Tuesday, April 29, 2008

can the rust belt come back?

probably not.

Harvard's Ed Glaeser received a good amount of attention over the past few months because of this journal article: Can Buffalo Ever Come Back?

Glaeser's answer: Buffalo probably can't come back, and "government should stop bribing people to stay there."

He continues:
"The truth is, the federal government has already spent vast sums of taxpayer money over the past half-century to revitalize Buffalo, only to watch the city continue to decay. Future federal spending that tries to revive the city will likely prove equally futile. The federal government should instead pursue policies that help Buffalo’s citizens, not the city as a geographical place. State and local policymakers could take steps that might—might—help Buffalo stave off its demise, if they avoid the errors of the past. But make no mistake: Buffalo faces long odds."
These comments prompted passionate debates (of course) in communities across the nation, and so to continue the debate, Buffalo invited Glaeser to speak there. His reasoned presentation (with apology) is embedded below, and worth watching:

The essence of Glaeser's Buffalo speech is this:

Regions and communities are too focused on measures such as population growth, population decline, and dollars allocated for construction projects. A community's most important responsibility is to deliver skills to its people and to assist in the creation of a physical environment which allows them to thrive.

It means maintaining safe neighborhoods and educational opportunities for youth. It means judging infrastructure projects on their flexibility of use and cost-benefit. It means attracting smart people and then getting out of their way.

It means concentrating on the things which are sometimes very difficult to measure.

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how might this thinking in this speech impact Youngstown?

Perhaps the conversation shifts, and the often repeated measures such as "number of jobs this project created" and "number of dollars spent on construction projects" become less important. Establishing programs such as tutoring city school kids and strengthening block watches become more preferred actions of the city's Department of Economic Development instead of financing incentive packages and tax abaitments. (the department might be looking for more things to do when the next city budget comes out anyway)

Perhaps the strategy shifts to intentionally cluster people with diverse skills, especially into denser pockets downtown where the technology companies exist, and into denser neighborhoods (like Smoky-Hollow, downtown and the Garden District). The importance of proximity and interactions that come with proximity should be pushed by civic leaders.

Perhaps the actions of individuals shift, in that every person reading this post should be a big brother or a big sister to a youth in the city. Enough of a shift that every young person has even three or four mentors outside of their family and neighborhood they can ask for advice when guidance is needed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

mccain was in youngstown on tuesday

from an article in the Business-Journal:
McCain Fields Questions About Economy at Forum
While he sympathized with those workers who have lost the types of manufacturing jobs held by their family for generation, McCain warned that the future of the U.S. economy lies in new technologies and not old industries.

“We are undergoing a transformation the likes of which the world has not seen since the Industrial revolution,” he said. Many thousands of people now are earning a living in new information technology jobs, he noted, with companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

“What comfort is that to someone in Youngstown? What we’ve got to do is provide education and training programs that work,“ he said. “I can’t tell you those steel mills are coming back. I can tell you I’m going to do everything in my power to provide people the necessary education and training to have a better job and a better future than the one their parents had.”

Worker retraining “is a huge deal,” said Carly Fiorina, former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, who accompanied the Arizona senator on his trip to Youngstown. “There are a lot of communities like Youngstown where people are out of work and don’t have the skills to go after the new jobs,” she said.

from another article in today's Business-Journal:
Two Manufacturers Supply Backdrop for McCain Visit
Fab Art Inc. is an “old economy” company struggling to survive. Fireline Inc. is a cutting-edge manufacturer that’s so successful nearly every commercial jet airliner in service today uses parts made from the company’s products.

The tale of these two businesses, in this poster city for presidential campaigns, provided backdrops for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s visit Tuesday, as he juxtaposed one segment of the economy that is suffering, and another that is making use of education, training, new ideas, and innovation to grow.

Since October, Fireline has hired 21 and expects about a 30% increase in business this year, said Roger Jones, chairman. “We’ve cornered the market with our product,” he said. Fireline employs 103.

Fireline’s success is an example of what can be achieved with the proper business know-how and training among its work force, McCain stressed, and lauded the company’s partnership with YSU.

- - -

kudos goes to Dan O'Brien and George Nelson of the B "hyphen" J for two outstanding articles.

creative destruction on display by the republican nominee.

Schumpeter might be proud.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

mccain in youngstown on tuesday

So, tomorrow there will be a meeting downtown (open to the public) with the 2008 republican presidential nominee, John McCain.

Word on the street:
economic development will the central theme of the discussion, including the progress of technology-based companies in the city of Youngstown.

