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WRPA to Finance $9.4M in Improvements for Macy’s Project

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Western Reserve Port Authority approved entering into a term sheet for a ground lease with Macy’s Corporate Services LLC to support its planned $29.9 million fulfillment center project in North Jackson.

The port authority’s board of directors approved assisting Macy’s with conversion of 380,000 square feet of its existing distribution space in North Jackson for fulfillment operations during its regularly meeting, held at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and virtually.

The port authority would provide financing for $9.4 million in bricks-and-mortar improvements at the facility, said Anthony Trevena, WRPA’s chief operating officer. Macy’s would fill orders directly to consumers from the site.

“It’s a pretty exciting opportunity for the community,” Trevena said.

Macy’s announced the project a month ago, after receiving approval from the Ohio Tax Credit Authority for a 1.472% Job Creation Tax Credit. Its agreement with the state of Ohio calls for adding 417 jobs and retaining 55 positions at the site by Dec. 31, 2023, and requires Macy’s to maintain operations at the project location for at least 11 years.

Much of the discussion at Wednesday’s meeting surrounded topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a presentation by Nick Chretien, program manager for Economic Action Group, a local nonprofit economic development entity that has provided assistance to local businesses during the pandemic.

Utilizing students from Youngstown State, Cleveland State and Kent State universities, Economic Action Group established its COVID-19 response program a year ago, with targeted outreach to Youngstown and Warren.

Interns reached out to 1,870 businesses in the two cities about the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Chretien said. Out of a total $185 million received by Youngstown and Warren businesses, $82 million went to EAG-contacted businesses.

“There were substantial numbers that just needed a little bit more information that were interested” before they applied, he said.

For PPP Round 2 this year, Economic Action Group made 3,315 calls to businesses in Youngstown and Warren, and contacted 480 businesses though the city of Youngstown’s business stabilization program. It also is expanding its efforts across Mahoning county, he said.

During the meeting, members of the port authority board and Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, also discussed prospects for Mahoning Valley communities combining a portion of the funds they are expected to receive through the American Recovery Act.

Coviello, who recently assumed the leadership post at the chamber, attended the meeting to discuss the chamber’s efforts to assist businesses during the pandemic and plans to strengthen relationships with local economic development partners.

Mahoning and Trumbull counties and the cities of Youngstown and Warren are going to receive about $200 million, board member Ed Muransky said.

“We have a hell of an opportunity,” he said. He advocated communities putting a portion of the money they receive into a joint fund “so that it reaps benefits for 30 years, not just filling potholes and stuff.”

Conversations involving regional partners including WRPA, the Regional Chamber and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments have been ongoing since the stimulus funds were announced, Trevena said.

“Of course, it is the communities’ resources. It’s their checkbook,” Trevena said. Economic Action Group has done studies with regard to issues such as blight elimination, and broadband and utilities also have been discussed, he continued.

“It’s their money. We’re not going to tell them how to spend it,” but the port authority and other entities can help the communities determine how to use the funds, said John Moliterno, the port authority’s CEO.

Kevin Kern, the port authority’s chief financial officer, reported that the most recent month’s receipts for lodging taxes bought collections year to date to 99% of what was budgeted for the year so far.

There was no indication when collections might be back to normal levels.

“No one has any idea when we’re going to be clear of all this,” Moliterno said.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio. March 24, 2021. George Nelson.