Economic Development

Warren, Townships Seek JEDD at Former Steel Site

WARREN, Ohio – Standing near the largely razed site of the former Republic Steel Corp. mill, Doug Franklin reflected on how, shortly after getting his driver’s license, he would sometimes drop his father off for work there.

His father worked at the mill for 44 years to earn a living, raise a family and send him to college, he recalled.

“It’s kind of ironic that we stand here today to bring commerce back to this site,” he said. “It’s personal but it’s also business for me as well.”

On Tuesday, Franklin, now Warren’s mayor, stood with representatives of Howland and Warren townships and the property’s current owner, BDM Warren Steel Holdings, to announce the creation of a Joint Economic Development District for the site.

“This represents a new start, a new, fresh approach to bringing commerce back,” the mayor said.

Franklin, Howland Township Trustees Chairman Rick Clark, Warren Township Trustee Kay Anderson and Mike Bechtold, BDM Warren Steel Holdings’ general manager, were joined by other local officials to announce they are in the early stages of forming a JEDD for the site.

“There aren’t many families in this community that do not have a connection with this property, with the tens of thousands of men and women who worked in the steel industry here,” Clark said.

BDM’s partners are all natives of the Pittsburgh and Cleveland regions and have witnessed the steel industry’s demise and its impact on communities, Bechtold said.

“Our job is to start with a clean slate, if you will, and try and promote economic development in the Mahoning Valley,” he continued. “This is a key element to the kickoff of that.”

Demolition of the buildings on the site is about 95% complete, a process that likely will continue into 2017, he reported. A Phase II environmental review started about 2½ months ago and likely will continue for another three months as wells established on the property are studied.

Most of the 300 acres proposed for the JEDD is in Howland and Warren townships, with just a portion in the city, said Kim Mascarella, Howland planning director. “The developable land is located in the townships. The city has all the resources in terms of utilities,” she said.

“Can it include additional lands? Yes. Can it include less land? Yes,” she added. “There will be provisions in the contract that spell out how to include additional territory, so that’s a possibility.”

The JEDD, once formed, would allow the three jurisdictions to share expenses and revenues for development at the site.

“It’s an opportunity for us to work with the owner of this property to bring new commerce and jobs back to this area,” Franklin said.

The officials have been working for the past few months to explore the possibility of forming the JEDD, Clark said. “This is a great example of communities working together to further economic development,” much like the ongoing efforts among Warren, Howland and Trumbull County to make improvements in the Golden Triangle Area, Clark said.

Franklin, Clark and Anderson will seek funding to hire a Columbus attorney with experience in JEDDs to help draft their agreement from their respective governing bodies, which also must approve any agreement. Public hearings will be required as part of the process.

“It’s kind of interesting because we have a blank canvas that sits behind us,” Franklin remarked. “We have a lot of room to negotiate and talk about details of what would happen.”

The city and townships also will form a board to oversee the development activity within the JEDD, Mascarella said. If all goes well, the JEDD could be up and running in eight months, she said.

Pictured at Tuesday’s press event Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, Warren Township Trustee Kay Anderson, Howland Township Trustee Rick Clark, and Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.