Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Youngstown Value Proposition

Thanks to the funding from the Raymond John Wean Foundation and the backing of the Youngstown Business Incubator, I'm pursuing a diaspora networking project for Greater Youngstown. I'm defining Greater Youngstown as the five counties that make up the "nation's first Interstate Workforce Region": Columbiana (OH), Mahoning (OH), Trumbull(OH), Lawrence (PA), and Mercer (PA). Please read this post in order to understand my geographic rationale. The economic vitality of Greater Youngstown, where Cleveland meets Pittsburgh, is instrumental to the success of the Tech Belt. As a proponent of the Cleveburgh Corridor, laboring on behalf of Greater Youngstown is a logical extension of my Pittsburgh efforts. Furthermore, I see the Mahoning Valley as a hotbed of civic entrepreneurship. Youngstown is affording me the opportunity that, quite frankly, I can't find in Pittsburgh. (Please see "Liminal Youngstown") I'm looking forward to putting all the knowledge I've gained blogging here to work for Greater Youngstown and, more specifically, the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI).

As many of my readers likely know, returning to Pittsburgh isn't easy. Cracking the parochial job market is tough to do. I'm of the opinion that one needs to be an "entrepreneur of self" in order to make relocation practical. Understanding Pittsburgh as Cleveburgh has opened up a world of possibilities, my own frontier geography. In Youngstown, the regional labor shed is vast. Concentrating certain industry in the Mahoning Valley makes good economic sense. One can sell a Cleveland or Pittsburgh cosmopolitan lifestyle that's close enough to the cauldron of ideas in Youngstown.

Take, for instance, Pittsburgh's airport connectivity problems:

For years, the K&L Gates law firm routinely brought employees from its offices throughout the world into Pittsburgh for firmwide management meetings that, by extension, helped show off the city.

But for the past few years, the firm has held the meeting outside of New York City and this year selected a location near Washington, D.C., for the gathering. It wasn't for a change of scenery.

Rather, because of dramatic cutbacks in flights at Pittsburgh International Airport, it was becoming too hard to get people into the city. Many were left at the mercy of clogged and chaotic East Coast airports to make connections.

"We had some horror stories," K&L Gates Chairman Peter Kalis said. "You work like hell to recruit them into the firm, and then you subject them to the Philadelphia airport and you get what you deserve."

Mr. Kalis and his colleagues are among local business travelers who are finding that more and more, air travel from and to Pittsburgh is an ordeal akin to an Indiana Jones adventure, thanks in large part to cutbacks by US Airways.

A business located in downtown Youngstown can effectively leverage airports in Pittsburgh, Akron/Canton, and Cleveland. The possibility of avoiding the "clogged and chaotic East Coast" are much better when mulling over three options. And a trailing spouse could look for employment in Cleveland, Akron, or Pittsburgh given the proximity. Attracting talent and businesses to Cleveburgh is much easier than doing so for Cleveland or Pittsburgh. Thus, I see my current endeavor also in service of both poles of Cleveburgh (and points inbetween).


Paz said...

This sounds really exciting! Best of luck.

Unknown said...

Well, congratulations on the funding. But really, "the cauldron of ideas in Youngstown"? Who's going to move to Youngstown?

I'm curious to know what you think is the driver of innovation. Thought experiment: how much better off would Pittsburgh be if Carnegie had given that libary money to the CIT endowment instead?

Jim Russell said...

Regarding the repopulation of Youngstown, I see two low hanging fruit:

1) Educated women who are part of the Greater Youngstown Diaspora.

2) Rust Belt urban pioneers.

When married couples have kids, the pull of relocation typically is from the woman's family. If the grandparents aren't in the same region, then the choice is the residence of the maternal relatives.

Also, Youngstown is Rust Belt frontier par excellence. Have an idea for Rust Belt urban redevelopment? You can explore it in Youngstown. I'm living proof of concept. So is Phil Kidd.

What drives innovation in Youngstown? Well, the Youngstown Business Incubator for one. Youngstown has wonderful density (i.e. knowledge spillover potential) downtown and a state university to boot. This is the cauldron, much like Pittsburgh's College Corridor.

But my question isn't "who's going to move to Youngstown?"

Who's going to move to Cleveburgh because of the business value proposition in Youngstown?