Saturday, July 18, 2009

Startup Frontier: Youngstown

On Friday, I blogged about entrepreneurship and the geographic arbitrage opportunities found in Pittsburgh. As I wrote, I was unaware of the buzz in Youngstown. Entrepreneur magazine listed Youngstown (Youngstown?) as one of the "10 Best Cities to Start a Business". You can read more about that stunning bit of publicity at The Vindicator. Or, you can do what I did. Go out and buy a copy of the magazine.

Be forewarned. The list is qualitative, not quantitative. You might think of the editors as settling upon 10 words that best describe a successful entrepreneur. Or, imagine ten entrepreneurial archetypes and best matching them with the soul of a US city. Youngstown is the Dreamer.

I'll let the CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI), Jim Cossler, explain (as quoted in Entrepreneur):

Youngstown fell so far, traditional community leaders threw up their hands and told the younger generation, 'You guys try.'

That's the current Youngstown mythos, quintessential urban frontier. Given my project to match the right talent with this opportunity landscape, I receive some cynical messages explaining to me why I'm crazy or misinformed. I doubt Youngstown natives believe the YBI story is genuine. I'm certain that non-natives think it is ridiculous. For those of you familiar with Russian literature archetypes, I'm the holy fool of the Rust Belt.

Fool or not, Youngstown is letting me try. The city will let you try, too. Youngstown is the place where the most radical ideas can find expression. Dream.

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