Columbiana County Trying to Keep Up With Demand in 2023

LISBON, Ohio – As we enter 2023, Columbiana County has several economic development projects – big and small – in the works.

Penny Traina, executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority, said besides a recently awarded project for the Global Investment Hub Renovation Project, there will be even more happening in the World Trade Park in Leetonia.

The port authority is in the early stages of looking to build a 60,000-square-foot industrial building on the property it owns there. The spec building would be constructed with the thought that any business or businesses could then retrofit it to their needs.

“There is a big need for industrial space right now in Columbiana County,” Traina said, adding the port authority often receives requests from businesses looking for space between 10,000 to even 100,000- to 200,000 square-feet.

The building could be occupied by one business or divided up for several smaller ones. Additionally, if anyone is interested in constructing their own buildings, Traina said the port authority has 42 acres of property, shovel-ready, in the World Trade Park, which would be eligible to receive help through the Leetonia Community Reinvestment Area Tax Incentive Program.

Traina said the port authority will be reaching out and helping more businesses in 2023 through the recovery coordinators. A retention and expansion program, which started right around the start of the pandemic, was unable to realize its potential. But Traina said now that most businesses have returned, the program is going to increase the outreach. The program, which employs two recovery coordinators, helps businesses address their needs, including equipment loans and grants, retrofitting and expansion projects and workforce challenges.

Additionally, the port authority plans to seek federal funding that recently became available to continue with the Ohio Maritime Assistance Program, which focuses on businesses along the Ohio River.

Likewise, Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center in Salem, said she fields a lot of calls looking for industrial or commercial spaces in the Salem area. Needs said she works with Traina whenever she has nothing suitable but someone is looking for something in the area.

“That’s really been our struggle is the lack of available facilities,” Needs said, adding she is thrilled the port authority is looking at that option because it is needed countywide. Attracting and retaining manufacturers expanding in the area is a big challenge but an important one for the growth of the area, she said.

Additionally, people continue to reach out about their plans to start a business or looking for a location for their business in the Salem area.

Although Needs said she cannot openly discuss any project in particular, the SOD Center continues to focus on business, manufacturing expansion and significant downtown renovation projects.

“We’re hoping 2023 is a year of announcements of what’s coming and to continue those renovations and definitely make it so not only the community, but the outsiders can see all of the great renovations that have happened in Salem,” Needs said.

SOD hosts training programs for the local workforce and employers needing to upskill their employees. The center also looks at funding and resources to help business and industry with their upcoming projects.

“It’s great to see the activity, not just in Salem, but throughout the county,” Needs said. “I think countywide, if another community is bringing in any business, we all benefit from it.”

A lot is happening down the road in Columbiana. Since the formation of the Community Reinvestment Act for commercial, industrial and residential projects, Columbiana City Manager Lance Willard said the city has seen more than $80 million in investments.

Through the CRA, the commercial and industrial projects have retained 442 jobs and created 354 jobs, while there have been 220 new housing starts since between 2018 and 2021.

Several projects have just begun or are ready to get started in 2023. In the works is the Inn at Old Saybrook, a 79-unit assisted-living facility along state Route 14, and the Lake Front project, which will revitalize the 54 acres of property formally known as the Lake Front Golf Course and create a project of mixed-use housing and commercial along state Route 164.

A Wendy’s restaurant is anticipated near the Best Western Hotel on state Route 14, according to Willard.

The area around Firestone Farms continues to expand as well. Salem Regional Medical Center has a $45 million project underway at Firestone Farms. The newly opened wedding venue in The Barn at Firestone Farms already has 30 bookings, Willard said. The Athletix, a sports facility, also opened last summer near Firestone Farms, which Willard said has been a game-changer for the area.

Some of the projects through the Columbiana County Office of Economic Development involve remediating blight. According to Tad Herold, director of economic development, the asbestos remediation is complete at the Maryland School Building, and it is going out to bid for demolition. The $1.3 million grant to pay for the project came through the Ohio Department of Development.

Additionally, the county received a $500,000 demolition grant through the governor’s office and Ohio Department of Development, which is being used to raza 24 residential, commercial and industrial properties.

Herold said his department is working on a list of properties for demolition, which he anticipates will include a handful in Wellsville, a couple in Salem and nearly a dozen in East Liverpool. Those properties will be torn down using Delinquent Tax Assessment and Collection funds, which come from the proceeds of foreclosure sales.

The Columbiana County Visitor’s Bureau, formed about 30 months ago, approved a project with local musicians the Henceroth Brothers to create a 30-minute video highlighting some of the historical sites in the county.

“I’m excited to see what that looks like,” Herold said, noting the project should be completed by sometime this spring.

Additionally, the bureau is seeking proposals for market strategies, including how they should finish the website, leverage social media and other ways to gain attention of tourists heading toward Columbiana County.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.