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$2M will expand incubator



Published: Fri, September 8, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The incubator plans to build a new home for two of its success stories.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- A federal official is to present a $2 million check to the Youngstown Business Incubator this morning so it can expand downtown.

"This is a major step for the entire community," U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said.

Ben Erulkar, an official with the U.S. Economic Development Administration, is to award the grant at 11 a.m. in a ceremony to be attended by Ryan and U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine.

Welcome news

The award is welcome news for the incubator and its supporters because it is the final piece of a funding package of $5.5 million that they have cobbled together from various state and federal agencies.

Bryan Borlik, an EDA spokesman, said he couldn't comment on the grant before the ceremony, but Ryan said the grant shows the faith the federal government has in the incubator's mission to grow young technology companies.

The incubator is using the money to build an office that will house companies ready to move out of its Federal Plaza location.

Two tenants -- Turning Technologies and Softek Software International -- are prepared to take up about 80 percent of the proposed 30,000-square-foot building. These companies, which employ a total of 100, have grown into companies that provide software products around the globe.

"The incubator is the key to our turnaround," said Ryan, of Niles, D-17th. "We need Softek or Turning or any other company there to just really explode."

Turning Technologies makes audience response systems for companies, schools and colleges. These systems allow students or audience members to respond instantaneously to questions posed by a presenter using Microsoft PowerPoint. Softek produces sales software for power sport retailers.

Demolition set

The first step in the expansion is demolishing five buildings adjacent to the incubator. The Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. approved a demolition contract Wednesday.

While the EDA grant completes the financial package for the project, additional funds still are being sought.

DeWine said he is working to secure $1.3 million in additional federal funding later this year.

Jim Cossler, incubator director, said additional money would be used to enlarge the expansion project.

The incubator and CIC hope to create a cluster of downtown technology companies that feed off one another's success by sharing ideas.

The incubator provides free rent and other services to fledgling companies. Turning Technologies and Softek have grown large enough that they are paying rent to the incubator. They also will pay rent once they move into the new building.

shilling@vindy.com




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