Chamber’s ARP Summit Aims to Guide Collaboration for Funds

HOWLAND, Ohio – A meeting of government officials, business leaders and economic development representatives was convened Wednesday to guide how funds awarded by the American Rescue Plan are spent.

“We wanted to get everyone talking about what’s transformational Valley-wide and will have an impact for many generations,” said Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, which organized the summit.

At The Grand Resort in Howland, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber facilitated the meeting that included Mayors Doug Franklin of Warren and Jamael Tito Brown of Youngstown, the chairmen of the Mahoning and Trumbull county commissioners, administrators of Boardman and Howland townships, officials from Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Western Reserve Port Authority and Valley Economic Development Partners, as well as the leaders of three major nonprofits: the Raymond John Wean Foundation, The Youngstown Foundation and Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley.

“A few business leaders” also attended, Coviello said, though he declined to say who. The meeting itself was closed to the media and by the time of scheduled 4:30 p.m. media availability for attendees, only Coviello was still at The Grand Resort as staff cleaned up the conference room.

“Everybody’s going to go back, digest what they’re receiving and what their internal needs are and what their appetite is to work together,” he said. “We’ll have some further discussions with leadership and each of their organizations.”

A second summit will likely be convened in “a couple months,” he added.

The discussion about how to use the funds disbursed through the American Rescue Plan largely focused on utility infrastructure, workforce development, small-business loans, brownfield remediation and the expansion of internet access. 

While each government entity receiving funds from the relief package can decide how to use its allotment, Coviello said the chamber organized the meeting to get everyone thinking about how those funds can have the most impact on the area as a whole.

“The discussion here is simply what if each community siphoned off a small percentage? What could be accomplished across the Valley if their work exceeds the individual,” he said. “There’s not a target percentage [for each municipality to contribute] but when we reconvene, they’ll probably hone in on something.

From the Regional Chamber’s perspective, he continued, funds addressing utilities and workforce development are “top priorities if we want to continue to grow the local economy.”

Also important is ensuring governments are talking to each other to ensure the funding is spent effectively and has the widest impact possible.

“The biggest objective, from our standpoint, is to do something collectively. Other communities around Ohio are way ahead of us in terms of working together,” Coviello said. “Summit County and Stark County did in February what we did today.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.