Journal Opinion: Lake to River District: Yes!

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Creation of the new Lake to River economic development district, anchored by the Mahoning Valley, is the next logical step in the regional collaboration that has evolved over the last 30 years.

The new district, part of the JobsOhio network, is composed of Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties, which were formerly attached to the 18-county Team NEO district. The four counties are linked by state Route 11 – from Lake Erie to the Ohio River – which provides infrastructure capabilities that set the region apart.

More than a year ago, local business and development leaders approached Gov. Mike DeWine and requested that he establish a new district that would have a more targeted focus than the 18-county district where the Mahoning Valley was often overshadowed. As these leaders pointed out, the four Ohio counties, plus Mercer County in Pennsylvania, form a separate combined statistical area with a unique workforce commute pattern and logistics corridors.

“Those assets are fundamentally different than the assets that Cleveland has, or the assets of Akron, Canton or any other part of what used to be this district,” DeWine told The Business Journal on his way to the April 24 event where he announced the Lake to River district. “They’re going to be able to market themselves as a region separate and distinct from what used to be the old region.”

 As longtime advocates of regional collaboration – and ending the balkanization and self-defeating turf wars that long impeded job creation – we applaud the local leaders who advocated for the district and DeWine’s willingness to support their proposal.

We also are appreciative of the efforts of the organizations who pushed the effort, among them the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Eastgate Regional Council of Government, Western Reserve Port Authority, Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, Youngstown Foundation and Columbiana County Port Authority. Among local business leaders who made this happen are Alexa Sweeney Blackann, former president of Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, who is the organization’s interim CEO, and Chuck George, managing partner of Sapientia Ventures, which owns The Business Journal.

We are tremendously encouraged and hopeful for the future.