CCPA Envisions ‘Global Investment Hub’ in Leetonia

LISBON, Ohio – The Columbiana County Port Authority’s vision of creating a “global investment hub” for 3D printing and the petrochemical industry began to take form this week with news of a $400,000 earmark in the state’s 2021/2022 capital budget. 

State Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, announced the award Wednesday.

The project would update, renovate and repair the 105,000-square-foot building the port authority owns at 600 Cherry Fork Road in Leetonia. Three tenants lease space in the building, two of which are 3D printing companies, according to Penny Traina, CEO and executive director of the port authority. The renovation would tear down walls and ceilings to create an open concept and new layout. 

“There is plenty of manufacturing space, along with a spacious, open office area allowing for a variety of business needs to be met,” she stated in a letter to Rulli that requested a $650,000 grant for the project. The hub would be available for “local, regional and foreign businesses, as well as new businesses looking to start up. The businesses we are specifically targeting are those in the 3D printing, technology and petrochemical clusters,” Traina wrote.

While the project, to be known as the “Columbiana County Global Investment Hub,” targets 3D printing companies and startups, Traina said it would not compete with America Makes, the additive manufacturing hub based in Youngstown.  

“We all partner together. This would just be a smaller hub in reference to what they’re doing in Youngstown,” she said.

Where the petrochemical industry comes into play is the partnership the port authority has formed with the Small Business Development Center and Export Assistance Network at Youngstown State University. The capital budget request describes this aspect of the project as the “petrochemical cluster growth opportunity. The purpose is to connect upstream, midstream and downstream petrochemical businesses to the Global Investment Hub to produce more value-added products, create good paying jobs and export products to the global market.”

The YSU centers would do much of “the legwork,” providing expertise on global trade, imports and exports, Traina said. “The glue that holds this project together is our partnership with Youngstown State University.” 

A study compiled last year by the SBDC Export Assistance Center counted 172 petrochemical supply chain companies in the tri-state region and 94 downstream plastics manufacturers. At the time, construction was full-steam ahead on Royal Dutch Shell’s cracker plant in Beaver County, Pa. The pandemic stalled that momentum.

“I don’t think any of us has a crystal ball to see where the petrochemical industry is going. But hopefully it’s back on track,” Traina said.

In January, the port authority estimated the total cost of establishing the Columbiana County Global Investment Hub at slightly more than $1.2 million. 

Other funding sources are available, including grants and port authority funds, or will be solicited. Still, with the state capital budget supplying just $400,000 of the port authority’s request, the project likely will be reconfigured, Traina said.

“Right now we are reorganizing to look at our priorities, how much funding we will receive and then we’ll put together our plan,” she said.

Pictured: The building at 600 Cherry Fork Road in Leetonia owned by the Columbiana County Port Authority. Plans are underway to redevelop the site into the Columbiana County Global Investment Hub.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.