Come Tuesday, a pool of 2,534 residents of Lordstown will hold all the cards for a project with implications for the 553,324 residents of the Mahoning Valley.
That’s when what may be the final showdown between supporters and opponents of zoning changes to green-light the construction of a proposed $170 million,1.2-million-square-foot TJX HomeGoods regional distribution center in the village will play out.
Many of those 2,500-plus registered voters in the community will go to the polls to mark their ballots to approve with a “yes” vote or reject with a “no” vote the zone changes required to break ground for one of the Valley’s largest job-creating economic development projects in years.
Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., providing ample opportunity for supporters and detractors of the project to register their official say. And though The Vindicator has been a staunch supporter of the HomeGoods development – and the 1,000-plus jobs it projects to create – since its public unveiling six months ago, we urge all eligible voters regardless of their leanings to exercise their privilege.
Election turnout, in general, tends to be small in off-year elections. Fewer than 1 in 4 bothered to turn out in the Valley for this year’s heated primary races for Ohio governor and U.S. Senate.
Turnout for special elections typically sinks to even more dismally low levels, particularly in the summertime when civic responsibilities too easily can take a back seat to personal amusements.
But given the gravity of this vote for the future of the village, in particular, and the Valley, in general, an accurate gauge of community sentiment on the zoning issue should be a priority for all. The greater the turnout Tuesday, the more accurate that gauge will be.
As both sides of the issue claim they have the support needed to advance or kill the project, this is no time for the hackneyed excuse of “my vote won’t matter.”
Lordstown residents need only look to their neighbor to the south for solid recent proof of the importance and impact of each and every vote. In the May 8 primary, only 14 votes of exactly 6,000 cast – or an infinitesimal 0.2 of 1 percent – caused a 3.2-mill police levy in Austintown Township to fall to defeat.
REITERATING OUR SUPPORT
From our perspective, when all of those votes are tallied Tuesday night, we hope the yeas win the day. In several editorials this year, we have expressed our support for the project because of the 1,000 good-paying stable jobs it will create, the corporate responsibility shown by HomeGoods leaders to the community and the deep stain that rejection of the project would cast on future efforts to draw new industry here.
What’s more, one can’t help but view the project as a needed lift in a year of massive job loss in the Mahoning Valley, including 1,500 from the second shift of General Motors Lordstown, hundreds at newly shuttered retailers and now 468 more at the soon-to-close Northside Regional Medical Center in Youngstown.
HomeGoods, for its part, took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s Vindicator to issue a compelling message to Lordstown voters on the eve of Tuesday’s critical special election. In it, the Massachusetts-based retail giant reiterated that the proposed location on Ellsworth Bailey Road is “the only location in the region that met all our criteria” for the proposed warehouse. A no vote will likely send HomeGoods running from the Valley for good.
It also cited the jobs it would create, the opportunities for internships for nearby college students, its pledge of $500,000 for Lordstown Local Schools and its permanent donation of 100 acres as a buffer zone between the center and residential neighborhoods.
It also stated, “HomeGoods has been in business for many years. We are proud of the great relationships we have developed in communities where we have built distribution centers, and are committed to being a good neighbor in Lordstown.”
We hope supporters of the project take Home Goods’ words to heart and demonstrate their faith in the company. First, anyone throughout the Valley can do so by taking part in a rally for the project from 3:15 to 5 p.m. today at the United Auto Workers Local 1714 Union Hall, 2121 Salt Springs Road.
Then on Tuesday, those supporters who also are eligible Lordstown voters can cast ballots for economic growth and progress in their community with positive effects rippling throughout the Valley.