YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When the 118th Congress convenes at noon Jan. 3, it will do so for the first time in 20 years without Tim Ryan as a member.
Rather than run in one of the two districts that would represent the Mahoning Valley following redistricting, the Democrat competed for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman. He lost to Republican J.D. Vance. In a stinging rebuke that signified the realignment of voters here, Ryan failed to carry Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
In 2002, his election to Congress represented a major step forward as the Mahoning Valley turned the page on the Traficant chaos. Ryan quickly made economic redevelopment his priority.
Fruits of the Cleveland-to-Pittsburgh Tech Belt Initiative – which he spearheaded with a Pittsburgh area congressman – include the additive manufacturing hub known as America Makes in Youngstown. It was supported by an initial award of $30 million in federal funds and has been the beneficiary of more federal contracts and awards. Another outgrowth of the Tech Belt is Brite Energy Innovators, for which Ryan secured $2.2 million to help launch.
Ryan ascended to the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He brought home millions of dollars to fund key projects and initiatives. He secured appropriations for the Youngstown Business Incubator for capital upgrades and equipment, for investments at Camp Garfield and the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, for funding veterans’ medical care and programs, and for the $10.8 million grant paying for road upgrades in Youngstown.
Equally significant, Ryan led the effort to establish and fund the economic development division of the Western Reserve Port Authority. This enabled mechanisms for bond financing and capital lease agreements to support major projects ranging from Hollywood Gaming and the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel downtown to Ultium Cells. The port authority is now working with the cities of Youngstown and Warren to return abandoned properties to productive use. It owns the former RG Steel property in Trumbull County, which is considered a prime site for redevelopment.
Ryan’s role in economic development also included directly engaging with executives from TJX Companies when they appeared poised to withdraw plans to build a distribution center in Lordstown. In recent years, he has been a vocal proponent of electric vehicles and the Voltage Valley. And his support for education initiatives brought social and emotional learning resources to local schools.
Ryan’s departure from Congress unquestionably represents a change in the political power structure. We are concerned about the loss of consolidated power with Mahoning and Trumbull counties fragmented into separate districts. After so many decades of working to speak with one voice and collaborating to meet common goals, will this stop the momentum?