WARREN - Members of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative were in Warren on Friday to launch a statewide jobs campaign - ''Fighting for Ohio Jobs.''
And as part of that jobs push, Pastor Michael Harrison said the MVOC plans to work with companies that are bringing shale jobs into the Mahoning Valley to hire local residents to fill potentially hundreds of positions.
"We are going to engage in serious conversations with energy companies that are going to invest in the Mahoning Valley," he said Friday afternoon. "How do we work together to get the long-term unemployed to share in the coming prosperity?"
Harrison said a lack of jobs affects every aspect of Ohioans' lives.
"As a pastor, I see what happens when we have a lack of jobs," he said. "We have parishioners having to relocate because they needed to have viable resources to grow and have economic opportunity."
Harrison, pastor of Union Baptist Church in Youngstown, said the lingering economic woes have not only affected area businesses but also area churches.
"We want jobs to come back to this city that have left in massive numbers," Harrison said. "This is not a new problem. Two recessions have caused this state to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs. We were especially hit when the steel industry collapsed in the years between 1977 and 1985."
He said that although the Valley lost nearly 24,000 jobs between 2000 and 2008, there has been an uptick since.
"This is a result of strategic and public investment to save the automotive industry," he said. "We cannot only offer tax rate and tax cuts. We must invest in public infrastructure and public jobs."
Harrison said the group's platform is hire Ohio, regardless of race, record or gender.
"The public sector needs to create jobs, where the private sector has not," he said. "Ohio would need more than 352,000 jobs to get back to where it was before the recession began."
Shirley Brady, a General Motors retiree, said she has seen the economic impact on her Warren neighborhood.
"Where once it was a lively vibrant neighborhood, now it has vacant properties on every street," she said. "I got mad and am working to help improve the neighborhood."
Brady said the properties are vacant in part because people have lost their jobs and can no longer afford them.
"People walked away from their homes to find new opportunities," she said.
Brady would like to see many more private and public sector jobs in the area, so people can keep their homes and new people can buy and move into abandoned properties.
"We need some help," she said. "People with public sector jobs - such as police officers, firefighters and teachers - will live in our communities."
Robert Lewis, a pastor and Warren resident, said there are potential workers who find it difficult to get jobs because they have prison records.
"There are people, like myself, who went to prison, served their time, came out, did what was necessary to obtain degrees, but still cannot find jobs," Lewis said. "Those coming out (of prison) are going to need jobs."
Lewis described getting a bachelor's degree in social work from Youngstown State University in 2007 and not being able to find a job because of his record.
"The sanctions they have in Ohio has, somewhat, set me to a lifetime of a prison sentence," he said. "That's because I can't get a job. If I can't get a job, there is no way I can get housing. If I can't get housing, I can't take care of my family."
Leah Williams said she would like to see a program that would create a system of home health care workers for people taking care of incapacitated adult relatives. Williams said her parents and husband died within a short period of time and she could not get any help.
"We need a safety net for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," she said. "If we have home health care workers to take care of the elderly and the sick, then people like myself would not have to leave their jobs.''