Continued Valley support essential for HomeGoods

The decision by HomeGoods to pursue a proposed $160 million, 1.2-million-square-foot distribution center in Lordstown is a major victory for the Mahoning Valley.

Had the company abandoned its plans to locate here because of opposition from a relatively small group of homeowners and others, the Valley would have suffered a major setback in its campaign to attract new businesses.

A region’s business climate is an important factor in any company’s decision-making process.

HomeGoods was on the verge of pulling up stakes when more than 600 residents of Lordstown and the area participated in a rally last Sunday in support of the project.

Indeed, the gathering at the track/soccer complex was organized to counter the opposition that has surfaced to HomeGoods’ plans to build on a 290-acre site along Ellsworth-Bailey Road.

The site includes seven parcels currently zoned residential. The company, a division of TJX Companies Inc., needs the zoning to be changed to industrial.

Therein lies the problem. Between 50 and 60 Lordstown residents have pledged to push for a vote of the people if the planning and zoning commission and village council approve the changes.

That threat prompted HomeGoods officials to withdraw their request for a hearing before the commission.

Cancellation of the hearing led to widespread speculation that HomeGoods was walking away, even though the zone-change applications had not been withdrawn.

The company’s refusal to publicly comment on the status on the project added to the region’s anxiety.

But all that changed Friday afternoon when HomeGoods announced it is “planning once again to pursue the Ellsworth Bailey Road site ...”

But aware that the opposition will not go away quietly, the company held out this olive branch:

“We are hopeful that our intent to bring approximately 1,000 jobs to the area, in addition to the many enhancements we have made to our site design, will address the needs of the broader Lordstown community. We sincerely thank community residents, government officials, and the many others for their support and look forward to pursuing this project once again.”

Unwavering support

Last Sunday’s rally and the unwavering support from Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill, other local government officials and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber for the project reassured the company that the region is ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes to land the distribution center and the 1,000 jobs to be created.

We believe the company is sincere about addressing the concerns of the homeowners in the vicinity of the Ellsworth-Bailey Road site.

HomeGoods has purchase options on the seven parcels that are zoned residential. The land features a wooded area that would serve as a buffer between the distribution center and some homes.

Of the seven parcels, four are undeveloped. The remaining three have homes on them, that HomeGoods would buy. Last week the company bought one of the homes.

The company would demolish the homes and clear the land to accommodate the distribution center.

To reassure homeowners opposed to the rezoning, the company has floated the idea of establishing a conservation land trust so the wooded area would have to remain in its natural state.

As we noted in an editorial two months ago, we are not insensitive to the anxiety of residents over having a huge distribution center in the vicinity of their homes, but we hope they will keep an open mind to the concessions the company is willing to make.

The economic stakes are high.

The irony of HomeGoods hoping to locate its distribution center on a site across the way from the huge General Motors assembly complex is not lost on us.

The future of car manufacturing in the Valley is uncertain, at best. In a month, the plant will be down to just one shift building the Chevrolet Cruze.

Sales of the compact car have been plummeting, prompting GM to slow production.

That’s why the HomeGoods project cannot be allowed to fail. The 1,000 jobs would soften the blow of a shutdown of the GM Lordstown complex.