By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CAMPBELL -- The bridge that could help rebuild the region's economy is about to be built.
After five years in the planning and fund-seeking stages, a ceremonial groundbreaking took place Tuesday for the Walton Avenue bridge, which will provide access to 325 acres in the heart of the Mahoning River Corridor of Opportunity, a 1,400-acre brownfield connecting Struthers, Campbell and Youngstown.
Once the $4 million bridge is completed next year, a master plan for development of the brownfield indicates that as many as 575 new jobs could be created at the 325-acre site.
"The salvation of our city depends on what goes on down here," said Jack Dill, mayor of Campbell, who has been on the 40-member MRCO planning committee since taking office.
The site made accessible by the bridge lies within the city limits of both Campbell and Youngstown, and development could be a financial boon to both cities in the form of property and income taxes.
In the past
Some 10,000 workers were once employed at Youngstown Sheet & amp; Tube's massive Campbell Works, remnants of which remain on the site in the form of abandoned industrial buildings.
The mills closed in the late 1970s, striking an economic blow from which the Mahoning Valley has yet to rally.
In some instances, the old buildings house new enterprises -- new buildings have also gone up to meet the needs of new companies -- but the lack of infrastructure and access have deterred much development.
The scope of the sprawling brownfield redevelopment project made it impossible for one community to address, observed Dr. David A. Sampson, director of the U.S. Economic Development Administration and keynote speaker for the event.
But he said the joint efforts of multiple jurisdictions -- the cities of Struthers, Campbell and Youngstown and Mahoning County -- made it possible.
"This is just one piece of a much larger puzzle," Sampson continued. "Several pieces have already been put in place and there will be many more pieces put into place in the future."
The MRCO's success so far, Sampson said, is due to the planning committee's commitment to work together for the betterment of the region rather than the individual jurisdictions, and its ability to incorporate the private sector into the redevelopment process.
Government at no level has the resources to redevelop a brownfield from start to finish, he noted. "You must attract private-sector money."
The MRCO has done that, partnering with companies such as Astro Shapes, Casey Equipment and CASTLO Community Improvement Corp.
The U.S. EDA awarded $1.8 million in grant money for construction of the bridge, part of the $36.1 million awarded for economic development throughout Ohio over the last 31/2 years, Sampson said.
The MRCO will "certainly be eligible for more funding as this project matures," Sampson said. "It's not unusual for us to make multiple grants." Future funding could be for roads, utilities and other infrastructure developments.
Dan Mamula, mayor of Struthers and MRCO chairman, said that not building the bridge was never an option.
Campbell Mayor Dill described Mamula as a "locomotive and driving force" behind MRCO's success. "He's been on the front line and he's really pushed the project."
"This project is truly the result of partnership and cooperation," Mamula said. Although it is a major aspect in the redevelopment of the brownfield, Mamula continued, it is just one more step toward the ultimate goal.
"We have another MRCO meeting Wednesday [today] to identify and climb another mountain," he said.
According to the master plan, the next project will be construction of a road leading from the bridge and around the perimeter of the industrial park. The MRCO planning committee was to meet at the community center in Mauthe Park.