Journal Opinion: Some Encouraging Signs

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Given dire warnings about the U.S. economy in recent years – many top economists said recession was all but inevitable this year – we view with optimism the predictions offered Nov. 2 at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber Economic Forecast Breakfast.

We’re particularly encouraged by what Regional Chamber President/CEO Guy Coviello had to say.

Coviello reported that the number of economic development leads the chamber received this year has exploded, especially leads related to so-called megaprojects on the order of the Ultium Cells plant.

In years past, the chamber would receive about 50 leads annually but with just one every two years for a megaproject. In 2021, the chamber witnessed a 20% increase in leads, three of which were for megaprojects, according to Coviello. The positive trend continued in 2022, with another 20% increase in lead traffic, seven of which were for megaprojects.

“By the end of the year, we’ll probably receive leads for 108 projects,” he said. During the first three quarters of 2023, the chamber received 18 leads for megaprojects and he expects more by the end of 2023.

Coviello outlined other encouraging local trends, including a report by USA Today that showed the Mahoning Valley has the highest percentage of millennial home ownership in the United States at 74%, “the most critical demographic of our current and future workforce,” he said.

And, surprisingly, the population of the OH-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area, which covers Mahoning and Trumbull counties and Mercer County, Pa., rose by 1%, according to a recent Deloitte study.

Other encouraging statistics included a 2% decline in the poverty rate at a time when poverty is stagnant nationwide and an increase in the number of people here who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, for the first time since 2015.

These are encouraging signs, to be sure, but no guarantee of better days ahead – certainly not without collaborative effort.

We need more highly educated and skilled individuals who will attract industry and reduce the labor shortage. That means improving schools and expanding lifestyle amenities as well as focusing on basic needs by developing affordable new and revitalized housing stock.