Journal Opinion: Unprecedented Collaboration

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Efforts to capitalize on an increase in economic opportunities coming to the region represent encouraging signs for the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.

The announcement late last year that consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. has purchased part of the former Republic Steel property in Trumbull County for $9.9 million capped a year in which development leaders were unabashedly bullish about prospects for the local economy.  

Few details have been made public about Kimberly-Clark’s plans for the land it now owns beyond the intent to possibly build a manufacturing plant. The company said in a statement that its plans for the 560-acre site are not final. Still, the $9.9 million purchase indicates significant potential.

The Kimberly-Clark land sale resulted from months of work by the Western Reserve Port Authority, which owned the property, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and other partners.

And it was far from the only good news last year.

Work began on two industrial complexes – the North Jackson Commerce Park and West Warren Industrial Park – that aim to provide the modern manufacturing space the region has needed for years.

All this comes as increases in the number of economic development leads fielded locally intersects with determined and unprecedented regional collaboration.

In 2023, government, business and development leaders in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties began to work on forming a four-county district under JobsOhio that would market unique lake-to-river assets. 

Toward the end of the year, the Regional Chamber, port authority and Eastgate collaborated on a joint Appalachian Community Grant application for $155 million that would fund an array of projects and initiatives. Also late last year came Valley Voices, a collaboration among Mahoning and Trumbull counties and other partners to share economic development resources.

Local officials clearly are optimistic about what’s on the horizon. In the broader economy, inflation appears to be declining and recessionary fears are abating. This level of regional collaboration – unimaginable even a decade ago – certainly bodes well for the future.