Valley unions gearing up for building boom

Ironworkers, Youngstown Local 207, working for Leetonia Steel Contractors LLC, rig the 26,000 pound structural steel I-Beam to be lifted by Diamond Steel Construction Company of N. Lima using its 120-ton crane...By R. Michael Semple

WARREN — Leaders of skilled trades unions in the Mahoning Valley say they’re ramping for projects throughout 2024 and beyond.

“Right at this particular moment, we’re a little bit slow,” said Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 Business Manager Marty Loney. “But we have several different projects coming up.”

At Trumbull Energy Center, a more than $1 billion natural gas-fired power plant that’s under construction in Lordstown, Loney said, “We’ll probably have 50 or 60 fitters out there” in the next few months.

Another large project, but one that’s still in the wings, is an expected manufacturing plant at the former Republic Steel site in Trumbull County. Kimberly-Clark, a Fortune 200 company that makes consumer products under brands like Kleenex, Cottonelle, Huggies, Kotex and Depend, purchased 560 acres at the site in December for $9.9 million from the Western Reserve Port Authority.

“That one is probably going to see heavy construction in 2025, when they start clearing land, once they get approval from their board of directors,” said Loney, who also is chairman of the port authority board.

A project that is providing good work to skilled trades is the new wellness

/ recreation center at Warren G. Harding HIgh School. The $36.1 million, 120,000-square-foot facility is expected to be completed this year.

Tony DiTommaso, financial secretary for the Western Reserve Building Trades and senior representative for the Central-Midwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said the Mercy Health-Lifepoint Behavioral Hospital project is “coming along pretty well.

The 75,000-square-foot facility is being constructed on Belmont Avenue in Liberty.

“And Briarfield is putting that assisted living location in Columbiana County. That is moving along pretty well. So, there’s a lot going on, and we’re looking to see more of it toward the end of the year,” he said.

As for two proposed industrial parks, one, the North Jackson Commerce Park on Mahoning Avenue and West Warren Development at the former Westlawn neighborhood in Warren, DiTommaso said, “We’re hoping to see some shovels in the ground there.”

“And also for the new gate out at the 910th Airlift Wing, more work out at the airport, we’re hoping to see all that stuff moving,” he said.


The demand for carpenters, electricians, pipefitters, operators and other trades is steady, which is why the unions have expanded their recruitment efforts over the past 10 years. While baby boomers continue to retire, vacant roles are being filled more frequently by young professionals in construction.

DiTommaso, also financial secretary for Carpenters Local 171 in Youngstown, said, “There’s a steady flow of work,” for the trades in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, “but we’re happy to see more interest from the younger members of our Valley.”

DiTommaso said the trades are trying to grow their apprenticeship program by working with the educational service centers in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, and there were positive results from a trades career fair last September at the Canfield Fairgrounds.

In recent years, DiTommaso said the United Brotherhood of Carpenters uses CareerConnections, adopted by many schools, as a pre-apprenticeship program.

“They use the curriculum to get them credits toward graduation,” DiTommaso said. “But it also helps us find those students with the soft skills necessary to get started in our apprenticeship programs.”


Jesse Wright is the business representative for Sheet Metal Workers Local 33 Union in Youngstown.

“Our workforce is somewhat aging, and we’ve seen a lot of retirements over the last few years, coupled with larger projects in the area,” Wright said. “So, there is more opportunity for us to take apprentices and other skill workers out there.”

The union has had about 15 retirements over the last few years, but it tries to attract 10 to 20 apprentices per year.

“It’s just kind of a domino effect in a positive direction, for HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) as well,” Wright said. “We’re a multi-faceted craft. We do commercial and residential HVAC, and we also do any architectural residential sheet metaling. And one of the things that is unique with the sheet metal workers is that we make everything ourselves.”


Cody Hilliard, business manager of IBEW Local Union 64 in Youngstown, said electricians in the area are looking forward to health care facility work “in various locations.”

Hilliard said the two Mercy Health-Lifepoint projects in Liberty are important projects they are looking to help complete. The Mercy Health Behavioral Health Hospital has not begun construction yet, he said, while the Mercy Health Rehabilitation Hospital is on its way to the finish line.

“One is in the process of setting the steel, and the other hasn’t started, but I expect them to be ramping up in the summer, and then you always have the retail and commercial,” Hilliard said.

Hilliard, business manager since October 2023, said he expects the behavioral health location to begin building in the spring.

As for staffing, Hilliard said, “We’re not suffering from any issues.”

“We’ve just begun interviews for next year’s apprenticeship class, and we have a good number of applicants every year,” he said. “We are continuing to be able to supplement our outgoing workforce with new incoming workforce,” Hilliard said.

Investments in trade instruction from the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center has “substantially built up the program,” so the amount of people graduating with an interest in the electricians program is growing, Hilliard said.

“Just like with any industry and employer, we’re vying for the best and brightest,” he said. “We’re continuing to make sure that we get our name out there, whether it be at career fairs and what not, that’s a part of the biggest things we can do to continue our successes moving forward.”


Brian Wydick, field agent for Operating Engineers Local 66 of Youngstown, said the work scope for operators throughout the Valley “seems to be pretty busy if everything kicks off.”

“Especially the Kimberly-Clark paper mill, and then with road and bridge work, this is starting to be our busier part of the year, from April 1 through Thanksgiving,” he said.

Operators are also working on several other projects, including a new Mercy Health Rehabilitation Hospital on Belmont Avenue that broke ground last year, an Aldi’s in Canfield, Discount Drug Mart in Columbiana and an expansion at Millwood, Inc. in Vienna.

“We’re always appreciative of the private businesses that are utilizing the trades,” Wydick said.

Have an interesting story? Contact Daniel Newman by email at dnewman@tribtoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribDNewman.


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