Journal Opinion: Coming Together as a Region

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A long-standing complaint about the economic development community in the Mahoning Valley is what has been perceived as a lack of collaboration.

Jim Kinnick, executive director of the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, reflected on that perception Dec. 8. When he was with the Ohio Department of Transportation, the “knock on the Valley” was that everyone operated within their silos, Kinnick said. After he joined Eastgate about eight years ago, he experienced the problem firsthand.

“I cannot believe the transformation we’ve taken as a region,” he said.

Kinnick offered his reflection as local leaders  hailed the submission of a $155.7 million joint grant application. It seeks funds from the Appalachian Community Grant Program for 41 projects in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties.

The list of projects was assembled and vetted by a partnership consisting of Eastgate – the lead applicant – the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, the Western Reserve Port Authority, the Columbiana County Port Authority, the Ashtabula County Port Authority and others.

The press event detailing this partnership followed the announcement Nov. 30 of the Valley Vision 2050 initiative to craft a long-term regional strategy. These partners comprise Eastgate, the chamber, the Western Reserve Port Authority, Valley Partners and the Youngstown Foundation. Their goal is to form an expanded committee by April that would oversee planning and expansion of regional economic development. It would be an advisory group to the chamber with the intent to create and implement a regional vision and strategy by next summer.

Historically, regional collaborations emerged only after time-sensitive challenges such as preserving the Youngstown Air Reserve Station or other priorities that were “forced upon us,” Guy Coviello, president/CEO of the chamber, noted Dec. 8. 

Certainly there will be instances where area communities might find themselves in competition for projects. But as a publication that focuses on a five-county region (and sometimes beyond the Mahoning and Shenango valleys), we have long urged cooperation and collaboration.

We are very encouraged.