Thursday, March 19, 2009

two good stories on regionalism in action

While some talk of regionalism is just talk, some chatter actually leads to action.

Take the case of the newly created Mahoning River Corridor Initiative (MRCI). Instead of just the river cities of Youngstown, Campbell, Lowellville and Struthers working together to take former steel mill properties and return them to productive usage, the concept has now been extended to the 9 cities along the 31 mile stretch of the Mahoning River in Ohio that share similar concerns.

MRCI's goals are to target the brownfields along the river for economic redevelopment projects, preservation, and the development of shared recreational areas.

Castlo Industrial Park is a good example of this cooperation, as it has refurbished many of the brick buildings (totaling 563,000 sq ft) at the Youngstown Sheet & Tube's Struthers Works since Castlo was created back in 1978.

At MRCI's meeting on Monday, the organization committed to working on the development of an "east-west rail service would link the Mahoning Valley to Cleveland and Pittsburgh as well as major metropolitan areas such as Chicago and New York.", estimated to be a $30 million project.

According to the Business-Journal's story:
"Proposed projects include construction of roads and bridges that would provide better access to brownfield sites in Struthers and Campbell, infrastructure improvements to the Castlo Industrial Park, environmental assessment and clean up of brownfield sites in McDonald, Girard, Newton Falls and Lowellville, construction of bike trails in Youngstown, Warren and Niles, and establishment of a wetlands bank."

Another story in the Business-Journal chronicles how the 1st in nation Interstate Workforce Region got off the ground.
"The collaborative effort began about a year ago, says Bert Cene, director of the Mahoning and Columbiana Training Association, as the counties looked at how to better link economic and work-force development resources. The designation allows for joint planning, sharing of information and coordination of services among the three counties in northeastern Ohio and the two in western Pennsylvania.

In February 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded the region a $250,000 grant to further the effort. The money funded development of a regional system to provide rapid-response services to dislocated workers, establish a coordinated industry-specific outreach, align educational institutions and training programs to meet the needs of employers, and to seek new employers for the region.

The money also was used to identify strengths and weaknesses of the area and to identify commonalities and obstacles to cooperation, says William Turner, Trumbull County One-Stop administrator.

Right now, the way workforce development dollars come down the channels, Ohio dollars must stay in Ohio and the same holds true for Pennsylvania. “We have many employers who have companies in Pennsylvania and in Ohio, yet we can’t use our workforce dollars to train them in Ohio,” she says. “We’re hoping this takes away those kinds of barriers.”

The federal government likes to see these kinds of regional groups, Garraty says, and such collaboratives are “going to be at the front of the line, at least when it comes to workforce development grants.”

The formal plan is to be presented to stakeholders in the region at a summit planned for April 23 in Sharon, Pa. That plan, which is still being crafted, will include initiatives to jointly market the region for development outside the area."
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