Location, infrastructure, cooperation spur village’s growth

If village leaders were to place a welcome mat along their borders, it just might read: “Lordstown, Ohio, is Open For New Business!”

The message is displayed boldly on the village’s website and is one that Mayor Arno Hill said is being sent out “loud and clear.”

“We’re here. We’re willing to talk. We have a lot to offer, and we’re letting everyone know,” Hill said.

Based on the work taking place in Lordstown, business leaders, developers and real estate professionals have been getting the word and running with it.

Hill said the efforts are paying off as the village, known for its General Motors Corp. Complex, continues to see a steady increase in activity – making it a premiere business and industrial hub.

“It really has become the place to be for a number of reasons,” explained local real estate broker Dan Crouse. “There are company’s that need what Lordstown has to offer and Lordstown is willing to work with those companies. There’s cooperation. There’s communication. It’s a two-way street. You don’t get that everywhere.”

Crouse, along with his partners, brokers real estate deals for the Ohio Commerce Center – one of the village’s many enterprise hot spots. He said that when his clients, brothers George and Spiros Bakeris, purchased the industrial-business park in 2010, about 20 percent of the property was occupied.

George Bakeris has said he and his brother share a vision with village officials that involves bringing jobs to the area.

Crouse said the site’s now “well into the 70 percent range,” hopping with businesses ranging from packaging and wholesale lumber companies to the Anderson-DuBose distribution company.

“What’s happening in Lordstown is exciting for the entire Mahoning Valley. Much of this can be attributed to the foresight and hard work by the Bakeris brothers in redeveloping Ohio Commerce Center,” said Guy Coviello, vice president of government affairs and media for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber.

“The work that RACER has done with GM property has been beneficial too. And of course village officials have helped the process along. We haven’t heard the last of economic development in Lordstown,” Coviello said.

In September, Ontario-based Matalco broke ground for its aluminum billet manufacturing plant at the Ohio Commerce Center along state Route 45. The building is expected to be completed by summer 2015, with one processing line commissioned by November 2015. It should be in full production by early 2016.

Robert Roscetti, director of corporate development for Matalco, has said that once the company narrowed its focus to Lordstown, it never wavered.

But growth hasn’t been limited to the commerce center. For example, earlier this month, RACER – Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust – announced its agreement with Kansas-based NorthPoint Development, which plans to purchase and develop 173.5 acres of vacant industrial property adjacent to the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Plant on Hallock Young Road and state Route 45.

Chad Meyer, NorthPoint president and COO, said plans are to develop the property into an industrial park with a combination of industrial, warehouse and light manufacturing uses. The move is expected to bring up to 1,500 jobs to Lordstown.

“The real system, highway access, infrastructure, that’s already in place. All of those are elements that draw you to a place. When there are people willing to work with you like RACER and Lordstown have, you look closer. We see this as an ideal site for what we plan to do with it,” Meyer said.

Hill said setbacks, such as the decision by Halcon Resources earlier this year to pull the plug on future drilling in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, have been hard to take, but doesn’t cause the work to attract business to stop.

“You just keep moving forward,” Hill sad.

Halcon had announced plans to build a $70 million oil storage and rail-transloading terminal at Ohio Commerce Park but later released a statement that the project was “dependent on the overall development of the northern tier, not just by Halcon, but by other operators in the area.”

Hill said the village still working to wrap up loose ends on the electrical energy center and that there are “other irons in the fire,” but it’s too soon to discuss them publicly.

“One thing that’s true for any venture is that activity breeds activity. When people see activity taking place they ask themselves “do I need to look at this more closely?’ and the answer usually is ‘yes.’ Lordstown is getting a lot of attention right now,” Crouse said. “There’s a lot of activity taking place. I think there’s definitely more to come.”

vshank@tribtoday.com