Appalachian Basin

V&M Anchors Economic Revival of Route 422

Call it the comeback of the century.  Thanks in large part to Utica shale development, the blue-collar, hard-working, never-say-die Youngstown is making steel again. Folks have heard this over the last two years, but what some might not know is that while the $1.1 billion V&M Star plant is huge, the facility could actually be the anchor for the rebirth and growth of what is being called the Route 422 “Economic Gateway.”

According to this morning’s Youngstown Vindicator, there are several agencies serving the local area that are combining efforts and resources to revitalize this industrial corridor.  They are the Trumbull County Planning Commission, the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, as well as the cities of Girard and Youngstown.  They are sharing information and resources to study the potential growth along U.S. Route 422.

“We want to create an economic gateway off Interstate 80 that will compliment V&M, we want to see other capital investments and other capital businesses.” –Tom Humphries, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber (Study hopes to highlight growth potential along U.S. Route 422, 5/13/13)

The goal is a comprehensive redevelopment plan, which includes an economic research study focused along Route 422. More specifically, the study would assess how a largely industrial landscape adjacent to distressed neighborhoods with vacant lots, blighted housing and high rates of poverty could once again become a vibrant, business-friendly gateway for new and expanding businesses. While some projects have already helped spur new economic growth in the region, such as road widening and bridge improvements, there is much more to do — including taking stock of what land parcels are along the roadway, who owns them and what if anything are they being used for.

Beyond the study, roadway improvements, and new steel mills, it is also sending a strong and clear message about being business friendly.  That’s why it was so important that the ill-advised charter amendment be defeated, sending the message that Youngstown is open for business.

But this is more than just raw economic growth and all of the jobs that come along with those types of investments. It’s a revival of home town pride. It’s a perfect encapsulation of this “knocked down but not out” kind of town.  Youngstown, Girard, Warren and other towns did not get where they are overnight, but rather over time and through hard work.

Ohio’s oil and gas industry has a role to play in this rebirth, too — a big one, in fact.  And again, it’s not just about bringing new jobs to the region, although that’s certainly happened. It’s also about being a good neighbor. For example, BP — which is about to explore its first 10 wells in the area — recently donated food to two Warren food kitchens and gave $50,000 to the STEM programs in Trumbull County.  That’s why such a diverse coalition of groups has embraced responsible shale development in Ohio, and it’s why support for shale development exceeds opposition in Ohio by an astounding 2-1 margin.

Stay tuned for the release and analysis of the economic study of Route 422.

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