Regional Chamber Plans Site Tours For RNC Guests

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Some 50,000 people are projected attend the four-day Republican National Convention in Cleveland this July. Many will be officeholders and party officials, but even more will be reporters, business leaders and lobbyists who represent their companies.

It’s largely those from the business community that the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber hopes will visit, tour and become familiar with the Mahoning Valley. Many companies, when exploring relocation or expansion, hire site selection firms to scope out areas of interest. And normally, those companies approach entities such as the chamber for advice and more-detailed information.

The GOP convention, the chamber believes, provides an opportunity to reach out to those site selection companies, a “refreshing change to the process,” said Sarah Boyarko, chamber vice president for economic development.

“The only time consultants might come to town is when they’re working on an actual project,” Boyarko said. “They’re here to look at a property before moving on to the next one. By having them in town for a more casual relationship, we can ensure they bring us opportunities.”

The chamber introduced aspects of its plan Thursday, “Victory for the Valley,” to showcase Mahoning and Trumbull counties during the Republican convention.

Interested selectors will arrive in Youngstown July 18, the first day of the convention, for a dinner before heading to Cleveland either by private jet or bus for a day in Cleveland on the 19th. On the 20th, the chamber will offer site tours and visits to attractions such as the Butler Institute of American Art and the Mill Creek MetroParks golf course.

Visits to area attractions, explained David Myhal, are an important part of the site selection process.

Myhal is founder of the 316 Group in Columbus and helping the chamber organize its campaign.

“Any CEO you ask will say that their first priority is quality of life for employees, whether it’s education, neighborhoods, housing availability and a general good life here,” he said. “Then on top of that, you have good workers and newer natural resources. When they’re all put together, this looks like a good place to do business.”

Having the opportunity to host site selectors who represent national and international companies is a rare opportunity for cities the size of Youngstown, said Guy Coviello, chamber vice president of government affairs. Cities of its size don’t always have the financial backing to provide transportation or host special events.

“And site selectors tend to go only to places where there is something very attractive to them, like tickets to the Super Bowl or an oceanfront resort, which we don’t normally have,” he said. “This is a once-in-lifetime opportunity to have an attraction like this.”

The chamber hasn’t determined which sites to show the selection firms, Boyarko said, but the process has begun.

In addition to meeting with site selection companies, chamber representatives will meet government officials throughout the convention. One goal, Coviello said, is to meet with senators and representatives who sit on the armed services committees to discuss the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

“[They’re] the ones we normally wouldn’t have contact with,” Coviello said. “They’re the ones we’ll have an opportunity to meet and explain how valuable it is to this community and how valuable the aerial spray mission is to the nation.”

The day in Cleveland would also entail taking some local business owners to meet there with leaders in their respective industries, Myhal said.

“This is a chance to showcase the industries that are doing well here and connect with other members in their industry,” he said.

From the four-day convention alone, Coviello said, the impact of networking with some of the site selectors could stretch well beyond, with the possibility of some returning in a decade or two with prospective businesses.

Even outside the convention itself, the Mahoning Valley will have ample opportunity to show off. It’s more than likely that whoever the Republicans nominate will spend time in the state immediately afterward. And because no Republican has become president without carrying Ohio, the standard-bearer will certainly come through the region.

“Every Republican candidate that I can remember in the past 20 years has stopped in this area,” Myhal said. “They understand that this area is important. That’s why the convention is [in Cleveland].”

The convention is expected to attract 15,000 journalists – three times as many as cover the Super Bowl – providing another front for the Regional Chamber to advertise the Valley, Coviello said.

With the influx of people – 50,000 for the convention itself plus another 5,000 to 10,000 protestors – the inflow of money on lodging, food and transportation is projected to be in the range of $400 million. The 2012 Republican National Convention brought $214 million to Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., resulted in $163 million in economic impact.

Tapping into some of those sums would be a big boost for the Mahoning Valley, the Regional Chamber said.

“To have the world’s attention focused on northeastern Ohio for a six- or seven-day period is unbelievable. It’s a chance to go out and talk to people because everyone’s paying attention,” Myhal said. “We’ll never get that opportunity again. It’s the hook to get the site selectors here.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.