Howland Development Strikes Gold in Triangle

HOWLAND, Ohio – Schaefer Equipment Inc. has invested north of $2 million over the past year at its plant at 1590 Phoenix Road NE in Howland Township.

The steel-forging company, a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based Wabtec Corp., primarily serves the rail freight car market. It recently expanded into the industrial segment and made “several reasonably-sized” investments in capital equipment to expand capacity and broaden its range of products, reports general manager Dan Moore.     

Schaefer is one of the companies in the Golden Triangle, an industrial center primarily in Howland with parts in the city of Warren. It’s an area that’s been a focus of township officials, with $3 million in spending in recent years on infrastructure improvements such as road widenings and storm-water upgrades. 

“There were some sewer improvements that definitely helped, and road upgrades definitely improved access to our facility,” Moore says. 

Schaefer is among several Golden Triangle companies investing money into their manufacturing plants. Schaefer, Wheatland Tube Co. and Primetals Technologies Inc. have spent a combined $35 million for new equipment and expansions, according to township administrator Darlene St. George. 

Business investment in the Triangle remains one of the most important economic development initiatives in the township, adds trustee Rick Clark. 

In addition to those three companies, Liberty Steel Industries Inc. is going to erect a new building, Clark says. The company purchased property across Dietz Road and cleared it in preparation for the new construction but has not submitted plans yet, Kim Mascarella, township planning director, says. “They wanted to start within the next year.”

Other Golden Triangle companies that have expanded include Flex-Strut, which spent $1.5 million on expansions in 2015 and 2017, and Fastenal, which constructed an $800,000 building in 2017, Mascarella says. 

The township works closely with the Trumbull County engineer’s office and the city of Warren on capital projects at the Triangle. “We’ve done a lot of improvement grants together,” Clark says.  

Dan Moore, general manager at Shaefer Equipment, holds a locomotive connecting rod made at the plant.

The public investment “is doing what we hoped it would do,” Mascarella says. “We’re making it an easier for them to expand and keep the jobs here.” 

Although the Triangle is a key focus for economic development efforts in Howland, it’s not the sole driver of economic growth in the township.    

Overall, township residents and businesses took out permits for $4.55 million in new commercial development during the 12 months ending in May, compared with $1.88 million for the previous year, township officials say. Total permits – including signs, pools and residential permits – came to $21.9 million for the 12 months ended last month, compared with $11.92 million for the year-long period before. 

Commercial projects over the past year include the $600,000 addition to the Avalon Inn and Resort. Also, Mercy Health put in nearly $500,000 for parking lot improvements and a retention pond at its Howland Medical Center.   

Howland zoning administrator Peter Ross reports TLC Insurance Group & Wealth is developing a 10,000-square-foot office to replace its space at Hunters Square. 

“They’ve outgrown that space and so they’re expanding,” Mascarella says. In addition, Mangiarelli Rehabilitation is putting a 1,600-square-foot addition to accommodate business growth.  

“What drives it?” Clark asks. “Why does the business expand? Because business is good.” 

At Avalon Inn and Resort, crews are at work on several projects. The hotel is a couple weeks away from completion of new outdoor water features, including a Roman bath at the resort, and another month or two away from finishing the new restaurant and wellness center. 

“The weather the last couple of months has not been great for construction,” says Avalon Holdings Corp. CEO Ron Klingle. 

Since purchasing the Avalon Inn in 2014, Avalon Holdings has invested $65 million into the hotel, its corporate headquarters and golf course at the property, Klingle says. 

“Howland has done an excellent job over the years,” he says. The township is a progressive community where officials want to make sure that if something is going to be located in the community, it will be done well and fits in with their plans for the community.

In addition to the Golden Triangle, Clark points to strong development activity on the North River Road corridor, and he reports the township is also working with Warren on development along Elm Road. “There’s some pretty big players out there,” he says. 

The township and city also are working together on redevelopment of the former RG Steel property, St. George says.

Darlene St. George, Howland administrator, and Rick Clark, trustee, plan more upgrades to the Golden Triangle area.

“There’s always interest,” she says. People see the investment that the township is making in its infrastructure.   

Howland began holding quarterly meetings with Golden Triangle businesses since the township started the infrastructure initiative.

“We’re pleased with the direction things are going,” Schaefer’s Moore says. The fact that companies are part of the planning process allows them to be confident in their own planning, “knowing that the township does support us,” he says. 

The township is exploring funding options for another piece of the proposed upgrades for the Golden Triangle, a road realignment that involves Larchmont Avenue, Dietz Road, Bronze Road and Overland Avenue. Cost for the roadwork is projected at $1.1 million, Mascarella says. 

“Currently, trucks coming down Bronze can’t turn left onto Larchmont to head up to [state Route] 82, so we want to make it easier for trucks to navigate the whole Golden Triangle and make it easier for that last mile or first mile,” she says.    

Beyond the Triangle, the township is waiting to hear what will happen with two projects involving the Niles-based Cafaro Co.: the Meijer store being developed at Howland Commons and the proposed Enterprise Park.

Meijer plans to build its new store – one of three it is developing in the Mahoning Valley – at the site of the Super Kmart that closed last year. Plans call for a gas station/convenience store on an outparcel, Clark says. 

As of June 4, Meijer had yet to file for a demolition permit, Ross says. 

Meijer is focusing on stores under construction in Brimfield and Lorain that are slated to open in early summer 2020, says spokesman Frank J. Guglielmi.  

According to St. George, company representatives are “in here all the time.” 

Enterprise Park, a mixed-use commercial development on 103 acres in the township, is “on hold” as the real estate developer works on obtaining a necessary permit from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Clark says. 

Critics have expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the project.

“We support the project,” Clark says. Cafaro “has other options outside of Howland,” he says, but the township has a good working relationship with the company. “We’re willing to work with [Cafaro] to make sure the project stays here.” 

Both projects are ongoing, confirms Cafaro Co. spokesman Joe Bell. Ohio EPA is evaluating the data and comments related to the permit application, and there is “no fixed timetable” for the agency decision. 

Pictured: Chris Anderson stands in front of new machinery that’s part of Schaefer Equipment’s $2 million investment.

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