Council presidents from three Valley cities have met with state officials on the project.
COLUMBUS -- A state official says he's encouraged by a plan to establish a national recycling training center in the Youngstown area and indicates the state might be able to help the venture.
"I think it does have tremendous merit," said Robert Johnson, assistant director of workforce development with the Ohio Board of Regents, which coordinates activities of higher-education institutions in the state.
Johnson was among the state officials who met last week in Columbus with city council presidents from Youngstown, Campbell and Struthers to discuss the idea. The officials of the cities say the project could help bring jobs in waste-minimization to the Mahoning Valley.
According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Youngstown had an unemployment rate of 13.3 percent in November compared with the statewide average of 6 percent. The unemployment rate for the Youngstown-Warren area was 7.7 percent.
"It'll help bring back the Mahoning Valley," said Struthers City Council President Robert D. Carcelli, who traveled to the capital Thursday with Youngstown City Council President James E. Fortune Sr., Campbell City Council President Robert P. Yankle and others to push the idea of a national recycling center in the Youngstown area.
The three local public officials have formed the Coalition of City Council Presidents and say they believe that a national recycling training center could train potential technicians and other workers in the environmental pollution and abatement field.
The coalition said it hopes to piggy back off of recently announced plans by RRI of Ohio to open a tire-shredding/recycling facility in March in Youngstown.
Details such as what entity would run the proposed recyclable training center, development costs and the proposed training program are still being developed, Fortune, the Youngstown council president, said.
"We don't want to get the buggy before the horse," Fortune said. "We've got to have the horse pulling this buggy."
The council presidents say they hope to locate the proposed recycling training center in the Mahoning River corridor that runs through the three cities along Poland Avenue.
Others have also shown an interest in a potential recycling training center in the Mahoning Valley.
Triad Chemicals of Mentor has sent a letter to the city council presidents indicating an interest in providing training, according to news reports. Triad could teach potential technicians how to salvage chemical compounds from shredded tires that could be used to produce products for other industries.
Fortune said the proposed recycling training center could also train people to work with plastics, cardboard and paper and other recyclables.
"It's a vast majority of things that are being discarded now that could be usable products for companies that would need those materials," Fortune said. Additionally, workers trained at the center could work on cleaning up polluted properties, he said.
Based on the coalition's research, some of those jobs could pay between $18 and $25 per hour, Fortune said.
The Board of Regents' Johnson said talk of state assistance for the venture was preliminary.
"We said we were interested in working with them and it sounded like something that was in our purview," Johnson said.
Johnson said he suggested the coalition explore developing a credential- or certificate-type of program working with a formal association based on standards.
Johnson said the state could help, and that he's contacted Youngstown State University to potentially explore the idea.
"It means more when you're certified in something," Johnson said.
Additionally, state grant funding could be available, he said.
Johnson said state officials plan to follow up with the city council presidents on the idea in the coming weeks.