The economic output of northeast Ohio is larger than that of Israel, South Africa or Sweden.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Northeast Ohio's economic survival in the new global economy is the focus of an 18-month regional study called Voices and Choices.
About 20 community activists and concerned citizens brainstormed for two hours Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church on Wick Avenue. They said diversity and a strong work ethic are the Valley's key assets.
The Rev. Lewis Macklin, pastor of Holy Trinity Baptist Church, said Voices and Choices is "an exciting opportunity to connect for a common goal. We have to appreciate the things we have -- Youngstown Playhouse, the Butler and Mill Creek Park, all recognized nationally, and a growing downtown -- and use them."
Real estate developer Carmen Mazza of Howland said he is most disturbed by the loss of opportunities for the Valley's young people, who either move away or end up in the streets with no job and no future. "When I was a teenager, I could make seven phone calls and have seven jobs. Now there's nothing. That's all gone. Youngstown is the cheapest place in the country to live. We should be booming."
Jamael Brown, community organizer for the Youngstown State University Center for Urban and Regional Studies; and Gordon Murphy, Youngstown State University director of operations, facilitated the session, which was one of several held Wednesday in northeast Ohio.
Brown is also the local coordinator for Voices and Choices, which is a project of the Fund for Our Economic Future, a group of nearly 70 northeast Ohio philanthropic organizations. The goal is to gain input from thousands of northeast Ohio citizens about the region's economic future, and then use the information to empower the many communities to team up instead of compete.
Participants worked in groups for most of the session, answering questions in an interview guide prepared by Voices and Choices.
Brown said the region must work as a unit to compete globally. The interview guide states, for example, that despite the loss of jobs in recent years, the economic output of northeast Ohio is larger than that of nations such as Israel, South Africa and Sweden.
"We have to compete globally and at the same time, keep business here," Brown said. "We want to hear from people to find out how the people of northeast Ohio see themselves. In the new global economy, we either swim together or sink together."
The next Voices and Choices meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday at the YSU Stadium Club. Anyone wishing to attend may contact Brown at (330) 941-2499 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He said the meeting date and location might be changed depending on the progress of the strike and negotiations at YSU.