Dignan Tells Port Authority He’s Optimistic on TJX distribution center in lordstown

Dignan Tells Port Authority He’s Optimistic on TJX

WARREN, Ohio – Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber President/CEO James Dignan affirmed that things are “looking good” for TJX Companies Inc.’s plans to move forward with a proposed $160 million distribution center in Lordstown, following a meeting with village residents Tuesday evening.

The Regional Chamber has worked with TJX for about two years on the distribution center project that would serve its HomeGoods brand. TJX also operates the TJ Maxx and Marshalls retail chains.

“They’re confident that the project will move forward, and they felt more comfortable after the meeting last night,” Dignan said yesterday after addressing the Western Reserve Port Authority’s board of directors.

Identifying the project initially by the code name “Project Wagon,” the chamber reached out to the port authority several months ago about potentially providing capital lease financing for the project, according to Anthony Trevena, director of WRPA’s development arm, the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority.

Any capital lease deal would come to the board for its approval, Trevena confirmed.

“We’re excited to be on the team,” he said.

TJX is committed to the project, and a vice president with the company said TJX has “seen worse” in terms of opposition and “come through it,” Dignan reported.

After hearing from residents at Tuesday night’s meeting, TJX officials believe they have addressed many of the concerns raised, Dignan said. They plan to make further adjustments before the Lordstown Planning Commission’s meeting Monday, which will review a zoning change needed for the project.

At the March 12 meeting, some residents “didn’t feel like they were being heard, and the company didn’t tell them they were being heard,” Dignan said. Tuesday night’s meeting “provided an opportunity for the two to actually have that one-on-one dialogue,” he added.

In his aviation report, Dan Dickten, aviation director at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, said that total enplanements for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, are at 9,546. The reason that the fiscal year figure is important is that the airport needs 10,000 enplanements for the period to maintain its federal Airport Improvement Program funding, he said.

Dickten also discussed the Volaire Aviation Air Service Development Forum that he and John Moliterno, the port authority’s executive director, attended last week.

“We left that meeting feeling we have several options at this point that we’ve identified,” Dickten said.

During the meeting, the board approved contributing $25,000 per year for the next three years to fund the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission. The port authority had approved funding for EOMAC for the last three years.

The agency was established by the chamber three years ago to lobby support for the region’s military assets, including Youngstown Air Reserve Station, which shares facilities with the regional airport, and the Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center, which is under consideration for a missile defense site.

“EOMAC has been a great advocate for us,” Col. Dan Sarachene, commander of the 910th Airlift Wing, said.

“We’ve had a number of conversations about not only what we do with [YARS] but other things that potentially we can do to make ourselves even more relevant to the military,” Moliterno said. “Any way that as a port authority we can assist the base is to all of our benefit.”

The economic development and aviation divisions also provided updates yesterday afternoon to all three members of Trumbull County’s board of commissioners and two of the three members of Mahoning County’s board.

Trevena provided a review of the port authority’s economic development work in 2017, which included projects such as the University Edge and Enclave student housing projects near Youngstown State University, the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel expected to open this spring and the property transfer program it launched with the city of Warren.

Dickten’s report largely echoed his earlier presentation to the WRPA board. He provided a brief overview of the changes in the aviation market that led to Allegiant Air’s cessation of service at the regional airport. Those changes include the incursion of low-cost carriers into the airport’s catchment area that weren’t around when Allegiant began its service here more than a decade ago.

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