Valley Leaders Outline Opportunities from Intel, Other Initiatives

MINERAL RIDGE, Ohio – Intel’s decision to build $20 billion manufacturing complex in the Columbus area is leading companies to look at sites in the Mahoning Valley – whether they’re involved in the computer chip industry or not, the head of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber said.

The effect of the global chip manufacturer on the region was among several potential economic development topics that Guy Coviello, the chamber president and CEO, addressed during the Western Reserve Port Authority’s monthly meeting. The meeting was held at the former Youngstown Developmental Center, which Mahoning County now operates as the Mahoning Valley Campus of Care.   

Coviello was one of several community leaders who spoke during the meeting, which featured all three members of the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners and two of the three Trumbull County commissioners. Both boards of commissioners formed the port authority about 30 years ago to take over the operation that today is known as Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

The meeting provided a venue for WRPA staff and port authority partners to provide updates on their activities and plans for the assembled commissioners and the port authority board.

Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Regional Chamber, speaks during Monday’s meeting.

Economic development inquiries are coming at a “historic” pace, Coviello told the assembled officials. If leads this year continue at their current pace, they will more than double the 50-plus leads the chamber fielded in 2020, itself a strong year. Coviello would not say how many jobs the Intel project might bring but said he expects the chamber to announce a “mega project” in the region later this year that will contribute to a projected 5,000 new jobs in 2026.   

“It’s probably third quarter. But it looks good,” he said.

The port authority also is working on the project, but Anthony Trevena, WRPA’s executive director, was similarly tight-lipped about the nature of the project and its job-creation potential. 

“We’re always working on leads, but we think that there’s a couple that are looking at the Mahoning Valley very seriously right now,” he said.  

In addition to the local opportunities being created by the various initiatives related to Voltage Valley, the Mahoning Valley is receiving unexpected interest from companies in the computer chip supply chain, driven by last year’s Intel announcement, Coviello said. 

“We’ve never been focused on microchip manufacturing and semiconductor manufacturing. We didn’t even expect that to become something. Now it is,” he said. 

Not only are supply chain companies looking for opportunities in Ohio outside the Columbus area because the wages Intel is offering are driving up overall wages, but companies not in the computer chip supply chain are looking outside Columbus because of the same phenomenon – the “Columbus exodus strategy,” as he put it.

“Some companies aren’t going to be able to keep up with that wage inflation, so they’ll be looking at other alternatives,” Trevena said. “A lot of them will want to stay in Ohio or within a certain vicinity.”

Coviello also pointed to other potential drivers of local development. One is what he described as the “COVID-calibrated economy,” as companies recognized the supply chain disruptions during the pandemic caused by nondomestic production. “We’re seeing a massive amount of interest from companies wanting to reshore,” he said.  

Another is the need to resupply the military using advanced manufacturing techniques such as additive manufacturing because of the “very diminished military arsenal around the world” resulting from the war in Ukraine.

“The military sees the way to do that fast and cost effectively is through additive manufacturing,” he said.

To meet the demand for the coming jobs, Coviello discussed the repopulation initiative the chamber is working on, as well as efforts to find potential and future employees not only at job fairs but in schools and through resources such as United Returning Citizens, National Center for Urban Scholars and Flying High.

The Mahoning Valley Campus of Care was redeveloped by the port authority, which manages it under a contract with Mahoning County. It was one of several partnerships with the port authority highlighted during the session.

Other initiatives include property transfer agreements with the cities of Warren and Youngstown and Warren City Schools, resulting in last month’s announcement of the proposed West Warren industrial park for modern manufacturing, and its use of American Rescue Plan funds allocated by local governments.

“We follow wherever the deal flow is,” Trevena said.

Jim Kinnick, executive director of Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, another port authority partner, outlined some of the initiatives it is working on. These include a program to help redevelop downtowns along the Mahoning River corridor, a broadband corridor from Ashtabula to Columbiana counties along state Route 11, and developing freeway access to land on Youngstown’s east side that is available for development, part of the Youngstown Equitable & Sustainable Streets Initiative.

“We think if we can improve the access, especially to the interstate, we’d make that land more marketable,” Kinnick said.

Other speakers included Kenneth Strickland, air service development project manager with WRPA’s aviation consultant, Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc.

The primary opportunity for the Vienna Township regional airport, which has been without daily scheduled service since Allegiant Air ended service there in early 2018, remains ultra-low-cost carrier service to a high-traffic leisure market, Strickland said. He noted that aviation traffic within the airport’s regional catchment area has returned to 94% of pre-COVID-19 levels, compared with the U.S. level of 88%.

Air Force Reserve Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, commander of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and the 910th Airlift Wing, speaks during Monday’s meeting.

“Over the last four months we’ve spoken directly to six carriers regarding the market,” he continued. He also reported he and Trevena would attend next week’s Routes Americas event in Chicago, where they have meetings scheduled with seven carriers, which is “better than a lot of our clients right now.”

Other speakers included Air Force Reserve Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, commander of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and the 910th Airlift Wing stationed there, which uses the airport’s runways, and Greg Heaton, a CMT vice president and Ohio regional manager.

Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, one of the three Mahoning commissioners in attendance, was impressed with what he heard.

“I did not realize how much you have on the table,” he said.  

Trumbull County Commissioner Denny Malloy, who was joined at the meeting by fellow county Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa, said when he looks around the room, he sees an “all-star team that I would put up against any other community.”

Pictured at top: Anthony Trevena, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, speaks to members of the WRPA board and the boards of commissioners of Mahoning and Trumbull counties Monday.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.