NILES - City Councilman Stephen Papalas is encouraging an all-out effort to encourage city officials, businesses and residents to help attract new jobs and residents who are expected to be moving to the area because of Marcellus and Utica shale exploration.
"I believe we should make preparations for the possibility of a gas and oil energy boom here in southern Trumbull County," Papalas said during Wednesday's council meeting.
The councilman suggested the city find out which out-of-state title companies are doing searches and approach them to work with local title companies.
"Let's get together with our landlord associations and Realtors to help them contact the major energy companies," he said. "We can thus entice those energy companies to use available housing here in Niles, as well as the surrounding regions."
Columbiana County Commissioner Jim Hoppell told Papalas that sales tax revenue in that region already has risen by more than $1 million over the last year due in part to sales of vehicle and other merchandise to employees of natural gas exploration companies.
"To date, only six well permits have been issued, but hundreds more are in the near future in Columbiana County," Papalas said.
Emphasizing some of the strengths that Niles has over Columbiana County, Papalas said the Eastwood Mall and its other commercial districts will be beneficial to new workers and residents.
"We have excellent school systems throughout our region, a large pool of workers who are looking for good jobs, and an airport that can use more business," Papalas said. "We offer ample opportunity for leisure activities including a minor league baseball stadium, a one-of-a-kind municipal swimming pool and a brand new wellness center."
The councilman is proposing that the city work with surrounding communities to gather information that will entice businesses, industries and potentially new workers.
"We need a well thought out plan so that Niles, southern Trumbull County and northern Mahoning County can be prepared to revitalize the Mahoning Valley," Papalas said.
Mayor Ralph Infante said his administration will reach out to companies before the end of the year. Infante said the city offered General Motors workers breaks on housing if they stayed in the area for a set number of years.
"Perhaps we could do the same," he said.
Warren Mayor-elect Doug Franklin says he agrees with the concept that Trumbull County must be sold as a region.
"Companies don't recognize political boundaries," Franklin said. "It is imperative that we work together and pool all of our resources. We must create the best package we have and let all the companies know we are open for business."
Franklin said what is good for the region will be good for individual communities.
McDonald Mayor Glenn Holmes said the Mahoning River Mayor's Association has been working to identify mutually advantageous qualities that will help attract new businesses to the area.
"The mayor association is highly encouraged with collaborative initiatives," Holmes said.
Lordstown Mayor-elect Arno Hill says the owners of the Ohio Commerce Park are working hard to attract companies that are associated with the Marcellus and Utica shale.
"If we get approached we will do whatever we can to attract employees," Hill said. "We are willing to work with other communities."