Chamber Presents Awards to Valley Business, Development Leaders

NILES, Ohio – When Foxconn was performing its due diligence last year as it assessed whether to acquire Lordstown Motors Corp.’s plant in Lordstown, Rick Rajaie, Foxconn’s vice president of North American operations, emphasized one factor that helped seal the deal that brought the company to the region.

“One intangible factor that was never included but was always a big motivator was the community,” he said. “From Day One we have seen nothing but support from this community.”

Rajaie was among three recipients of community awards presented by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber during its annual meeting Thursday morning. Farmers National Bank sponsored the breakfast, and Anthem sponsored the award presentations.

Foxconn’s Rajaie received the Spirit of the Valley award; Jim Kinnick, executive director of Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, received the Spirit of the Chamber award; and Thomas Mosure, chairman of the board for MS Consultants Inc., was honored with the Valley Champion award.

‘Not Here to Win an Award’

“We are honored to be recognized by the community,” Rajaie said. “We’re not here to win an award. As I always said, this is our duty to do our portion to bring prosperity to the Valley.”

Foxconn, based in Taiwan, is the single largest consumer electronics contract manufacturer in the world with 1.2 million employees. While the company is best known for manufacturing iPhones for Apple, it has moved into the electric-vehicle manufacturing space over the last two years, prompting the acquisition of the former General Motors assembly plant in Lordstown.

“I’m a car guy,” he said during a fireside chat with WFMJ’s Derek Steyer at the Eastwood Event Centre. “I never saw myself working outside of the automobile industry.”

Foxconn wants to leverage the Lordstown plant and fill it with an array of EV vehicles it would build for other manufacturers. 

Last week, Foxconn rolled out Monarch Tractor’s first five MK-V tractors from the Lordstown plant. The California-based company manufactures electric-battery powered tractors and expects to build “thousands” from the Lordstown plant.

Foxconn also builds the Lordstown Endurance, the all-electric pickup designed and engineered by Lordstown Motors.

“We are consistently working with different partners,” Rajaie said. “When we start a partnership with somebody, it has to make sense for that partnership,” he added.

As of now, Rajaie said he does not have any new information on another product coming to the Lordstown plant.

‘Honored and Appreciative’

Kinnick, the executive director of Eastgate, said he was “very honored and appreciative” to receive the chamber’s Spirit of the Chamber award. “It’s really the whole Eastgate team being recognized here.”

Eastgate Regional Council of Governments spearheads a substantial amount of public-works projects across the Mahoning Valley that have a profound impact on economic development in the region. “This is special,” Kinnick said.

Among the most significant projects that Eastgate, the chamber and a host of other partners have tackled is the removal of the dams along the Mahoning River, Kinnick said.

“People need to recognize that’s a quality of life issue,” he said. “We need to bring our river to a clean, free-flowing state.”

Kinnick said two of the dams – Lowellvile and Struthers — are already down, and four others are targeted for this year. A seventh dam could be taken out sometime next year, he said, and the final dam could be removed in 2025.

Those dams were placed in the river during the heyday of the steel industry, Kinnick noted. However, those dams also trapped toxins over decades of industrial discharge, contaminating the river.

Removal of those dams would allow the river to return as a recreational focal point for the entire region, Kinnick said. 

“It’s part of economic development,” Kinnick said. “It’s growth for communities along the river. The Valley is on its way back, and we’re excited about it,” he said.

He said it’s important to begin redevelopment in urban centers such as Youngstown, as evidenced with the Smart2 road reconstruction project now underway downtown. “We need to get those streets fixed, improve connectivity to [Youngstown State] University and improve connectivity to Mercy Health, and then we grow from there.”

Once the downtown core is finished, Kinnick said that the development agency would next examine the major corridors leading out of the city. “We’re looking at Belmont, we’re looking at Market Street, we’re looking at [U.S. Route] 422,” he said. “We’re going to grow from the urbanized area and out.”

Kinnick also emphasized the importance of companies such as Foxconn and Ultium, and touted initiatives such as the chamber’s efforts to attract and retain more young people into the Mahoning Valley while reaching out to immigrants and refugees. The effort also addresses a new housing strategy.

“We want to grow the population,” he said. “There’s a reason the rearview mirror is small. We don’t want to look backwards anymore. The windshield is wide open.”

‘Fond Legacy’

Mosure, chairman of MS Consultants Inc., which was founded in Youngstown but is now based in Columbus, said it’s an honor to receive the Valley Champion award, noting it’s a testament to his company’s growth and family legacy.

“This is our 60th year in business,” Mosure said. “That’s quite a record in terms of sustainability.”

Mosure’s father, Thomas F. Mosure, founded the engineering firm in 1963 with just three people, he said. “Now, we’re an architectural and engineering firm that is registered in 48 states.”

He decided to join his father’s company after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and spent several years working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mosure said the industry faces challenges, but also great opportunities in the near-term. 

“The availability of labor is very much a challenge,” he said, noting there are fewer engineers in the talent pipeline today. However, the recent passage of legislation such as the bipartisan infrastructure bill devotes large amounts of money to public projects from which his company and others can benefit. “It’s a very positive thing,” he noted.

Technology is also guiding how companies can conduct business more efficiently, especially as labor options tighten, he said.

“We’ve grown annually about 7% over the last four years,” Mosure said. 

Mosure said he and his family remain committed to the Mahoning Valley as it still operates a large office in downtown Youngstown. Mosure sits on the engineering advisory board at YSU, and his father played football for the Penguins. The hall of fame – the Thomas F. Mosure Hall of Gridiron Glory – is named for him.

“There’s fond legacy with Youngstown,” he said.  

Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Regional Chamber, said the region benefits from powerful partnerships with organizations throughout the region. The organization is celebrating its 30th year as a regional chamber.

“Project leads have increased by 20% each year” over the past two years, he said. Leads for megaprojects – these would be projects such as Foxconn or Ultium – have increased substantially as well. 

“In the last three months, we’ve had more of those leads than in the last three years combined,” he said.

Pictured at top: From left, Rick Rajaie, vice president of North American operations at Foxconn; Jim Kinnick, executive director of Eastgate Regional Council of Governments; Thomas Mosure, chairman of the board for MS Consultants Inc.; and Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.