Trumbull Development Projects Total $175M to Date

WARREN, Ohio – Even after the closing of the General Motors Lordstown Complex in March, economic development is still advancing in Trumbull County as several multimillion-dollar projects are on the board.

In the shadow of the now-idle GM Lordstown plant, the 1.2-million-square-foot warehouse of TJX Companies Inc. is slowly taking shape and, nearby in the village, a second power plant is being developed to join the Lordstown Energy Center. In Howland Township, the Cafaro Co.’s proposed $357 million Enterprise Park is gradually advancing. 

So far this year, projects totaling $175.4 million have been completed in Trumbull County, creating 1,070 jobs and retaining another 114, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber reports. That figure includes TJX’s HomeGoods regional distribution center and Panelmatic Inc.’s Brookfield Township expansion, reports Sarah Boyarko, chief operating officer and vice president for economic development at the Regional Chamber. 

Last year in Trumbull County, the chamber completed projects totaling $104.4 million for nearly 1,100 jobs, including the expansion of Ellwood Engineered Castings in Hubbard Township. The chamber now is working on pending projects in the county that total $251.7 million in investment, for a total of just over 1,000 jobs.

“All of them are industrial in nature. It’s companies that are either manufacturing products or are distributing products that are their own or for other entities,” she says. “We also have a number of nice introductory opportunities. We’re managing that process to hopefully add them to our pending list in the near future.” 

Enterprise Park, the centerpiece of which would be a proposed $250 million hospital building, recently received Section 401 water-quality certification from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The project awaits an additional permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over watersheds that would potentially be affected, says Joe Bell, Cafaro director of corporate communications. 

That project would be “a big shot in the arm,” says Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa.  

Site preparation is underway on the HomeGoods warehouse, which TJX has estimated would cost between $140 million and $170 million, and the bid packages for structural steel, concrete, plumbing and other work are being prepared, Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill says. 

“They would like to have part of the building operational within a year,” Hill says. “They’re running about a year behind from where they wanted to be.” 

Workhorse Group Inc., a manufacturer of electric trucks that wants to build vehicles at the idled Lordstown auto plant, is moving forward with its pursuit of that project, Hill says. 

As much as Lordstown has been hit by the loss of jobs with the closing of GM Lordstown, there’s been “great development” taking place in the village with the opening of the Lordstown Energy Center, development of the Trumbull Energy Center and TJX HomeGoods, Cantalamessa says. 

Financing for the Trumbull Energy Center should be completed by the end of the year, Hill says. 

The upcoming Lordstown projects “don’t make up for the direct and indirect loss” from GM Lordstown, Cantalamessa concedes, nor has that progress come smoothly. The TJX project has had “a lot of challenges,” from disputes over the site and state legislation that permitted a special election to, more recently, concerns over use of local labor for construction. 

“We’re working through them,” he says. “TJX has made good on every promise that they’ve given and we have no reason to believe that they won’t utilize local labor in the construction process.” 

Commissioner Frank Fuda points to “a lot of things going on in the Golden Triangle,” an industrial sector in Howland Township and the city of Warren. 

“There are about 3,000 workers that work at those companies there,” he says. Among the companies he reports are expanding there are Liberty Steel “and I look for Flex-Strut to expand in that area,” he adds. 

The county has entities including the chamber, Western Reserve Port Authority and the Trumbull County Planning Commission working on economic development, he says. 

The planning commission manages tax-increment financing, enterprise zones and community reinvestment area programs for Trumbull County, reports Nick Coggins, economic development coordinator for the Planning Commission.

The county also has an revolving loan fund through the Ohio Development Services Agency that can be used to assist expansions and new builds as long as low-to-moderate income individuals are hired. 

The county is also exploring options to encourage the use of local workers to build projects. “That doesn’t necessarily mean it would be required but it means they would get more points for the size of their abatements. It’s still an idea we have to flesh out,” Coggins says.   

“There has to be a balance,” Cantalamessa adds. While the county wants to do what it can to encourage developers to use local workers, “we have to continue to be business friendly and encourage development.”

Trumbull County needs jobs, but at the same time, Fuda says, many employers tell him that they can’t find workers. 

“That’s the scary part. Some of them are good-paying jobs,” he says.  

Familiar issues such as the skills gap and inability to pass a drug test are often cited. Another problem is that individuals will take a job, then leave after three months. 

“I did some research. In three months, they had to start paying child support,” Fuda says.

Pictured: Workers prepare the site July 12 for construction of the TJX HomeGoods distribution center in Lordstown. 

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