Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Rust Belt Youngstown

In a fashion, Youngstown has served as a muse for my blog. I doubt many readers understand the attraction. From what I can ascertain, the city's Shiva-like economic apocalypse left little resistance to the creative destruction of globalization. My theory is that Youngstown is in a strong position to rise from the ashes of the dire late 1970s:

Tom Humphries, the president of the Youngstown-Warren Chamber predicted that new reports, when released, will show job growth downtown. Banks, call centers, and law firms have added employees in the city core, he said.

And officials of the nonprofit Youngstown Business Incubator, along Federal Street, are convinced that they have a strategy for boosting downtown employment further: Provide a supportive and nurturing environment for firms involved in computer software development and use.

Already, one firm that started there, Turning Technologies LLC, has grown to $21 million in sales annually and 130 employees.

The firm, which produces proprietary software that allows audience members to use cards and hand-held devices to instantly respond individually to questions and polls from moderators, is among the fastest-growing small businesses in America, according to Inc. magazine.

Youngstown's proximity to the wealth of talent generated in Pittsburgh could serve as the spark the downtown needs. My sense is that there are opportunities in Youngstown that you can't find in Pittsburgh, unless you take a gander at the Mon Valley. I think of Youngstown as a frontier urban environment that could attract young, ambitious adults looking to make a big splash sooner rather than later. This is the place to make your own career.

However, all of this is just beginning. This is the ground floor, where only pioneers should tread. How can Youngstown attract such individuals? For me, that's a tough question to answer. I suppose blogging is a good start.

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