Read This Book


Atlantic Magazine writers, and husband and wife, James and Deborah Fallows spent four years and traveled more than 100,000 miles, visiting dozens of smaller American cities trying to find the other story.  We all know the main story: America’s small cities are failing, often spectacularly. Youngstown is often used as a prime example; Warren usually gets spared by being too small and too close to be used as a second example.

The Fallows set out looking for cities that had suffered a serious blow — usually economic, like the disappearance of an entire industry. They visited nearly 50 cities for a minimum of a few days each, and sometimes for weeks at a time. They visited several of them multiple times and interviewed as many community leaders, and regular folks as they could.

The result of their epic journey and insightful reporting is: “Our Towns. A 100,000 Mile Journey Into the Heart of America.” This is the book for those of you who think the media only looks for bad news. “Our Towns” is jam packed with examples of what’s going right in America’s smaller cities. 

This topic has fascinated me since I began writing Warren Expressed in 2011; I’ve read extensively on the topic and nothing has given me more hope for the future of Warren than this book. And it is like medicine that tastes good. It’s good for you. You’ll learn a lot from it, but it’s like eating chocolate chip cookies as you breeze through visits to the spiritual American heartland, from Greenville, South Carolina to Chester, Montana, to Erie, Pennsylvania, to Riverside, California, Bend, Oregon, Duluth, Minnesota and many more places between.

What makes this book chocolate chip cookies and not a bowl of Brussel sprouts, is the power of great story telling. There are some statistics in “Our Towns” but they’re only there to advance the narrative. The Fallows split up in each city and visited business and government leaders, school administrators and scores of “local patriots” who simply refused to allow their community to sink into oblivion.

These are towns that fought back and won — or at least are winning more battles than they are losing. They work together. They allow their creativity to flower. They take chances. They welcome new comers. They look to the future, not to the past.

These are the cities we should emulate. These are the stories of success and leadership we should tell each other. These are stories of the people and places that prove we can do it too.

“Our Town” ends with a handy list of the “10-1/2 Signs of Civic Success” they learned in their travels. It is worth the price of the book alone. And take heart; number 10-1/2 is: “A city on the way back will have at least one craft brewery.” That’s now a check mark for Warren.

If you’d like to know more, CBS recently ran a profile of the book and its authors; there is also a web site for the book.

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Lordstown Ralley for TJX


About 500 people gathered at Lordstown high school’s stadium today in support of the TJX distribution center project. There were about 10 or so elected officials led by Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill and Congressman Tim Ryan (right). The speeches were short and pretty good.

Arno focused on the economic benefits. The land in question currently generates about $7500 per year in Taxes while TJX is expected to pay the school system about $250,000 in in kind payments.

The crowd favorite was Harvey Lutz, the local farmer who owns the land. Harvey became an instant folk hero when he promise to start raising hundreds of thousands of chickens on the land that is already zoned agricultural, if TJX is driven away.

There were only a handful of people there opposed to the development. One carried a sign reading “TJX: Ruining Retirees Lives.” It must be tough working 40 years or so thinking you were going to get to retire next to an automobile factory and suddenly discovering you’ll have to live next to a warehouse, instead.

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Population loss continues


Population loss continues to be the number 1 problem for Warren and Trumbull County. Probably about half the county loss came from Warren. The following article is reprinted from the April 1, 2018 edition of the Tribune, with their permission.

Exodus continues

Trumbull and Mahoning counties see sustained population decline

Tribune Chronicle / Paris Chrisopoulos

Trumbull County has seen a population decline of nearly 10,000 people since 2010, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Between April 2010 and July 2017, the county population dropped from 210,312 to 200,380 — a loss of 9,932 people.

Trumbull County is one of 60 of Ohio’s 88 counties — including Mahoning County — that saw population declines in that period. Mahoning County lost 9,027 people, the data states.

The most recent numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau deal with county population statistics and do not break down the numbers by individual community. The data also doesn’t address reasons for population changes.

Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said the face of the Mahoning Valley has been changing for quite some time because of the loss of industry. There is no easy solution or quick fix, Cantalamessa said.

“We are trying in the process to redefine ourselves as an area and move away from that Rust Belt mentality and into a more technical jobs focus,” Cantalamessa said.

However, Trumbull County may be experiencing “brain drain” like much of the rest of the state, with young people going to college and not returning to the area, Cantalamessa said. The solution to keeping grads in the area is to provide good jobs with good pay, he said.

“We need to make sure we’re providing an environment that’s conducive to (college graduates) staying,” he said. “We have to provide the infrastructure and the environment for those jobs to flourish. That’s our job.”

