NORTHEAST OHIO Residents eagerly share views at forum

The region has a population of 4 million with 1.8 million in the work force.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning Valley leaders were passionate and animated during nearly four hours of discussion about the Valley's economic future.
About 145 government, business, church and civic leaders met Tuesday in the Davis Education & amp; Visitors Center at Mill Creek Park for the second area meeting of Voices and Choices.
Participants were not shy in expressing their opinions during discussion of regionalization issues. Each time they were asked to share, their excited voices filled the room.
"We need new business here, but good business," one man said. "We're the garbage dump for the East Coast, and that's not good business."
"Some people have a sense of entitlement, and that gets in the way," said another. "Does every little town need its own police and fire department? Does every little school district need a new school building?"
Regional study
Northeast Ohio's economic survival in the new global economy is the focus of an 18-month regional study called Voices and Choices, a project of the Fund for Our Economic Future, a multiyear collaboration of nearly 70 philanthropic organizations from across Northeast Ohio.
New Vision Baptist Church of Youngstown, Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, Humility of Mary Health Partners, Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority, Jack Gibson Construction Co., YWCA of Youngstown, American Cancer Society of Ohio, Liberty and Southington townships, Warren and Cortland city governments and the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce were a few of the groups represented at the session.
Tom Humphries, president of the Regional Chamber, gave a presentation on regionalization and the problems and possibilities for Northeast Ohio.
Northeast Ohio has a population of 4 million with 1.8 million in the work force, Humphries said. The region is larger than 23 U.S. states.
He said Northeast Ohio communities are similar because the area was rooted in heavy industry. Now, problems such as no-growth sprawl, fragmented government, widespread urban and rural poverty, and the collapse of the downtown retail market are all shared, he said.
"Our reliance on heavy industry is both our strength and our weakness," Humphries said. "We drew the world to us to work. Now that diversity is a strength we can build on."
Although much of the heavy industry is now gone, the people remain, and that ethnic diversity gives the region an identity shared in Youngstown, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
"We are the 'Pirogi Belt,'" he said. "If you not only know what a pirogi is, but what churches sell them on what days, then you're from here."

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