Economic Development

TJX Reviewing Other Sites, Councilwoman Says

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Officials with TJX Companies Inc. are reassessing their plans to build a $160 million distribution center here but the company’s decision to cancel the village planning commission meeting scheduled for tonight “absolutely is not a bad sign,” a village councilwoman insists.

“I don’t believe it’s bad news at all,” says Karen Jones, who has served on council 18 years and is opposed to TJX using the 290 acres it has selected for the project, which are zoned residential.

“When they canceled the meeting, they said they needed more time to take a look at other options here in Lordstown, They told people on Tuesday night they understood their questions, their concerns and they wanted to be good neighbors. So they decided to look at other areas in the community.”

Jones was referring to two private meetings March 20 with neighbors who live near the proposed site at Interstate 80 and Ellsworth-Bailey Road.

Mayor Arno Hill said TJX notified him Friday morning that the company was “taking time to assess” its plans. He said he believed TJX was just going to review other sites but could not speak for the company.

Contacted via email late Friday, a TJX spokeswoman said the company “wouldn’t have any additional comment at this time.”

The 1.2-million-square-foot distribution center would serve TJX’s HomeGoods division. It is expected to create 1,000 jobs, including about 150 professional-level positions. The site consists of seven residential parcels that would have to rezoned industrial.

Several residents have suggested that if the rezoning is approved, they may launch a petition drive to put issue on a referendum ballot, which could delay TJX’s timeline, assuming at that point the company still wanted to build in Lordstown

At the occasionally raucous March 12 town hall meeting where TJX first presented its plans, village residents expressed concerns about the distribution center encroaching on residential areas.

The village has “a group of people who want nothing,” Mayor Hill said Friday. “This is a great project, but [they] don’t want it where it’s at,” he said.

The mayor previously stated that TJX also likes a site in east central Pennsylvania — its “second choice.”

Councilwoman Jones says opponents “absolutely” want the 1,000 jobs that TJX would bring. “Are they comparable to General Motors? Absolutely not, but they’re a good place for young people to start, to get some experience in the working world.”

Jones served on the village planning commission in the 1990s, when the current zoning map was adopted after “lots of input from residents as to where industrial and residential areas should go,” she says. “It was the consensus that the triangular property south of the turnpike should remain residential, that the turnpike was a natural barrier. I don’t think we should be forced into changing the zoning.”

The councilwoman notes that when the Lordstown Energy Center, a $900 million natural gas fired power generation plant under construction in the village, first proposed to build on a site that needed to be rezoned from residential, opponents convinced the developers to move the project to another site already zoned industrial.

“We have at least three or four sites that are big enough for this project,” Jones says.

“Regardless of what you’ve been told, there is nobody here who doesn’t want the jobs but we want them to consider other sites.”

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber has worked with TJX for two years on identifying a site and lining up incentives for the project.

James Dignan, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, told the Western Reserve Port Authority at the board’s meeting March 21 that things were “looking good” for the Lordstown project and cited the company’s private interactions with residents.

“I am aware that Monday’s meeting has been canceled,” Sarah Boyarko, the chamber’s senior vice president for economic development, said Friday evening. “As the team from HomeGoods has said, they are considering the feedback from the community.”

Pictured at top: HomeGoods distribution center in Austin, Texas.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.