National study applauds Youngstown’s progress

By David Skolnick

Youngstown ‘inspired’ the report, its author says.

YOUNGSTOWN — A national study on how to revitalize smaller industrial cities praises Youngstown, particularly for its Youngstown 2010 redevelopment plan and for the success of the city’s high-tech area on West Federal Street.

Visits to Youngstown by officials with PolicyLink inspired the national public policy organization to conduct the study, said Radhika Fox, its associate director who wrote the report.

“The image of Youngstown is steel mills that are closed, nothing is going on and it’s a dying economy,” she said. “But when I was there, I saw a lot of exciting work happening. We were inspired by what we saw in Youngstown.”

PolicyLink, based in Oakland, Calif., released the report, called “To Be Strong Again: Renewing the Promise in Smaller Industrial Cities,” today.

“I’m pleased Youngstown is being held up in a [positive] manner,” said Mayor Jay Williams. “For so long we’ve been seen as a poster child of what’s wrong, and now we’re the poster child of a smaller industrial city being revitalized. I hope in five to 10 years we become the poster child for what went right. I’m excited about it.”

The study provides recommendations to help smaller industrial cities, primarily in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, to move forward by using successful efforts in similar cities. Overall, PolicyLink identified 151 of these cities nationwide.

The report considers smaller industrial cities to be those who had an industrial base by the year 1880, a population between 15,000 and 150,000 in the 2000 U.S. Census and those with a median household income of less than $35,000.

The study specifically points to Youngstown for:

UEngaging all stakeholders, especially residents, to craft a vision and land-use plan to guide development and investment.

“Youngstown 2010, an award-winning planning process in Youngstown, Ohio, generated a new vision in which residents and government alike accept that they are a ‘smaller city’ with a focus on becoming the best city of 80,000 it can be,” the report reads.

USupporting local and regional entrepreneurship.

“The Youngstown Business Incubator, which has turned the city into a hot spot for business-to-business software development, is creating new jobs and reversing ‘brain drain,’” according to the report. “... Against the odds, YBI has made Youngstown the place to be for B2B [Business to Business] software developers.”

While more work needs to be done in Youngstown, the city is “on the right track,” Fox said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. The problems didn’t happen overnight and the solutions won’t either.”

The report can be viewed at on PolicyLink’s Web site.

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