TJX Supporters Urge Residents to Vote
LORDSTOWN, Ohio — Nearly 100 proponents of TJX Companies Inc.’s plan to build a $160 million distribution center here turned out to rally behind the project, urging their fellow residents to get out and vote today and support a rezoning issue that would allow construction to move forward.
“If people get out the vote, and they don’t believe the propaganda, then I think we’ll be OK,” said Mayor Arno Hill, shortly before he addressed core supporters Monday afternoon at the UAW 1714 union hall.
He said there has been a flurry of misinformation disseminated by those who oppose the project,including the perception that TJX is considering another site in the village should the rezoning referendum be defeated.
“This is the site,” Hill said. “This is the only site.”
TJX wants to build a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center along Bailey Road to serve its HomeGoods brand. In June, the Lordstown Village Council approved rezoning the property to industrial. However, opponents of the project – most of who live in neighborhoods nearby – secured enough signatures to place all seven of the rezoning requests on the ballot.
TJX has said the center would employ about 1,000 workers within the first five years of its operation.
The Ohio General Assembly passed legislation that would allow a special referendum to go forward today. Were it not for this legislation, the ballot issue would have been delayed until the general election in November, placing the entire project in jeopardy.
Hill said he spoke with TJX officials on Monday, and they reinforced their interest in that property. “They had an offer from Mercer County that would have saved them millions of dollars. They came here and felt comfortable here,” he said. “TJX hopes it passes. If they vote no, I consider it gone.”
Hill said the election is important because it will send a message to the country’s business community, especially to other distribution ventures that might consider Lordstown as a potential location.
“There are a lot of other companies, so I’ve been told, that are waiting to see how this goes,” Hill told reporters. “All businesses take a lot of time to see what’s going on in the communities they’re proposing to come into.”
State Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-32, Bazetta, told the group that it has been four months since TJX first announced this project, and the company, community and public officials have come together in order to make it work.
“Get out and vote,” he urged. “Call five of your neighbors. Call our supporters.”
Polling places open at 6:30 a.m. and will close at 7:30 p.m. The Cafaro Co. of Niles has sponsored free transportation for those who require a ride to the polls.
Recent job losses at General Motors Co.’s Lordstown Complex and the announcement last week that Steward Health’s Northside Regional Medical Center would close only underscore the need to pass this rezoning issue, O’Brien said.
“Let’s get this done tomorrow,” he said.
Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa stressed that, “elections do matter, and this one has more underlying consequences than any other in recent memory.”
State Rep. Glenn Holmes, D-63, McDonald, told the crowd that the greater the margin of victory tomorrow, the bigger message it sends to businesses elsewhere.
“I’d like to say we need a mandate,” Holmes said. “If we just barely win, then that sends a message that they’re not sure they want to revitalize this area. I’d hate to think we’d eliminate 1,000 jobs for 1,000 families.”
Residents attending the rally said they would be on the phones this evening contacting friends and neighbors to urge support for the rezoning initiative.
“You don’t want this to fail,” said Fred Price, whose property at 2722 Hallock Young Road abuts the TJX site. “This is an important election.”
Others were equally enthusiastic about supporting the decision to rezone the land, many noting that TJX has gone to great lengths to establish a buffer zone between the proposed distribution center and nearby neighborhoods.
“Our tax base is suffering now, and we really need this,” said John Greskovich, who has lived in Lordstown for 40 years. He said undeveloped, the land pays roughly $4,800 per year. Should TJX build, it would now pay about $400,000 per year in taxes.
“There’s going to be plenty of green space and trees,” Greskovich said. “You’ll never know its there.”
TJX has pledged to turn over about 100 acres to a conservancy under the management of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in order to prevent the possibility of new industrial development on the 300-acre site.
For Debbie Hall, a former resident of Lordstown, the choice to support the project is simple. “The jobs,” she said. “I’m a retiree from General Motors and I don’t know how long it’s going to be there.”
UAW 1112 President David Green said the union felt it was important to support the project, and he sees it as a development that has the potential to lift the entire area, not just Lordstown. “The UAW has been helping people in the community for decades,” he said. “This is a positive thing for the community, so coming out and supporting the people who organized this is the right thing to do.”
Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.