WARREN WRAP to market city

One of the city's biggest problems is its lack of lobbying power in Columbus, one official said.
WARREN -- Warren is a small city with big city problems.
So says Mike Keys, director of Warren Redevelopment and Planning, who told city council's finance committee Tuesday what he plans to do to combat that.
Marketing is the key to economic development, Keys said, and explained that the city's points of interest are Riverwalk, Robins Theater, Packard Music Hall and National Packard Museum.
Councilman-elect Bob Holmes, representing the 4th Ward, told the committee the music hall could be the city's saving grace.
WRAP officials are working with Packard Band trustees and music hall officials to secure a liquor license, build a box office and establish concessions, to better attract quality shows and become self sufficient.
What organization does: WRAP is a nonprofit organization that provides business loans, development and planning and a Main Street program focusing on the central business district.
Keys said problems that Warren shares with bigger cities include a high unemployment rate, eroding tax base and a population without disposable income.
To top that off, he said, one of Warren's biggest problems is that it has little political lobbying power in Columbus.
As the largest city in Trumbull County, Warren has power it doesn't use, he said.
And what he plans to do is hold state legislators' feet to the fire, "and ask them 'What have you done for us lately?'"
Councilwoman Virginia Bufano, D-1st, said she's got a beef with state Rep. Dan Sferra of Warren, D-66th, and state Sen. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-32nd. She said she wants the two to explain to council why they voted in favor of a new annexation law that gives townships more power in the process.
Ohio cities were successful in getting enough signatures together to get a referendum on the 2002 ballot, saying the new law will cripple them.
Councilman Bob Marchese, D-at-large, finance committee chairman, asked Keys if it's too late for Warren and Youngstown to join together for economic advantage, much the same way Akron and Canton did.
Keys said he's already been talking to Youngstown officials about what can be done.
What the city needs to do is improve its image to retain and attract businesses and people -- especially young professionals, Keys said. The city is also in the process of identifying the city's top employers to see about their future needs and plans for growth.

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