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The Hamman Consulting Group was warmly welcomed by The Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce (YWRC) to indulge in the extravagant events of The Victory for the Valley site selector familiarization tour. This was not only an informative look into the Mahoning Valley, but also a chance to engage in the festivities of the RNC taking place in Downtown Cleveland.
Arriving at the new Residence Inn Marriott in Niles, we were well received by hotel staff and presented with a specialty gift bag in each of our rooms with informational guides to city excursions, restaurants and shopping, as well as a Youngstown State University hat commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Penguins’ football championship. Our accommodations were more than satisfactory.
Later that evening we had the pleasure of attending a reception at the Cafaro Company’s new headquarters, where we were honored to hear speeches from Youngstown State University President, and former National Champion football coach at The Ohio State University, Jim Tressel and former boxing world champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. Jim and Ray were truly inspirational to hear and made you really appreciate the focus on community, and connectedness that locals have to the city. Something that both speakers made reference to, and that really resonated with me, was the fact that even though they had traveled to many places around the world, and have had many fascinating experiences, they still felt connected to their home, Youngstown, and thought it had an originality and wholesomeness that was all its own.
The final presentation of the evening was from Anthony Cafaro Jr., and featured the first public unveiling of their proposed 105-acre Enterprise Park, which would expand their already expansive Eastwood Mall Complex. The rest of the evening we enjoyed catering from Firebirds Wood Fired Grill (Located in Eastwood Mall and connected to the Cafaro HQ) and live entertainment by singer/showman Steve Fazzini (Joe Pesci look-alike and new-age Frank Sinatra).
Rising early to begin next-day events, we were escorted by limousine to the Youngstown - Warren Regional Airport and flown by private jet (as a nervous flier, the 15-minute flight with luxury surroundings was nice!) to the Cuyahoga County Airport. We travelled to downtown Cleveland to Cowell & Hubbard, A Zack Bruell Restaurant.
The events at Cowell & Hubbard were hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Upon our arrival, we were treated to delicious refreshments and a political discussion with Margaret Carlson of CNN’s Capital Gang. Shortly after we were able to take part in the hype of RNC events taking place as we walked past Trump vendors, trucks displaying “Hillary for Prison” signs, protestors, supporters, law enforcement and live news broadcasts taking place on East 4th St. It was quite a vision to see history in the making and a sea of red, white and blue casted upon the city.
The events at Cowell & Hubbard were hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Upon our arrival, we were treated to delicious refreshments and a political discussion with Margaret Carlson of CNN’s Capital Gang. Shortly after we were able to take part in the hype of RNC events taking place as we walked past Trump vendors, trucks displaying “Hilary for Prison” signs, protestors, supporters, law enforcement and live news broadcasts taking place on East 4th St. It was quite a vision to see history in the making and a sea of red, white and blue casted upon the city.
After our stroll through downtown, off we went to a Victory for the Valley Event at the historic Calfee Building near the convention perimeter for a networking reception catered by Driftwood Catering and entertainment provided by FM Acoustics. The event was staged beautifully, and really helped showcase the architecture of the building and unique qualities of the space. We attended a roundtable discussion in the Griswold Conference Room that featured a talk from well-known talk-show host, and Warren, Ohio native, Hugh Hewitt, as well as economic development presentations that included representatives from Cuyahoga County, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, Destination Cleveland and Team NEO. At the close of the meeting, we were gifted with Cleveland Cavaliers championship t-shirts and other goodies to thank us for our time. GO CAVS!
Just when you think festivities ended there, we were invited to attend a pre-session, early evening event, hosted by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, (attended by 1,000 to 1,500 business leaders, Ohio delegates and political dignitaries) at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum. If you have never been to the Rock Hall, this is truly a destination that should not be over-looked, as it is a plethora of music history remembered through generations of well-preserved artifacts, explanatory exhibits and informational videos/t.v. clips that help to bring the distinguishing features of music genres and their eras alive. Not only is the entity itself amazing, but again, so was the food and entertainment, along with the excitement of the convention through the energy of the attendees.
To conclude our daily itinerary, we returned to Cowell & Hubbard for a concluding speech from retired four-star general and former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden. Gen. Hayden’s discussion of macro geopolitical issues, which he referred to as “tectonics,” had the undivided attention of everyone in the room…even near the end of a long day. For dinner, we were treated to a personalized menu from Chef Zack Bruell, that I must say, was mouthwateringly delicious.
Wednesday morning began with breakfast at the Youngstown Country Club. A presentation from the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, which touted the Mahoning Valley’s skilled workforce and lower costs relative to the Cleveland market. The consultants then set off to play a round of golf with several former NFL players, as well as Coach Tressel. Although Jason Hamman hadn’t played for quite some time, he was able to not only get through 9 holes, but actually made some good shots too…thanks to some good coaching from Doug Datish of course! After lunch, the consultants and stakeholders had a great discussion, led by Tom Humphries of the YWRC, on the economic development system in the Mahoning Valley and Ohio, and from there the consultants toured several available industrial properties in the region.
Since Northeast Ohio is home for HCG, it’s sometimes easy to overlook what’s in your own backyard. We walked away from this event with new and valuable business relationships, a better understanding of opportunities for current and future clients, and the need to hit the gym after all of the great food! A special thanks to Sarah, Guy and Tom of the YWRC, the Cafaro Company and all of the other partners that helped make this a memorable and first-class Fam Tour!