Four years ago I conducted an online survey of Warren and Trumbull County residents, asking for their impressions of Warren. You can read more on the survey here, but in a nutshell, Warren residents had an extremely low opinion of the city, and the impressions of Trumbull County residents were even lower.
I don’t see any evidence that there has been a turn-around since 2011 — especially among county residents. At least a few times a month someone from Howland, Cortland or Champion tells me that they avoid Warren, either because of a lack of things to do here or because of their fear of crime.
I know some of you are asking yourself, “Who cares what they think anyway.” Well, we need to care because each one of them who avoids Warren is a potential customer lost. They are a missed economic opportunity.
Each one of them — and each one of us in Warren, too — are potentially the best salespeople for Warren as a place to live, play and work. If we don’t like our town, and if we don’t stand tall and say so, how can we expect outsiders to think well enough of Warren to invest in its future?
Therefore, the foundation of my economic development plan will be to market Warren, and the fun and interesting things to do here, to ourselves and to our neighbors in Trumbull County; because today we are not taking advantage of our best market — ourselves and those closest to us.
I’ve actually already started. I developed a concept and business plan for a web site and e-newsletter that will list every fun thing to do in Warren — from concerts at the Amp, art shows at TAG, events at PMH, dinner specials at our best restaurants, etc. I took the idea to the Trumbull 100, which agreed to fund it, and then to the Greater Warren Opportunity Network, which agreed to manage it. Clear Choice Creative is now developing the prototype and will soon promote it with cable TV ads. Consumers all over Trumbull County will soon be able to receive a weekly, comprehensive listing of things to do in Warren.
This is just a first step, but we can build on it. This stuff is not rocket science — it is just basic marketing blocking and tackling, but someone has to actually do it; we can’t dream it into existence.
It isn’t expensive either. We can do a lot for free. As Mayor of Warren I will beg my way onto the lunch programs at every Kiwanis, Lions, and Rotary Club meeting out in the county that will have me. I will tell them that violent crime has dropped seven years in a row in Warren and that the crime rate is half of that in Youngstown or Cleveland.
I’ll remind them that nothing compares to a Sunrise Pizza, a BV chicken dinner, a dog from the HDS,or live music at the Lime Tree. I’ll invite them to Champion Day (and Howland Day, etc.) in downtown Warren.
We will cross promote our businesses. When someone attends a concert at PMH we will be sure they get a list of restaurants nearby where they can have dinner after the show.
Will these initiative alone turn Warren around? Probably not, but this is where we have to start — by changing local perceptions. We have to secure our base first.
Warren’s image won’t improve all by itself; we have to work at it, and that is the Mayor’s job to do. I urge you to ask Doug and Enzo to tell you their plans for economic development. You deserve to have that information so that you can make an informed choice.
We can do better.