Tito Brown was sworn in last week as the 51st Mayor of Youngstown. Brown is a Democrat, a former city council president and was at one point a member of the board of education. He took time from the accumulating reports and folders on his new desk to talk about the job, his plans, and his city.
Brown says he has priorities, and he's got some big goals.
"From an internal stand point of view, inside city hall, we have to balance the budget; we have to make sure we’re living within our means.
My external response would be we’re going to focus on being competitive. Youngstown, Ohio needs to be on the hearts and minds of many people. That’s one of the things I don’t believe we do enough. A top one hundred company should know where Youngstown Ohio is, they should know our cost of living, what land we have available."
Brown says he wants to put together what he calls an "economic advisory team." He sees it as a kind of think tank made up of business owners who are already invested in Youngstown. He believes they can help him with ideas on how to attract more business owners to invest here.
A focus on development
For a long time, maybe since the 80s, and the collapse of Steel, values of pretty much everything, industrial and commercial property, housing, have been down. Does that mean the cost of development for business moving here and the cost of living can be an attractive selling point? Brown says absolutely.
“I think that is one of those pieces when you’re selling, or trying to make a deal happen, people move with their pocketbook. And that’s one of the pieces that we’re trying to make sure that when we get individuals here they know we’re economically ready. We’re paying attention to small business owners, to our corridors, to our neighborhoods. And I think that’s a good recipe for success.”
Reversing population trends
Youngstown has experienced an ongoing loss of population since steel manufacturing collapsed in the area. Brown believes part of selling a new Youngstown means getting the people still in the city to stay, and getting others to come back.
“One of the focuses we’re looking at is Youngstown State—which I am an alumnus of—the graduates who may not be here now, who may be company owners. We’re looking at seeing what we can do to get them back. We’re targeting alumni, alumni associations... We’re talking to Youngstown State outreach about how do we make it comfortable to come back home? Everyone wants to be home close to mom, grandma and family.”
With efforts to make downtown Youngstown a vibrant place again, Brown says having an institution like Youngstown State, full of young people, can be a big plus.
“From the perspective of my administration, we sit down with Youngstown State University and talk about how we grow where we are. From a quarter of a mile out to a mile radius of downtown you have the university, Mercy Health, Stambaugh Auditorium, you have Butler Art, you have assets and you make sure they’re strong and can grow. So we have to make sure that all the partners are at the table. Every year we are planning, OK what’s our plan for next year, so that we don’t run over one another; so that we can work with each other."
Editor's note: Jones Hall was originally misidentified as Maag Library in the picture in this story.