Appalachian money will lead to a brighter future in Valley

On May 9, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state was investing $14.2 million into transformational economic development projects in Trumbull and Mahoning counties as part of the state’s Appalachian Community Grant Program.

In December, the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments was the lead applicant for $155.7 million worth of projects for investments in downtown and riverfront revitalization, health care and workforce development in the lake-to-river counties of Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana.

So, to say the least, there was disappointment throughout the Valley when the grant amount was announced. There was hope that funds would be given for more than 40 projects spread throughout the four counties. However, only six projects in Mahoning and Trumbull counties were funded and $5.4 million was announced for projects in Ashtabula County.

To put it into perspective, there were about $2 billion worth of requests for funding through the $500 million Appalachian grant program, according to DeWine. The $14.2 million awarded to the Valley was part of more than $51 million given to 18 communities in 10 counties through Ohio’s Wonderful Waterfronts Initiative, which is part of the Appalachian grant program.

This newspaper can understand the disappointment as a major influx of additional grant money — on top of the American Rescue Plan funds that have been used to propel area projects forward since the pandemic — could have been life-changing. However, the six projects funded by the awarded money can still help the Valley take a step in the right direction as it’s a “true investment in the quality of life for people” in the region, according to Jim Kinnick, executive director of Eastgate.

All of the funded projects will bring a different element to the Valley and allow residents to improve their lifestyle by getting out and experiencing the area in a new way. For example, the $4.3 million awarded to the Mahoning Avenue Corridor Revitalization Plan will go toward a new pedestrian bridge that spans the Mahoning River from downtown Warren to Perkins Park. Burbank, Packard, Perkins and Bullhead parks will also be improved with refreshed streetscaping, new sidewalks to connect the parks and wayfinding signage.

Another $3.5 million will go toward building a boat launch in the downtown area of Niles and the final $372,746 awarded in Trumbull County will fix embankment loss on the Western Reserve Greenway bicycle trail at Baughman Creek Bridge in Bristol.

Then, in Mahoning County, three projects were funded — Lowellville Riverfront Park, Spring Commons Park and Struthers Community River Launch — that will improve areas around the Mahoning River, allowing for easier access for exercise by kayak, canoe, paddle boarding or any other river activities.

According to Struthers Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller, the funds will help improve their current kayak launch, but it will also contribute to their goal of attracting new people to the area.

“We want it to be a destination point for tourism,” she said, and we believe that should be the goal.

Funding these types of projects and improving areas around the Valley should be about attracting new people to the area, along with drawing new workers. Established companies such as Foxconn and Ultium Cells, and new companies like Kimberly-Clark and Graphite One, will be looking for new employees — and these projects can be used as a selling point.

We believe these funds will also help push projects, such as the redevelopment of the peninsula in Warren, forward. The peninsula is a piece of land along West Market Street that the Mahoning River wraps around, and it is largely vacant and prime for redevelopment.

The Mahoning Avenue River Corridor Revitalization Plan will connect the peninsula, which is set to be redeveloped for mixed-use residential, commercial and cultural, to the downtown area, making it more appealing for young professionals. So the plan is another attractive piece for the peninsula redevelopment.

So while we understand the disappointment the lack of more grant funds brings, we believe the funds that were awarded also can lead the Valley into another bright chapter, and they should be appreciated appropriately.



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