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Regionalization group targets growth in 5 Ohio, Pa. counties



Published: Sat, February 28, 2009 @ 12:08 a.m.

By John w. Goodwin jr.

More of the plan will be unveiled in Sharon in April.

HOWLAND — Local and state officials in Ohio and Pennsylvania are hoping that a joint effort at regionalization will benefit people living on both sides of the state line.

The Leadership Committee of the area’s first Interstate Region announced its formation at a meeting Friday at Leo’s Ristorante. The committee is made up of representatives from Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio and Lawrence and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania.

Bert Cene, of the Mahoning and Columbiana Training Association, said the Interstate Region group has received a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Those funds have been used for study and development of a plan that includes such areas as trends in the five counties, industry analysis, an understanding of the local labor market and educational infrastructure.

Some findings of that study revealed that more people commute from the area for work than come to the area, the region has an older age distribution than the rest of the country, and the largest employment sectors in 2006 were trade, transportation and utilities.

The first steps of the plan to move forward will be unveiled at an open summit April 23 in Sharon, Pa.

Bill Turner, Trumbull County One Stop administrator, said the Interstate Region will ultimately work to unveil new industries, retool current industries and identify a work force for developing industries in the area.

“This really makes sense because of the Pennsylvania and Ohio connection in the work force and industry,” Cene said. “We wanted to bring focus to those things in the area.”

Dr. Robert Garraty, of the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board, said collaboratives such as the Interstate Region are not more popular because many municipalities and neighboring states fail to see how they are connected through work force and industry, but the federal government likes to see joint efforts when spending federal dollars.

Lisa Patt-McDaniel, Ohio Department of Development Workforce and Talent Division, said the current state of the economy is another reason the Interstate Region is needed.

“We know that regional collaboration is needed in any economy, but especially in this economy,” she said.

Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti has a more specific idea about where the efforts of the Interstate Region would be most beneficial — Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna Township in Trumbull County.

Using as an example Winner Aviation, which has an owner doing business at the Ohio airport, but living in Pennsylvania, Traficanti said the group could help the airport grow with a more secure future as a benefit to people in both states.

“You just have more minds at the table,” Traficanti said. “I would like to see more venture capitalists involved in our Interstate Region.”

Sam Giannetti, West Central Job Partnership, said success of the program is more likely if the group works with the various schools in the areas as well as potential employers. The program, he said, is good for an area hit so hard for so long.

“We truly have an opportunity to raise this area, this region, to prominence,” he said.

jgoodwin@vindy.com


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