Tuesday, June 30, 2009

youngstown diaspora is pitching in - can YOU connect?

a recent post highlighted last week's regional sustainable energy conference held in Youngstown - and the need for the mega-region to skate where the puck is going - in terms of government support.

but what is the back story on how this conference came to be?

The Youngstown Vindicator shines some light on this quandary:
"Abraham credited YSU alumnus Jack Scott with being the driving force behind the conference.

Scott earned a degree in mechanical engineering and worked his way up to become president and chief operating officer of Parsons Corp., a California-based engineering and construction company that has $3.4 billion in annual revenues.

Scott said he has a passion for sustainable energy, but he wanted to hold the conference in Youngstown because of his love for the Mahoning Valley and its people.

“One of the greatest assets of this area is the work ethic,” he said. “We hire people from all over the world. You can always tell people who were hired from this area.”

Scott said the forum has to produce action to be a success. The goal is to link researchers with innovative ideas to people who can bring those ideas to market, he said."
And looking at the mega-region, those assets are already in place, to name a few:

- a national laboratory (NETL) National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh
- a centralized location of energy production
- firming up university research strengths into formalized Centers of Excellence
- connectivity to an educated workforce

but what's missing here?


- - -

as illustrated in the story of the Sustainable Energy Conference and other examples, people from Youngstown are helping their hometown out.

in a big way.

and you can become a part of it.

Connect to the Greater Youngstown 2.0 LinkedIn group today.

- - -

Be a part of the global Youngstown team.

Listen. Help Others. Engage.

Monday, June 29, 2009

10 weeks of movies on the lawn in downtown youngstown begins tonight

It's that time of the year again, to stretch out on the lawn downtown next to the Covelli Centre and watch free Monday movies.

This year's itinerary extends to a full 10 weeks, with the first beginning today, June 29th at 9pm.

Popcorn, retro candies, and beverages will be sold by Touch the Moon Candy Saloon, located downtown on Phelps Street.

As a bonus, the first five minutes of the show will be dedicated to the airing of the new music video of The Zou for the song "When the Ink Dries" - filmed entirely in Youngstown.

then starts:

here is the rest of the schedule:

June 29th: IRON MAN
July 6th: JAWS
August 3rd: MADAGASCAR 2
August 17th: DISTURBIA
August 24th: ENCHANTED

Saturday, June 27, 2009

new Homeplate website collects region's favorite foods

Month after month, MetroMonthly has been putting out quality videos on the fab foods of the Greater Youngstown region.

And now, a new website is up - www.metrohomeplate.net - condensing all of their visits into one great one-stop shop.

For those of you googling "things to do in youngstown", consider these videos as a virtual cultural attaché to the Mahoning Valley.

For example, the tastes of New England come to the Valley via ZoupWerks, with locally raised pork and in-city bakeries contributing to their famous sandwiches:

And check out how clothespin cookies are made:

How to make gourmet biscotti:

And how beers from Boulder Colorado are making Vintage the #1 beer store in the nation with over 750 draft brews:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

let's all move into the Garden District

Earlier this week, a post commented on "watching where the puck is going" in terms of technology-based economic development.

It's the same vision that's needed in terms of neighborhood development.

We can take a step back and see where the institutional investments are currently being made, see who is putting the sweat equity into housing, and see where the commercial infrastructure remains for future growth.

And going through this process, the Garden District on Youngstown's west side emerges as a place of choice.

People are choosing Youngstown and its Garden District, but the critical mass is not there quite yet.

We need to build that critical mass.

Let's all move into the Garden District

- - -

But first, where is the Garden District?

It's the closest residential neighborhood on the west side to downtown, on the other side of the Frank Sinkwich bridge from the artist/light industrial area of the Mahoning Commons. The Garden District is nestled on three sides by well-manicured greenspace: Mill Creek Park to the south, Calvary Cemetery to the west, and Fellows Riverside Gardens (big flickr presence here) to the east. The commercial strip of Mahoning Avenue is its northern boundary.

It was the first neighborhood to go through the Youngstown 2010 individual neighborhood planning process, and you can access that plan here.

The Garden District Neighborhood Group meets regularly (meeting and contact info here), and just received a neighborhood success grant from the Wean Foundation for landscaping equipment (to be then shared with the community toolshed) and tree planting in the devil strips.

A comprehensive online photo album of the neighborhood is here.

- - -

Second, what do people like about living in the Garden District?

well, I asked some of them:

from a twenty-something couple:
"When we moved to the Garden District, the reason [we thought] we loved it was because our family lived in Youngstown.

But now, our family is no longer in the area. Today, we know we love Youngstown, but for a different reason. We love our neighbors on our street and the families around us."

from a local architect who moved here from Canton:
"I chose this particular neighborhood because it's so close to the park. I can walk to Fellows Gardens and look out over Lake Glacier. After work, I just get off the bus early and go smell the roses, and walk around the rest of the gardens for a little while."

from a resident engaged in Youngstown's emerging technology cluster:
"I work in the Youngstown Business Incubator [ybi], and I often walk or bike the short commute to my job downtown. In my free time, I can go for a run in Mill Creek Park which I consider (literally) to be my backyard."

I guess my point is, if you are looking to move to Youngstown and like what these people have to say about the neighborhood, consider the Garden District.

This place can really become a hub of in-town living.

Let's review
what makes this neighborhood great in the eyes of its residents:

- well-built and affordable housing stock from the 1930s
- connectivity to an abundance of greenspace
- immediacy to a grocery store, post office, two bakeries, restaurants
- Fellows Riverside Gardens is expanding its beauty
- proximity to downtown and YSU
- "urban fabric" density still strong, house after house all there
- all bus routes to the west side and austintown go through
- freeway access in neighborhood to I-680 and all points east and west
- adjacent to the events and classes at Fellows Riverside Gardens
- commercial space available for future use

If you have an interest in living in the neighborhood, these people quoted above are willing to speak with you more in detail about housing prices, reputable contractors, neighborhood groups, etc.

And if you are willing to join the existing Hungarian, Mexican, Irish, and Croatian BBQ restaurants in walking distance of the Garden District, maybe there is some space for your next commercial venture as well.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Do people from Youngstown tend to think they are culturally Midwestern?

I received that question today. So,

"Do you (reading this) think Youngstown is Midwestern?"

I am looking for all your opinions.

- - -

Please leave your thoughts by clicking on "comments" just below.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

skate to where the puck is going - multistate sustainable energy conference in youngstown

Next week kicks off a three-day multi-state conference to be held in downtown Youngstown on the subject of sustainable energy and economic development.

The topic is a trendy one at the moment in technology-based economic development, but a good one, because if you anticipate where the puck is going - or where the Obama administration will be allocating billion of dollars in the near future - it's in the sustainable energy field.

From the conference's website: www.sustainableenergyforum.net

The conference's agenda is available here.

Sunday, June 21 begins with the airing of the FUEL film on the YSU campus at 4pm (open to the public), followed by a Q&A with film's Director.

Monday, June 22 features introductions by the Mayor, Dr. McCloud, and the President and COO of the Parsons Corporation. In 2008, Parsons had 11,600 worldwide employees and over $3.4 billion USD in revenues.

the Keynote Address will be by Congressman Tim Ryan, Appropriations Committee, on the Energy & Water Subcommittee (jurisdiction on the Dept of Energy, Dept of Interior, etc)

a series of what looks like policy and planning discussions to follow during the rest of the day.

Tuesday, June 23 reviews regional research and advancement in the fields of biofuels, carbon management, energy conservation, renewable energy, hydrogen systems, and geologic sustainable energy.

Contributing partners include Parsons, Battelle, NETL (national laboratory), NorTech, the Mahoning/Shenango Advance Manufacturing Initiative, Global Green USA, and the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development. From a 40,000 foot perspective, quite a lineup.

So when people are curious as to different approaches to economic development occurring in the Valley, here is a great example.

Again, watch to where the puck is going.

The puck is coming to Youngstown.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

a tale of two cities, and the direction of a third

morning headlines from the mega-region's newspapers:

Pittburgh Post-Gazette
"Pittsburgh is an economic champion, too"
Add this to the Lombardi Trophy and Stanley Cup: The city ranks 18th on the Brookings Institution listing on the strength of local economies in the U.S. (story)

Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Recession will last longest in Midwest, including Ohio, two reports show"
Cleveland ranked 95th among the nation's largest 100 metropolitan areas in economic growth, with a 6.2 percent drop, the Brookings analysis of Moody's Economy.com data said. (story)


1 - how to explain the growing divergence between Cleveland and Pittsburgh?

2 - how does this divergence effect Youngstown, the place in the middle of the two?

side thought:

ok, in truth, way too much stock is put in these "snapshot" reports by the media and other civic boosters and gasp, even bloggers.

I say "snapshot" because looking at the analysis methods, their research for the most part is examining trends in one year of data. (they look at four items only: percent employment, percent unemployment, metro GDP, and some housing price index)

In a more robust world, at least three years to five years is a much better slice to observe. In addition, GDP growth is a very interesting statistic, but GDP per capita might be a better one to use, especially as some metros are shrinking in size and population.

The authors are looking at recovery from the recession, which may justify their shorter time frame. One might argue Brookings has done longer-range quality reports that show many of the same results.

As a whole (one person's opinion), analyses from the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings are generally pretty reputable, as opposed to the junk that comes from Forbes magazine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

34 minutes from Westinghouse in cranberry PA to youngstown

Sunday was a beautiful day for the short trip to the Burgh for the Three Rivers Arts Festival and a show at the Pittsburgh Public Theater (more on that later this week).

After reading (and watching) news about the recent opening of the new headquarters of Westinghouse in Cranberry Township and its 3,200 employees, I clocked the drive from the intersection of I-76/I-79 in Beaver County to Youngstown.

How long was the commute?

34 minutes.

View Larger Map

Putting in the address for Westinghouse's previous headquarters in Monroeville, the distance from the old to the new is 32 miles.

Seems like a comparable commute to the drive from Mahoning County.

I mention this because as Beaver County and Pittsburgh's energy industry continues to grow rapidly, Youngstown is looking more and more like a realistic housing option for commuters into Cranberry Township. (did I mention Youngstown has the nation’s most affordable historic districts?)

When you look at the five-county metro area centered in Youngstown, it comes flush against the MSAs of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Akron, and Canton.

So when thinking about labor opportunities in the mega-region, it's good to think outside of the box.

outside of the five-county box.

Friday, June 12, 2009

24 hours in the city of youngstown

last saturday was a swell day.

the following pictures are from walking around the city, and offers a sample of a summer day in the Yo.

the day started with a Pride Festival in Youngstown downtown along Phelps street. Others' picts here.

Then shifted to the Artists of the Rust Belt festival along the Mahoning River in and around the train station/rust belt brewing company.

I got hungry around this point so took some tostones and mofongo to Mill Creek Park.

Then over to the Butler Art Museum to enjoy the mechanical sculptures:

There is a really interesting reason for the shape and length of all the chimes in this piece, but you'll just have to visit the Butler to know why.

Then over to Wick Park and a historical tour of the structures along its perimeter. The second tour was a lot smaller than the first 120 person tour.

Over to St. Joe's [the provider] for some dinner (classic sign)...

And to the Oakland's fundraiser for eye candy and some dessert.

finally, with night falling on the city, the both the bars and the streets were filled with people.

what will this weekend hold?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

tonight: bison mojitos, send your wreath down the mahoning river, and a new website

I've got to hand it to the Polish Youngstown group - they've got their act together.

Let's take only one example: the Polish Happy Hour event tonight thursday june 11th from 5:30pm to 9pm at the B&O train station downtown.

This month's installment will include:

- in celebration of Noc Swietojanska (St. John's Eve), where attendees will be floating wreaths down the Mahoning River
- a DIY jam session of Polish folk songs
- a buffet of czerwona kapusta (red cabbage) and homemade kielbasa, finished off by some swotka brzoskwinie (brandied peaches) for dessert
- Żubrówka bison vodka mojitos
- the boxcar lounge will have good ol' Żywiec, as well as southeastern Poland’s regional brew, Okocim

The group also launched a new stylish website yesterday, with details on the plethora of events they are planning.

I counted 14 events in the month of June 2009 alone. Very ambitious!

Some highlights include:
- Polish Night at the Indians' game - June 12th
- Pierogi-making class/opportunity - June 17th, 24th
- Polish Night at the Scrappers' game - July 15th (czech out their baseball shirts)
- Youngstown Polish Day - August 30th
- Polish is being offered fall 2009 as a language at YSU

a history of the fest being celebrated tonight:
"During early summer, people gathered at a fire, jumping through it, singing songs, dancing and having lots of fun. This was probably originally a feast celebrating the sun as a source of light and warmth that took place around the shortest night of the year. The midsummer feast was moved into the night of St. John the Baptist (June 23-24) and the cult of fire was changed into the celebration of the light of the Bible.

Now, the shortest night during the year is called Noc Swietojanska (St. John's Eve). It is also said that the fern's flower (kwiat paproci) may be found only on this night. According to legend, whoever finds this mysterious fern will soon find great treasures.

Women throw herbs into the fire in the hope that it will protect them from evil, single women make wreaths from herbs and float them down the river hoping that their future husband will find it and fall in love with them (Rzucanie Wiankow, the Throwing of Wreaths), and men jump through the fire to test their strength and courage.

Even today the traditional candle-lit wreaths are floated on the Vistula in Krakow, on the night of St. John the Baptist feast, together with fireworks and bonfires to commemorate the holiday. We will join in the fun by making our wreaths and floating them on the Mahoning!"

two questions on the residency ruling

I thought this little tidbit was interesting regarding the composition of the pubically-elected members of the Ohio Supreme Court in light of today's 5-2 ruling effectively eliminating home rule residency requirements:
"With the election of Justice Robert R. Cupp in November 2006 to replace Democrat Alice Robie Resnick, the Court is currently all Republican."
Maybe because the Republican Party is more aligned with local jurisdictions having self-rule (i.e. abortion should be up to the states to decide, not the federal government), one might think allowing jurisdictions to govern themselves would be their dogmatic choice.

so while I originally thought the Supreme's vote may have fallen on more partisan lines, that's not the case.

anyway, two questions:

1 - Do the cities of Warren, Cleveland, Youngstown and Warren (or any other of the 140 cities impacted by the ruling) have a system in place to track if their employees are taking up residency in other jurisdictions?

2 - what do you think of the unions (for example, the police unions) who politically supported the elimination of the residency requirement?

video here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

now this is cool - Rust Fest digital art and new media celebration begins saturday

sometimes you get the feeling Youngstown is a laboratory of ideas - with attempts to try new things popping up all over the place.

enter Rust Fest

Rust Fest is the first attempt of what hopefully will be an annual celebration of new media art - incorporating light, sound, projection, etc - and is taking place at the McDonough Museum of Art (right across from the Butler on Wick Ave.) from this saturday June 13th to July 24th.

From the exhibition's website:
Rust Fest will feature a presentation of screen based work in all forms - from animation to computer games and novel visualization environments - to works in second life.
Helping to kick off Rust Fest will be a live performance at 7pm (opening reception is from 6pm to 8pm) by Potter-Belmar Labs, professors in New Media at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Twenty-five pieces will be on display, which includes work from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Minnesota, University of California at Berkley, New York University, and the Rhode Island School of Design.

From yesterday's story in the Youngstown Vindicator:
With all of this innovative artwork, audiences have to wonder where the contradictory title Rust Fest fits in.

“The title of the new media festival references Youngtown’s history as a steel-producing giant,” said Brothers. “The remnants of the steel mills, with their corresponding ‘rust’ aesthetic, have influenced a number of artists, working in many different media, from the Youngstown region since the closing of the mills in 1979. The term ‘rust’ represents this unique collective artistic consciousness, specific to the Steel Valley.”

Maas and Brothers hope that more local artists are inspired by new media, so that Rust Fest can become a permanent part of that Youngstown consciousness.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

rail update, and an op-ed on the cleveland to pittsburgh corridor

From the Columbus Underground blog, an update from Stu Nicholson on Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) actions:
"It is noteworthy that among 22 ARRA federal stimulus funded rail-related projects approved by the Ohio Rail Development Commission members yesterday includes $7 million dollars for the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) of 4 of the 7 Ohio Hub high-speed rail corridors: Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati, Cleveland-Pittsburgh, Cleveland-Toledo, and Columbus-Toledo."
So while the PEIS is one component for future potential development, an op-ed in the Business-Journal from Bill DeCicco of Castlo presents another view of the situation here :
"Recently the Ohio Rail Development Commission distributed a map that designated high-speed rail corridors in the United States.

My analysis:


How can a national high-speed rail corridor, which is intended to link large East Coast metropolitan areas with major Midwest destinations, not be designated to include the 130-mile Pittsburgh-Youngstown (and Ravenna)-Cleveland link that connects the Northeast and Keystone corridors with the Chicago hub network?"

- - -

"The Ohio Rail Development Commission is ignoring one of the nation’s most heavily traveled rail freight (and Amtrak) corridors from New York to Chicago, which parallels the interstate highway corridor across Ohio and the Lake Erie, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence international waterway corridor. All three transportation modes provide a vital east-west link while a proposed rail corridor from Cleveland through Columbus dead ends in Cincinnati with an expensive appendage to the Greater Cincinnati Airport, which just happens to be in another state."

- - -

"The Mahoning Valley needs to join forces with Toledo, Sandusky, Lorain-Elyria, Cleveland, Akron-Canton, Kent-Ravenna to reverse the Columbus sense of entitlement. Perhaps the key is to convince our private and public sector partners in the Cleveland area that the 3-C relationship is not working for them and it makes more economic sense to focus on a new Toledo-Cleveland-Youngstown (and Pittsburgh) corridor."

what do you think about this issue?

do you feel this issue is on the radar of local leaders and citizens?

