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V&M project shows why regionalization is difficult

Published: Sun, October 11, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

There was one winner in the high-stakes bid for a $970 million expansion project proposed by the parent company of Youngstown-based V&M Star Steel, and it wasn’t the city of Youngstown or the city of Girard. Rather, it was the Mahoning Valley. That’s because the project is symbolically larger than any one political subdivision and more important than any one public official.

While Youngstown and Girard were locked in political battle for almost 10 months over land and the sharing of tax revenues, residents of the region were left to wonder whether the old barriers to regional cooperation were just too high to overcome.

The announcement Wednesday that agreement had been reached after intense negotiations brought a sigh of relief, but also a sense of foreboding: We have a long way to go before regional cooperation is more than just a buzz phrase.

That it took so long for the two cities to resolve their differences suggests that the political leadership is in need of an attitude change.

A first step toward achieving that goal would be to learn a valuable lesson from the negotiations between Youngstown and Girard.

The lesson is this: Holding back information or providing incomplete details lead to distrust.

State-of-the-art facility

When Vallourec and Mannesmann Tubes of suburban Paris, France, announced that it wants to build a state-of-the-art steel-making facility adjacent to its Youngstown-based V&M Star Steel plant, it became clear that land in Girard would be needed. The transfer of land in and of itself was a major point of contention in the negotiations, but the talks took on a definite negative tone after Girard Mayor James Melfi found out that the amount of land wasn’t the 80 acres Youngstown officials had discussed from the beginning, but 191 acres.

Reporters had long used the 80-acre figure, and no attempt was made to correct the record.

Youngstown officials contended that the 191 acres were clearly identified on the maps that were used during the first presentation of the project. However, Melfi claims he did not find out the true acreage until a couple of months ago.

That caused so much animosity that all the other issues involved in the transfer of land to Youngstown became flashpoints in the negotiations. Hence, the sharing of tax revenues generated by the new plant became a major hurdle.

Full disclosure from the outset would have prevented the kind of public verbal jousting that occurred in recent weeks.

It is fortunate that cooler heads prevailed in the end and that elected officials realized the $970 million project is about the future of the Mahoning Valley and not about the parochial attitudes that have undermined regional cooperation.


1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

It's Youngstown against the rest of the Mahoning Valley. Regionalization will never happen because Youngstown wants 80% of the pie instead of splitting it down the middle. The use of water for income tax from Boardman & Austintown has set the stage for many years to come on regionalization - won't happen because Mayor Jay & Youngstown want to be the top porker at the trough.

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2DonHarshbarger(22 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

All the subarbs have left Youngstown with nothing. But without them we have nothing. The sooner we all come together for the better of our community, the better off we will all be. Regionalization is best for all of us. No longer are the area's of boardman and poland to have unlimited money. The are hurting just like the rest of us. We need to take down these man made boundaries and let all work together to make this area better

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3Progress(58 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Come on Vindy!! You know better than that. Melfi knew from the beginning that the property transfer was more than 80 acres. Heck, Brier Hill slag alone is 80 acres!! Then add the Dempsey and Shelly and Sands properties that Youngstown bought.

Melfi came and put out that number out thinking it would buy sympathy for his position and give legs to his ridiculous conspiracy theory that Youngstown and V&M were out to screw Girard.

The property was not the issue at hand regardless of what Melfi says. He just waited til the end, months after he had given assurances and promises to both V&M and Youngstown, then proceeded to break those assurances.

All in an attempt to squeeze more from Youngstown, knowing that they had to give more than an equal split, cause time was running out.

Hey Vindy, Melfi has been the obstructionist through this whole process, it looks as if your paper is finally starting to discover what most of Girard has known all along.

Melfi....Begins with ME and ends with I.

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4CBDactivist(125 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

When we come to realize that we must take care of the heart before moving on to other parts of the body we will begin to solve some of the problems that persist in the region. The City of Youngstown is the HEART of the community. It needs to be healthy and vibrant or the rest of the body will die.

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5Ytownboy(142 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Now let's see if V&M actually expands or not.

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