Show full support for 1,000 TJX jobs at public hearing


A proposal by TJX Companies Inc. to build a massive distribution center in Lordstown has taken the Mahoning Valley on a herky-jerky roller-coaster ride ever since its initial public announcement three months ago.

The parent company of retail giants TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods lifted the spirits of most village and Valley residents when unveiling its plans to build a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center to service approximately 300 retail stores and eventually employ 1,000 people on several parcels of land in the village.

The news was particularly uplifting as it came in the shadow of a General Motors Co. announcement that it would mothball its second shift at its Lordstown assembly plant and take about 1,500 good-paying manufacturing jobs with it.

Soon thereafter, however, a small but well-organized group of Lordstown residents that opposes rezoning the residential property to industrial use endangered TJX’s plans. Prospects for the project’s realization quickly plunged.

Those prospects plummeted to their lowest level April 20 when TJX announced it was pulling its Lordstown zoning request and considering other sites.

VALLEY UNITES BEHIND PROJECT

But just when all hope appeared lost, a communitywide movement galvanized to show TJX the vast majority of the Valley welcomed the project. That movement hit its height April 29 when more than 600 local residents gathered at Lordstown High School for a quickly organized rally designed to shout out to the company that Mahoning Valley residents, leaders, businesses and organizations overwhelmingly want the project here.

TJX listened. Indeed the company cited that impromptu rally as a major reason for changing its mind about abandoning Lordstown. Since then, optimism and support for the project have heightened.

Most recently, the Ohio General Assembly stood up to be counted by taking action last week to expedite the TJX project. We congratulate state Sen. Sean O-Brien of Bazetta, D-32nd, and other members of the Mahoning Valley House and Senate delegations for adding an amendment to House Bill 292 that gives Lordstown Village and the Trumbull County Board of Elections authority to hold a special referendum vote in August – rather than waiting until November – if residents opposing the project choose to challenge the zone change with a vote by all eligible voters in Lordstown.

The amendment that promotes timely economic development in Lordstown or anywhere in the state while still protecting citizens’ right to referendum clearly strikes a fair balance.

While we continue to discourage such a referendum, it could happen only after a formal vote by Village Council to give final approval to the needed zone change.

PUBLIC HEARING, VOTE ON SATURDAY

The first of three required votes on that change looms large Saturday. Immediately before that vote, however, a public hearing is planned at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Lordstown Village Hall on Salt Springs Road.

We encourage supporters of the distribution center and its 1,000 jobs to show up en masse at the hall to leave no doubt in any council member’s mind that the village in particular and the Valley in general must not snub its nose at the potential for promising economic development from a thriving Fortune 500 company.

And even though we remain sensitive to the anxiety of residents over having a huge distribution center in their backyards, we continue to hope they take a broader view, work with the company that has made several accommodations to them and abandon any and all plans for a referendum.

After all, opportunities of massive commercial investment and large-scale job creation pass our way none too frequently. Indeed Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties have lost nearly 40,000 jobs over the past decade, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Telling TJX, a multinational company with 50,000 more employees than GM, not to build in our backyard not only would derail this promising project, but it would also send a clear message to other would-be job-creating investors that the Mahoning Valley is no welcoming venue to bring any potential new business.

That’s clearly the wrong message for our community to project. That’s also why it remains critical that the TJX Inc. distribution center remain sturdily on track for a potential groundbreaking in Lordstown later this year.

The next step toward that desired end is a strong show of support at Saturday morning’s public hearing in Lordstown.

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