Youngstown State University
Kilcawley Center, Chestnut Room
Tuesday, April 22nd
Doors Open at 11:15
Event from Noon – 1:00 PM

a question:

If you could ask John McCain any question on economic development issues, what would your question be?

Friday, April 18, 2008

report compares business costs in youngstown to U.S. and international regions

KPMG has released it bi-annual "Competitive Alternatives" report, comparing business costs in various industry sectors in 136 regions across the world.

Youngstown was chosen as the only region of Ohio to be included in the 2008 version.

- - -

The report looks at a collection of business costs: wages, land, transportation, utilities, federal/state/local taxes, etc.

And these costs change from sector to sector, from software development to biomedical R&D, for example - 17 sectors in all.

The website for the report has a nifty little tool, allowing one to compare via graphical form business costs in specific sectors for up to five regions in the world at a time.

- - -

As an experiment, I examined Youngstown, San Jose (Silion Valley), Seattle, Buffalo and Boise in software development. Of of the five, Youngstown was the second least expensive behind Boise. albeit by a marginal amount.

If fact, business costs in Silicon Valley for the software industry were 11% higher than Youngstown. Business costs in Seattle were 5.1% higher than Youngstown.

At a smaller scale, business costs in Buffalo were 1.3% larger than Youngstown, and costs in Boise were 1.0% cheaper than Youngstown.

All of these calculations do not include the various added incentives that the state or city many provide to software companies for moving into their jusrisdictions. So for example, locating within a business incubator, city development grants, etc.

The report also identifies distribution/logistics and information/communications technology as emerging sectors for the Youngstown regional economy, which they label as 590,000 people (prolly does not include lawrence country).

Looking at costs across sectors, Youngstown is in the exact middle of the pack when compared to other regions from the East of U.S./Canada, the mega-grouping in which Youngstown is placed. Looking at the entire U.S., for regions between 500,000 to 1.5 million residents, Youngstown is smack in the middle of the pack. Honolulu (the highest) has business costs 15% higher than Youngstown, Little Rock (the lowest) has business costs 6.8% lower than Youngstown.

Picking out other sectors, biomedical R&D, metal machining, and plastics companies in Youngstown have business costs lower than the U.S. average.

- - -

From a macro perspective, the declining value of the U.S. dollar makes direct foreign investment into the U.S. a much more advantageous move than even two years ago. Since 2006, the euro's exchange rate with the U.S. has shifted by 24%, with the british pound by 14%, and the japanese yen by 5%.

So the final question:
with this information spreading across the globe via the KPMG report, how does the Mahoning Valley take advantage of being included (admitted accidenitally - there will be another Ohio city in two more years) in the report?

For software development companies on West Coast, expanding operations into the Youngstown and its stregthening cluster of software companies in downtown may be a wise business decision.

The people are here, the capital (venture, angel, and seed) have been provided to other companies, and other software firms are located here as well - operating at a reasonable price to boot.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Innovation Accelerator at YBI starting 3pm today

Next 3rd Thursday at 3pm at the YBI is today.

Dave Karpinski from NorTech

The "Innovation Accelerator", a program to help Mahoning Valley manufacturers become more competitive.

The Innovation Accelerator is designed to drive innovation in small and medium size manufacturing companies. There are three main elements to the program: workshops exploring difference innovation strategies, peer groups where manufacturers can share best practices and experiences and Innovation Guides who help manufacturers implement their plans.

Youngstown Business Incubator
241 W. Federal Street
Downtown Youngstown

reserve a seat:
by calling 330-259-7644 or jmsmith (at) ybi (dot) org

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

the burden of leadership

I attended a very interesting roundtable in D.C. recently where a main item of discussion was the necessity of economic development organizations and their leadership to have working relationships with their members of Congress.

It was claimed many members of Congress either (1) do not fully understand the role of technology and innovation in the development of regional economies, or (2) even if they do "get it", don't have the time to sit down with economic development officials because of priorities to other people and causes.

And that's the challenge - having leaders in office who understand what is critical for the future of a local region in a global economy, and using their macro-perspective to gauge the situation and adapt as necessary - qualities needed by all who serve, from a councilperson to the governor.

That lack of macro-perspective and ability to anticipate and assist the future needs of a region is exactly why leadership matters.

The great tragedy of Youngstown's past Congressional leadership was its inability to prepare a region for the future. That's why we as a region are twenty years behind other regions in some matters.

