Columbiana Businesses See Better Economy

LISBON, Ohio – Even with the slowdown in the oil and natural gas drilling industry, the business climate in Columbiana County is still on the upswing, several companies reported Tuesday at the Business Expo & Trade Show.

In addition to the oil and gas industry, manufacturing and health care are going strong.

“We see people coming not just from Columbiana County, but from the surrounding counties,” said Debbie Hill, co-owner of FR Clothing & More and Terra Clean Solutions in Hanoverton. “There are new people all the time because there are pipeline companies coming [into the area] frequently, which brings a new base of customers.”

Hill’s businesses sell fire-resistant clothes and safety equipment for oil and gas workers as well as chemicals for cleaning the grease and dirt from the clothes.

Even with the slowdown, she says, the pipeline work should eventually bring the drilling and production side of the industry back.

Last week, it was announced that an unnamed company would build a $100 million advanced-metals manufacturing plant in the city of Columbiana. The plant would employ about 120, mostly from the area.

“They were happy because they saw the pattern shops, the welding places and the 3-D printing places we have. These places are relatively small, but they’re all around and doing well,” said Terry McCoy, a member of the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce business development committee. “The young people in our community are being educated in those fields. They saw the community was open for that kind of development. That’s why we were selected over South Carolina.”

Several manufacturers in the county are ready to expand, said Kyle White, manufacturing outreach manager for Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network. The nonprofit helps manufacturers expand, develop new products and recruit employees.

“The manufacturers work hard and they work hard to build their business. They do run into some challenges like any other business,” she said. “We’re also seeing businesses here that need help [getting] to the next level. They may not know how to build their business, but they want to.”

With an aging population – nearly 18% of the county population is over 65, about 3% higher than the state average – the health-care industry is doing well, says Audrey Null, executive director of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The business climate in Columbiana County is improving quite a bit. We’re seeing a lot more activity; more new businesses and small businesses are telling us that they’re doing better financially,” she said. “Nursing homes and other businesses that serve the elderly are the businesses [where] we’re seeing a great increase.”

Ohio Valley Home Health has seen its business grow over the past year, says account executive Bill Lambert, despite changes to the health-care system.

“With a lot of restructuring and examining how things are down, we’re able to survive and keep doing good,” he explained. “We’ve seen improvement in almost all aspects of our business, from the number of patients to the outcomes. They’re staying at home longer. They’re healthier.”

The expo, hosted by the Columbiana County Area Chambers of Commerce, assembled 65 businesses throughout the county to network, show their newest products and attend seminars on social media, health care, preventing cyber attacks and how to improve their products.

“I get the impression that things aren’t ‘great great,’ but we are seeing improvement. There’s a lot of improvement and revitalization in downtown East Liverpool,” said Leigh Ann Alexander, executive director of the Southern Columbiana County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

There, a new 46-unit apartment building is expected to draw new residents, New Castle School of Trades is looking at moving into the Ogilvie Building downtown, and Kent State University is exploring the expansion of its campus.

In East Palestine, vacant buildings are filling up, reported John Hersch, a member of that city’s chamber of commerce.

“Business is on the increase after being down for a bit. In East Palestine there are businesses moving into vacant buildings and that’s something people will see all over the county,” he said. “The county commissioners have been business-oriented and they’re doing things that can help promote business.”

Even banks are getting in on the business growth, said Dianna Allmon, vice president of the Columbiana region for CF Bank.

“We’re doing fantastic. There’s a lot of commercial lending and new business accounts. And we’re being aggressive in going out into the market and pursuing new business,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot with the shale and pipeline work. Once the infrastructure is done and the companies can move the gas, we’ll see a lot more activity.”

Pictured: Summit Federal Credit Union, whose booth was staffed by Brittney Pistor, membership development specialist, was among the companies exhibiting at the Business Expo & Trade Show.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.