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Long-shot project an ideal rallying point for the area



Published: Sat, April 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Mahoning Valley is making a bid for a multi-million-dollar airplane production facility that Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber officials admit is a long-shot, but there is an advantage to the region's pursuing such a project: It can bring together the 18 organizations in Mahoning and Trumbull counties that are involved, in some fashion, in planning our future.

The figure of 18 comes from Vic Rubenstein, a veteran marketing specialist who has been hired by the Western Reserve Port Authority to help it attract passenger flights, cargo shipping and other growth opportunities to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

Rubenstein, vice president of Rubenstein Associates, recently went before the Eastgate Council of Government to pitch a campaign for marketing the Valley -- with a new image -- to companies nationwide that are looking for a location for a new or expanding operation.

In an interview with The Vindicator before his appearance, Rubenstein explained that he envisions a 50-member sales corps under the direction of professional marketers contacting companies and setting up meetings for organizations that can close deals, such as the chamber or the port authority.

Shared goal

The idea has potential, but first it is necessary to find out what each of the 18 organizations is doing, its level of expertise and its strategies. Since they all share the goal of making the Valley an economically vibrant region, it would be worthwhile to see how each one would go about trying to land the advanced refueling tanker aircraft production facility proposed by the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company North America. European Aeronautic Defense is the second largest aerospace and defense company in the world.

It has asked each state for a list of three sites for the facility. Ohio is one of 37 states that responded. The Mahoning Valley, Toledo and Columbus have submitted proposals. The Youngstown/Warren Chamber is pushing a site located near the regional airport.

While U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan's office and Team Northeast Ohio, a group of business officials from 17 counties, are involved in the project, there is no harm in seeking the input of organizations in the region that are dedicated to selling the Valley.

For years, state officials have urged the region to speak with one voice on economic development issues. Former governor and now U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich was the most vocal, contending that the multi-faceted approach embraced for so long was counterproductive because it invariably led to competing interests lobbying the state.

Thus, when Rubenstein contends that 18 organizations in the two counties have some functions in the region's planning, the question that must be asked is this: Does each one know what the others are doing?

The proposed airplane production facility provides the ideal rallying point for these and any other entities committed to working on behalf of the Mahoning Valley.




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