East Liverpool, Ohio
Where History Meets Innovation
Keeping the historical flare alive, East Liverpool dives into future growth
Founded in 1798, East Liverpool is one of the oldest communities in the Ohio Valley. In the late 1800s, the city experienced significant growth as it became a hub of pottery manufacturing, bringing success and prosperity. Although evidence of this vibrant part of East Liverpool’s history is on display at the Museum of Ceramics, and in the historic architecture throughout the community, only the American Mug and Stein Company remains. Today East Liverpool is a city with growth and sustainability on its radar, bringing a new vibrancy and working to attract and retain a younger demographic.
The installation of solar panels on all city property is evidence of this new direction, and Mayor Greg Bricker says this has created an opportunity to save money, while also providing power.
He maintains, “We’ve just been looking at it as a way to cut our costs. Scout Solar came in and did a nice presentation for us, and said, this is no cost to the city. The end result is that we’ll be able to reduce our electric bills, which is perfect timing because electricity has gone up 30% here in our area. That way we can put that money into our infrastructure and improve the city with the savings that we incur.”
Scout Solar has also purchased a decommissioned catholic school building to be used as dormitories for workers, as well as storage and office space.
Updated housing, and attracting new development is also a priority for Bricker, who acknowledges, “My number one initiative, and a big reason I ran for mayor to begin with, is our housing was a mess. It’s still in need of some repair, but we are recognizing that and finding ways to fix it.”
Partnering with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation has been a step in the right direction. “They have done a phenomenal job in Youngstown, I think they’ve torn down over 2,500 homes, but they’ve also rehabbed over 1,000,” he says, “So, we partnered with them, and they did a housing quality survey for us here in East Liverpool.”
With this survey a GIS map was produced, outlining homes that require tear-down, repair, and other efforts. “So, we’ve been using that and getting strategic about the homes that we’re going after and tearing down,” adds the mayor. He also mentions a phenomenal partnership with the Columbiana County Land Bank, state representatives and county commissioners who have helped to secure grant money to keep this initiative moving.
Although at this point over 100 homes have been torn down, Bricker admits, “There’s still some blight left in the city and we’re working toward resolving that issue. But the goal that goes hand in hand with this is to build new construction homes.” With only three new homes built in East Liverpool over the past 20 years, the city has created a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) which is hoped to encourage new builds by abating property taxes for up to 15 years. “We’ve been working really hard on trying to get developers to build here. It’s sad that we have to tear all these houses down, but with that comes an opportunity because we have these empty lots,” he affirms.
Bringing a hotel to the community is also a point of discussion. More recently, a Hotel Feasibility Study has been done, identifying that the city would benefit from this type of accommodation. “We have been taking that study and sending it to potential hotel developers. We’ve been having those conversations the past two to three months, and they’ve been going really well,” reports Bricker.
“Now we need the public and private partnerships, historical tax credits, new market tax credits, and the developer capital as well. So, we’ve been having a lot of conversations around how we make this project happen, and just showing people that there’s a need here, and there’s a pathway to viability for the project.”
Recent investment in the historic downtown is something Bricker sees as another positive, with 15 buildings recently under new ownership, moving the city away from years of disrepair and dilapidation. “I think the tide has changed. It’s the right people buying the properties over the past two, or three years, and they’re putting the money into them. That needs to happen, not only to save them but to attract new businesses,” he relays.
“To me, it is a seismic shift that people are willing to purchase these and invest the necessary dollars to get the ball rolling. We’ve seen more businesses come in because of that.” A grant application is also in the works to save a large historic downtown building, which would bring three new businesses and 60 jobs to the city, totaling $2.4 million in payroll. There is also a push to secure tax credits for the downtown district, as part of the ongoing revitalization efforts.
The East Liverpool Community Partnership for Revitalization has been key in bringing people into the downtown, putting on events such as First Friday on Fifth Street, and drawing crowds of attendees to the city core. “People are able to drink in the street and listen to music. That’s turned out to be a couple thousand people every month, which is half the battle, just driving foot traffic back to downtown and showing people the businesses that are down here,” Bricker says.
“Their goal is to help the city bring more businesses, more jobs.” They have also been instrumental in the development of a bike trail through the downtown, collaborating with an outside consultant to secure grant money. With $900,000 in funding from ODOT, the first phase of the trail is underway, and another $1 million in federal funding has been awarded to move the project forward. The advantages of an ideal location on the scenic Ohio River are something Bricker feels is often taken for granted in the community, but the addition of a trail will hopefully draw more people. “We’re trying to connect to other bike trails in the area. We have a real opportunity for that, which, in the end, would bring more visitors and tourism to the city,” he suggests.
Columbiana County Port Authority has hired a Business Retention and Expansion expert, who will be pivotal in the business attraction efforts of East Liverpool.
“They basically just put boots on the ground, talk to employers, ask what they need from potential employees. We have a trade school here in the city, Newcastle School of Trades. They do welding, plumbing, electricity, and HVAC, and we also have a Kent State University satellite branch here as well. So, they talk to the employers, talk to the educational side, and see how we can all work together to get the right training in place for the employers,” Bricker explains. A program through the Ohio Governors’ Office of Appalachia will also provide money for workforce training, aimed at those with substance abuse issues. – This is a potential, not realized yet. Submitting a grant application in fall of 2023 for this.”
As one of the city’s main employers, East Liverpool City Hospital has over 500 employees and a residency program with 40 people between the ages of 25 and 35.
Moving forward, his goal is to bring these quality-of-life options to East Liverpool, in an effort to attract and retain a younger demographic and instill a sense of pride in the community. Offering a final thought he says, “There’s an opportunity here. I’m just trying to show people it’s possible to run a successful business, you have to have the vision, but you can make a go of it here.”
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AT A GLANCE
East Liverpool, Ohio
What: A growing city focused on the revitalization
Where: Columbiana County, Ohio
Kent State University – www.kent.edu
Combined, the Kent State Salem and Kent State East Liverpool campuses make up Kent State University of Columbiana County. The two campuses offer 28 degrees, 14 of which are bachelor’s degrees. Kent State is the county’s only university, providing higher education opportunities from faculty and staff who are dedicated to helping students succeed.