Route 422 — a road that leads to a new beginning for Valley

With little fanfare, the $1 billion-plus V&M Star steel pipe-making complex in the Youngstown- Girard expanse has begun shipping out finished products. Will there be a public ceremony to give proper recognition to the owners of V&M, Vallourec, a French company headquartered outside Paris, for showing such faith and confidence in the Mahoning Valley? We certainly hope so.

However, before such a ceremony takes place, the area along U.S. Route 422 linking the cities of Youngstown and Girard should be cleaned up and beautified to complement one of the most significant private investments in this region.

To their credit, the mayors of Youngstown and Girard, Charles Sammarone and James Melfi, and their staffs are working with V&M officials to upgrade the corridor. They recognize that first impressions count. This is especially true for out-of-town visitors to the Valley.

Because Vallourec is a worldwide company with a far-reaching customer base, international business executives are becoming a common sight at the complex. There also are regular visits by Vallourec corporate bigwigs.

Much of what they see along Route 422 on their way to and from the pipe-making complex is not pleasing. Indeed, the area is a reminder of a time when steel was king in the Valley. And when not only blight but pollution were accepted as the cost of doing business.

Three decades after the major steel mills closed, the air is no longer difficult to breathe, the river is no longer a dumping ground for factory waste, and neighborhoods in the shadow of the plants are no longer covered with soot.

A new day in steel making has dawned along Route 422, as Joel Mastervich, V&M Star president and chief operating officer, pointed out to a Vindicator reporter.

“We are not your father’s mill,” Mastervich said. “It’s not even a steel mill; it’s a pipe mill, and the business we are in is not the same as it was back in the day. We are an energy business.”

A priority

But it’s his observation about the area surrounding the V&M complex that leads us to the conclusion that upgrading the Route 422 corridor is a priority.

“When people see blight, it’s a big deterrent. People come from all over, and they look around, and the impression we want them to take away is very important to the area.”

Mastervich noted that Vallourec has a sincere interest in sustainability efforts in all its plants — 51 production mills in 20 countries — and that means cleaning up industrial sites.

The company has pledged $28,500 for the beautification effort, while Youngstown and Girard will spend a total of $200,000 in grants from the the Eastgate Transportation Enhancement Program. The money originates from the federal government.

We have long complained about the entryways into the city of Youngstown being eyesores and have called on city government to work with the property owners to make the thoroughfares more presentable.

The beautification of Route 422 in the area of V&M Star would be a great start.

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