VIENNA - The board that runs the area's main airport voted Wednesday to join efforts to rejuvenate abandoned industrial land along the Mahoning River and expand economic development into townships.
The Western Reserve Port Authority approved, with one abstention, a motion to contribute $15,000 to the joint venture with the Mahoning River Corridor Initiative already working in Trumbull and Mahoning counties. Board member Don Hanni III abstained.
The authority, which operates the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, will control the venture that includes Youngstown State University, CASTLO, and the Mahoning River Consortium as core members.
CASTLO, a group representing Campbell, Struthers and Lowellville, will contribute $5,000, while cities will continue contributing based on their population, said Sarah Lown, the board's senior director of economic development.
"It's a mountain-moving task,'' she said, noting the effort is the first of its kind for the Mahoning Valley.
Lown said eight projects have been identified, including an attempt by Youngstown, Girard, steel-pipe maker V&M Star and others to make U.S. Route 422 more visually appealing in their area.
Rose DeLeon, the port authority's executive director, said in a statement that "each organization has unique tools and capacities. Integrating these strengths will be an asset in the development of the corridor communities and the entire two-county area."
Dan Mamula, who manages the river corridor initiative, said the groups will work together to seek grants for brownfield and urban core redevelopment.
Port Authority Chairman Scott Lynn said the partnership also will help sustain economic development funding for the board.
The authority also approved development of a strategic plan and an assessment of railroad shipping in the area.
Formalizing a strategic plan is expected to take three months in order to get input from key parties on the group's objectives and strategies for the coming years, DeLeon said.
The board allocated $4,850, plus reasonable expenses, to Keynote Media Group to identify goals and how to meet them, as well as work with nine cities and neighboring townships.
Hanni voted against the motion and Andres Visnapuu abstained.
The plan will be presented to the public before being finalized, DeLeon said.
The board also approved a contract with railroad advocacy group Project RESTORE, providing a maximum of $10,000 for an immediate-needs rail assessment.
The study will identify where rail connections need to be restored so rail service can be used to attract employers, especially oil and gas drilling businesses for shale energy development.