Black History Month is here again, and instead of writing once more why such a celebration is needed, I thought I would look at some positive events affecting the community this year in which blacks are at the forefront.
In case you have forgotten, a black-owned business called RRI of Ohio expects to begin its tire-shredding operation next month in Youngstown.
The fledgling company announced its plan in December through Mark Lewis, its president. It is using more than $1.3 million in a bank loan, and private and public financing for its scrap-tire processing plant on Brittain Street.
Lewis said at the press conference that tires can be shredded and the materials recycled for use by various industrial customers.
He and his partners believe the company can improve our environment by removing breeding grounds for mosquitos and recycling the byproducts of tires to remove the hazardous waste threat.
The company plans to hire between 15 and 20 workers to start at a pay of between $8 or $9 an hour. That number may increase depending on customer demands, Lewis said.
If the company is run correctly, it should be around for a long time because there are billions of tires stacking up at city dumps -- and in illegal dumps -- throughout the country. The supply is virtually inexhaustible.
The council presidents of Youngstown, Campbell and Struthers are bullish on the company's prospects, and they want to build on RRI's efforts by diligently trying to establish a national recycling center in the Mahoning Valley.
Here's a great opportunity for the Valley, especially those in the black community, to rally around a minority business that seeks to provide good-paying jobs and, perhaps, serve as the catalyst for a training center that will provide job skills in the recycling industry for hundreds.
Seeing advancesin the political fields
On the political end, the city of Youngstown has more black people running for mayor than ever before.
State Rep. Sylvester Patton of Youngstown, D-60th, city Council President James Fortune and Police Chief Robert Bush already have tossed their hats in the ring in the Democratic primary in May, and they could be joined by other black candidates. The filing deadline is Feb. 17.
Youngstown has never had a black mayor, but that could change this year. I'm no political expert, but I've covered enough political stories to know that too many black candidates will split the black vote.
But I'm excited that those candidates running bring a wealth of excellent qualifications needed to operate our city and take it to another level.
Fortune has 23 years of experience on city council and has served as chairman of the council's powerful finance committee. He is committed to economic development and has shown his desire to work with others in the region to benefit the entire Valley.
Bush also has served several years as city law director. He's negotiated numerous labor contracts, and as police chief, he knows the pulse of this city as well as anyone.
Patton's five terms as a state legislator should be able to help the city get state money to help move Youngstown projects forward. He is currently the ranking minority member of the House Transportation Subcommittee of the Finance and Appropriations Committee.
Make sure you keep an eye on these history-making events this year.
Thank you to those whoexpressed condolences
On a personal note, I would like to thank the hundreds of people who sent cards, e-mails and gifts expressing condolences on my father's death Dec. 30.
Many people are still coming up to me saying how much they enjoyed my January column on my dad, and how it reminded them of their fathers and the values those men shared and passed along to the next generation.
Thanks for taking the time to read the column and sharing your heartfelt concern for me, my family, my siblings and my mother.