Thirty-four businesses participated in the job fair.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Nationally syndicated radio talk show host Tom Pope started his presentation at the McGuffey Centre on Saturday with a few questions about the Mahoning Valley:
Where are most of the grocery stores? "In the suburbs," the crowd of about 75 people responded.
Where are the businesses, the shopping malls? The same answer, "In the suburbs."
But where are the potholes? Where's the crack cocaine? "In the city," the crowd murmured.
"We are in a war, whether you want to admit it or not," Pope said. "The war is between Youngstown and the suburbs."
The people in Canfield, Boardman and other suburban areas can't run and hide from the challenges facing the city, he said.
"You can either come together or you can perish as fools, and that's what this area has to realize," he said.
Pope, whose talk show is broadcast locally on WRBP-FM 101.9, came to Youngstown from his home in Washington, D.C., to participate in an economic expo and job and health fair.
Economic, health issues
The event, sponsored by McDonald's and Humility of Mary Health Partners, included seminars on banking, credit card management and debt elimination and health screenings for blood pressure, stroke and cholesterol.
It was the culmination of a series of events that began Friday morning with the live broadcast of the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" at Edward W. Powers Auditorium downtown.
Tracey Winbush, general sales manager of WRBP-FM, said the health fair focused on educating people, particularly those in the black community, about the importance of regular check-ups.
"Unless we get an education on how to maintain our health, we won't live long and healthy lives," she said.
The economic expo and job fair featured 34 businesses and organizations, ranging from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Youngstown State University to MCI and Mary Kay Cosmetics.
Pope, a Kentucky native who grew up in Sandusky, said he first visited Youngstown in 1966. "The mills were cranking," he said. "There was plenty of money."
But like so many other industrial cities, the bottom fell out when the mills closed. Young people left, draining talent from the region.
Looking for answers
"The question becomes: What do you offer your youth to come back here, and what do you do to attract talented people to bring their businesses here?" he said.
Pope also said that although blacks are at a competitive disadvantage, they can't give up. They must, he said, remain competitive, mentally tough and play the economic game to win.
"There's no excuse for us to be in the condition that we are in today," he said. "Every ethnic group out there is competing -- competing for the safety of their community, competing for the security of their investments."