenue buildings, which has resulted in tentative plans with Voyager to make significant renovations on the property, Chretien says. Levi Smith, owner of the company, wants to use of all the space including for manufacturing, storage, and market space. The rear lots could become a community green space with a small stage and gathering area.
EAG’s Student Service Learning component has been a critical tool for growth, according to Chretien. It has enabled EAG to offer civic internships in partnership with local governments and nonprofits. It managed 17 interns throughout 2021 the year.