Work to develop ARP plans with regional impact | News, Sports, Jobs


We understand why we have seen millions and millions of dollars that have been given to our region in the form of US bailout funds allocated in small installments to put out fires that have been going on for some time.

It’s easy to focus on the short-term needs or wants of a community — here and now.

At this rate, however, the funds will soon run out and, in the long run, we won’t have much to show for it. That is why we must approach these allocations with broader visions, otherwise the great potential will have been lost.

Youngstown, which is expected to receive some $82 million in ARP funds, recently voted to allocate $14 million for council members to spend on projects in their neighborhoods. Now residents and elected officials plan to use it for efforts such as repairing sidewalks, helping nonprofits, and beautification projects.

Other Mahoning County subdivisions are talking about using the funds for things like curb and gutter repairs, police training and equipment like radios and stun guns, and even a ‘thermal drone’ in a township.

Now, let’s be clear. We understand the importance and value of each of these projects.

Yet we wonder if these are the best uses for unique funds that could be truly transformational for our valley.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with day-to-day details and forget to look up to see the bigger picture. But that’s the job of community leaders!

These expenses cannot really be the greatest vision of the elected officials of our Valley to transform our region! Frankly, we haven’t seen any allocation of local ARP funds yet, which has made us excited about the impact this will have on the future of our Valley.

The good news is that it’s not too late to implement a cohesive regional plan that can do just that.

This is an opportunity to leave a legacy of thinking big, instituting meaningful – truly impactful – change in our region using quarter billion dollars – billion, with a “B” – local ARP funds.

We should be thinking about long-term strategic economic development plans.

If neighborhoods are a bigger goal, why do we think of sidewalks and beautification projects? We should think like visionaries.

Why not consider erecting community centers for our young people to use during the summer or after school, where they could gather for wholesome group activities or even tutoring on classroom assignments? Such development could be particularly useful in high crime areas.

As we have said before in this space, the elected leaders of our counties and all local municipalities and townships should work together. Cooperation among all business, union, community and government leaders should have been the first thing to think about.

There should also be conversations with local school districts to develop plans to help young people in our area – they are our future in the truest sense of the word.

Of course, local economic development agencies such as the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Western Reserve Port Authority, or others should be involved in plans that would not only benefit their

subdivisions but eventually the entire Valley.

The narrow views and parish plans we have seen so far on the allocation of these funds might help maintain our current needs, but they will not help our region evolve to a new level.

Regional growth requires an open mind, a broad vision and a cooperative approach.

It is not too late.

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