Area Chambers Come Together to Host Inaugural "Rising Rust Belt: A Regional Revitalization Economic Summit" Oct. 6 & 7

Sep 04, 2019
The summit—an outgrowth of a more than a year of conversations between three chamber directors whose organizations encompass five counties and two states in ground zero of the Rust Belt—will focus on Rust Belt-specific revitalization problem-solving results throughout the region.

rising rust belt

The Lieutenant Governors of both Ohio and Pennsylvania are invited to keynote the inaugural “Rising Rust Belt: A Regional Revitalization Economic Summit” in Sharon, Pennsylvania in October.

The summit—an outgrowth of a more than a year of conversations between three chamber directors whose organizations encompass five counties and two states in ground zero of the Rust Belt—will focus on Rust Belt-specific revitalization problem-solving results throughout the region.

Sponsored by FirstEnergy, the summit will cover topics including cracker plant opportunities, site selection readiness, riverfront revitalization, attracting and retaining next-generation workforce and creating an entrepreneur-friendly community, as well as site tours, a Shark Tank-style competition and more.

The tagline for the summit, which will be held October 6 and 7 at the Park Inn by Radisson Sharon, is “Honoring Our Heritage – Forging Our Future.”

“This event includes representatives from a variety of fields, making it one of the best opportunities for networking around,” said James Dignan, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. “The conference features respected keynote speakers discussing topics such as finance, real estate, regional cooperation, workforce development, infrastructure construction and more and provides all participants with an opportunity to grow their business and network with other successful professionals in our region.”

He added that working regionally creates a potential workforce of more than 1.5 million, which is more attractive to businesses, funders and grants.

The redefinition of what it means to be part of the Rust Belt region is also a goal of the summit, added Sherris Moreira, executive director of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and representing Mercer County. “Though we still carry the weight of the old narrative, we have more power than we realize,” she said, referring to the coverage of the 2020 election and winning the “Rust Belt” electorate. “It’s time we own that power and all the innovative ways we’ve come up with to survive our challenges that don’t necessarily fit the status quo. We’re survivors, and that is a skill set that gives us an advantage.”

Strength in numbers is the reason that Alex McCoy, executive director of the Lawrence County Regional Chamber, wanted to put on the summit together with his regional partners. “Those who can speak in a unified voice have a better chance of getting their voices heard,” he noted.

He added that coming up with creative answers to problems is easier in a larger community of people and that the summit would provide an opportunity for the region to come together and brainstorm and innovate solutions.

The summit will begin Sunday, October 6, with a shuttled site tour of The Landing, a commercial and industrial business development inside a former Westinghouse Torpedo Factory, followed by a stop at Hope Center of Arts and Technology, a Manchester Bidwell replication education model, both in Sharon. Afterwards, participants will attend a mixer at the hotel with invited elected officials, sponsors, vendors and special guests.

Monday will open with a keynote address by The Honorable John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, followed by up to four breakout sessions throughout the day. The Honorable John Husted, lieutenant governor of the State of Ohio, has been invited to speak during lunch.

Breakfast and lunch are included in the $40 ticket price, along with a revitalization-focused vendor area and a closing Rising Rust Belt Pitch Competition with area entrepreneurs who will compete for prize money. The competition will be held at LindenPointe, a signature business park development in the nearby City of Hermitage.

Some of the speakers, moderators and panelists at the summit include Mekael Teshome, vice president and senior regional officer of the Pittsburgh Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland; Bill Fontana, director of Strategic Initiatives with PA Downtown Center, Harrisburg; Kathryn Klaber, managing partner of the Klaber Group: Energy, Environmental and Economic Strategies for Business, Sewickley; Tedd Mowatt, 2nd-generation lobbyist with Wanner Associates of Harrisburg and representative for Pennsylvania Economic Development Association; Thomas C. Hoffman, II Esq., shareholder, Knox McLaughlin Gornall & Sennett, P.C., Erie; plus representatives from the Ohio Restaurant Association; Lawrence County Land Bank; Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation; Eastgate Regional Council of Governments; PA Department of Community and Economic Development; Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, Warren, OH; and the e-Academy@Lindenpointe, Hermitage, among others.

FirstEnergy-sponsored site selector expert & consultant Don Schjeldahl, principal of the DonSchjeldahlGroup of Kent, Ohio, will be presenting during one of the break-out sessions.

In addition to Platinum Sponsor FirstEnergy, additional sponsors include Accelerator Sponsors JCL Development, Penn State Shenango and Whole Life Services; Innovator Sponsors the City of Hermitage, Steward Medical Group of Trumbull County and Sharon, PA and UPMC Horizon of Greenville, New Castle & Shenango Valley.

For more information, visit or contact Sherris Moreira at 724-381-4782 or


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