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Regional Chamber Recounts 25 Years of Advocacy

By James Dignan, Regional Chamber president & CEO
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — With the foresight of what they could accomplish together, the leaders of the Youngstown, Warren and Niles chambers merged to become the Regional Chamber 25 years ago.

As we look back on some of the most significant accomplishments of the chamber over the years – primarily under the leadership of Tom Humphries, who retired at the close of 2017 – we are eagerly looking forward to what’s to come.

The merger of the chambers resulted in the creation of the chamber’s economic development division, which leads growth in the region as the only private-sector development group in the Mahoning Valley.

Since 1993, we have assisted more than 540 companies with investments totaling $5.6 billion via projects such as Vallourec Star’s $1 billion steel plant; General Motors’ $2 billion investment at its Lordstown complex; and the Lordstown Energy Center’s $1 billion power plant under construction.

In the next two years, we will look to keep that momentum going as the chamber is managing projects that are expected to result in more than $2 billion in additional investment and create 1,738 jobs with a collective annual payroll of $38.2 million.

Over the years, we’ve created and launched initiatives to address issues that could have negatively impacted the Mahoning Valley, its people and our assets.

Some of the most impactful initiatives focused on infrastructure improvements, protecting our military assets and ensuring that our largest employers remain in town.

In 2018, we’ll continue to work through our Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission to advocate for the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and for Camp Ravenna, which is a potential site for a $4.6 million missile defense system.

Through our 422 Corridor Initiative, we’ll also begin working on a lighting project along the stretch of U.S. Route 422 running from Youngstown to Girard.

While the chamber’s membership was a little more than 1,300 businesses 25 years ago, that number has doubled, ranking our chamber as the third-largest metropolitan chamber in Ohio.

Despite an uncertain economy at times, our membership holds steady at nearly 2,600 entities. We are grateful for our loyal customer base and will look to grow in 2018 with our second membership event this spring.

Relative to members and the events the chamber holds on their behalf, a calendar that contained just 22 events in 1993 increased to nearly 100 programs and events last year.

From specialized programs that focus on leadership and community updates to signature events that honor business leaders and feature notable guests, the chamber ensures that members have an abundance of networking and educational opportunities.

We held the first Utica shale play conference in Ohio in 2011 and, five years later, took advantage of the proximity of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to bring site selectors into town and show off all the assets the Mahoning Valley offers.

This year, we are proud to host several new events designed to educate and move our Valley forward. Our Columbus drive-in event in February and Washington, D.C., fly-in in June will promote an exchange of ideas among state and federal officials and local leaders to ensure that our voice is heard in the state capitals and Washington.

Our Valley Health & Wellness Expo in March will educate the community about the quality of local health care and the availability of services in the area.

2018 promises to be an exciting start to the next 25 years, and we’ll continue in our role to create a prosperous region that is a preferred community in which to live, learn, work and play.

Editor’s Note: This story was submitted for publication in The Business Journal’s Growth Report 2018. The 144-page edition features growth reports from more than 200 local businesses and organizations. It was published this week. If you are not a subscriber, CLICK HERE to purchase a copy or call Eileen Lovell at 330 744 5023 Ext. 1008.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.