JC: The short answer is because the community is beginning to realize, albeit more slowly than some of us would want, the absolutely critical need for Youngstown to develop a vibrant technology-based sector for our local economy.
The “mills” simply are not coming back. “Second wave” manufacturing will continue to move off shore. We might try to impede the speed at which it does, but the market realities are such that we cannot stop the flow.
But “third wave” manufacturers can flourish on shore, and can particularly do that well in Youngstown. And that is exactly what the companies that we are working with are…“third wave” manufacturing firms. They are taking raw materials…ideas, creativity, and proprietary intellectual property…and combining them together to manufacturer 21st century products.
JC: Our single most important short-term goal is to get the new 30,000 square foot Taft Technology Center open as soon as possible.
YBI is currently at 105% capacity, because we have actually had to give up some of our conference space to accommodate the phenomenal growth of our firms. We have even been forced to use our entire basement here.
The new center, which is being built immediately adjacent to our facility, will allow us to move some of our most successful firms out into it, freeing some space for a healthy list of startup ventures that have been eager to move in and join us.
Our longer-term goals are to continue to aggressively expand our campus throughout the block and beyond, creating the critical cluster effect that is vital for technology-based companies seeking rapid expansion and growth.
By early 2008, the Taft Technology Center will be complete. Beyond this fully funded project, we have another $2.75 million in secured funds for further development within the block. At this moment, I believe that we will be directing those dollars toward the renovation of the Semple Building, which sits between the new Center site and Home Savings & Loan. The Semple project can be completed by mid to late 2008, and will house YBI graduates and other tech companies that we might attract to Youngstown.
Further down the road, our sights our set on renovating the Wells Building and adding it to our campus. There is no time frame set for this project, as we have not yet secured the entire amount of funding necessary for it. Doing so will require very active and aggressive work from our entire local legislative delegation.
DY: So, then, with West Federal St. development well on its way, do you believe the the dynamics of the downtown area at large will be affected positively in relation to the growth of the technology sector?
JC: I firmly believe that YBI’s expanding campus in the downtown will lead to substantial improvements of other areas.
We are creating a substantial number a new, high-paying employment positions here every month, the rate of which will constantly accelerate in the years to come. That puts a lot of new disposable income in the downtown for the retail, dining and entertainment businesses that are here already, or can be attracted because of it.
I think that it can also bode well for downtown housing. For the most part, this is a very young workforce. I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest guy in the entire building. And young people love downtowns. They want to work there, play there, and to some degree, live there.
Finally, I hope our growing “creative class” on the YBI campus will encourage the growth of the creative class in other areas of the downtown. I’m talking about artists, songwriters, musicians, actors and filmmakers. I’d love to help create an arts incubator for the downtown, because when you cluster together the entire creative class…arts and technology…you create a very powerful catalyst for revitalization.
DY: Last week, the Youngstown State Board of Trustees finalized plans to establish a new STEM College which will combine the Colleges of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Do you feel a mutually beneficial relationship could develop between the YBI and STEM? If so, how?
JC: I could not be more excited about the prospects for STEM reorganization at YSU.
Not for a lack of desire or effort on either of our parts, but YSU and YBI have struggled somewhat on how to best partner together. Part of the problem may have simply been institutional differences.
But, the STEM reorganization tells us that the university recognizes the importance of those disciplines to businesses today and is willing to put more of their resources behind them.
But on an even broader basis, I hope all K-12 schools in the Valley emulate YSU’s leadership with the Stem College. Science, technology, mathematics and engineering are the core disciplines that will drive every job of the future. I don’t care if that job is a songwriter, software programmer or on the manufacturing room floor. So it is imperative for our K-12 schools to reorganize around them as well. Just how attractive would we be to businesses outside of region if they learned our entire K-16 educational community had reorganized around the STEM disciplines?
DY: As an individual who is considered a fantastic visionary and, importantly, as someone not from this area yet has a passionate interest in seeing the city improve, name the single most important ingredient for success people from this area should be wise to.
JC: Thanks, but remember, some people believe visionaries are just “seeing things’.
First, let me qualify your comment about “not being from the area’.
