Journal Opinion: Spirits of Collaboration

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The unbridled joy in the faces of the children pictured on our cover – their mouths pulled into goofy grins or with tongues playfully stuck out. The onward and upward affirmation of United Way volunteer Chris Nelson, who took time from his new job at Ultium Cells to read them a story. This photo, submitted by United Way of Trumbull County, captures the message of this publication.

“Growth Report 1: Economic and Community Development Edition” is the first of two Growth Reports this year that provide public and private organizations the opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges of the past year and outline their expectations for the year ahead. GR1, as we call it, is designated for growth reports from economic and community development organizations, governmental and educational institutions and nonprofits.

“Growth Report 2: Business and Industry Edition” will be published Feb. 15. (Be sure to submit your story information by Jan. 21.) GR2 is designated for growth reports from for-profit companies and health-care organizations.

Among the recurring themes in this edition is a greater sense of partnership and spirit of cooperation that’s driving economic and community development. Many longtime observers of the Mahoning and Shenango valleys will recall the obstacles presented by fragmented power structures, too many entities pulling in different directions, competing for limited resources.

That certainly is not the case today.

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Western Reserve Port Authority, Penn-Northwest Development Corp., Columbiana County Port Authority, Economic Action Group and Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition engage collaboratively, each entity taking a leadership role according to its expertise, yet acting in tandem.

Education and workforce development partners such as Youngstown State University, Eastern Gateway Community College and OhioMeansJobs are part of this regional collaboration as new programs like the Ohio to Work initiative come on board.

2021 saw the opening of the Excellence Training Center, a collaboration of YSU, EGCC, Youngstown City Schools, America Makes, the Youngstown Business Incubator, career centers and local companies to promote workforce development and innovation.

2022 will see educational service centers and Junior Achievement continuing to collaborate with the Western Reserve Building Trades Council and the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pa. to sponsor a skilled trades expo for middle and high school students and adults.

It’s all happening and we’re seeing the results.

Providing relief during the pandemic formed the basis for many more collaborations and partnerships as you’ll learn by reading Growth Report 1.

Yes, 2021 was a difficult year. We can’t bridge the political divide that threatens our nation. But we have removed barriers that once divided this region.