Regional Chamber Advances Ambitious Development Agenda

Editor’s Note: The following story is from Growth Report 2017, published by The Business Journal.

By Tom Humphries, Regional Chamber President & CEO

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — 2016 was certainly a remarkable year for the Youngstown-Warren region, as the Lordstown Energy Center’s announcement of, and subsequent groundbreaking for, its nearly $900 million facility gave Trumbull County bragging rights for the largest investment last year in the 18-county region of northeastern Ohio.

That project is a major part of the oil and gas industry’s presence and recent growth in the Valley, and it is just one of many signals in the industry that bodes well for 2017.
The Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber expects that the increase in the price of oil, pipe production and number of permits being sought for horizontal well drilling will help with the local supply chain. Companies that furloughed employees during the downturn are restarting their processes and bringing back workers. We may see companies looking to expand here because of low energy costs.

The announcement at the beginning of this year of development plans to bring a second energy plant, the Trumbull Energy Center, online in Lordstown in 2020 kicked off 2017 on a high note. This $900 million project – along with the Lordstown Energy Center being built on adjacent property – will result in stability for more than 600 trades workers for the next three- to four years, and the energy centers collectively will create 50 permanent positions.

The impact of the $6 billion ethane cracker plant being built in Monaca, Pa. will also be felt here, and other crackers will likely be coming into the market, resulting in billions of dollars more of investment. In early January, the Ohio EPA issued a permit for a proposed $6 billion crack plant in Belmont County; an official announcement that the project will proceed is expected this spring.

As the energy industry comes back into play, we’ve seen the aluminum industry here remain strong. Youngstown-Warren is the third largest employer of alumina and aluminum production in the United States, and with 15 establishments employing 1,600 workers, the manufacturing and wholesale operations of the industry here are directly responsible for $765 million in economic output.

Internally, the chamber team will continue to refine initiatives launched to facilitate community development and growth. As we maintain focus on the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and Camp Ravenna and their significance to our region, the director of our Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission traveled to national defense conferences in South Carolina and Washington, D.C. Those trips served as the foundation to expand our Pentagon Community Partnership Program, receive a nomination for a federal study to chart the future of the base and advocate for new aircraft at YARS. We also participated in the first Ohio Defense Forum in Columbus to highlight statewide military advocacy.

We made strides on our 422 Corridor Redevelopment Plan last year, and in 2017, we anticipate completion of phase two of our gateway landscaping project. This involves a partnership with the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, community workdays, the cities of Youngstown and Girard implementing targeted strategies for corridor parcels and programming tailored to the business community along the corridor.

Our JobsNow and Community Connectors initiatives will remain in the forefront this year, as we work to promote available and future job opportunities and emphasize the significance of education and skills to meet workforce demands in our market.

Finally, as we are here to serve the business community, our team is highly engaged with meeting our members one-on-one, asking what they want and securing additional benefit programs – including a new office supply discount program – to help with their bottom-line growth and ongoing success.

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