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Closing corporate doors leaves lack of leadership



Published: Thu, July 18, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Agency leaders fret about the loss of corporate headquarters in the area.

THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- Where have all our leaders gone?

Downsizings, mergers, buyouts and closings have left the Mahoning Valley with a lack of corp orate leaders who are able to give their time and effort to community organizations.

"The leadership void is there. There's no doubt about it," said Don Cagigas, president of the United Way of Mahoning Valley.

Michael Morley, former president of a downtown revitilization group and a leader in the local arts community, said the community has been suffering from a leadership void since the steel industry collapsed.

The sale of Phar-Mor, which is based in downtown Youngstown, will continue to add to the problem.

Two years ago, Youngstown lost another corporate headquarters when Commercial Intertech Corp. was bought by Parker Hannifin Corp. of Cleveland.

No new companies

David Burns, a Youngstown State University business professor, said the loss of corporate offices is normal for a community. Also normal, however, is the growth of new, thriving companies to replace them. That isn't happening in the Mahoning Valley, Burns said.

Community leaders say losing corporate headquarters hurts because fewer people are available to lead the area's nonprofit organizations. Also, having larger corporations based in a town helps because those companies tend to be generous with financial giving.

Reid Schmutz, president of the Youngstown State University Foundation, said the same faces are seen at all the board meetings in Youngstown. The list of people who have the abilities to lead an organization is getting shorter, but the needs of those organizations are getting bigger, he said.

So far, organizations have found enough people to step forward, he said.

"You begin to wonder how long that will last," he said.

Staffing reductions

It's not just the closing of corporate headquarters, but the staffing reductions at other companies that have hurt, Cagigas said.

"Take it from me, there's fewer people working at larger companies than there were four or five years ago," he said.

Cagigas said that despite the problem, he is optimistic that the Valley will find a way to solve the problem through programs such as Leadership Mahoning Valley.

Besides leadership issues, the declining number of corporate leaders locally jeopardizes funding for local organizations.

Morley said arts organizations have seen declines in contributions and are losing potential customers as people with high incomes leave the area.

United Way campaigns

Cagigas said the United Way has been increasing its collections slightly but it's been a struggle.

The United Way raised $3.2 million two years ago and $3.25 million last year. This year's goal is $3.3 million.

The United Way will be hurt by the closing of the Phar-Mor headquarters because its employees were contributors, Cagigas said.

The organization is trying to reach people it hasn't reached before, he said. Of the 2,000 Mahoning County companies with at least 10 employees, only 350 give to the United Way, he said.

shilling@vindy.com




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