Not that that awesome responsibility should lie in the hands of one person, but the burden of leadership is to take the hard steps to ensure the growth and prosperity of future generations - and not the growth and prosperity of your own wallet and ego. Very little of the personas on local talk radio seem to comprehend this fact.

- - -

It's difficult penning this particular post without sounding like a political endorsement, but I'm writing what is on my mind today.

David Brooks in the New York Times had a great op-ed today about the changing economy, the anxiety it produces, and the necessity for politicians to talk about some issues and not other critical ones.

After reading David's thoughts and the contemplating the conversations I hear from others across the nation about the lacking leadership in their localities, seeing these videos this morning brought a smile to my face:

no more editorial here, just a smile.

Friday, April 11, 2008

the queen's name was Brookback Mountains, and I met her at the Stage

Youngstown's next version of The Stage will for the first time, be broadcast live over the internet.

But performance art is not just an auditory sensation, so you should be there in person on Thursday, April 17, 8:00pm at the Oakland downtown.

It's yummy and brookalicious.

Check out this short video recently posted on YouTube:

The Stage is open to any type of performance art, from anyone who wants to participate.

This month's event will feature the 1st round of the Oakland's "next top drag queen" competition, with a $500 prize going to the eventual winner. Hosting this month's Stage will be the voluptious "Brookeback Mountains".


scary . . . but delicious.

- - -

Oakland Center for the Arts
220 W. Boardman Street
Downtown Youngstown

Admission: $5.00

Performers please register in advance via
Rehearsal/set up is from 7-8 pm in the theater.
If you're a performer and bring a group of 5 or more
people, your admission fee will be waived.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

tune in to turning

Click here to see an ABC News video which features Turning Technologies, soon to grow into the newly constructed Technology Center adjacent to the Youngstown Business Incubator.

They have now received the coveted 4Star Quality Award from PC Magazine.

Inc. magazine ranked them the fastest growing software company in the country last year.

And they topped the most recent Weatherhead 100 list.

- - -

hometown ingenuity for global markets.
outta downtown youngstown.

Friday, April 04, 2008

that accent, where is she from?

The most recent version of "Accent on Youngstown" really got me fired up.

First off, the collection of extreme sports in the Ohio snow was just awesome. Good music, good editing, and good imagination - it just shows that people are having fun all over the place.

Second, the interview with Randall Craid Fleischer from the Youngstown Symphony was very insightful. There are "young people's concerts" with the symphony all this week which is a new direction for the YSO, and tomorrow night is a fusion concert as the YSO plays with Latin jazz/funk artist Poncho Sanchez.

check Poncho out:

Fleischer makes the good point Youngstown is lucky to be a market such that an professional orchestral musician can be employed here. There is enough of a demand and a market.

Some communities can't support their orchestras.

Miami Florida lost theirs. Columbus Ohio is on the brink of losing its orchestra.

For 82 years and counting, the region has supported the orchestra - which is fantastic. But the house that the Yo's Warner Brothers buiit, like Youngstown, is a big tent and there is room for more people from "Cleveburgh".

If you are reading this blog from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, come out to Youngstown this weekend and eat at Overture (the restaurant at the symphony) and enjoy the show.

Finally, more good news for downtown dining fans: George from Cafe Cimmento announced in the video that their expansion in downtown Youngstown is underway, and should be finished sometime in April.

watch the second Accent on Youngstown:

This video is great - it shows that people and their dreams are flourishing in Youngstown.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

the home of the original Good Humor Bar to become new downtown museum

the news is now public:

The Mahoning Valley Historical Society (MVHS) will be expanding its operations to create a new History Center downtown. The 132 year old organization recently purchased the 22,000 sq. ft. Burt Building (continuously occupied since 1935 by Ross Radio) for renovation. It was at this location that Harry Burt first produced his patented invention in the early 1920s: the “Good Humor” ice cream bar on a stick, now famous all over the world.

(photo courtesy of the MVHS blog)

The History Center will include:
- permanent space for exhibits and education
- climate controlled storage and conservation facilites
- exhibition space for traveling history shows
- downtown space for community activites and group events

This building is in great shape. Lots of untouched furnishings from when the building operated as a candy and ice cream factory, retail store and public dining area many years ago.

Read more about the building and future plans at MVHS's great blog.

Better yet, become a member of MVHS.

Their archives are a wonderful place to vist any weekend.

BONUS HISTORY TIDBIT: follow how the Good Humor brand was purchsed from Burt's widow after his death and shifted from corporation to corporation over the past 78 years here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

shocking news

Pavlik announces his retirement from boxing:

will post more news as announced.

developing . . .