There may still be a way to keep HomeGoods here

We could well be grasp- ing at straws, but our reading of the statement issued Friday by HomeGoods suggests the national company hasn’t slammed the door on locating a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center in the Mahoning Valley.

HomeGoods, a division of TJX Companies Inc., said it is “reconsidering” its options for the $160 million project that holds out the promise of 1,000 jobs.

So long as there’s a sliver of hope that the Valley is still in contention, the public and private sectors should make HomeGoods an offer it can’t refuse. In other words, this region must do whatever it takes to land the project.

It’s foolhardy for anyone to believe there’s another prospect champing at the bit to bring hundreds of jobs here.

Indeed, the loss of two shifts at General Motors’ Lordstown assembly plant has cast a huge shadow over the region. With more than 2,000 highly paid workers affected, the Valley’s economy is taking a major hit. It is, therefore, inconceivable we would let HomeGoods slip through our fingers.

But that could well be the outcome if the resistance by a group of residents in Lordstown ends up defining us.

The public battle waged by individuals who have homes in the vicinity of the 290-acre site along Ellsworth-Bailey Road forced the company to reassess its decision to come here.

We are not insensitive to the anxiety of residents over having a huge distribution center in their backyards, but we wish they had taken a broader view.

The region would not now be staring economic disappointment in the face had the opponents put the best interest of Lordstown, in particular, and the Mahoning Valley, in general, ahead of their own self-interests.

The residents should have continued working with the company to safeguard their properties rather than take a hard line on the rezoning of some residential parcels for industrial use.

Vote of the people

They made it publicly known that they would seek a vote of the people if the changes in zoning were approved.

The threat of a referendum prompted HomeGoods to withdraw its zoning application for the seven parcels of residential land.

While we are clinging to the vagueness of the company’s announcement, we are well aware of the reality that a small group of people was able to affect this area’s future economic well-being.

We urge them to reconsider their opposition and to work with HomeGoods on a compromise.

At the same time, political and community leaders should step up their involvement and identify other sites that meet the company’s specific needs.

It’s natural to point the finger of blame at government when a project of this economic significance fails to materialize. However, it is important to point out that the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber has worked with HomeGoods for more than a year and has played the role of facilitator with regard to the company’s selection of a site.

Indeed, chamber officials told Vindicator editors and writers recently that nondisclosure agreements prevented a public discussion of the project until the company made an official announcement.

Such secrecy, while standard procedure in most economic-development negotiations, became a point of contention for Lordstown residents directly affected by the project.

Now, however, with all the cards on the table, business, political and community leaders should take it upon themselves to let HomeGoods officials know they are ready, willing and able to find a solution to the site problem.

There are other large parcels of land that could accommodate the distribution center, but the company seems committed to the Lordstown site.

Congressman Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and other political leaders, including Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill, have made it clear they will provide whatever government assistance the company needs to make the project of this magnitude a reality for the Valley.

Business leaders who have worked with TJX Companies Inc. or its subsidiaries should use those contacts to impress upon the decision-makers that the people of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties won’t take “no” for an answer.

This region cannot afford to give up 1,000 jobs in the midst of GM’s retrenchment at its Lordstown complex.

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