By Ed Runyan
For people who’ve been in Trumbull County awhile, one of the terms that brings back memories of a time when manufacturing jobs thrived here is the Golden Triangle.
It was a term that appeared in the newspapers hundreds of times in the 1970s because of an attempt by the city of Warren to annex 1,060 acres of prime industrial property in the triangle into Warren from Howland, Bazetta and Warren townships.
City Councilman Dan Sferra, who was Warren mayor starting in 1980, said the term Golden Triangle came about because within its 1,060 acres was Packard Electric and many other factories paying good manufacturing wages.
In the southern part of the triangle, along the eastern end of Griswold and Dana Streets, two sets of railroad tracks formed a “V” and fanned out northward to the state Route 5 Bypass.
The “Golden” part of the name referred to the money being earned by about 20,000 workers in the triangle and the tax revenue their wages generated, Sferra said.
The annexation attempt failed after several years’ worth of legal battles.
The annexation would have allowed Packard Electric, which employed 13,000 people in 3.5 million square feet of facilities on Larchmont Avenue in Howland and Bazetta and on Dana Street in Warren, to receive sewage treatment and other services from the city, according to archives of the Niles Daily Times.
Packard Electric, then a division of General Motors, was then Trumbull County’s largest employer. Adding together the Packard Electric Division and the automobile division in Lordstown, GM employed 24,372 people in Trumbull County in 1972, making it the largest employer in the Mahoning Valley.
Salaries for GM workers were well above the national average.
Sferra said probably 5,000 of the workers in the Golden Triangle either lived in Warren or worked at factories on Dana Street in the city. Sferra estimates that as many as 7,000 people worked on Dana Street in the 1970s. When he was mayor, the city received about $2 million in income-tax revenue annually from employees working in the Golden Triangle.
Today, GM Lordstown and the former Packard Electric facilities employ about 5,200 people, about 700 at Packard facilities in Howland and Vienna townships. Packard is now known as the Delphi Corp.
The 1,060 acres in the Golden Triangle also included a large number of other manufacturing facilities, including Van Huffel Tube, Warren Tool Corp., American Welding, Brainerd Steel, Cox Lithographic, Oakes Bronze, Wean United and Ajax Magnethermic.
Many of the companies have survived or changed names, and the Golden Triangle still contains factories employing about 3,300 people, according to Darlene St. George, Howland Township administrator.
Many employ 100 or 200 people, and Ajax Tocco on Overland Avenue, not far from the back of the Warren Plaza, has about 450 workers. FlexStrut on Commonwealth Avenue has been among the growth leaders in the Golden Triangle, adding onto its facilities five times in the past 25 years and adding jobs.
In 2014, a coalition consisting of Howland Township, the city of Warren, the county commissioners and the county engineer’s office was awarded a $37,500 grant by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to study the needs of the Golden Triangle in an effort to retain those jobs.
The coalition hired AECOM, an engineering company, to conduct a study, which provided the coalition with information in late 2015 on what the greatest needs are in the Golden Triangle and how to carry them out.
One of the things they did was interview companies in the project area – 10 in Howland and six in Warren. The focus area was narrowed to 687 acres. The study identified 10 projects that will affect about 40 businesses.
In 2016, the coalition completed one of the 10 with a $215,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant that improved Commonwealth Avenue by widening it and improving the turning radius of two intersections. It is one of several streets in the Golden Triangle that has narrow streets where trucks have a hard time making turns.
Last month, Howland Township applied for money from the Clean Ohio Fund to acquire land in the Golden Triangle that will be used for expansion of wetlands to reduce flooding along Dietz Road.
The 10 projects will cost about $10 million. The work will be done as grant money becomes available, said Kim Mascarella, Howland Township planning director.
James Giuliani, safety and quality manager of Primetals Technologies, which is on Dietz Road, said two of the proposed projects will especially help Primetals – reduction of runoff water on Dietz and creation of a new access road between Dietz and Larchmont to improve traffic flow.
Dietz Road near Dana Street is probably the most bustling part of the Golden Triangle, even though many people have never heard of Dietz Road or been there. Within a concentrated area, Wheatland Tube and several other factories and businesses operate, including Primetals, Trumbull Industries and Liberty Steel.
Giuliani said removing storm-water runoff from Dietz would be “great.” In the winter, the runoff water turns to ice, which makes travel more difficult.
The project “would take some of that runoff water off of the road and divert it,” Giuliani said.
Wheatland Tube, which employs about 175 people, operates a pipe mill on Dietz Road and receives about 80 trucks per day, according to survey information Wheatland Tube provided. Some trucks back up along Dietz waiting their turn to enter the plant.
The proposed access road will divert that traffic away from Dietz. “That would be huge. That’s a big improvement,” Giuliani said.
Overall, Giuliani said the Golden Triangle project “has been one of the best experiences of cooperation between the local [governments and] the county. I couldn’t believe some of the meetings where everyone worked together so well. You always hear about bureaucracy and government. These guys did a good job of working together.”
Dale Gebhardt Sr., principal owner of FlexStrut, said the Golden Triangle project “has been a positive to keep people here and stay here and expand.”
Mike Keys, community development director for Warren, said helping industrial areas in Warren and nearby parts of Howland is important because Warren has very little industrial property inside the city limits.
“It gives people who live in the city more job opportunities,” he said.