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Sens. Michael Rulli, Sean O’Brien see Valley’s distribution hub potential

YOUNGSTOWN — Lordstown and Jackson Township quickly could become a distribution hub with TJX HomeGoods building in the former and two other major companies looking at the communities, the Mahoning Valley’s state senators said.

“We could become the warehouse capital,” state Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, said Thursday. “It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs.”

It was reported last month that Menards, a home improvement store, filed a permit application with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, with the company looking at sites to build a $50 million distribution center, possibly in Jackson Township. Of the five sites being evaluated, two are in Jackson and one each in Kent, Atwater and Ravenna.

Rulli and state Sen. Sean J. O’Brien, D-Bazetta, said that retail giant Target is in the early stages of looking for a distribution location in either Lordstown or Jackson Township.

The two discussed the potential for Target and Menards after talking at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber’s Lattes & Legislators event at OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.

HomeGoods announced plans more than a year ago to purchase 290 acres of vacant property on Hallock Young Road at Ellsworth Bailey Road in Lordstown. Construction on the $170 million distribution center started earlier this year. The center will employ about 1,000 workers and have an annual payroll of $27 million to $30 million per year.

Rulli and O’Brien said the closing of the General Motors complex in Lordstown was a terrible blow to the area. But they said they’re excited about Lordstown Motors Corp. taking over the idled plant and about Thursday’s announcement that GM and LG Chem, a South Korean company, are investing $2.3 billion in the Lordstown area to mass produce battery cells for electric vehicles.

The two senators are from opposing political parties, but said they have become close allies in working to improve the Mahoning Valley.

“We have a bromance, which I’m pretty happy about,” Rulli said.

Rulli said O’Brien immediately reached out to him after he was elected to the state Senate in November 2018.

“He calls me and says, ‘I see you’re a pretty big moderate, you’re not a wacko,’ and I said, ‘I researched you and you don’t seem like a wacko,'” Rulli said. “We get along.”

He added: “If you put silly politics like they do in Washington into play, nothing will get done. It will be gridlock, and the idea that I would waste four years of my life is unacceptable.”

O’Brien said: “Everyone is working together for the betterment of our area, Democrats and Republicans. That has certainly helped get things done.”

In the state budget approved in July, Valley legislators obtained $4.6 million for the area, including $2 million for dam removals along the Mahoning River, and $1 million each for the Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center and America Makes.

The state’s capital budget will be approved early next year.

O’Brien said there’s about $1.5 million for each state Senate district.

Rulli said funding is being considered for projects at OH WOW!, the Butler Institute of American Art and Stambaugh Auditorium.