While $17 million out of a $2.4 billion state capital budget is not a significant amount, in the context of major cuts in funding from Columbus for local governments, the Mahoning Valley could have done worse.
Indeed, there’s reason for a certain amount of optimism because included in the $17 million is money for economic development projects, such as $1.5 million for expansion of the Youngstown Business Incubator in downtown Youngstown and $250,000 for the TBEIC Energy Integration Laboratory Shared Resource Center in Warren.
State funding for so-called community projects was suspended six years ago in the midst of the national economic recession. Like many other states, Ohio has had to deal with a shrinking operating budget because of declining revenues. But now, with the nation’s economy picking up, officials in Columbus see better days ahead.
“With the improved fiscal condition of the state, for the first time in six years, a portion of the appropriations in this bill targets funds to support economic development projects of local or regional importance,” Tim Keen, Gov. John Kasich’s budget director, told the House Finance Committee.
Indeed, the proposed capital budget unveiled this week for the upcoming biennium is $700,000 more than what was appropriated for the 2013-14 biennium.
The new budget should be signed into law by April 2.
Of the $17 million earmarked for the Valley, $14.7 million is for projects in Mahoning County, $1.1 million in Columbiana County and $1.5 million in Trumbull County.
In addition to community projects, money also will be used for upgrades and expansions at universities and colleges in the area.
But the most exciting project in terms of the Valley’s future as a center of high-technology development is the expansion of the Youngs-town Business Incubator, which has a national and even global reputation because of the number of start-up companies it has assisted in not only developing their products but finding success in their particular markets.
Turning Technologies, which had its start in the incubator, is now a global concern — with headquarters in downtown Youngstown in the incubator-owned Taft Technology Center and the former Semple Building next to Home Savings and Loan.
The $1.5 million from the state would be used to renovate the interior of what is currently The Vindicator office building. The incubator will buy the building with money from other sources and will then use the state grant and other funding to create office space. It also will seek money from the federal government to complete the renovation of the structure. If the project comes to fruition, it will be the sixth building owned by the YBI.
The $1.5 million is being funneled through Youngstown State University, which stands to receive $11 million from the portion of the capital budget reserved for higher education.
The money is to be used for maintenance and upgrade projects. Two years ago, YSU received $9.4 million.
A list of all the projects in the Valley, including $500,000 for Stambaugh Auditorium and $250,000 for the development of the Southern Park Historic District in Boardman, was published in Wednesday’s Vindicator.
Looking over the projects, it becomes clear that job-creation and quality-of- life issues are at the heart of the funding from the state.