By Burton speakman
Economic diversity, quality of life, improved training and statistically based decision making would assist the region’s development, according to a regional agency.
The 2013-16 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy was developed by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. The Eastgate region includes Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties.
The first goal is to diversify the local economy.
Efforts are being made in that area, said Rachel McCartney, community-development program manager for Eastgate.
The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber has spoken about the need to diversify the economy and look beyond growth from gas and oil, she said.
In addition, an area Ohio State University Extension office has applied for a planning grant to determine what to do when oil and gas industry declines in shale counties, McCartney said.
“The goal is to identify businesses that could be at risk and help them to diversify now,” she said. “I think we’ve learned from the steel industry.”
Part of that diversification includes agriculture, which “is a much bigger industry than many people think,” McCartney said.
The goal is to make sure there is not some type of economic bubble that could burst after five or 10 years, said Thomas Presby, director of business assistance for the chamber, who was on the economic-development committee for the report.
“History repeats itself, but we’re trying to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Another goal is to improve the local quality of life.
People don’t tend to think about quality of life as an economic issue, McCartney said.
“I think a good example of this was with the whole Vallourec Star thing. They wanted that whole area cleaned up,” she said. “They were bringing people in from all over the world, and they wanted the area to look inviting.”
The report also recommended that the area become more data-driven in economic decisions.
With limited resources it is important to know what adds real economic benefit, said Jessica Borza, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.
“We need to look at what drives the economy,” she said.
There is a lot of potential for improvement locally, Borza said.
Promoting the economic goals will help in other areas, such as lowering the area’s poverty figures.
“The poverty levels in the cities are pretty outrageous,” McCartney said.
Fifty-five percent of children in Youngstown and 47 percent of children in the city of Warren live in poverty, she said.
The entire report is important to businesses coming into the area because of the information it contains on employment, the economy and demographics, Presby said.
“When new businesses come here, they’re going to invest a lot of money. They’re going to look to protect their investment,” he said.
The full report can be viewed online at www.eastgatecog.org.