YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The new City Club of the Mahoning Valley held its first panel discussion on economic development Wednesday night at Stambaugh Auditorium.
Over 300 people attended the event organized by the group of local community members who started this City Club chapter.
The chapter’s purpose is to serve as a non-partisan forum for open debates and an exchange of ideas.
The idea for the group was sparked by a conference in Cleveland that founders of the Mahoning Valley club attended last year.
“What we noticed in all of our conversations with these really great, engaged, interesting people was that they all had the City Club in common,” said organizer Tim Francisco.
He believes the club will bring connections, partnerships and projects to build on the new energy and innovation the area is experiencing.
Their focus for Wednesday’s panel was on everything the Mahoning Valley has to offer and how to improve residents’ quality of life.
The panel featured former Youngstown mayor and U.S. Secretary of Economic Development Jay Williams, Senator Capri Cafaro, Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel and Executive Director of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce Tom Humphries.
Williams says that, from a federal standpoint, the Valley is in the perfect position for economic development.
“There is no community that has seen economic devastation…for a more prolonged period of time than we have here in the Valley, but here we’ve also seen the modernization and evolution of economic development.”
Cafaro echoed that point while talking about the public private partnership.
“We need to understand that investment in education at all levels is an incredible component because that’s going to help us, and it’s going to help us attract that investment for quality jobs and professions.”
Tressel talked about the important role and responsibility the university has, not only in Youngstown, but in the Valley as well.
“Our major responsibility is the collaboration with everyone in terms of finding the way to, inch by inch, get better and better.”
The general public was invited to the forum, which included a dinner and question and answer session. Admission was $30.
The inaugural season of panel discussions will run through December, and organizers are already busy planning for next month.
In October, the discussion will revolve around Ohio presidential politics, and feature political reporters from around the state and YSU political science professor Paul Sracic.
Then in November, Marilyn Geewax from National Public Radio will talk about what the newly elected president’s platform might signal for the local and national economies.