Youngstown’s progress after steel: ‘The transformation is pretty amazing’

Turning Youngstown's former brownfield sites into oases for economic development has brought 7,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in investments

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A man who’s been working for the City of Youngstown since 1980 explained Wednesday how it’s progressed post-steel.

The evening’s second annual town hall meeting focused on what’s happening in Youngstown and oftentimes, looking to the future requires looking to the past.

Dave Bozanich drew from his years of experience to address the crowd. He has been Youngstown’s finance director for 25 years and is the most knowledgeable of how the city works.

“If you look back on our history in terms of where we were at 30 years ago and where we’re at today, the transformation is pretty amazing,” Bozanich said.

He explained how the city first bought all of Youngstown’s old steel mill sites.

“We proceeded to turn those former brownfield sites into economic development oases for the City of Youngstown.”

Those oases include industrial parks that have created 7,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in investments.

“You go to our Salt Springs Road site, we have 26 projects that we did in a period of four years,” Bozanich said.

He was also critical of Campbell and Struthers — Youngstown’s neighbors to the south — for failing to continue the development along the Mahoning River, billed as the “corridor of opportunity.”

“There is no economic development there. It has been a corridor of non-opportunity,” he said.

At its meeting Tuesday night, several Youngstown School Board members were critical of city council’s constant passing of tax abatements — decreases in property taxes. Bozanich called it a bad rap.

“Tax abatements should be given by the school board because they are getting the lion share of the benefit of those tax abatements over a period of time.”

He also talked about water and how in the 1930s, Youngstown paid for the bulk of Meander Reservoir and now is being criticized for selling water at rates much higher than for city residents.

“Somebody wants to complain — a Boardman, or Austintown, or Canfield, for that matter — they have the right to come in and negotiate,” Bozanich said. “When they come in, we say we want part of your income tax for giving you a lower water rate. They say, ‘No thanks,’ and they walk out. Then we have the right to set the water rates where we so desire.”

Bozanich said you can’t do economic development on a small scale — it has to be done in a way that changes the town. He said doing a little bit is just fanfare.

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