By Guy Coviello
President and CEO, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As the Valley continues to experience a generational opportunity to grow its economy, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, with the help of its many partners, continues its evolution to fill the role of strategic leadership.
While the Valley’s growth feels good, we have not lost sight of challenges our members are facing, so we have launched more ways to absorb inflationary pressures and other headwinds.
In addition to discounted health care and energy costs, we have rolled out new discounts such as payroll services and more business-to-business networking events.
We also laid the groundwork to start convening industry-specific roundtables with our members, the first of which will be held this month, so that we may help address more specific needs and challenges.
Now let’s talk about Christmas presents. We received a big one late last year when Kimberly-Clark purchased 460 acres in Trumbull County for a large, manufacturing operation.
This was the result of unprecedented cooperation between the chamber and the Western Reserve Port Authority, a key agency paving the way for Valley growth.
That’s two Christmas presents in a row. In late December 2022, the U.S. Air Force Reserve decided to allocate new C-130J model aircraft to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, a billion-dollar investment that preserves Trumbull County’s largest employer for many years. This took years of lobbying by the regional chamber and the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission, another of the Valley’s successful strategic agencies.
Through stewardship provided by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments – another vital chamber partner – the Mahoning Valley set itself apart from the rest of Appalachia Ohio by rallying around a single Appalachia Community Grant Program application to tap into the $450 million made available by the administration of Gov. Mike DeWine.
We will soon reap the benefits of having dozens of Lake-to-River governments and nonprofits speak with one voice to address our most important priority – growing the population. In this case, we’re going to do it by revitalizing all downtowns through which the Mahoning River flows, improving health outcomes and building the next generation workforce by making ourselves more attractive to retain, return and receive the best and brightest people.
The chamber’s evolution to become an un-siloed, collaborative, thought-leading organization received validation when Mahoning and Trumbull counties’ boards of commissioners approved $1 million each to support Valley Vision 2050, a plan to permanently reverse our economic fortunes through unprecedented focus on non-driver industries, small businesses, arts and culture, quality of life and diversity.
We could not take this evolutionary step without visionary colleagues at the Youngstown Foundation and Valley Partners. This also required forward-peering commissioners willing to boldly think beyond the political cycle and plant the seeds for success that our successors will reap.
We move into 2024 at an inflection point in the Valley’s history. We are poised to see our community equitably grow its prosperity and inclusively improve its quality of life.