‘State of the City Is Strong,’ Youngstown Mayor Declares

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mayor Jamael Tito Brown delivered his first State of the City address since 2019 before a large crowd at the DeYor Performing Arts Center downtown, emphasizing his administration’s recent accomplishments and goals for the future.

“I’m proud of where we are; we have a lot more work to do,” Brown said after his speech.

In an address lasting 45 minutes at the DeYor’s Ford Family Recital Hall, the mayor checked off a number of initiatives that he said helps build a foundation for the city to move forward.

Among these are the continued construction on downtown thoroughfares, which is slated for completion next year; new housing programs; investments in new machinery and equipment; demolition efforts to clear blight; new youth and senior programs; law enforcement efforts; additional private business investment; and other programs the city has rolled out to encourage small business and job growth.

He lauded the decision of Steelite to locate its international headquarters downtown, as well as creating incentives to encourage expansions at manufacturers such as Trivium Packaging on Poland Avenue.

Brown also touched on the ongoing construction project downtown, a $20 million investment that will overhaul the aesthetics on Front, Federal and Commerce streets in the central business district.

“This project is about 80% complete,” he said, and is on track to be finished within the next 12 months. By early next year, the city is expected to formulate plans for the next downtown rehab effort on Boardman and Walnut streets. “We’re going to keep moving,” he said.

As for blight removal in the neighborhoods, Brown touted a $6.8 million brownfield grant the city secured with its partners the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation and the Mahoning County Land Bank to raze vacant, dilapidated houses. Since 2016, the city has demolished 2,090 homes, he said, and estimated there are another 680 left to go.

“Demolition helps us get ready for development,” Brown said.

The mayor also highlighted community programs such as the establishment of a new senior center on Ridge Road, a community market at a former Bottom Dollar grocery store on the South Side, and youth engagement efforts such as the Respect Basketball league.

Other successful initiatives include the use of $8 million in American Rescue Plan funds to establish quality housing throughout the city, the mayor said. These funds are targeted for home repairs for seniors who may not have the resources to replace a roof or install new plumbing throughout their houses.

Encouraging the growth of small businesses throughout the city is also a paramount objective, the mayor said. Earlier this year, the city department of community planning and economic development hosted its first Business Solutions Summit.

“We had over 100 participants show up,” Brown said. “We focused on business attraction and retention.”

More importantly, the city wanted to demonstrate the resources that are available to those small businesses that want to expand in Youngstown.

The city’s façade grant program, for example, distributed $695,000 in grants to 38 recipients, which leveraged $2.9 million in total investments. Another economic development program, the city’s revolving loan fund, distributed $1.5 million in loans to 19 projects, resulting in $2.3 million in total investment when mixed with private matches.

“That’s how we get things done,” Brown said. “We get our part; they do their part; and now we get investment in the city of Youngstown.”

Brown said in 2024, the city would continue to focus on affordable and quality housing while encouraging new residential construction.  

“We’ve had two permits for new homes in the city – I’d like to see more of that,” he said.

The mayor also noted his administration would pursue additional mental health initiatives to mitigate hoarding across the neighborhoods.

He ended his address with a challenge to Youngstown’s citizens: “The state of the city is strong, and you can no longer sit on the sideline and complain – you must get in the game,” he declared. “You must do your part. We are the city of ‘You,’ and you are who we’re waiting for.”

Pictured at top: Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and his wife, Lynette.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.