Delegation Lobbies D.C. to Push for $10.3M Grant

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A delegation of local leaders visited the nation’s capital Wednesday  to lobby on behalf of Youngstown’s application for a $10.3 million federal grant.

“The message we were trying to get across is we really think that our project is a perfect fit for the intent of the Tiger grant,” said YSU President Jim Tressel during a conference call with reporters.

The city’s infrastructure was designed for “a different time,” for moving steel and a larger population, Tressel said. “Now we’re moving minds. It’s a technology age and you need a different infrastructure,.”

In October, the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments applied for the Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery, or Tiger, grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The grant would support the Youngstown SMAR2T Network, a development project connecting downtown’s major institutions. The focus of the network is upgrading Fifth Avenue, Rayen Avenue, Front Street, Commerce Street and Park Avenue.

Fifth Avenue as it stands today.

Partners seeking the grant include Youngstown State University, Mercy Health, Eastern Gateway Community College, Youngstown Business incubator, Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, Raymond John Wean Foundation, Youngstown Foundation, Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, Mill Creek MetroParks and Western Reserve Transit Authority.

A $10 million local match is already committed to support the Tiger grant.

Tressel was part of the delegation that included Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and Don Kline, president and CEO of Mercy Health Youngstown. Also taking part were Jim Kinnick, executive director of Eastgate; Mike Hripko, associate vice president for research at YSU; First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver; Sharon Woodberry, city director of community planning and economic development; and Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works.

Meetings took place with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Bill Johnson, senior staff for Sen. Sherrod Brown and Anthony Bedell, deputy assistant secretary for governmental affairs at the Department of Transportation.

The delegation emphasized economic development and job creation and the importance of working as a team, along with detailing Youngstown’s resurgence in recent years, Mayor Brown said.

Since 2014, the number of workers downtown has risen 33% and the central business district’s residential population is at 2,000, Kline noted.

“This is helping us finish something that we’ve started and already had a great impact,” he said. “This additional $10 million that we’re looking for will be a huge benefit to the community.”

Communities across the country have found that every $1 in public money translates into $3.65 in private investment. “This grant will have a greater impact in the city of Youngstown than anywhere else,” Brown asserted.

The city expects the project to “produce an atmosphere for economic development” that will encourage companies to look at Youngstown, Oliver added.

“It gives us a chance to be competitive,” Tressel said. The project would also tie to the Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center that’s in development.

Included in the $10 million local match for the grant is the city’s planned upgrade to Fifth Avenue. “This will enable us to expand that improvement” to the north, add multi-use paths and other enhancements, Shasho said.

Typically, the grant awards come four to six months after the application, but there has been no official announcement as to when a decision will be announced, Tressel said. “Right now, they’re breaking history in Washington, so you never know,” he said.

Pictured: A rendering of possible upgrades to Fifth Avenue should the city be award a Department of Transportation Tiger grant.

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