Warren-Trumbull CIC Considers Shift in Status

WARREN, Ohio – A potential shift to a 501 (c) (3) organization is among the subjects the recently reactivated Community Improvement Corporation of Warren and Trumbull County will explore in the coming months, Tom Humphries said.

Humphries is president and CEO of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, which manages the CIC under a contract with the organization. The CIC met Thursday morning in the former RG Steel computer center and sales building it leases and is marketing, across from the former steel mill site on Pine Avenue.

The CIC is in the process of reorganizing after a period of dormancy, reactivated with the donation of the RG Steel Building by BDM Steel Holdings LLC in late December 2014.

“The goal is to get an entity here that can be a driver for the whole area, Warren and Trumbull County,” Humphries said.

The CIC board proposed a slate of new officers for the organization: Phil O’Hara, senior manager at HBK, chairman; Robin Patton, manager of external affairs at FirstEnergy Service Co., vice-chairwoman; Stan Feret, chief lending officer and senior vice president with Cortland Bank, treasurer; and Humphries, secretary.

The board voted to approve the officers upon their acceptance. O’Hara and Patton did not attend yesterday’s meeting.

The CIC now is structured as a social welfare organization under Section 501 (c) (4) of the U.S. tax code. Under 501 (c) (3), it would enjoy tax-free status and would allow contributions to the organization to be 100% tax exempt.

“That will be one of the discussions we have as to what [the board members’] desire is,” Humphries said. The board’s focus in the past has been more toward bonds than economic development of properties, he said.

The lack of 501 (c) (3) status is why BDM Steel Holdings donated the building to the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, which has tax-exempt status. TBEIC leases the building and adjacent property to the CIC.

The building is deeded in TBEIC’s name for the tax credit, Feret, a member of both the TBEIC and CIC boards, said.

The CIC has the option to buy the building for $1 at the end of 2017, when the capital lease expires, said Angela Neely, chief financial officer of the chamber. The building has to be held in non-profit status for three years for BDM to maintain the tax credit.

BDM also leases about 2,000 square feet of space in the building for $25,000 annually.

Once officers are confirmed, the board needs to discuss the organization’s mission and purpose, and its goals and objectives, Humphries said.

“There’s a number of things we have to get moving on,” he remarked. He envisions the organization as an economic development driver for the county and the city, similar to the role the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. played in downtown Youngstown’s revitalization.

Trumbull County has several industrial sites. “Our goal would be to try to help build those sites,” he said.

The CIC has advertised the RG Steel building in the Wall Street Journal and through the chamber has retained an individual who has experience with marketing properties to telemarketing firms. The chamber has done a “pretty good job” bringing telemarketing into the market, which represents some 5,000 jobs locally, he said.

The RG Steel building is one of four local properties the chamber is marketing to that sector, he reported.

Thursday’s meeting also was the final one led by the CIC’s longtime chairman, attorney John Pogue. It was his final meeting as a board member as well.

“Thank you, John. You’ve been a great partner and a great leader, not only in this but many things that were done in Trumbull County,” Humphries said. “We’re indebted to you.”

Pictured: The Warren-Trumbull CIC leases space in the former RG Steel computer center, which it is marketing for redevelopment.

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