By Jordyn Grzelewski
Participants in the Washington, D.C., Fly-in that sent approximately 50 community and business leaders to the nation’s capital this week said the trip succeeded in making federal officials aware of issues affecting the Mahoning Valley.
“I thought it went superbly. I think we made a lot of progress educating our federal officials on our priorities,” said Guy Coviello, vice president of government affairs for the Youngs-town/Warren Regional Chamber, which organized the trip.
As far as outcomes of the trip, Coviello said the chamber will be following up on specific commitments.
“I think a lot of leads that will require follow-ups is what really came out of this, and we will be following up thoroughly and strongly beginning next week,” he said.
The delegation – which included local business leaders, elected officials and representatives of organizations such as the chamber, the Western Reserve Port Authority and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments – went to D.C. to lobby federal officials on three policy issues.
One is bringing a missile defense site to Camp Ravenna, a military training facility in Portage and Trumbull counties. It is one of three sites being considered for the $4.5 billion project that would create an estimated 800 permanent jobs on the site.
Coviello said Portage County Commissioner Sabrina Bennett and Portage Development Board President Bradford Ehrhart, who participated in the fly-in, were instrumental in advocating for that project.
“They were very helpful in explaining the impact that Camp Ravenna would have on Northeast Ohio. The Portage Development Board has been a really important partner all along in this project,” he said.
The delegation had the opportunity to discuss Camp Ravenna with White House staff.
Between Wednesday and Thursday, the group also met with several members of Congress and other executive branch officials.
Another focus of the trip was revitalizing the Mahoning River.
Eastgate Regional Council of Governments has taken the lead on planning some dam removal and restoration projects.
On Thursday, members of the delegation met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler to discuss those plans.
“I thought that mayors Tito Brown [of Youngstown] and Doug Franklin [of Warren], and Eastgate Director Jim Kinnick did a fantastic job illustrating what we need from the federal government for the river,” Coviello said.
Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said he was pleased with how the trip went. He noted there also were discussions about U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD grants for infrastructure and street improvements.
Brown said his office already has followed up and received responses from some of the federal offices where meetings occurred.
“I learned a great deal,” he said. “One of the things we learned is they know about Youngstown. They know about some of the projects we’re working on.”
The trip also focused on the Youngstown Air Reserve Station. The delegation met with Air Force Undersecretary Matthew Donovan.
“I was really happy to hear, unsolicited, the undersecretary commend the progress that is being made in additive manufacturing based in Youngstown. He singled out America Makes and talked about how much additive manufacturing at America Makes is going to be part of the military,” Coviello said.
“We did have some good discussions about the air reserve station, the mission of the aircraft there and the need to upgrade the aircraft.”
The chamber plans to make the fly-in an annual event, which is something other communities such as Cleveland and Columbus have been doing for years.
“Based on how the two days went, there’s no doubt in my mind we will be doing this again in 2019,” Coviello said.
“One of the messages we heard from just about every single federal official we met with was the value of communities doing this. They encouraged us to return to Washington frequently.”