Other factors also play into it, Kim Calvert, vice president of marketing and events for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, said.

“We attribute the continuing decline in population to the fact that we do have an aging population, and the death rate is higher than the birth rate,” Calvert said. “But outmigration is playing a role, too.”

From 2010 to 2017 there were 8,616 more deaths than births, with 44,683 people dying in Trumbull and Mahoning Counties in that time compared to 36,067 births, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.

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Fund for Warren’s Future makes first grant


The Fund for Warren’s Future to finance Youngstown Road Revival Project

(Warren, OH February 6, 2018)

The Fund for Warren’s Future (FWF) today announced its first grant for a project to help revitalize Youngstown Road. The grant of $20,000 is being made to Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership (TNP) to support a project to promote investment opportunities and entrepreneurialism on Youngstown Road in the city of Warren.

Thanks to federal and state grants obtained by city of Warren engineer Paul Makosky,  the city is investing $4.1 million to rebuild the road, including a new road surface, new sidewalks, ADA ramps, and sewer drains between Laird Avenue and Ridge Road. The work began last fall and is expected to be completed in October 2018. TNP’s efforts are meant to lay a foundation for economic development that takes advantage of the city’s investment.

Warren Mayor, and FWF Board member, Doug Franklin says, “This project will transform one of the worst streets in the city into one of the nicest. More than 12,000 cars travel this stretch of Youngstown Road every day, and it will soon be a pleasure to do so.”

The TNP project will include a complete survey of buildings on the target portion of 422 along with details relevant to potential investors. TNP will also survey residents living near the street, asking them what types of services they would patronize if they were available to them. Current business on Youngstown Road will also be invited to participate in a separate research project to identify additional steps that might restore the street to its former position as a major commerce corridor.

The data from this research, as well as maps, and information on resources available to investors from local governments, will be compiled into a marketing book which will be distributed to entrepreneurs, developers and other potential investors, as identified by the research results.

TNP Executive Director Matt Martin says, “The health and economic vitality of this street affects several neighborhoods in important ways. A key element of TNP’s work is to be sure that it’s done in consultation with the people who live there. We think the market research will be very valuable; we value the input of the residents most concerned with Youngstown Road’s future and will seek it out in a variety of ways.”

FWF Board member Sam Covelli stated, “We felt that this project made sense, in part, because it leveraged a large investment already being made in the city,” and fellow Board member Anthony Payiavlas added, “We were impressed with TNP’s track record in doing this type of work and the professional credentials they bring to the project.”

The marketing report is expected to be completed and distributed in November this year.

The Fund for Warren’s Future was created in November 2017. The initial capitalization of $100,000 was through a transfer of $50,000 made from the city of Warren’s economic development fund, which was endorsed by a unanimous resolution of Warren City Council. That contribution was matched by $50,000 donated jointly by AVI Foodsystems, whose President and CEO is Mr. Payiavlas, and by Mr. and Mrs. Sam Covelli.

The fund is maintained by the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. FWF’s mission is to support projects that lead to economic development in the city of Warren.

Those interested in contributing to the fund, or in seeking a grant from it, should visit the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley web site:

For more information please contact FWF administrator:

Dennis Blank


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Last night in Council


I skipped the regular City Council meeting last night, but went to the caucus prior to the meeting to listen to Mr. Herb Washington ask Council for a resolution supporting his application to run a licensed marijuana dispensary in Warren. Mr. Washington is a very polished speaker, and a successful businessman who owns 26 McDonalds restaurants. He is applying for licenses to grow, process, and dispense marijuana products through a separate business entity, Quest Wellness LLC. Each of these three steps in the product distribution chain requires a difference license, and Washington feels confident that he will win at least one, in part because of set asides for minority owned businesses; 15% of dispensary licenses will go to minority or woman owned firms.

He told the room that Ohio is going to approve 60 dispensaries for the state, and that two will be in Ashtabula, Mahoning and Trumbull County. He expects a dispensary to empty about 50 permanent employees. His son Terrell, who was also there last night will run Quest. Terrell has been working in the family’s food business.

Washington said he plans to “give back” up to 5% of his profits to “the community.” He also estimated that once the business is up a running that it would pay an average of about $1.3 million per year in state and local taxes. This would imply that the business would be netting in excess of $20 million per year. Council passed the resolution.

All of the statements of fact in this post are quotes from Mr. Washington; I’ve made no attempt to verify them independently. Also, Washington is semi-famous; you can read about him on his Wikipedia page.

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