Warren Mayor Greets New Year With Optimism

WARREN, Ohio – Mayor William “Doug” Franklin closed out 2022 with a sense of optimism that major regional economic-development projects fulfilled last year will help guide development in 2023 and beyond.

In particular, Franklin singled out Foxconn’s purchase of Lordstown Motors’ plant in May and the commissioning of Ultium Cells LLC’s electric-vehicle battery-cell factory in August as catalysts for long-term economic stability and growth.

Although Foxconn and Ultium are based in nearby Lordstown, these companies stand to produce substantial economic ripple effects throughout the entire region, he said.

“We’re very excited about what’s happening at Ultium Cells and Foxconn,” Franklin said. “We know that it’s going to present the city of Warren with exciting new opportunities for some residential development and some business development as well.”

Franklin noted he had scheduled a meeting for Tuesday afternoon with Foxconn officials to discuss the potential for new residential growth to accommodate the company’s needs.

“We’re focused on a multi-use development project near the downtown area,” Franklin said. “They [Foxconn] can be a key factor in launching this off the ground.”

Franklin said his administration has focused on the development over the past two years but has done so quietly because of confidentiality commitments. “We’ve been working behind the scenes because there are a lot of acquisitions to take place,” he said.

Still, Franklin described the project as “transformational” for the city in 2023 but declined to identify the site or any interested developer. “It should help not only that parcel, but should be a boost to downtown businesses as well,” he said. “It’ll have a multiplier effect.”

In October, Dennis Blank, administrator of the Fund for Warren’s Future, presented before City Council a proposal to develop a mixed-use community project at an undisclosed location. The proposal would enlist the services of Dillin LLC, a Springboro, Ohio-based developer with experience with such projects.

Other initiatives this year include a master plan for the city’s park system, additional business assistance programs and use of the remaining $11 million in American Rescue Plan funds.

“We’re talking about doing some neighborhood development and some economic development with funds set aside and administered by Valley Partners,” Franklin said.

The city was awarded $28.2 million in ARP funds in the aftermath of the pandemic, Franklin said. The majority of those funds were used for immediate city needs, such as equipment, police vehicles and fire department needs.

The mayor reflected that last year brought with it extraordinary momentum, including what he said is his signature accomplishment since he first took office in 2012. He is seeking re-election to a fourth term this year. Among the most satisfying initiatives last year was the demolition of the former St. Joseph Hospital.

“It’s easily the biggest accomplishment of 2022,” Franklin said. “Probably of my mayoral tenure. What we plan to do afterward is very exciting.”

Plans for redevelopment of the site are in their infancy, he said, but the first phase to demolish the eyesore is well underway. The project has enlisted partners such as Kent State University’s architectural department for ideas for the site’s future. “Those students think outside the box. It’s pretty impressive,” he said.

All of these efforts coincide with the city’s development of a new comprehensive plan – the first update since the 1960s, the mayor said.

The new plan identifies areas that are prime sites for future development and manufacturing, said Mike Keys, the city’s community development director.

This is especially significant for the West Side of Warren, near Deemer Park and the former Warren Western Reserve High School. “We’re recommending that all this become manufacturing,” he said.

Franklin added that partnerships with public and private organizations are central to achieving any success on the development front.

Organizations such as Brite Energy Innovators, an energy incubator downtown, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, Valley Partners and the Western Reserve Port Authority have all played an important role in these development opportunities and will continue to do so in 2023, the mayor said.

“Partnerships are the key to any success that we’ve had,” Franklin said. “They all play a part in how we’re going to move forward.”

Pictured at top: Warren Mayor William “Doug” Franklin.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.