Niles council looks to Chamber for economic development help
By Jordan Cohen
A representative of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber discussed the first steps the organization is taking to try to lure business and industry to the city that has no development plan or outreach in place.
“You don’t have a seat at the table because you’re not organized as a community,” said Sarah Boyarko, chamber senior vice president for economic development, during a council roundtable. “We know what companies are looking for, [and] they won’t come here unless we have properties identified.”
Council approved spending $30,000 last February to contract with the chamber to develop the data on available properties and then conduct an outreach. In her first meeting with council since the contract was signed, Boyarko explained that the Chamber has identified 37 properties not listed on a state website and is in the process of mapping them and working on additional information to attract prospective buyers.
“The key to bringing them here is having something to lure them,” Boyarko said. “If you don’t have that information, they won’t waste their time coming here.”
“Nobody’s coming in,” said Michael Lastic, D-at large. “For 10 years, we haven’t gone anywhere.”
One council member, Linda Marchese, D-3rd, was not impressed with Boyarko’s presentation. She said the Chamber should be paying more attention to the downtown area and less to the Route 422 corridor, which has Eastwood Mall and the resources of the mall owner, the Cafaro Corp.
“I thought I would see more by this meeting,” she said as she occasionally shook her head during Boyarko’s comments. “There’s more than 422.”
The comment brought a quick rejoinder from Ryan McNaughton, D-at large, who noted that “it’s only been two months” since the chamber began working for Niles.
“It’s a good start, [and] I’m confident with what I heard,” McNaughton said after the meeting.
Boyarko presented a multifaceted plan that includes site identification with mapping and property description, efforts at government incentives and partnerships for redevelopment. She indicated there is no way to determine how long before the planning gets results, and most of council agreed.
“Anyone who thinks this is going to happen in six months to a year, you’re crazy,” said Steve Mientkiewicz, D-2nd. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Boyarko said the Chamber already has visited 21 businesses in the city and plans to go door-to-door to more of them “to retain and help them grow.”
“This is professionalism,” McNaughton said. “Anything you can do to be professional, you do it.”
Marchese, however, remained skeptical.
“We need you to find owners and tenants for these buildings,” she told Boyarko, who agreed to provide monthly updates to council.
“We have to know where we’re at,” said Barry Steffey, D-4th, finance chairman.
The Chamber’s contract with the city is for one year, and it will be up to council to renew and allocate another $30,000 next year.