WARREN - The opportunity to serve new customers is coming, Warren Mayor Doug Franklin promised owners and operators of several Warren restaurants Tuesday morning.
The key, he said, is to be ready.
Franklin and about a dozen restaurant operators, city and school officials, and the president of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber gathered for a roundtable breakfast discussion, part of a campaign promise from Franklin.
Franklin and Chamber President Thomas Humphries touched on the potential for growth that is anticipated if and when the oil and gas drilling industry begins to take off locally.
"Particularly you restaurant owners are going to see something that we haven't seen for a while. You are going to have a lot of opportunity, a lot of people that are going to be setting up businesses,'' Franklin said. "And with that comes the need to eat. If you have a catering business, there's going to be a lot of opportunity at drilling sites, for example."
Other possibilities for growth discussed included the possibility for Warren to be designated as an entertainment district and potential new traffic to the area that could come with plans for a horse racetrack and video lottery terminals off state Route 46 and I-80 in Austintown.
"With all these people coming into town, they need entertainment," said Mocha House owner Nick Liakaris. "I know there was some discussion. I think that was a great idea."
Franklin expressed optimism that the entertainment district designation will happen.
"We are going to get it done. Unfortunately, government moves slower than business," he said.
Humphries pointed out the importance of local businesses being ahead of the curve in establishing plans to keep customers here and to draw new customers if plans for the Austintown racino come to fruition.
"How do you get a piece of it? How do you attract them to your facility?" Humphries said. "You have got to think about that."
The restaurant operators in attendance listened intently and nodded in agreement.
Still, they expressed some concern with other issues involving how downtown is perceived, including clean streets and panhandlers.
The discussion moved to the possibility of developing a marketing campaign to help improve the image of the downtown area and eateries.
"Part of my challenge, our challenge, is to market our city, our region, in fact," Franklin said. "That feeds into being ready, letting that industry know we are ready and have the best food in the world."
"It's a team effort. The government needs to do their part, no question," Humphries said. "But we have to do our part too."