FOP confab, softball event prove Valley's attractiveness

The loss this summer of a Mahoning Valley stop on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour had some fearing the worst. They lamented LPGA's exit would symbolize the area's inability to pull in premium events that attract thousands, make a solid economic impact and enable us to show off our many fine but understated assets.
Two major events over the next two weeks prove such fears unfounded.
This week, the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police has brought about 1,000 people to five Boardman hotels for the organization's annual state conference. Next week, about 10,000 visitors from throughout the nation will take up residence in hotels in Mahoning, Trumbull and nearby counties to take part in the PONY fast pitch softball national championships. The championships will be played at the Thunderplex complex in Vienna and at ballfields throughout Trumbull County.
Local organizers of the events are to be commended for convincing state and national officials of the viability of the Mahoning Valley as a host venue. Local FOP officials, for example, convinced convention planners that the Youngstown area has assets equal to or better than those of Dayton, the city that was the Valley's prime competitor.
The PONY tournament comes here after many years in the capital of North Carolina, Raleigh. If all goes well, it has potential to remain here for four years.
Economic impact
The benefits such mega-events produce are multi-fold.
First, the convention-goers, softball standouts and their families will supercharge the local economy with spending on food, lodging and special events. Combined, the FOP convention and softball championships are expected to pump about $9 million into the Mahoning Valley economy over the next two weeks.That's no small change.
Second, the visitors will have opportunities to view the many assets of our community that negate those tired but lingering stereotypes of a region mired in industrial decay and void of vibrant arts, culture and recreational opportunities.
For example, let them take side trips to such attractions as The Butler Institute of American Art, Mill Creek Park, the National Packard Automobile Museum , Mosquito and Milton state parks among many others.
National recognition of Valley
Indeed sometimes it takes outsiders to force longtime Valley natives to stop and take stock of those attributes that we've been taking for granted for decades.
Consider that just in the past week, two nationally recognized publications have showered positive publicity on the Mahoning Valley. Golf Digest ranked the Youngstown-Warren area fourth in the United States for the overall quality and value of its public golf courses. Money magazine listed Canfield as a finalist in its annual listing of the best places to call home in the country.
We welcome the FOP delegates and the softball standouts to the region and wish them a valuable and enjoyable experience during their stay.
It's now up to other groups and tourism organizations to capitalize on the success of these two ventures by drawing similar events with similar spinoff benefits to the Valley.

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