Youngstown and Girard finally cemented over a rocky road last month when Girard Mayor James Melfi and Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams signed an agreement transferring 191 acres of Girard property to Youngstown for the proposed V&M Star Steel expansion project.
Following the signing ceremony at the downtown Youngstown offices of the Regional Chamber, officials said they have done all they can and the next step is up to the company.
''This is really, really, a critical date,'' said Regional Chamber President and CEO Thomas Humphries. ''We had to get here to get to the next date.''
Speaking of dates, Williams said that the signing could be remembered someday as one of a series of dates that began the Mahoning Valley's economic turnaround. He contrasted it with Black Monday, Sept. 19, 1977, when Sheet & Tube announced the first round of massive layoffs in the steel industry. He said it was a series of dates that led to Black Monday, and it will be a series of dates that will mark the comeback.
''This date will certainly live in history as far as this is concerned, for both cities and the community,'' he said.
V&M officials have not commented publicly on their plans since last December, but it has been believed they wanted a deal in place as soon as possible so work can begin on getting the site ready before winter closes in. It is hoped they will make a commitment to the local site by the end of the year. The property borders V&M's current plant on U.S. Route 422 in Youngstown at the site of the former Sheet and Tube Brier Hill works. V&M officials were adamant that all the land for the project be located in Youngstown.
Melfi and Williams each thanked their respective councils and said the bumps in the road came because the project is large and complex, costing a proposed $1 billion and spreading over two cities and counties. Melfi said he can not think of another situation in the state where two cities are teaming up like Youngstown and Girard and each gets an equal share of benefits.
''This is a very unique agreement,'' Melfi said. ''This does the trick for us.''
Things appeared to go smoothly until August, when Melfi balked at such a large transfer of land, saying he was against changing the city's borders. Both sides reached a tentative agreement on the transfer Aug. 24 but were held up over how tax revenue from the project should be split, with Girard holding out for a 50/50 division.
V&M has been rumored to be looking at other locations, but Humphries and Regional Chamber Economic Development Director Walt Good each said the local site is on a ''short list'' of sites for the expansion.
If V&M does not go ahead with their plans in Youngstown, the agreement between the two cities calls for a joint Youngstown-Girard industrial park to be constructed on the site.