Youngstown Area's Mahoning Valley Discusses State of Valley at City Club Event
On Monday, June 25, our event for the day was a City Club of the Mahoning Valley event concerning the state of that very valley.
The event took place at the Packard Music Hall in Warren and its format was that of a panel discussion. It was moderated by Ms. M.L. Schultze, News Team Reporter and Digital Editor at WKSU, and featured as panelists:
- Mayor Jamael Tito Brown of Youngstown
- Mayor William D. Franklin of Warren
- Mr. Michael D. Keys, Warren's Community Development Director
- Mr. Dominic C. Marchionda, Jr., Youngstown's Economic Development Liaison
As stated in the notes for this program which were read aloud by Ms. Sara Davidson of the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, "over the past several decades Youngstown and Warren have experienced much economic and social decline but 'recently, public-private sector collaboration, investments in technology and entrepreneurship, and efforts to rebuild the urban core have made the Mahoning Valley attractive to business owners, developers, and new residents.'"
Ms. Davidson went on to read that "according to the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber's annual Economic Development Report Card, private companies invested more than $216 million in the Mahoning Valley in 2017. The investments encompassed 367 projects and created more than 900 new jobs while retaining an additional 2,434 jobs."
The panelists contributed much of this tenuous upturn to the fact that those in the Mahoning Valley take a regional approach to the situations that confront them. Ms. Schultze herself described the Mahoning Valley as a collection of competitive but collaborative communities and the panelists seemed comfortable with this description.
Much of the discussion centered on what future economic/social growth will consist of and it was agreed that the industries that distinguished the Mahoning Valley will never come back, so a lot of emphasis is placed on the great potential of young, budding entrepreneurs who are innovative, energetic, and looking to the future.
Of course, the discussion also included sections about the need to train/retrain workers and the targeting of promising small/medium sized firms seeking a place to settle.
And then there was immigration, a particularly pertinent topic for the area since the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (which houses many detainees) is located in Youngstown, and because in early 2018, a lot of controversy was created by the deportation of Mr. Amer Othman Adi, a very popular and respected Youngstown businessperson who had lived in the U.S. for 39 years. One of the key factors in the deportation was the validity of a now-dissolved marriage that enabled him to obtain a green card many years ago.
The panelists agreed that we are a nation of immigrants and indicated they had strong reservations about the immigration policies of the Trump administration. It was said that just like young entrepreneurs, immigrants bring a new perspective that could prove to be invaluable and it was believed that if foreign-born people chose to settle in the Mahoning Valley, they could be quite an asset to its economic development due to the dollars they would spend here and because they might occupy some of the many now-abandoned properties.
As for the case of Mr. Adi, several of the panelists knew him personally and appreciated the way he transformed an old, vacant building into a very successful convenience store and deli.
Mayor Brown said of Mr. Adi: "He was part of the private investment that needs to happen in the city of Youngstown. So his story is in so many ways what Youngstown stands for. He's what Youngstown needs more of."
Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC