Saturday, February 28, 2009

big-box store deconstructed and converted into ytown neighborhood library

Last week, the Newport Branch Library on Youngstown's south side was officially dedicated.

The $3.6 million project took the structure of a former Giant Eagle grocery store (note: all the Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle stores have abandoned the city) and completely reconfigured it into 17,965 sq ft of library space.

Before this reconstruction, the South Branch Library built in 1929 with 6,450 sq ft of space, was the focal point on this side of town for the county's library system.

Both the library system's Maintenance Department and Delivery System will be housed at this branch, and will use the loading docks and extra space from the original grocery store.

By saving the core structure, infrastructure costs were minimized by an estimated $1 million. By recycling during the renovation, the library received $17,372 from the scrap metal. This closely follows aspects of the Youngstown 2010 plan to right-size the city, and to be "clean and green".

The Newport Branch houses a cafe as well as public meeting rooms for community groups.

The monotonous older surface parking lot has been designed with walkways, greenspace, and traffic-slowing features.

design by Ronald Cornell Faniro Architects, located in downtown youngstown.

Newport Branch of the Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County
3730 Market Street
Youngstown OH 44507
open 10am to 8pm Mon-Tues-Wed
open 10am to 6pm Thrus-Fri-Sat
closed Sundays

Friday, February 27, 2009

the people on the bus go MVOC

"this community is establishing a new vision"

- - -

Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and heads of the Ohio Department of Development came to Youngstown last week at the invitation of the MVOC.

Inside a bus filled with neighborhood block watch leaders and community activists, the group together toured the neighborhoods of Youngstown.

Winding through the city, officials from the Ohio Department of Development were able to see some neighborhoods that have been emptied out, some neighborhoods being smacked by the foreclosure crisis, and some neighborhoods that will be the front line on combating urban decay.

In a nutshell, the state of Ohio is needed as a partner in this city.

After the tour, over 600 people gathered at a church downtown to listen as a community and show a collective presence. Eyewitness account of inside the church's walls here.

The passion is there, but more resources are needed.

Reading this and want to become more involved in your neighborhood?

click here for a list of groups, or call the MVOC at 330.743.1196 for more information.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

it's time to focus on "now"

how can we help?

stimulate downtown and you stimulate the valley

Yesterday, the Ohio-related requests to receive a portion of stimulus funding were released to the public. The entire list can be found here.

So basically, a ton of entities across the state asked for some assistance.

While there is no assurance that any single item found on this website, a few may eventually be funded. There were 7,495 requests in the state of Ohio, 117 requests from Mahoning County, and from that I've pulled out these 22 to highlight.

They were highlighted because they concentrate on regional technology-based economic development, downtown infrastructure, public transportation, or science education.

- - -

The following projects seem particularly worth advocating, and are good not only for Youngstown, but for the Valley as a whole:

1. establish early-stage fund for companies in emerging technologies at the YBI
$400,000 requested for $500,000 project

2. renovation of 8,600 sq ft building at YBI
$1,000,000 requested for $1,000,000 project

3. training facility for information technology careers
$1,200,000 requested for $2,200,000 project

4. map land available for green-technology manufacturing facilities
$450,000 requested for $500,000 project

5. modernize YSU STEM college laboratories
$3,000,000 requested for $4,500,000 project

6. repairs to YSU STEM college facilities
$2,500,000 requested for $2,500,000 project

7. upgrade to YSU STEM complex
$15,000,000 requested for $100,000,000 project

8. develop program for bachelors in Alternative Energy Tech.
$2,500,000 requested for $5,000,000 project

9. expand roads to V&M star
$7,000,000 requested for $7,000,000 project

10. relocate railway to V&M star
$20,000,000 requested for $20,000,000 project

11. Separate sewers and reduce overflow on Andrews Avenue in Smoky Hollow
$414,000 requested for the $678,888 project

12. Separate sewers and reduce overflow on Marshall Street
$689,300 requested for the $1,130,000 project

13. Separate sewers and reduce overflow on Woodland Avenue
$230,244 requested for the $742,723 project

14. New storm line along Woodland Avenue
$1,000,000 requested for the $1,000,000 project

15. Upgrades for Wick Avenue between the city and downtown
$1,100,000 requested for the $1,100,000 project

16. Upgrades for Hazel Street between the city and downtown
$1,500,000 requested for the $1,500,000 project

17. East Federal Street resurfacing and upgrades
$550,000 requested for $550,000 project

18. construction of downtown 500-space parking deck near Vindy Square
$6,000,000 requested for $6,000,000 project

19. construction of downtown parking deck at Wick and Commerce
$12,000,000 requested for $12,000,000 project

20. ten modified gas/hybrid minivans for WRTA
$500,000 requested for $500,000 project

21. twenty gas/hybrid light transit vehicles for WRTA
$1,500,000 requested for $1,500,000 project

22. ten gas/hybrid 30 ft buses for WRTA
$5,000,000 requested for $5,000,000 project

The state's next step is to triage the entire list of 7,495 submissions. Don't forget, other communities around the state have their construction lists too.

Let's insist that investments in tech-based economic development are the way to go in Youngstown, and local and state politicians should be pressed that these projects are at the top of the list.

Center of Excellence in Industrial Metrology and 3D Imaging is up and running

what is metrology?

metrology = metron (measure) + logos (study of)

metrology is the study of how we measure things.

For example, say I wanted to measure the mass of water in a bathtub.

If I knew the volume of the tub by measuring its dimensions, since I know the density of liquid water, I could calculate the mass.

Or, if I had a small bucket and a scale, I could measure the cumulative weight of every bucket removed, and since I know the gravitational constant, could calculate the mass.

Of, if I opened the drain, and I measured the flow rate, plus I measured the amount of time to drain the tub, I can calculate the mass too.

In each case, the ability to measure things makes my task possible.

But I can only measure things if I have the right tools.

- - -

At M*7 Technologies located in Youngstown, they use scanning equipment to measure a given space or object. After they scan something, it requires an awful amount of data storage, depending on the level of tolerance (measuring something on an inch scale and a micron scale makes a big difference).

With a partnership between M*7 Technologies (a Youngstown Business Incubator portfolio company), Zethus Software (another company residing in the Youngstown Business Incubator who works on distributed computing), the YBI itself, Youngstown State, the Ohio Supercomputer Center, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST (these guys maintain the U.S. atomic clock, among others) - the Center of Excellence in Industrial Metrology and 3D Imaging was born.

And so Friday, a $1.6 million check was given to this Center of Excellence. It will be the official national test bed for three-dimensional imaging metrology.

from an article in the Business-Journal:
"The new center will be led by Allen Hunter, professor of Chemistry at YSU, and a team from the university’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, College.

Hunter said earmarks such as the $1.6 million procured through Ryan’s office are vital to changing the role of the university and furthering new research and development projects. He credits the congressman for understanding the importance of local universities and the impact they can have on economic development.

“Federal dollars supporting research and development have increased ten times” compared to what they were a decade ago, Hunter noted.

Martin Abraham, dean of the STEM College, said a primary reason why the university is able to land funding for these important projects is because YSU has found a way to share ideas and information with various departments in science and technology, and establish partnerships with local businesses.

“A few years ago, this would never have happened,” Abraham said. But combining the science, technology, mathematics, and engineering departments into a single college under the direction of one dean enables the university to draw from a variety of intellectual resources.

The Metrology Center is an outstanding example of what collective action can accomplish, Abraham said. “As manufacturing becomes increasingly more complex, it is ever more important that we can measure parts and design tools accurate to the nanometer scale,” he said. “Now, with everyone working together, we’ll be looking for ways to work with companies such as M7 and Zethus.”

He also noted the college is examining the potential of starting Ph.D programs in material sciences and engineering."
- - -

good work, Team Youngstown.

three Centers of Excellence down, hopefully 17 more to go.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

full text of the "Community Regeneration, Sustainability, and Innovation Act of 2009"

as submitted in the House of Representatives...

click here to see the version as of feb 24th 2009.

- - -

or one can actually click here, and type in "HR 932" for full text.

that action creates a temporary page for the most up to date information (but expires which prevents making a permanent link)

Monday, February 23, 2009

on c-span: Youngstown Mayor Williams discusses meeting with Obama

Fresh off his friday meeting with President Obama at the White House, Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams sat down with Pedro Echevarria on c-span's Washington Journal program the next morning.

You can watch the 27 minute clip here.

The show covered a wide array of topics, including:

- how Youngstown will refund the stimulus money towards economic development initiatives to the feds if benchmarks are not met.
- the growing technology cluster in downtown youngstown
- how stimulus HUD money will arrive directly to youngstown within 30 days
- how C.O.P.S. money will arrive before September
- The SBA holding up youngstown for their successes
- youngstown 2010, mill creek park, the Butler and kelly pavlik

Oh, speaking of Kelly, I guess there was a fight or something downtown on Saturday.

Mayor Williams rushed back from Washington for the fight.

Here is what he saw and heard.

go youngstown.

- -

EVENING UPDATE: Youngstown Mayor, er, blogger, Jay Williams reiterates his approach to the stimulus funds:
"The return on this investment is better than anything that will currently be found on Wall St. And unlike the giants on Wall St., the City of Youngstown will not return hat-in-hand asking for a taxpayer bailout.

Least anyone perceives this as a publicity stunt; let me assure you that the City of Youngstown is ready and willing to put its money where its mouth is. Our federal government must be willing to do likewise.

If this stimulus plan is really about stimulating job creation, then all eyes should be turned toward Youngstown, OH."

Friday, February 20, 2009

let's all go downtown for the fight

it's heating up.

bright lights, heated tents, outdoor music, thousands of people


in downtown youngstown
saturday night.

let's have a street party.

come on downtown.

everyone's invited.

tech belt update: organic, viral, asset-based

towards the end of January, Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania and Tim Ryan of Ohio spoke to the City Club in Cleveland about the Tech Belt initiative.

The video of the presentations, followed by q-and-a, is posted. Must see t.v. if you are an advocate of technology-based economic development in the Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Pittsburgh mega-region.

It's not all pure TBED, and the discussion also includes train connectivity, public education, the stimulus package, small business development, SBIR funding, green energy, as well as a few jokes along the way.

the videos continue with . . .

part 2 here (this clip is particularly good)
part 3 here
part 4 here (q-and-a starts midway)
part 5 here
part 6 here

key bit of info: steering committee is formed and looking to move forward

just one question:
what is mechanism by which joe public can give their suggestions on the next steps for the Tech Belt?

ytown mayor to visit white house friday at 10:30am

In the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C., Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams will be meeting President Obama on Friday. Other mayors from Ohio representing their cities include the mayors of Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton.

Also in attendance will be Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Energy
Secretary Dr. Steven Chu, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

check one.

- - -

Meanwhile, back in downtown Youngstown within the same hour, U.S. Representative Tim Ryan will be presenting a $1.6 million check at the university for the new Center of Excellence in Industrial Metrology and 3D Imaging.

With an fantastic alignment with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the Dept. of Commerce, Youngstown-based and YBI portfolio company M*7 Technologies has been designated the National Test Bed for three-dimensional imaging metrology.

check two.

- - -

And a few streets over at the Convocation Centre downtown, Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlik, the pride of Lansingville, will be weighing in for Saturday's fight.

Kelly decided to have the first defense of his belt in his hometown. A gesture that is appreciated by the home fans and businesses.

check three.

- - -


it's showtime, baby.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

npr today: "there is good economic news, and it comes from youngstown"

About 13 million listeners nationwide (give or take a few hundred) tuning into NPR's Morning Edition show on Tuesday definitely heard this story:

Youngstown, Ohio: The Rust Belt's Silicon Valley?

You can listen to the clip here, as Steve Inskeep begins:
"There is good economic news, and it comes from Youngstown, Ohio.

Part of the city is seeing a renaissance due to high-tech startups housed at what's called the Youngstown Business Incubator
And by 11:30am, just hours after the story aired, inquiries about the YBI and its companies came via email from Nashville, Boston, New York City, Minneapolis, Chicago, Naples, St. Petersburg, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Houston, San Diego, San Jose, Detroit, Lexington, Charlotte, Denver, Portland, and Baton Rouge.

And that was before lunch!

I wonder how busy the phones were at the YBI for the rest of the day.

- - -

For any individual
- born in the Mahoning Valley or any place else on this earth - you can follow the news of the YBI via MySpace here, or via Facebook both here and here.

For any entrepreneur - with only an idea, or looking to beta test a product - Youngstown is willing to listen to you.

For anyone who is curious - who has seen the building only from the outside, or only heard about Youngstown on the radio - come for a tour.

- - -

As an economic development professional operating outside of the YBI who comes into contact with business incubators across the country, here are some opinions on how the Youngstown Experience is different than others:

1 - YBI is a managed cluster, aka, a place where firms and individuals learn from each other due to proximity
at many other incubators, after a few years, you leave or graduate and are on your own - apart from your contemporaries
2 - YBI is primarily (not exclusively) focused on a particular technology: business to business software
at many other incubators, the businesses cover many areas, lacking focus and inefficiently using resources
3 - YBI is adjacent to learning institutions/beta testing sites/hospitals in a central business district
at many other incubators, the structure is a spec building in the middle of nowhere, no "knowledge spillovers" to use a term in the biz
4 - YBI is an urban laboratory for both technological and civic innovation, and will be implementing some very unique programs in the near future.
at many other incubators, low rent is the only main benefit offered to companies

- - -

You can follow a wide array of past stories about the YBI in the Shout Youngstown blog here. More from Burgh Diaspora here. More at Reason here. and more from Rust Wire here.

and kudos to Jim Cossler for his efforts to support his home city.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

fame it or shame it - the land next to Stambaugh Auditorium

Is Select Specialty Hospitals/Services a poor corporate entity in Youngstown?

The company's plan to build a long-term, acute care facility next to the pillars of historic Stambaugh Auditorium on Fifth Avenue have been abandoned since 2007.

In the process of preparing for this promised project, several north side homes and apartments were left vacant and rotting right after their acquisition, adjacent to what is considered a crucial gateway of entry to the downtown and Youngstown State University.

Here are two pictures of the Stambaugh Gardens right off of Park Avenue (houses still occupied):

Unfortunately, Youngstown is a place where abandonment occurs by both residential and commercial occupants.

So besides improving the housing and commercial markets, are there other ways to prevent the gradual decline of properties in the city?

One interesting experiment addressing this topic in the mega-region originates from the Word of Mouth blog. Looking at urban issues in Lorain, the WoM has a feature called "Fame It - Shame It".

In a nutshell, WoM finds properties - both good and bad - in the city of Lorain. By using the county auditor's website, the blog lists the names of the property owners, giving kudos to those who maintain their properties and scorn to those who don't.

From the blog's first installment of this method:
"If there’s a Beauty in your neighborhood, let us know. Likewise, if there’s a Beast, let’s do something about it."
And now, a few questions:

1. Should the "Fame it - Shame It" method of highlighting the property owners of both the beauties and the beasts be pursued in Youngstown?

2. Other sites list the home phone number, home address, and email of the property owners besides the name - would this be an effective strategy?

3. And what design standards should be considered when something is built in the place of these houses?

- as a key entry point into a historical residential neighborhood, how can the integrity of the remaining structures, including Stambaugh Auditorium be maintained?

- what do residents of the North Side, as well of the Board of Trustees of Stambaugh Auditorium, think of proposals for this property?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

rust belt metro econ metrics 2002-2006

one measure often used to gauge the size of a country's economy and make relative comparisons is the gross national product, or GDP.

The GDP is a bundle of all sorts of things mixed together: the value of stuff consumed, plus the amount of money invested, plus wages, plus government spending, etc., etc. (wiki gdp here for more details)

The big GDP news of today was that if you take the most recent estimates and stretch them out over time, the European Union's GDP is shrinking by 6 percent over the year - a much higher clip than the 3.8 percent reduction in GDP estimated for the United States over the same period.

About a year and a half ago, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released its first ever calculations for the GDP of each of the 363 metropolitan areas in the United States.

So a metro area is kinda like a hub of economic activity, and counties are either included or excluded from a grouping depending on the pull of economic activity from one county to the next. For example, while most would say the Mahoning Valley is Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio along with Mercer and Lawrence in Pennsylvania, the OMB defines the Youngstown-Warren metro to statistically be just 3 of those counties: Mahoning, Trumbull, and Mercer.

The GDP in 2006 of these three counties was 17.2 billion dollars. Again, remember all the components that go into this amount. But comparatively, these three counties added together compare to the GDP of the country of Panama. Taking another place, the GDP of the Youngstown region is about the same as the European country of Iceland.

In the Youngstown metro from 2001 to 2006, the GDP rose 1.9 percent. On a per person basis, the GDP per capita rose 4.9%.

so how are many of the metro areas in the rust belt fairing?

check out the chart below:

2006 GDP (in billions)change in GDP 2002-06change in per capita GDP 2002-06metro area labeled by central city
26.2B+7.2%+7.1%Akron, OH
27.2B+2.6%-2.5%Allentown, PA
40.6B+4.3%+6.6%Buffalo, NY
12.5B+0.1%+0.3%Canton, OH
93.4B+4.9%+1.4%Cincinnati, OH
101.6B+5.8%+7.6%Cleveland, OH
85.5B+5.5%+1.0%Columbus, OH
33.5B+3.9%+4.6%Dayton, OH
199.3B-1.9%-1.9%Detroit, MI
8.8B+6.2%+7.0%Erie, PA
12.1B-2.8%-2.6%Flint, MI
16.0B+4.2%+1.5%Fort Wayne, IN
3.6B+4.8%+7.5%Johnstown, PA
11.0B-2.5%-3.4%Kalamazoo, MI
4.1B+2.0%+4.5%Lima, OH
3.8B+3.1%+4.5%Mansfield, OH
106.5B+4.5%+6.6%Pittsburgh, PA
13.8B+9.4%+4.5%Reading, PA
3.0B+1.2%+2.7%Sandusky, OH
17.8B+7.0%+7.8%Scranton, PA
25.6B+2.2%+3.1%Toledo, OH
3.4B-7.9%-4.2%Weirton, WV
4.6B+7.1%+10.2%Wheeling, OH
17.2B+1.9%+4.9%Youngstown, OH
11.8T+12.8+8.2%All U.S. Metros

first, if we are to use GDP as a general measure of an economy's size,

Youngstown's economy is about two-thirds the size of Akron.

Youngstown's economy is smaller than Pittsburgh's and Cleveland's by about a factor of five.

and it would take about 10 Youngstown economies to equal the size of the Detroit regional economy.

(click here for demonstration. seriously, do it)

So while this data does not incorporate 2007 and 2008 data, it should serve as fodder for some interesting comparisons.

We'll have to wait until 2011 to insert the sluggish 2009 data into the chart. I wonder what the five-year chart will have the Michigan metros experiencing then?

data source: here

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

ytown mayor to feds: we will refund the money if we don't triple your invesment

Tonight at City Hall, just before heading to Washington D.C. to give the keynote address at the Northeast-Midwest Institute's Revitalizing Older Cities Capitol Hill Summit, Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams threw down a challenge:

Give Youngstown at least $5 million dollars.

The city will provide a 25% match.

And if Youngstown cannot get a match of $15 million from the private sector or create/retain 2,000 job in three years,

Youngstown will return the $5 million to the feds.

- - -

The Mayor has been making the rounds as of late. Last week, he spoke at the City Club in Cleveland on right-sizing the city:

Youngstown - a city with a plan.

Youngstown - a city with focused leadership.

Youngstown - a city to invest in.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

links to released vacant property reports

as promised, here are the links to the two National Vacant Properties Campaign reports released today:

full report (17MB) here.
flushed out five recommendations with case studies (3.7MB) here.

here are the five central recommendations:
- Institute a Regional Real Property Information System (RPIS)
- Expand and Synchronize City and Suburban Code Enforcement Policies and Programs
- Establish a Joint-County Land Bank
- Adopt Community Development Strategies Suitable for Shrinking Markets
- Infuse Vacant Property Reclamation into Neighborhood Plans and 2010 Comprehensive Plan

here is an interesting bit from page 30, with the knowledge of the city receiving $2.7 million in NSP funds:
"We would urge city and county leaders to carefully consider using the majority of their [Neighborhood Stabilization] funds for capacity-building projects and programs and resist the temptation to use all of the funds for demolition or acquisition and rehabilitation. Investment in a land bank would pay dividends well beyond mere property demolition and acquisition."
It is interesting to consider the existing policies and actions over time which perpetuate no-growth sprawl. Well over 400 homes have been built every year in the county since 1999 according to the report, and one wonders where they were all built.

For example: what will be the future of Western Reserve Road?

will it develop into a southern retreat for more of the commercial heart of the county, rendering route 224 to become more barren?

will more roads further out result in fewer services like snow removal and higher expenses for repaving these miles and miles of new roads for those who remain in the inner-ring suburbs?

is this all sustainable for a region slightly shrinking in population?

just asking.

lee is coming to town

not that Lee.

However, the Lieutenant Governor will coming to Youngstown on february 17th to examine the city's neighborhoods and meet its residents.

[but hey, some quick Dukes of Hazard trivia: The original Daisy Duke, Catherine Bach, is from Youngstown (warren). And the tv show was distributed by Warner Bros., who were also from Youngstown.]

At the invitation of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative (MVOC), Lt. Gov. Fisher and staff from the Ohio Department of Development will be in town all day to hear from the community.

The goal: illustrate to Lee Fisher that Youngstown is organized and focused, and hungry for an adequate level of cooperation from the state, especially regarding vacant properties.

The location: Union Baptist Church (downtownish - Arlington Heights) at 528 Lincoln Avenue 44503 to begin at 12pm. lunch is provided. but you MUST rsvp here to attend, as spaces cannot be guaranteed.

My personal wish: The Ohio government realizes Youngstown is worth investing tech-based economic funds in addition to neighborhood stabilization funds. Youngstown should be a pilot city for the Ohio Hubs of Innovation program.

city stabilization + economic development investments = improved quality of life

Monday, February 09, 2009

vacant properties reclamation assessment to be released this tuesday

Tuesday is going to be a busy day.

Yesterday's post was about the upcoming forum on Youngstown's image in the media with national journalists set for 7:30pm at YSU.

Earlier in the day however, another set of practitioners aligned with the National Vacant Property Campaign (NVPC) will be coming to town for the release of a report examining strategies for reclaiming vacant properties in Youngstown and Mahoning County.

Set to begin at noon at St. Patrick's Church on the southside (the event is open to the public), the report's recommendations for next steps for the city and county will be unveiled.

Coming to town will be:
- Prof. Joe Schilling, from the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech
- Daniel Kildee, President of the Genesee Institute, Gennesee Land Bank

who share authorship with:
- Jonathan Logan, Design Coordinator for the Rochester Regional Community Design Center
- Alan Mallach, of Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program and Rutgers University.

look for links to the full report on this blog when it comes available.

but again, look at Youngstown as a living laboratory.

a place willing to accept new approaches in contemporary urban planning.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

forum on the media and Youngstown's image this tuesday

so in prep for the event, was asked to give some thoughts on the matter.

assignment youngstown: tuesday, february 10th 7:30pm in YSU's Kilcawley Center.

a panel discussion on the 2008 election reporting on the working class and Youngstown.

featuring the following guests:
- Jonathan Kaufman, The Wall Street Journal
- Connie Schultz, The Plain Dealer
- Marilyn Geewax, National Public Radio

co-sponsored by the Center for Working Class Studies, the YSU journalism department, and the Youngstown Vindicator.

free parking at the deck at Lincoln and 5th avenue. free to attend.

- - -

Here is one response. The audience is every person who reads this post across the world.

Youngstown is your canvas, a laboratory of ideas.

One of the various themes emerging from stories by the national media in recent years is that Youngstown is a place willing to respect, and even accept innovative concepts. Perhaps the best example is the city's mention in the annual Year in Ideas edition of the New York Times Magazine, as Youngstown's urban planning “experiment has not gone unnoticed.”

While good press alone does not impact the quality of life for those in the Mahoning Valley, it definitely sparks the interest of others to examine life here. Almost weekly, I receive emails from people unknown to me who wish to become more engaged in this community, or hope to learn more about the people living here. In fact, in the next two years an interesting series of books, graduate school theses, and media projects will be released – all examining Youngstown.

