Mayor Provides ARP Update at Chamber Breakfast

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Officials are still evaluating how the city will spend its $82.7 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said Thursday. 

He was among several featured speakers and sponsor representatives who addressed the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s Good Morning, Youngstown breakfast. 

Brown, who also spoke about changes in city policing and the health department’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, opened his remarks by making a joke referencing the city’s ongoing litigation with Joseph Company International, which promise to develop a $20 million plant for its self-cooling Chill-Can containers.

Holding an aluminum bottle of water provided by Trivium Packaging, one of the event’s sponsors, he asked, “Can you make this chill for me? I’m kind of looking for somebody to do that for me.”

Brown acknowledged that people are curious about how the city plans to spend the rescue plan funds, which the city will receive over a two-year period. The city conducted focus groups in each of the seven wards and with various constituencies, and received 600 surveys and 150 proposals, he said.

Proposals are being assessed by a committee that includes representatives of the mayor’s office, City Council, the city finance department and local philanthropic organizations, as well as city economic and planning consultants, he reported. The committee is analyzing those proposals by category using a rubric and scorecard the city devised.

The mayor noted that youth employment is among the allowable uses for ARP funds and challenged the employers in the room to partner with the city to hire city youth.

“Let them shadow you. Give them an internship. Start them in the mailroom. Expose our young people to the jobs that we have in here today,” he said.

Another of the featured speakers, Marvin Logan, executive director of Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, addressed plans for a potential outdoor science lab that would “give us the opportunity to add different exhibits and experiences for our young people.”

The concept is “something that we folded into phase four of our renovations,” Logan said. “We are looking at different spaces along our property where we’ll have the opportunity to build some outdoor space so that students have the opportunity to do environmental science.”

The science center is exploring opportunities to expand beyond the McCrory Building, which it bought a few years ago. “We’ve been looking at our rooftop space and being able to renovate that to do some things up there. But we may also engage in some opportunities to expand that space and beyond the current footprint,” he said.

Logan addressed efforts to expand beyond what is considered Oh Wow’s core audience by embarking on new programs that target students in grades five through eight, as well as nine through 12. Oh Wow has been doing middle school programming for quite a while, Its first program exclusively for high school age students is the Pixar experiential program, which provides students the opportunity to participate in digital storytelling.

“We’re happy to continue to create those unique types of opportunities for our young people to be able to connect to the broader and larger world,” he said.

Also speaking was Sabrina Jones, northeast region vice president of education and workforce, at the National Center for Urban Solutions. Among the resources the center offers is workforce development. It has served more than 150 individuals locally since last May, Jones said.

Other resources offered locally are the Academy for Urban Scholars, which serves students between the ages of 14 and 18, and the work academy for ages 19 to 21. Under that program, which operates under an “earn and learn” model in partnership with Mahoning Columbiana Training Association, individuals can receive incentives to complete a high school diploma as well as earn credentials in disciplines such as information technology and manufacturing.   

In addition to Trivium Packaging, event sponsors included Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, One Health Ohio, Premier Bank and the Youngstown Foundation.

Trivium is putting $40 million into its Youngstown plant – formerly Exal Corp. – and expects to hire 100 in the next few years, plant manager Michael Wood said. The company’s business is stable because its product is a “sustainable package,” he pointed out.

“People don’t partner with us because we make cheap products. They partner with us because it’s quality, because it’s aluminum and it’s infinitely recyclable,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to be here for a long period of time, because more and more folks continue to look for something that’s great for the environment.”

Pictured: Mayor Jamael Tito Brown addresses the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s Good Morning, Youngstown breakfast. 

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