New Lake To River Region a Game Changer for Valley & Regional Chamber

We have reached a defining moment in our economic future.

Wednesday’s news that our four lake-to-river counties will make up the seventh and final JobsOhio region is a game changer for our entire region. This monumental decision by Gov. Mike DeWine and JobsOhio President & CEO JP Nauseef, something local business leaders have long advocated for, means the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber can greatly redefine its role in economic development by directing more resources toward strategic, transformational initiatives that condition the landscape for future and sustained regional growth.

The timing could not have been better.

The Regional Chamber recognized that the Mahoning Valley, along with the rest of Ohio, reached an economic inflection point in 2020. Over the last four years, we have experienced a startling increase in economic development projects, the completion of many megaprojects in and around the state and other economic indicators that bode well for our future.

Next comes a pivotal step toward driving more economic development to our region. Just like we helped to co-found Team NEO, a highly talented economic development organization that represents the Valley on projects that qualify for JobsOhio programs, we co-founded the Lake to River Foundation, Inc., which will now serve as the Valley’s JobsOhio regional network partner. And, similar to how we work in partnership with Team NEO, we will soon work in partnership with Lake to River, which will receive funding from JobsOhio.

This game-changing shift allows the Regional Chamber and its many partners to shift our focus to continuing to alter the economic development landscape so we can fully capitalize on this generational opportunity for growth.

For example:

We will double down on our talent retention, expansion and attraction initiative focused on keeping our young people here, attracting boomerangers and welcoming newcomers so our population grows, and the workforce and tax base along with it.

We will spearhead efforts to improve the Valley’s image, capitalizing on our unique features like Mill Creek Park, Mosquito Lake and an incredible arts and cultural community that make for compelling first impressions, so more people and businesses realize this is an ideal place in which to live, learn, work and play.

We will offer more assistance to public and private organizations by implementing a Valley-wide housing plan, so we have attractive residential options to absorb population growth. This includes more programs like the homeowner savings accounts we unveiled last year with the state treasurer.

We will assemble new coalitions that enable historically less-resourced individuals who face literacy, financial illiteracy, childcare, eldercare and other barriers preventing them from flourishing as productive employees.

We will form new partnerships with our economic development peers in Western Pennsylvania, with whom we share common assets and similar challenges. This includes a new relationship with Business Iceland, as we provide economic opportunities arising out of Iceland Air’s direct Pittsburgh flights.

Here are some other ways we will help ensure that the Mahoning Valley is the best place in Ohio to do business:

*Increasing advocacy for additive manufacturing technology, which, because of America Makes, gives us a sustainable, competitive advantage for economic development.

*Championing Utica and Marcellus shale exploration so we can use our abundant supply of oil and natural gas to become a world-leading energy center.

*Strengthening our entrepreneurial ecosystem with more support for the Youngstown Business Incubator and BRITE Energy Innovators.

*Targeting tax, regulatory and permitting reform at all government levels for a more favorable economic development climate.

*Pushing for infrastructure improvements, especially high-speed Internet necessary for a modern economy.

*Helping underutilized businesses through our diversity, equity and inclusion initiative.

We will also increase our focus on developing future generations of leaders through Leadership Mahoning Valley, Youth Leadership Mahoning Valley and programs for young professionals. We will increase our focus on helping our non-profit businesses through the new Center for Non-Profit Excellence.

And we guarantee, along with our closest partners — Western Reserve Port Authority, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Valley Partners, Youngstown Foundation and, now, Lake To River — the Valley Vision initiative will succeed. We guarantee that the forward-thinking investment of $2 million from commissioners in Trumbull and Mahoning counties will result in more prosperity and an improved quality of life.


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