Trumbull proposals don’t make USDA list

Six NE Ohio bids make the cut

WARREN — Six communities in Ohio remain in contention for a possible branch office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

None are in Trumbull County, but all are within an hour’s drive.

The latest list from the USDA of communities that expressed an interest for one or both of the offices excludes proposals from the Western Reserve Port Authority, Howland and Warren for the Old Avalon Golf Course on East Market Street and from the Cafaro Company for its Enterprise Park development near the Eastwood Mall.

“It’s too bad — we would have welcomed USDA on the campus here,” said Joe Bell, Cafaro Company spokesman.

The USDA received 136 expressions of interest from parties in 35 states for the relocated offices after U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced in August plans to move the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture offices and most of their employees outside the Washington, D.C., region by the end of this year.

The office released a “middle list” Tuesday of 67 communities still in the running. It includes the half dozen remaining in Ohio — Akron, Geauga County, Middlefield, Twinsburg, Streetsboro and Portage County.

“The announcement of this middle list shows that we are committed to the important missions of these agencies and transparency in our selection process. USDA will make the best choice for our employees and customers,” Perdue said in a news release.

For the initial cutdown, USDA applied several criteria to the expressions of interest, including USDA travel requirements, labor force statistics and locations with work hours most compatible with USDA office schedules.

Also applied were workforce, costs, quality of life and logistics / information and technology infrastructure.

The local projects were rejected because they did not meet one or more of the requirements. The Cafaro Company also had a submission in Fredericksburg, Va., that did not make the cut.

Anthony Trevena, economic development director with the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, an arm of the Western Reserve Port Authority, said he is not discouraged by the news.

“We’re going to keep on trying with our partners at Eastgate, our academic partners and Chamber of Commerce,” Trevena said. “When there is another project like this, like TJX, Amazon, we are going to keep trying. That is our job.”

He remains hopeful for the remaining communities because of their proximity to the Mahoning Valley.

“These are the kinds of jobs people live in other communities and commute to. If Akron or Portage County would get this, it absolutely benefits the Mahoning Valley,” Trevena said. “When there is a good job, there is a direct correlation to the distance people will drive to get to work.”

Three of the six in Ohio — Akron, Streetsboro and Portage County — are in the 13th U.S. Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, sent letters of support for all of the proposals within the district, said his spokesman Michael Zetts.

“The congressman would love nothing more than all the applicants to make the down-select, and he feels they all are deserving based on the merits of their submittals. However, the selection process is strenuous and competitive, but that shouldn’t take away from the vision and resourcefulness taken by the organizations who attempted to land these federal agencies back here in Ohio,” Zetts said.

The USDA gives numerous reasons for wanting to move the headquarters out of Washington, D.C., including to be closer to the region of the country that is focused on agriculture, to attract and retain staff who are qualified and interested to work in agriculture, to be near the universities that offer programs that focus on the industry and offer a cheaper cost of living to employees, according to the department.

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