A WEEK FROM today — on Oct. 6 — there is going to be a very important meeting in West Middlesex, one that will affect every single person living in this community, and beyond.

Rising Rust Belt is a joint effort led by the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Its significance is best expressed by looking at the second line of the event’s title: A Regional Revitalization Economic Summit.

There are a lot of reasons why this effort is so critical to the area’s future. But there is no more important message than the one that is illustrated in that title.

Regional. That is the magic word.

This is a community that has a lot to offer, and a county with great possibilities. The progress that has been made has set the stage for this next act.

But there is no question that when we join forces with our friends down I-80, even if just to share information and influence, we are infinitely stronger. Our reach is larger. Our resources are more prolific. And we can get the attention that attracts grant money, investment and other key factors in bringing this area back to where it should be and where we know it can be.

Rising Rust Belt acknowledges where we have been and what we have been through as manufacturing towns and sets its sights on where we could go. It talks about the region’s viability for economic development and what it will take to get there.

It celebrates what we have to offer and why marketing those assets — like location along one of the major highways accessing the East Coast — is so crucial.

And it reminds us that we are a region full of people who take to heart the work ethic of our parents and grandparents, and who are ready to use our skills and dedication to help other companies grow their market shares and bottom lines.

Rising Rust Belt is a chance to dream about the possibilities, while getting the information we need to make those hopes a reality. It has attracted a lot of very interesting and top-notch speakers and the lieutenant governors from both Ohio and Pennsylvania will be there.

We think our governor should be there, too, but that is a discussion for another time.

There is no question that the demise of manufacturing in general and the steel industry in particular had an effect on our prospects.

We took a body blow and it has taken decades to recover.

But if we start looking at the potential — and the realities — of what we have to offer, we can move forward with a positive vision for what is possible.

We might not have a large steel factory just down the road, but we could very well have a whole lot of thriving companies and eager entrepreneurs who choose to make Mercer, Lawrence or Trumbull and Mahoning counties their home.

And what is good for any of those places is good for our community. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So, if you have not purchased a ticket to the event, there is still time. If you are a business owner, a young entrepreneur or someone with a stake in this community’s future, you should be there. The information you will hear and the insight you will gain will make you feel pretty good about your county’s prospects.

But if you can’t go, rest assured, we will be there. We are planning comprehensive coverage so that all of you can share in what we see as one of the first major steps toward this region’s brilliant next act.

And just in case we forget to say it later, we have one person to thank for getting the ball rolling on this project — Sherris Moreira, the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce’s executive director.

She and her fellow chamber leaders, Alex McCoy in Lawrence County and James Dignan in Youngstown-Warren, are why there is a regional effort and why there is a whole new reason to be optimistic about what’s next.

With leadership like this — in all three counties — it is not surprising that this part of the rust belt is on its way back to being something to talk about.

We are looking forward to sharing those possibilities with you.

 

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