MAHONING VALLEY Brighter future for business

A development campaign is halfway through.
YOUNGSTOWN -- It's no secret that national and regional economies have been sluggish in recent months, but organizers of a local economic development effort say there are some bright spots in the Mahoning Valley's business outlook.
Officials with the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce reported today that Focus on the Future, a development effort launched in 1998, has attracted 18 new businesses to the area since it began. Those new corporate residents have invested $139.4 million and created 2,693 jobs.
Meanwhile, they said, the project assisted 49 existing businesses that invested $180.4 million, an effort that brought in 1,233 new jobs and helped to retain an additional 2,645 jobs in the Valley.
Overall, they reported, the program has added $889.7 million in annual payroll to the local economy and surpassed its goals in jobs retained, jobs created and money invested in both new and existing businesses.
Offset: Taking stock of the five-year program at its halfway point, planners said Focus on the Future's efforts have helped to offset other, negative business developments that have decreased overall job totals in the Valley for the past few months. The shutdown of CSC Ltd., a Warren steelmaker and once a major Trumbull County employer, was a major blow.
"I shudder to think of what would have happened to this Valley's economy in the last two and a half years if we had not had a concentrated effort on economic development," said Don Cagigas, campaign chairman for the project.
Airport projects: Chamber officials listed two recent developments in the AeroPark Project at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport -- a new Timken steel distribution operation and a Delphi Packard Electric Corp. plastics plant -- at the top of their list of success stories.
Timken Co. has moved its Latrobe Steel Distribution operations from downtown Youngstown to a new, $10 million manufacturing plant on acreage in the industrial park adjacent to the airport.
The Canton-based company officially opened its 183,375-square-foot Vienna Township facility in May, a project expected to create 27 new jobs and to retain 103 positions.
Timken had outgrown the downtown facility and was prepared to leave the state. Company officials had also considered a new location in Farrell.
State money paid for much of the project under a complex financing and lease agreement with the airport's Western Reserve Port Authority.
The package, administered by the Ohio Department of Development, includes a $3 million construction loan, a 55 percent job creation tax credit for eight years, a $150,000 business development grant for buying the land, a $250,000 development grant for construction of a road to the site, and up to $6.18 million in Ohio Enterprise Bond funds to be applied to construction of the facility.
Plastics plant: In July, Delphi Packard Electric announced its plan to build a $58.5 million plastics plant in the AeroPark, transferring about 180 employees there from other area Delphi Packard plants.
The new facility will join the company's renovated Cortland location as a flagship plant in its new division, Delphi Connection Systems.
Delphi's newest plant will be modeled after the highly automated Cortland plant. That facility features state-of-the-art molding machines that produce plastic parts, and robotic carts that navigate the plant without human assistance -- using wireless signals and magnets in the floor.
Delphi is leasing the plant from the port authority. The company received a $5 million loan from the state and a tax abatement from Trumbull County Commissioners to help offset the cost of the investment.
Development of an industrial park adjacent to the airport was a key part of the Focus on the Future strategy when the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce announced the plan in November 1998.
The five-year Focus on the Future plan also features a work force development effort, added because local companies had complained that they couldn't find enough skilled workers. Funding for the program comes from $3.2 million contributed by 90 local investors.

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