Industrial Park Anchors Revitalization in West Warren

WARREN, Ohio – After decades of struggling with a long-neglected section of the city, a who’s who of business and community leaders took time Tuesday to revel in a $9 million project that has the potential to deliver millions more in new development.

It’s a moment that wasn’t lost on Pastor George Johnson of the Agape Assembly Church, who established the church in the southwestern neighborhood in 2005.

“This area used to be the worst area in the city of Warren,” he said. “The crime, the dope, everything.”

The year he moved in, Johnson said God showed him a vision that the neighborhood would one day turn around. “I thank God he let me live long enough – 18 years – that it’s come to pass.”

Approximately 150 guests – including Gov. Mike DeWine – attended a groundbreaking ceremony to inaugurate the West Warren Industrial Park and its first structure: a 98,200-square-foot “spec” building that’s designed to fit the needs of modern manufacturers and distributors.

Construction on the new building should begin in spring 2024, said Mike Martof, a principal in Sapientia Ventures LLC, the group spearheading development at the site.

“A lot of what we’re going to be doing in the fall and winter is ordering material, getting all the approval done,” he said, with activity starting in the spring. “Over the summer, you’ll see the shell go up.”

Martof said construction should be completed by the fourth quarter of 2024. The plan is to have a tenant in the building by early 2025.

Driving this project is the need to develop Class A industrial space to address expansions of existing businesses and to attract new ones to the region, he said.

“We believe that businesses in the Mahoning Valley deserve the same amount of excellence and quality of service as other geographies have,” Martof said.

Larger metropolitan regions such as Cleveland and Pittsburgh have aggressively developed this type of space, Martof said. As such, these cities have been successful in snagging lucrative projects.

“We don’t have that here, and we think the Mahoning Valley deserves that,” Martof said. “It’s going to be high-tech manufacturing, high-tech distribution.”

Sapientia Ventures is a partnership between Martof, businessman Charles “Chuck” George and Wiley Runnestrand. The venture capital firm is also the majority owner of The Business Journal.

“We believe this marks the beginning of the redevelopment of the West Side,” George told guests. “This site is a greenfield in an inner city. We have the roads; we have the water; we have the sewer; we have the electricity.”

A rendering by MS Consultants, Inc. of the first building, a 98,200-square-foot industrial space, in the new West Warren Industrial Park.

The spec building is the first of several planned for the site. Ultimately, the goal is to develop 1 million square feet of modern industrial space.

The 86-acre site once served as housing for workers at the Ravenna Arsenal during World War II and later for industrial workers. To the west became the site of Warren Western Reserve High School, built during the 1960s. All of those structures have since been razed, clearing the way for potential new development.

Mayor Doug Franklin said this project is the largest investment in this neighborhood since Warren Western Reserve was built during the late 1960s.

“This is a significant investment in an area where the majority of the properties have been vacant for over 30 years,” he said.

Not only will the industrial park create jobs and needed tax revenue for the city and school system, but it will also boost property values, improve infrastructure and stabilize the southwest side of Warren.

“This was a huge undertaking,” the mayor said, citing the cooperation with Warren City Schools, the Western Reserve Port Authority and the private sector. He said the site included more than 120 separate parcels that required title searches, appraisals and a host of other administrative tasks.

“This is a great example of the benefits of working together,” he said.

DeWine emphasized this project as part of the Valley’s overall redevelopment as companies such as Foxconn, Ultium Cells LLC and other interests expand in the region.

“I look forward to coming back here, not just for this groundbreaking, but for many, many groundbreakings in the future,” DeWine said.

The governor said it’s important to assist companies and businesses inside the state looking to expand. “It’s not all about coming from another state – part of it is – but a lot of it is what’s going on here.”

U.S. Rep. David Joyce of Bainbridge Township, R-14th, who today represents Trumbull County because of congressional districts that were redrawn in 2022, said this project combines innovation with industry that in the end creates new opportunities for the Mahoning Valley, including reshoring companies to the United States from overseas.

“Bring those investments that people make outside of our country back here,” he said.

Pictured at top: From left are Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, Gov. Mike DeWine and Charles “Chuck” George of Sapientia Ventures LLC.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.