Business, politics mix at event

Sam Covelli said he expects to expand to nearly double his number of employees.
WARREN -- On the day when the Regional Chamber was recognizing the achievements of Warren businessman Sam Covelli, Statehouse candidate Tom Letson said he wishes everyone could have an attitude as positive as Covelli's.
Referring to Covelli, Letson, a Democrat from Warren, said, "His family is doing what we all need to do: Work together. We need to work together in a positive manner."
Speaking during a question-and-answer session with his political rival, incumbent state Rep. Randy Law, R-64th, also of Warren, Letson continued, "Slinging mud only hinders all of us."
The comment was a reference to the campaign fliers circulated in the district on behalf of Law in recent weeks attacking Letson over the Warren Recycling landfill. The two spoke at the Regional Chamber's Good Morning Warren event at Enzo's Restaurant.
The fliers have accused Letson and other members of the Warren Board of Health of failing to protect the citizens living near the closed construction demolition and debris landfill by voting in 2002 to renew the landfill's license.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency later declared the landfill a Superfund site and ordered a cleanup.
"We have some important issues facing us," Letson said, naming the high rate of foreclosures, the 1.3 million uninsured residents, and jobs being exported from Ohio. He also said his daughter is among a too-high number of young people who grow up and leave the Mahoning Valley.
Improvements made
Tapping into the pro-business theme, Law, meanwhile, stressed the improvements the state has made in the state's business climate by passing the "largest tax reform in the state's history" by eliminating many businesses taxes.
He talked about how he played a big part in the passage of new landfill regulations, sponsored legislation that would provide loan money to homeowners ordered to upgrade their septic systems, and proposed legislation to help Delphi workers get tax credits to help them earn an education or start a small business.
Much of the event, however, was dedicated to Covelli, owner of more than 100 Panera Bread Bakery Cafes in four states and now owner of O'Charley's restaurant in the Eastwood Mall complex.
Covelli, formerly the largest franchisee of McDonald's restaurants worldwide, was honored as the chamber's Pendleton Business Pride Award.
Covelli, saying he was worn out after holding the grand opening for the O'Charley's restaurant the past few days, noted he has been asked why he keeps his headquarters on East Market Street in Warren.
"I say we're still in the Valley because the quality of the people here is unbelievable." He said when he opened his first Panera Bread location, he broke every company record for sales, and he expects to do the same for his O'Charley's restaurant.
New award
Covelli said his company employs 11,000 people and his goal is to employ 20,000.
The chamber announced that it is now accepting applications for a new award, called the Upton Community Award, which will be given to a nonprofit and social service agency in Warren. Nominations will be accepted until Feb. 23.

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