To market Warren, get house in order

Two cynical possibilities have been mentioned for Warren City Council unanimously supporting a proposed ordinance that expands the availability of a tax rebate for businesses that bring new employees into the city.

One is that members are making a lame attempt at appearing as though they are business-friendly and economically proactive.

The other is that members have a specific business owner in mind, and this will provide that person with favorable treatment at taxpayers’ expense.

One reason for this cynicism is obvious. In the four years since the original tax rebate program was announced, only one business took advantage. With no apparent demand, some wonder why city officials decided to suddenly expand the program.

Then City Council succumbed to Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa and passed the ordinance as an emergency, thus skipping the required three readings. This denied the public an opportunity to provide adequate input into the legislation. No reason was provided, and no emergency appears evident.

Despite eliminating a meaningful vetting process, despite a lack of demand, and even if a specific business might benefit, setting in place policies that create employment enticements should only prove helpful.

The original ordinance, passed in 2010, provided start-up companies that opened in Warren opportunities to receive tax rebates based on the amount of investments made and the number of new jobs created. The change passed last month extends those to already-existing businesses that move into the city from other communities. The size of the rebate depends on the size of the financial investment and the number of employees brought into the city.

It’s unfortunate that Council and Mayor Doug Franklin could not pass this incentive without taking pot shots at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber. Councilwoman Helen Rucker criticized the Chamber’s marketing efforts saying they’re too concentrated on Youngstown, Girard and Liberty rather than Warren. Franklin said he and Niles Mayor Ralph Infante have discussed the need to expand marketing opportunities beyond what the Chamber provides.

Marketing the city, whether done by the Chamber or itself, requires Warren getting its own house in order first. Everybody wants the tax rebate and Chamber marketing to be fruitful, but the city first need to conquer problems with crime, road resurfacing and blight.