Eastgate provides $100,000 to new Lake to River group

From left, Alexa Sweeney Blackann, interim CEO, Lake to River Economic Development; Jim Kinnick, executive director, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments; and Michael McGiffin, Lake to River’s vice president of engagement and investor relations, with a ceremonial check for $100,000 from Eastgate to Lake to River to support its operations Monday at Eastgate’s downtown Youngstown office.

YOUNGSTOWN — Lake to River Economic Development, the newly formed organization to stimulate business growth and job creation in the region, has received considerable financial support from another agency that performs economic development work.

Eastgate Regional Council of Governments has invested $100,000 in Lake to River, the seventh and final network region of JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development corporation, to help in Lake to River’s mission across Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Ashtabula counties.

“We’re excited to invest and show our support for the Lake to River initiative. We were fortunate a couple of years ago to receive funding from (the) GM settlement, its community investment. We’ve been good stewards of that money,” Jim Kinnick, executive director for Eastgate, said. “We’ve been able to utilize it to leverage for many grants and initiatives in our area, and there is none better than investing here in this Lake to River economic development engine.”

“We wanted to be the first to show our support, and we hope the community and the business community rally behind us and Lake to River,” Kinnick said.

Kinnick on Monday ceremonially presented the money to Alexa Sweeney Blackann, Lake to River’s interim CEO and Michael McGiffin, vice president of engagement and investor relations for Lake to River, at Eastgate’s downtown Youngstown office.

“Eastgate is a leader in our community in economic development and they have been a leader in bringing together good ideas for the sake of good ideas and partnerships because they believe in collaboration, so for them to recognize what we are trying to do, recognize the state of Ohio’s investment, JobsOhio’s investment in these four counties, they know how critically important it is for us to as a community to match those dollars and their investment will help us do that,” Sweeney Blackann said.

McGiffin said the state’s support of the new region is, arguably, the “most significant investment in our region in likely a generation.”

“We have received grants in the past, we have received monetary investment, but in my tenure in working on behalf of the community in economic development, I have never seen a commitment as monumental as a long-term commitment to change the landscape of economic development in our community,” McGiffin said. “I believe it’s because of the historic collaboration this community has embarked on in the last four to five years. Leaders of this community set a stage, a foundation for Lake to River to introduce itself as a new partner, from Ashtabula through Mahoning and Trumbull counties to Columbiana, to thrive.”

Announced April 24 in Niles by Gov. Mike DeWine, Lake to River’s operations are partially funded by JobsOhio, which also will provide services like business, site and talent development, as well as project management.

But, Sweeney said, “a lot of what we do requires financial support from the community at-large,” which is what makes Eastgate’s donation so meaningful.

Eastgate’s contribution is from $2.5 million it was given in 2021 as part of a $12 million settlement between the state and GM, which agreed to invest the money into the Mahoning Valley on education and training, community programs and / or infrastructure. The automaker agreed to the payment as part of a deal with Ohio for breaking tax credit agreements received in 2008 when it closed the former GM Lordstown assembly plant in 2019.

Kinnick said the donation was a “natural fit.”

“We probably have a list of 20 projects we have added funding to. Our commitment was always to leverage it to benefit the communities, and we have been using it as matching funds pretty much all of the time,” Kinnick said.

The Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber already has contributed $500,000 to Lake to River, and about $400,000 is coming from money commissioners in Trumbull and Mahoning counties committed to Valley Vision 2050.

It is an economic development and recovery project. Mahoning County commissioners committed $1 million toward the plan. Trumbull County commissioners also committed $1 million, but guaranteed only half. They agreed to give the rest in mid-2024 if organizers can show progress toward their goals.

The $100,000 from Eastgate “is huge,” Guy Coviello, president / CEO of the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber and Lake to River board member, said.

“It shows the commitment and shows the community is embracing this. I’m very happy to see we’re not the only economic development partner putting skin in the game,” he said.

Have an interesting story? Email Business Editor Ron Selak rselak@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.


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