Team NEO Builds Momentum with Q1 Capital Investments of $1.3B

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Economic development continues to gain traction across northeastern Ohio, as new investments and jobs related to projects assisted by Team NEO and its partners are on track to outpace last year’s numbers.

“We began the year with a very solid foundation,” William Koehler, CEO of Team NEO, told stakeholders during a webinar Thursday morning. “That momentum has continued through the first quarter. Our activity has been very strong.”

Joining Koehler on the webinar was a panel of local partners that included Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber; Baiju Shah, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership; Steve Millard, president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber; and Ray Hexamer, president of the Stark Economic Development Board. 

For the first quarter of 2021, Koehler reports that Team NEO completed 23 projects that yielded a total of 3,859 new jobs, $259.2 million in new annual payroll and $1.3 billion in new capital investments.

“That is significant new investment in our economy,” he said. 

What’s encouraging about these projects is that they include companies from a variety of industries and sizes. Eight of these are the result of grants procured through Team NEO’s inclusion grant program, which was established about six months ago to assist businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans and those with disabilities.  Another six offers through this program are under consideration. 

“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done and the opportunity we have as we continue on through 2021,” he said.

Among the highlights of this quarter is the expansion of Macy’s distribution center in North Jackson, Koehler said. That project involves an estimated $30 million investment to accommodate 417 news jobs and the retention of 55 positions.

Other projects include CrossCountry Mortgage, which plans to add 180 jobs to their offices in downtown Cleveland, and Chef’s Garden, a northeastern Ohio company that received an inclusion grant to help with its ecommerce expansion. 

“These are shared victories,” he said. “These are made possible by working together.”

Moreover, Koehler said that economic activity in the near-term looks equally as promising.

These new efforts constitute 138 projects that are likely to create nearly 11,000 new jobs, Koehler said. “That is a pipeline that’s as high as it’s ever been,” he added.

Last year, the agency reported 84 new projects that led to the creation of 8,528 jobs and $3.35 billion of new investment. 

Team NEO is also examining the impact of the pandemic on working women in northeastern Ohio, Koehler said. 

“We’re doing a deep-dive into understanding gender-based inequities across Northeast Ohio in the wake of the pandemic,” he said.  The findings will be published in a new report due out May 19: “Lost Opportunities: The Pandemic’s Impact on Northeast Ohio’s Working Women.”

The report examines how women have been affected by the pandemic through such disruptions as school closures, temporary layoffs, health-care costs and lost wages. 

Other initiatives include efforts to build a portfolio of available development sites across the 18-county region, Koehler said.

The agency reports there were 17 site searches during the first quarter, double the number during the same period in 2020, he said. Team NEO, by leveraging efforts such as the JobsOhio site inventory program, works with local partners such as counties, economic development agencies and municipalities to prepare these sites to be more marketable and attractive for development.

“This past quarter, we initiated work in Sandusky, Youngstown and Stow,” Koehler said. “Taken together, these sites represent more than 1 million square feet of new and renovated space and more than $47 million worth of investment.”

A third effort is underway to encourage the adoption of new technology among the region’s businesses, Koehler said. 

Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber CEO Coviello said the Mahoning Valley is especially seeing a movement toward this through additive manufacturing, distribution and logistics investments, and the development of an electric vehicle manufacturing cluster in Lordstown.

“We see great opportunity in our military supply chain,” he added.  

Among the greatest concerns all the panelists shared is the availability of a trained and skilled workforce to fill the jobs of tomorrow.  These stakeholders see value in collaboration with agencies such as Team NEO, which can facilitate new ideas and best practices, they said.

“With a staff our size, we rely on the network and Team NEO to help us with project presentations. That work is most critical,” said Stark Economic Development Board’s Hexamer. 

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.