Port Authority Accepts $2M from Counties for Valley Vision 2050

WARREN, Ohio – Commissioners from Mahoning and Trumbull counties are confident that an initiative in which both counties are investing a combined $2 million will reap benefits long after they are no longer in office.

The Western Reserve Port Authority formally accepted the funds from the two counties Wednesday morning to help pay for a regional economic development strategy.

“This is a really exciting moment,” said Anthony Trevena, WRPA executive director. “This is unprecedented to see our community come together the way it has.”

The port authority will administer the funds on behalf of Valley Vision 2050, an initiative composed of WRPA, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Valley Partners and the Youngstown Foundation.

Representatives of the five organizations have been meeting every other week for about three years to discuss why economic development efforts haven’t achieved  desired objectives, said Guy Coveillo, president/CEO of the Regional Chamber.

A study by Ernst & Young determined that local partners didn’t invest enough in economic development compared to peer communities and didn’t collaborate as much as those peers.

County leaders are required to perform certain functions but “haven’t been as good at” it because of financial constraints, Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said.

“This is a large chance and a large swing that we’re taking,” he remarked. 

“If we plant this seed now, we’ll see the germination of all of our fruits of labor, particularly with this powerhouse board that we have with the port authority and all of the partners,” Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti remarked.

Allocating Trumbull County general fund money for the program – which will be paid in two installments – was “one of the easiest votes I’ve had so far,” Commissioner Denny Malloy said.

“Trumbull County does not succeed unless the Mahoning Valley succeeds. Youngstown doesn’t succeed unless the Valley succeeds,” he remarked.

“A wise man once told me that good people plant seeds. They plant seeds because they won’t be here 20, 30 years down the road. But those seeds will grow and help people in generations long after we’re gone,” Mahoning County Commissioner David Ditzler said. 

A top priority of the initiative is expanding the Valley Vision 2050 board to include a broader cross-section of the community and bring in additional key stakeholders to identify what metrics need to be achieved and how success will be defined, Coviello said.

Funds will be used to expand capacity at organizations such as Valley Partners to provide technical assistance for small businesses and at the chamber’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence, among other initiatives underway, he said. In addition, a “chunk” of the money will go toward assisting business sectors that local development agencies have lacked the capacity to help in the past, such as the arts and entertainment sector.

“We’ve been financially constrained to focus on driver industries as indicated by the state. But there are a lot of industries here that have the opportunity for growth and to have a much bigger impact on our local economy. We just haven’t been able to do much for them,” Coviello said.

Also, during the meeting, the port authority approved the capital lease agreement with Farmers National Bank to assist with construction of its $9 million building under construction in Canfield.  

In other business at the meeting, held at Covelli Enterprises, port authority board members approved purchasing two parcels near the West Warren Development LLC project from Bobcat Energy Resources and D&L Energy for $200 each. The board subsequently approved selling the four parcels for $800 to West Warren for future development.

In addition, the board approved acquiring oil and gas rights on the former BDM Steel 1,000-acre site from about half a dozen owners. The port authority remains in discussion with potential developers for the Trumbull County property, Trevena said.

“Any potential development that’s going to look at a piece of property, especially one of that magnitude and size, they’re going to want control of oil and gas rights. When we acquired the property that option was not on the table,” Trevena said. “It’s always been our ambition to control all aspects above and below the ground on that site so this has been a goal of ours since we received the property.”

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