Youngstown needs to be a place where authors, laborers, students, visitors, and janitors all feel welcome. A big tent, with plenty of space for those who just want to exist, and those who want to excel. So this place can become your place, and your canvas to create whatever you want.

A critical reality of Youngstown, unlike other portrayals in the national media, is that this region is not a monolith. Our hispters often fix their own automobiles, our steelworkers often participate in the arts, our drag queens are often the smartest people in the room, and our friends are way more extraordinary than what is seen at first glance.

And unless the media captures this diversity, they are missing the story.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

the simple genesis of this blog

I remember seeing this documentary for the first time while in high school.

It's hard not to feel emotion from it, no matter where you call home.

So here it is, placed on YouTube, the five acts of the documentary Shout Youngstown by Carol Greenwald & Dorie Krauss, featuring the people of this city and their struggle to endure. A movie for the whole Nation of Youngstown spread over the earth.

If you want to see my favorite part of the movie, forward to 2:45 on the last video and watch John Barbero explain his role in life:

and thus, from John's lips, came the title of this blog.

where ever we travel,
where ever we're found,
everywhere I go,
I will shout Youngstown,
I will shout Youngstown.

I will shout Youngstown.

I will shout Youngstown.


Friday, February 06, 2009

the spiky California gets even spikier

Today's post in Burgh Diaspora considers the triage of urban areas in making policy decisions. For the case of Ontario, the drive for producing the most efficient and favorable returns in the knowledge economy results in a huge Toronto getting bigger, and other parts of Ontario shriveling up towards economic irrelevance.

I've seen this same conflict while working in economic development in Georgia. The chosen investment strategy discussed around the room for state government is not to build an incubator in a place like Dalton, but to target investments into dense and other-asset heavy Atlanta where success is most probable. As a "how do we get more bang for the buck" strategy, this makes sense. But in the process:

Atlanta explodes and gains more influence.
Dalton is resentful as it loses relevance.

It's a scene that plays out in many states, leaving the struggling communities to feel: just how the heck are we supposed to transition our economies without much assistance from the state?

So is the economic topography of America and its regions becoming more concentrated, or possibly more diluted as technologies and information and capabilities spread across the country?

Last week, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association released fourth quarter 2008 data on the U.S. venture capital system.

For the first time since the data has been collected beginning in 1995, California's share of venture capital has risen to over 50 percent of the U.S. total.

As a colleague was explaining to me today, it's amazing that for all of the policy efforts and for all the initiatives to get venture capital into places like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, the nation's aggregate venture capital is actually becoming more concentrated.

Every year, tick ... tick ... tick ...

the concentration goes up.

To where by the end of 2008, now over half of all U.S. venture capital was concentrated within a single state.

Spiky indeed.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

all eyes on braddock

In case you missed it, there was a huge article in last Sunday's New York Times about Braddock and the efforts of Mayor John and his comrades.

Article here. Seven minute plus video here.

Required reading and watching for those individual citizens and ex-pats still hesitant to pitch in and assist Youngstown with their activism.

Time is of the essence.

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But as we build our own community, it is important to support our friends in neighboring cities as well. To not watch from afar, but to meet face to face.

This saturday, February 7 from 6-8pm there will be an event/exhibition opening in downtown Braddock.

The central focus will be the display of ceramic water filters and ornate receptacles.

art with form and function:
In many countries where water filters are produced, local potters make artisan ceramic vessels. The filter is made by pressing a mixture of clay and sawdust into a flower pot shape. When it is fired, the sawdust is burned away, leaving numerous holes to allow water to pass through the permeable walls. The filter is then impregnated with nano-particles of silver that act as an antimicrobial agent. The receptacles on display are the crafted vessels in which the filter sits.
but then taking the art and launching it into an economic opportunity:
The Braddock exhibition will serve as a launch point for the pottery shop in the original Carnegie Library in Braddock. Currently, Jeff Swartz, an AmeriCorps volunteer, is the director of the first filter production facility in North America. The objective is to make the Braddock Pot Shop and the facility at Slippery Rock University a training center for water filter technicians.
see more at:
Unsmoke Systems
1137 Braddock Ave.
Braddock, PA 15104