Friday, June 05, 2009

drink beer in the old train station, listen to music by the river, see art being made in front of your eyes - all weekend

just go here first:

it's got it all: music schedules, menus, artist listings.

from their website:

"Artists of the Rust Belt create and present their work in the epicenter of the newly thriving Rust Belt of America, Youngstown, Ohio. Our goal is to produce three major shows annually presenting the work of local artists and local musicians from the greater rust belt region."
A Free Art Show and Music Festival
Presented by The Rust Belt Brewing Co. at the B&O Station
530 Mahoning Ave, Youngstown, OH 44502

vindy article here about the cooperation with the SMARTS program.

eggs benedict brunch next to the mr. peanut bridge!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

free walking tours of historic Wick Park this saturday june 6th

along with some other fun bits this weekend, Youngstown CityScape along with the Mahoning Valley Historical Society will be hosting walking tours of north side's Wick Park and the historical structures around its perimeter.

The one mile walk will begin at both 4:30pm and 6:30pm, and will leave from the First Unitarian Universalist Church at 1105 Elm Street.

A major effort is underway to redesign Wick Park for future generations of Youngstowners. You can read more about the initiative here.

After the tour, refreshments will be provided at the UU where you can check out the final design plans for the Wick Park Revitalization Project.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"just say no" or "just say yes" to Western Reserve Road widening?

A recent article in the Business-Journal with the title "Next Hot Spot? Western Reserve Corridor" examined the anticipated acceleration of new commercial and residential properties, especially as this east-west road south of the existing suburban population core is widened by the county.

The chief deputy engineer of Mahoning County discusses the project, explaining the phases of the widening, and the ongoing negotiations with property owners to secure the right-of-way.

In terms of future planning and expending public resources in the long-term, one may ask if widening Western Reserve Road is the best use of funds.

On one hand, the region's population is predicted to shrink by 15% over the next twenty years. We will have less people, but our urbanized footprint is growing rapidly.

We all see how vacancies along route 224 in boardman are increasing, and one can imagine the pattern will only be accelerated as the shopping infrastructure ages. What happened to Midlothian Blvd in the city in recent decades may happen to route 224 in the suburbs during the next few decades.

County money today is being spent on creating more infrastructure. Future county money (and your taxes) will then be spent on future maintenance such as snow removal and repaving this additional infrastructure in the years to come. Meanwhile, the existing infrastructure and suburbs are more neglected as resources are shifted.

One the other hand
, you can get from Western Reserve Road to Cranberry Township in Pennsylvania in less than 45 minutes. If the future destiny of parts of the Youngstown metro region is to be a bedroom community for Pittsburgh, housing on Western Reserve Road offers the shortest commute via the OH-PA turnpike and its existing system of exits. Widening Western Reserve may get more people into Mahoning County and Ohio.

what do you think?

- - -

(historical note: Western Reserve Road was the southern boundary of both the Connecticut Western Reserve and Trumbull County. When Mahoning County was eventually formed, a chunk came from north of the road (from Trumbull) and a chunk from south of the road (from the already existing Columbiana County). Because of the different surveying methods used on either side of the road, the size of the townships differed on either side of Western Reserve Road and thus, Mahoning County today has two sizes of townships - resulting in its unique shape.

Monday, June 01, 2009

this is freaky - Fernando de Noronha is the June 1, 2009 page on my "1000 places to go before you die" day calendar

news just in ... an Air France plane carrying 228 lives en route from Brazil to France crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.

from the nytimes story:
"Brazilian officials said the plane disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean between the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, 186 miles northeast of the coastal Brazilian city of Natal..."

And here is today's entry, after tearing off the previous day's page on my 2009 "1000 Places to See Before You Die" desk calendar:

June 1st, 2009
Fernando de Noronha

"... sometimes called the Galapagos of Brazil. It's untroubled waters ensure a pristine ecosystem with year-round visibility of more than 300 feet, making it one of the world's greatest sites for scuba and snorkeling."

more on Fernando de Noronha here. Others have noticed here and here.

condolences to grieving families on both sides of the Atlantic.

cornhole on the streets, and a question

This photo really sums up this past weekend in Youngstown:

Just great weather to get out there and do what makes you happy.

(photo citation: the illustrious Tony Nicholas and the DownForce Imaging blog)

- - -

Here's my question:

Saturday night we are looking for a good place to play some Four Square downtown.

Where would be a optimal place to play?

Special consideration would be given to places with flat surfaces, minimization of balls bouncing onto incoming traffic, visibility, and surface texture for chalk line drawing.

What do you think?