Tip of the Spear in Youngstown, Ohio Revitalization

Youngstown, Ohio like so many other boom towns in America contributed its success to the countries hunger for quality steel. Youngstown gained the rank of the third largest steel producer in the country hitting its high-water mark during the 1970’s. As steel production grew so did the city’s population and infrastructure until the day that will live in Ohio history forever: September 19, 1977. The day the last of the steel production the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company closed forever putting 5,000 workers out of a job. The once, “Too big to fail,” steel giant had succumbed to what one can only guess were rising operational costs and foreign steel competition.

Furthermore, with the city’s entire local economy centered on the production of steel, Youngstown went into a tailspin unable to stop the free fall into poverty, crime, and drugs. For the next twenty-odd years, the country, as well as many of the residents, had surrendered to the ideology that Youngstown was lost, a mere shadow of its former self with large industries other than service and retail moving into the Valley. Youngstown had little hope for recovery.

What Youngstown needed was a plan of recovery, a strategy to inspire those who had lost hope in the city. Reaching out across generations and bringing the residents together to the common good of the city, the neighborhoods, and families.

“The residents have been mourning the loss of the steel mills for some twenty years; the time for mourning is over.” Mayor Jay Williams said in a recent interview in his modestly furnished, but tasteful office. One might have expected his office to a bit more…reflective of the position. However, the mayor’s choice in decor reflected the tastes of someone who is more interested in doing the city’s business than impressing. Williams, a native of Youngstown, a graduate of the local university, and second-term mayor brings to the table experience in the individual BA industry which gives him a unique perspective on the realities of trying to run a city in today’s economic climate.

This, in turn, led me to the next question, “How is the city specifically able to continue to move in the direction of progress in spite of the economic conditions of the country?” The mayor enthusiastically answered in two parts.

In addition to his banking experience, Mayor Williams also spent some time as the Director of the Youngstown Community Development Agency where he and others conceived the plan to transform Youngstown into a thriving community and beacon for new businesses once again.



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