GIRARD - Larry Maffitt remembers how his aunt's bar used to be in the 1970s when the steel industry was booming.
"They'd stand three deep around this bar every day," he said.
Kuzman's enjoyed a second heyday while aluminum manufacturer Indalex operated in Girard and employed more than 400 workers, Maffitt said.
"We'd see at least 300 of them daily," he said.
The past three years have been lean, though, since Indalex ceased operations in Girard and only exacerbated poor economic conditions in the fiscally emergent city.
Much of that changed over the past several months, though, as V&M Star opted to expand their Youngstown operation and jumpstarted the surrounding economy, Maffitt said.
"I'm seeing new people every week now," he said. "Iron workers were in here all summer. Now the inside contractors are starting to come in."
Now VAM, a sister company also owned by V&M mothership Vallourec & Mannesmann Tubes, has decided to expand that expansion by opening a pipe finishing plant on the site, a prospect that is exciting for Maffitt and other local business operators.
"When they opened up V&M there, it picked up, so another one just means that much more business," said Chris Costello, a shift manager at Jib Jab Hot Dog Shop. Costello said the construction workers at the expansion site have increased business significantly, often calling in large lunch orders of more than 50 hot dogs.
Costello said Jib Jab recently completed another round of hiring and has brought on 10 additional employees since V&M began the expansion project.
"It'll definitely mean a bigger lunch rush," he said of the new project.
Maffit said he hasn't made any new hires yet but expects he will have to "in the near future."
The VAM pipe finishing plant will be housed in the former sheet and tube building that has been vacant and decaying since 1976. The renovations are set to begin in the third quarter of 2012.
It was in 1976 that current Mayor James Melfi graduated high school and worked in the remaining mills to pay for college.
"It's exciting," Melfi said. "I've seen the area boom when the mills were operating, I've seen the destruction that occurred when they closed, and now I'm seeing the revitalization of the area, at least at this site."
Melfi said the new plant will bring additional income tax revenue from the construction workers who will be hired to renovate the sheet and tube building. The construction income tax revenue represents the bulk of windfall profits for Girard.
The past six months have yielded nearly $50,000 per month in construction tax profits, though November's check paid only around $19,000, Melfi said. The new project will extend the time that Girard enjoys those construction profits, which would have run out upon completion of the new building, leaving the city with only the V&M employees' income tax revenue, he said.
"I think it's great for the area," Belleria Pizza franchise owner Ryan Kelly said of the latest news. "Hopefully it will create a big buzz all up and down 422, from Girard up through Youngstown."
Kelly said his business has seen added value since construction began on the V&M Star expansion and worker trainees now on site are helping to continue the trend.
Girard Treasurer John Moliterno said the city has been awaiting such activity at the site ever since the V&M expansion began.
"What's really interesting is that we're starting to see some of the ancillary V&M companies becoming involved there," he said. "It certainly couldn't be more exciting for those of us in Girard and in the Mahoning Valley.''
Melfi said the V&M project is repairing Girard's economy and drawing new business. Adding to the excitement, he revealed that a Blue Wolf Tavern is set to open up and said the restaurant's owner told him the V&M project is the reason.
"That is exactly what gave them the encouragement to open up in Girard," Melfi said. "The owner told me that specifically."
Melfi said another restaurant is planning to open at the bottom of Trumbull Avenue at State Street in a building that formerly housed a catering business.
"It's really inspiring, and I have to pinch myself sometimes," he said.