True, I live in Aurora solely because of my wife’s employment position in Downtown Cleveland. The opportunities for her there with her legal career were so strong that we made the very difficult decision to move away recently.
That said, I spent my first 49 years in Youngstown, growing up on the west side, attending city schools and YSU. And I’m in Youngstown 5 or 6 days each week for work and on Sunday to attend a church that my wife and I can never leave.
I absolutely love this community and will work as hard as I can for it, at least until someone tells me my services are no longer needed here.
What’s the most important ingredient for success?
We need to instill selflessness in all that we do in our daily lives. It shouldn’t be about who does what or who gets credit for what is done. It should solely be about just getting it done. Period.
Your readers can surmise for themselves just how well rooted that concept is in Youngstown.
DY: The $500,000 dollar question: If you had a check for this amount and had to spend it on Youngstown....
JC: Without even pausing for a moment to think, I would use the money to create an early stage venture investment fund for technology-based startup companies.
In our business, deal flow follows dollars. It’s really that simple. The driving force behind Silicon Valley wasn’t because they had more talented and creative people living there than any other place in the country. The driving force was that they had wealthy investors there who understood technology and who were willing to make bets, and it is often no more than a bet, on it.
Without question, YBI is the single most resource rich environment in the Cleveland to Pittsburgh corridor for technology-based companies. And we are also one of the most visible and well-known business development organizations in the region as well.
Yet, we are disappointed in the number of high-quality “deals” that we get to see each month.
Why is that happening?
Because, despite YBI’s very best efforts, the best quality deals are going to where there are investment funds. Youngstown doesn’t have such a fund. So, it is imperative that we develop one if we are to fully get into the game.
DY: Any final thoughts you'd like to share with the Youngstown Nation?
JC: I get so frustrated about the negativity in the comments from our own local residents when it comes to talking about Youngstown.
So I’ll throw out my own offer to Defend Youngstown.
Come down and take a tour of YBI. Come see some of the finest, brightest, and most creative young people the Valley has ever produced. Come see the world-class software products that they are selling to world-class companies and institutions across the globe. Come look at the new technologies they are developing that no one in the world is even thinking about yet. They will absolutely blow your socks off and change forever how you think about Youngstown.
DEFEND YOUNGSTOWN thanks Jim Cossler for his time and insight. The YBI and the technology front continue to bring positive attention to the City of Youngstown with their tremendous successes, respectively. Here is to the rewards of progressive thinking and to those, such as Jim Cossler, who strive to promote it.
- Chamber Studies Program to Consolidate County Schools, Government
- Company Nears Purchase Deal for Davis Building Downtown
- Commissioners Stress Need For Tax Renewal
- YSU Cuts Tuition Costs by 40% For Out-of-State Grad Students
- YSU Approves Forming New Colleges
- Water Supply Dispute Grows
- Youngstown Residents Learn to Spot Gangs
- Streetscape Celebrates its First Decade
- Police Zero In On South Side Dumping Grounds
AROUND THE BLOGS:
Shout Youngstown blog:
New Ytown blog:
Tales From the Rust Belt blog:
- "Locating Sex Offenders in the Mahoning Valley"
- "'Shurb' by Molly Ivins"
- "Behind the Scenes of the Federal Prosecutor's Mess"
Youngstown Pride blog:
EVENT CALENDAR (March 26 - April 1):
Monday, March 26 2007
Lecture: Steven Leavitt and "Freakonomics"
@ Stambaugh Auditorium
Wednesday, Mar 28 2007
Monthly: Write On, Write Now, Work in Process Creative Writing Workshop
@ Pig Iron Press (N. Hazel St.)
Concert: Henry H. Stambaugh Youth Concert Band
@ Stambaugh Auditorium
Friday, Mar 30 2007
The Book of Liz
@ The Oakland
Astro 101: Steller Alchemy, or How the Stars Make Everything from Arsenic to Zinc
@ Ward Beecher Hall (YSU)
Saturday, Mar 31 2007
Genealogy Research at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County
@ Main Library
MV THUNDER vs. Tri-City
@ Cevy Centre
Comedy: Colin Quinn
@ Edward W. Powers Auditorium
Sunday, Apr 1 2007
Classics on Ice
@ Chevy Centre