Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Diaspora Economic Development: Youngstown

San Francisco-based Revere Data is opening an office in downtown Youngstown. There are a few threads running through this piece of good economic news for the Mahoning Valley. The Business Journal introduces its readers to the story with the return home of native talent thanks to the positive publicity. I'm going to take a slightly different approach, tracing how Revere ended up in Youngstown:

[Revere CEO Kevin O’Brien] said the company selected the city because of an Ohio connection with a Revere employee, Brian Hill, originally from Ashtabula and whose parents live in the Youngstown area.

Youngstown wasn’t even on the radar screen until Hill convinced him to take a look at the region, O’Brien said. When the company started its due diligence, the principals were attracted to the low cost of doing business, the educated work force, access to world-class universities in northeastern Ohio, and a “tax-friendly” business environment.

Revere also received job-creation tax credits from the state of Ohio, which O’Brien cited as very helpful in kick-starting the Youngstown office.

“It [Youngstown] wasn’t something that was on the top of my mind, to be honest with you,” O’Brien said. “It’s a very people-friendly, business-friendly environment.”

The low cost of doing business in the city will enable Revere to relocate jobs from India to the city. “We’ve given notice to some of our folks over there that we intend to move positions to Youngstown.”

Local knowledge was able to entice a non-Rust Belt company to open shop in Ohio. This is one of the upsides to exporting talent. The Youngstown advantage doesn't mean anything unless you hear it from someone you trust.

Your state can improve the business climate all it wants. Go ahead and slash those taxes. Companies won't rush to relocate. Knowledge of an opportunity is much more important than information about an opportunity.

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