As the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber and a consultant from Philadelphia go about planning the rebirth of the 3,500-acre U.S. Route 422 corridor, we offer this suggestion: Start with the area along the thoroughfare that links the cities of Youngstown and Girard. Why? Because a $1.2 billion investment by Vallourec Star for a state-of-the-art steel pipe-making complex should be acknowledged with a roadway that recognizes the company’s commitment to the Mahoning Valley.
While Vallourec Star’s presence in the region may no longer excite residents — familiarity sometimes breeds complacency — the opening of the brand new mill and other production facilities has received publicity worldwide.
Having a French company — Vallourec Star’s parent is headquartered on the outskirts of Paris — invest more than a billion dollars in an area still feeling the effects of the demise of big steel three decades ago is headline news.
As we said in an editorial earlier this year urging on the cleanup and beautification of U.S. Route 422, “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.”
We made note of the comment from Joel Mastervich, president and chief operating officer of Vallourec Star (formerly V&M Star), to a Vindicator reporter: “We are not your father’s mill.”
To be sure, a new day has dawned for steel making in the Valley, and it’s a major departure from the days of old when dirt, grime and a polluted Mahoning River were indicative of success.
Vallourec, the French company, has shelled out a lot of money to expand its presence in the Mahoning Valley, and it has earned the right to ask government to acknowledge that commitment by upgrading Route 422.
What should be done with the roadway and adjoining property? How about turning the Youngstown-Girard section of 422 into a boulevard like the ones you see in Europe so visitors to Vallourec’s steel pipe-making complex will have a good first impression of the region?
Fortunately, the mayors of Youngstown and Girard, Charles Sammarone and James Melfi, and their staffs are working with Vallourec Star officials to upgrade the property along Route 422.
The launching of a comprehensive plan by the regional chamber and more than a dozen nonprofit organizations, local governments and businesses is noteworthy because there are 220 businesses and 8,500 residents in the target area. Their input will be crucial to the development of a revitalization strategy. The chamber and the other groups are paying $150,000 to Interface Studio, an urban design and planning firm, to develop a master-plan study. It is expected to be completed in January.
And while such a comprehensive revitalization plan will be invaluable, we do believe the first step should be the upgrading of Route 422 and the property adjoining it.