A leader of a 12-county regional consortium is encouraging Mahoning Valley residents to take a long-term view of their destiny in the context of the entire Northeast Ohio region.
Hunter Morrison, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium, appeared Thursday before the Mahoning County commissioners to discuss the consortium’s Vibrant NEO 2040 planning process.
“We’re all faced with the challenge, in every one of our communities, of doing more with less, having to be more efficient and more effective to create places that we want to live in, that our kids and our grand ids will want to stay, around a vibrant economy, a resilient place and a sustainable environment,” Morrison said.
“We’re almost 4 million people, but we’re divided into four major metropolitan areas. We don’t have one voice,” when it comes to expressing regional interests to state officials in Columbus, he said. He said other areas, such as Columbus and Cincinnati, however, tend to speak with one voice. “We can identify those issues that are of truly regional concern that we all share,” and speak with an effective regional Northeast Ohio voice, he said.
Morrison also observed that Northeast Ohio’s total population is declining, but spreading out across more developed land.
The consortium notes the region has 7 percent fewer residents than it did in 1970, but 5 percent more of its land has been developed since 1979, with 23 percent fewer residents per developed acre since 1979.
The consortium is largely funded by a $4.25 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sustainable communities initiative grant.
“I’m very concerned about the sustainability of our environment,” especially with the challenges presented by oil and gas well drilling in the region, Julia Fuhrman Davis of North Lima, told commissioners after Morrison spoke. Sustainability is achieved, she said, when the “triple bottom line” interests of people, economic interests and environmental interests can all be met.
The consortium plans to conduct a public forum on its regional planning efforts in late April, likely at Kent State University at Trumbull in Champion.
On March 14, it will conduct public forums on fair-housing access at 2 p.m. at the Wean Foundation, 147 W. Market St., Warren, and at 6 p.m. at the Covelli Centre, 229 E. Front St., Youngstown.