Regional Chamber launches military affairs commission

Jun 01, 2015
The Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber has launched the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission (EOMAC) to enhance the military value and national defense excellence at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and other installations throughout eastern Ohio.
The Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber has launched the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission (EOMAC) to enhance the military value and national defense excellence at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station and other installations throughout eastern Ohio.

The Regional Chamber also announces that Attorney Vito Abruzzino, formerly with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps at Fort Jackson, S.C., and Fort Bragg, N.C., has been retained to spearhead the commission. Abruzzino currently serves as an attorney with the local firm of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, Ltd.

“Our local military installations, especially the air base in Vienna, play significant roles in our local economy and in national defense,” Regional Chamber President and CEO Tom Humphries said. “It’s important that we educate the Pentagon and the local community on the vital operations that take place throughout eastern Ohio.”

The Youngstown Air Reserve Station pumps approximately $180 million per year into the Valley’s economy. However, just two years ago the station generated more than $200 million annually for the local economy. The transfer of four planes, and the personnel that services them, to other installations has caused the reduction.

The military affairs commission will address the Pentagon’s redeployment decisions. The commission will also prepare for another federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process whereby Congress works with the Pentagon to make the U.S. military more efficient.

“Along with many peers, we continue to see local operations shrink,” said Regional Chamber Foundation President John Rossi, who has spent the past 18 months coordinating activities that led to the commission’s creation. “Instead of merely witnessing reductions, we choose to embrace the military decision making process and demonstrate the value of our base and importance of our mission.”

Abruzzino is a Valley native, a graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law, and his background includes time spent as a Special Assistant United States Attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbia, S.C.

“I am impressed with the research that has already been done to protect and potentially grow military operations in Eastern Ohio, and the energy that local leaders have already contributed to this cause,” Abruzzino said. “I look forward to working with everybody on the local, state and national levels to enhance local military operations.”

To launch the EOMAC and retain Abruzzino, the Chamber received assistance from the Western Reserve Port Authority, which oversees the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. The airport shares runways with the adjacent Air Force Station.

In 2005, the Regional Chamber, in partnership with other community organizations, led the Save Our Air Reserve Station campaign to build grassroots support and awareness of the base, which was then under the threat of closure by Congress. The effort was successful as the station maintained its operations without BRAC reductions, which ultimately closed and reduced other military installations.

In 2014, the Regional Chamber organized a series of meetings to again address base stabilization and enhancement issues and opportunities. This coincided with the Ohio General Assembly and Gov. John Kasich creating the Ohio Federal and Military Jobs Commission to enhance the state’s competitive position in order to retain, grow and leverage jobs associated with Ohio’s significant military and federal installation assets.

The focus of the legislation and the resulting strategic plan is to vastly improve Ohio’s ability to attract and retain federal defense missions and grow contracting and job opportunities in the public and private sectors. Likewise, the Chamber has for the past year worked with a team to analyze data and establish a long-term support and advocacy initiative for the station that compliments the other military operations throughout the state.