Global Investment Hub Opens Its Doors in Leetonia

LEETONIA, Ohio – After four years of planning, a dream became reality when the ribbon was cut Friday, officially opening the Global Investment Hub here.

The project is a collaboration between the Columbiana County Port Authority, Ohio Small Business Development Centers and Youngstown State University.

Nestled in the center portion of a 105,000-square-foot building that originally housed the National Rubber Manufacturing Co., the Global Investment Hub now encompasses space formerly occupied by the Mitsubishi company, which has moved into a smaller space.

The GIH consists of six furnished private offices, three conference rooms, a large co-working space and a kitchen. The three conference rooms are named the City Room, the Train Room and the Map Room, each decorated in the theme matching its name. 

There is comfortable seating and table tennis for relaxation purposes.

The GIH will be available to international companies, with the purpose of interesting them in establishing roots in the region, according to Traina, who said YSU and SBDC will do all the recruiting and marketing to that end. 

An aerial shot of the building that houses the Global Investment Hub in Leetonia.

Companies that come aboard will receive free rent for one year, including Wi-Fi, and furnished office space as they are assisted in securing funding and space to locate their physical businesses here. They will be required to hire a YSU intern for one academic year as part of the agreement. 

Traina said the hope is these companies will then locate in the port authority’s Trade Park, 2 miles from the GIH, where there are 45 shovel-ready acres that can accommodate up to six companies, or somewhere else in the region.

Officials from companies in four countries have already visited, all focused on 3D printing and the petrochemical fields, and Traina said they expect to have the first tenant in place by next week.

During Friday’s gathering, Traina said the collaboration was awarded $400,000 for the venture from the capital budget through the efforts of state Sen. Michael Rulli of Salem, R-33rd, but then the Covid pandemic caused construction costs to double, and they had to search for additional project funding, which arrived in the form of $250,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Speaking during the ceremony was Mousa Kassis from the YSU Ohio Export Internship Program, who said they were celebrating a “real economic development project with an international twist to it.” 

Mousa Kassis from the YSU Ohio Export Internship Program speaks during the opening of the Global Investment Hub in Leetonia.

Kassis continued: “Focusing on international trade is very important for our businesses and our future as a Valley and as a state.”

He said Ohio ranks ninth in the country in exporting, and in 2022 exported $57 billion in products and $22 billion in services. He said that each billion dollars equals 5,000 jobs.

Regardless of the economic hardships suffered by this area since the 1980s, Kassis said, looking at the four corners – Cleveland, Ashtabula, Tuscarawas and Canton – the area still produces 45 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, more than the statewide average.

“The industrial heartland of the United States is right here in this region, and we are right in the heart of it,” he said. “There is a lot of demand for our products overseas, wherever you go. We export to 85 countries. Why can’t we take advantage of that?”

As for the Global Investment Hub, Kassis said companies will use it as a springboard toward the future for larger economic development in this area. 

“This project will beat any other model in any other company” due to its three-pronged shared vision between government, private industry and academia, Kassis said. 

State Rep. Monica Robb-Blasdel of Columbiana, R-79th, said that while the GIH began before she was elected to the Ohio Legislature, it is a prime example of the success that can happen when people work together. 

She praised Traina, saying, “Penny has a vision and many goals and has an ability to bring everyone to the table.”

Penny Traina, executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority, speaks during Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Robb-Blasdel presented Traina and her team with a commendation from the House of Representatives that said, in part: “Ohio’s economic well being depends on forward thinking and innovative entrepreneurs to provide goods and services to citizens of our state.”

Rulli said when he first met Traina, he was a Leetonia school board member and the port authority’s industrial park was just being developed. He said they talked about all the possibilities available then. 

Rulli said when he was elected to his current office, he and Traina discussed the possibility of a GIH and the proximity to the cracker plant in Pennsylvania, area airports, South Field Energy and the Ohio River. He said Traina told him that with a “little scratch money,” she could make it happen.

“And that’s exactly what happened. We have everything you need right here. We’re going to bring companies here from all over the world,” Ruli said. “This is just the beginning of something really beautiful.”

Representing the Governor’s Office of Appalachia was Director John Carey, who said, on behalf of Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, they are looking forward to coming back and visiting with tenants and seeing what happens with the GIH.

Pictured at top: Participating in the ribbon-cutting at the Global Investment Hub in Leetonia on Friday were a host of representatives from the Columbiana County Port Authority, Youngstown State University and Ohio SBCD, as well as local, county and state officials.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.