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Where is Valley welcome wagon?

Published: Sat, December 1, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

The Mahoning Valley stands to gain population if changes in climate continue to create destructive weather patterns in coastal regions.

Is the Valley prepared to couple our shale, technical and manufacturing renaissance with local incentives to attract talented new people to our region?

What can we cobble together that is greater than our competition?

I was moved by the tragic effect of Hurricane Sandy. The effects were massive and, hopefully, won’t be soon repeated.

However, according to a report in the journal Nature Climate Change, weather trends indicate a high probability of mega storms hitting the northeastern U.S. more often in the future.

As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “Our climate is changing.”

That devastation should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action. Given the entire “fiscal cliff” debacle being debated in Washington, D.C., Congress can’t balance a checkbook let alone control the weather (I think).

So, if storms repeat in the Northeast, the cost of property insurance will skyrocket. Federal assistance will dry up. A divestment will occur in coastal properties potentially creating investment in Midwest locations such as the Valley — if we are ready for it.

It is in our best interest to define, formalize and advertise an incentive package to entice weather-torn businesses or talented, displaced storm victims.

According to U.S. Census results, many regions in Ohio and throughout the Midwest have suffered extreme population decline due to lack of employment opportunities. Our urban centers and suburbs have numerous foreclosed and abandoned properties. Crime incidents are high, and drug usage is higher.

Valley leaders have addressed this issue over the past three decades. This is evident by the resurgence in downtown Youngstown and the technology startups at the Youngstown Business Incubator in the midst of a global downturn.

However, our urban and suburban neighborhoods still are in need of additional strategies to reuse or eliminate abandoned properties.

A bright side to our regional economics is that we are experiencing a resurgence on a number of commercial fronts. Our unemployment rate is now below the national average. But a recent article in The Vindicator by Burton Speakman pointed out troubles experienced by the shale industry finding local qualified workers who can pass a drug test.

Traditionally, the Valley has had a low occurrence of advanced degrees. We should continue to provide training to the current Valley residents, but we also should lure existing talent or investment capital into the mix. This will increase learning and productivity for all.

In a sense, we are in constant competition with other regions for the nation’s most-productive citizens.

Consider an incentive package that includes unilateral contributions to create the Mahoning Valley Welcome Wagon.

My initial outline is below:

1. Job placement/entrepreneurial assistance (starting at County One Stop). If we need you, then you and your family are in!

2. Pass a drug test.

3. Volunteer transportation or mass transit fee to the Valley if needed.

4. Free or reduced-price homes from the county land banks.

5. Property tax abatement.

6. Volunteers such as Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation and Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership might help get the home livable.

7. Reduced tuition to YSU or some other local learning institution for the new employee or a family member.

8. Reduced or free WRTA passes for a period of time.

These are a few ideas of mine, but it will be up to you all as productive citizens of the Valley to help fill in the gaps.

Contributions and critiques to the plan are welcome on my blog.

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