Economic Development

Racino TIF Funds $10 Million in Township Road Projects

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Mahoning County Engineer Patrick Ginnetti credits a financing tool associated with Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course with funding nearly $10 million in road projects in Austintown.

The tax increment financing – or TIF – district created in conjunction with construction of the racino was among the subjects addressed by speakers at Friday’s Good Morning, Austintown! Breakfast.

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber breakfast was held at the racino, which was among the event’s sponsors. Other sponsors were Chemical Bank, Shepherd of the Valley, and Lutheran Retirement Services.

More than 170 chamber members and guests attended the event, Kim Calvert, vice president of marketing and events, reported.

Mahoning County’s engineering department has an annual budget of between $10 million and $11 million, Ginnetti said. The office’s funding comes from a combination of the county’s share of the state gasoline tax – 11% of which is divided evenly among Ohio’s 88 counties, regardless of the amount of roads or infrastructure in each county – and license and motor vehicle registration fees.

Because motorists had been using more fuel-efficient vehicles and electric cars, the gas tax funding had declined for a few years, though it rebounded more recently, Ginnetti said. While his office’s budget has remained relatively stable over the past 15 to 20 years, costs including labor and materials have risen.

“This is where we need to be a little bit more creative,” he said.

When the racino, which opened in September 2014, was constructed, the township and Mahoning County created the TIF district, which for 10 years allocates the increase in tax revenue generated by the new development for infrastructure related to the racino.

During the first three years the TIF has been in effect, it has generated $9.6 million. Township infrastructure projects the funds have been used toward include work on Meridian Road, Victoria Road, South Turner Road, New Road and Raccoon Road.

“It’s enabled us to accelerate a lot of projects and do more things without taking money directly out of the budget,” Ginnetti said. “We’ve been able to do quite a bit of paving and construction with this program that we probably wouldn’t have been able to do as quickly without it.”

Other speakers at the breakfast included Township Trustee Jim Davis and representatives of Austintown Local Schools. Chuck Eddy, president of Bob & Chuck Eddy Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, who was scheduled to discuss the dealership’s 50th anniversary in Austintown was unable to attend.

Davis extended Eddy’s “warm wishes” and appreciation for the community’s support over the years before discussing activity in the township.

“Many of you have seen the growth. You’ve seen buildings go down and you’ve seen a lot of buildings going up in Austintown, and a lot of great things are happening,” the trustee said.

Excitement is growing surrounding plans by retail chain Meijer Stores Ltd., which purchased land on Mahoning Avenue near the Austintown Plaza to build a store in the next few years, he said.

The Aldi grocery store plans to spend $1.2 million to renovate and expand its existing Mahoning Avenue store, Davis also said. Other upcoming projects include a renovation to Sam’s Wedge Inn.

“Austintown has been growing greater. That is our slogan,” he said.

Austintown for many years had been considered a residential community, but developers “all of a sudden” have discovered the township is a great place for commercial activity, Trustee Ken Carano said following the breakfast.

Township officials are in discussions with several prospects, he reported. “The word has gotten out all over,” he said.

Carano also addressed grocery chain Aldi’s decision to back out of its plans to locate a store in the township, which he blamed on the chain overextending itself.

“There was a rumor that [Meijer was] thinking about not coming,” he said. “That was all false.”

Speakers representing the school district addressed meeting the educational needs of business in the schools, upgrades to the sports complex at Fitch High School and the district’s participation in the Community Connectors program in partnership with the Regional Chamber.

In the program, the district works with students to get them career ready by teaching them the soft skills they need to get and keep a job, and pairs them with mentors who will help them with their career choices, said Amy Trafficante, program coordinator.

One student interested in the forensic science field works with the township police department. “She’s been taught how to lift prints. She goes to the crime scenes sometimes. It’s really cool for her,” Trafficante said.

Pictured: Jim Davis, Austintown Township Trustee, speaking at Good Morning Austintown.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.