Our Towns

Japanese Official Visits Youngstown to Talk Revitalization

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city played host Tuesday to a Japanese local government official that wants to know how communities such as Youngstown are rebuilding themselves in the face of population decline and other challenges.

Arika Aizawa, assistant director of the city of Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki Prefecture, visited Youngstown as part of a three-day tour that also includes stops in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Accompanying her on the visit was Seth Benjamin, senior researcher with the Japan Local Government Center, based in New York.

While in Youngstown, Aizawa met with city officials, community groups such as the Youngstown Neighborhood Redevelopment Corp. and staff members of the Youngstown Business Incubator downtown.

The meetings touched upon issues such as how the city is coping with population loss, unemployment, and the strategies it’s using to empower business and economic growth said Ian Beniston, executive director of YNDC.

“We’ve had many folks from Japan here over the last five years,” said Ian Beniston, executive director of the YNDC. “They’re here to learn.”

Beniston said that cities in Japan are faced with the same urban problems that Youngstown confronts. Population loss, vacant properties and the “shrinking city” trend are all concerns Japanese officials deal with every day, he added.

“We met for about an hour, and I believe she spent the entire day here,” Beniston said.

Aizawa had particular questions about how the YNDC is going about battling vacant properties and how the organization works, Beniston said. “They also had questions about funding and state and federal policy,” he noted. “They’re just trying to learn from others who are tackling these problems.”

Beniston pointed to YNDC programs such as its property renovation initiatives and neighborhood stabilization efforts.

YNDC’s executive director said that about a half-dozen local officials and academics from Japan have visited Youngstown to examine how the city is handling these issues. In September, another Japanese official was in town doing research on the same subject.

“Their cities are shrinking and they’re trying to come to terms with that,” he said.

According to a press release from Mayor Jamael Tito Brown’s office, Aizawa met with the city’s community planning and economic development department and planned to tour the city’s business parks and brownfield sites.

The trip is part of the Japan Local Government Center’s Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, or CLAIR, based in New York. The program helps to foster research and presents opportunities to expand economic and cultural ties with the United States and Canada.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.