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Business incubator reaches out to former Valley residents

Published: Thu, May 7, 2009 @ 1:45 p.m.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Business Incubator has received a grant to form an online community to reach out to former Mahoning Valley residents who have built their careers elsewhere.

The Raymond John Wean Foundation has awarded the incubator $5,000 to create the network based on LinkedIn, a social networking site for professionals.

Julie Michael Smith, chief development officer of the incubator, said the initiative came out of the attention incubator received from a National Public Radio story in February. Hundreds of former area residents sent e-mails to the incubator to learn more about it or to offer to get involved with one of its companies.

Creating an online community will help the incubator market itself to these people, Smith said. Some of these people may want to move back to the Youngstown area or they may want to extend their resources and knowledge to incubator companies, she said.

Such networks already are in place in Boston and Pittsburgh.

The incubator is taking a detailed approach to creating an online community based on Pittsburgh’s model, called Into Pittsburgh.

The proposal calls for Chris Briem, an economist and a demographer at the University of Pittsburgh, to use government statistics to create a map of likely places that contain former Mahoning Valley residents.

Jim Russell, who was involved in creating the Pittsburgh effort, will use Briem’s data to create and manage the LinkedIn group for the incubator. The plan says that over time his efforts will no longer be needed because members will take over roles that he was performing.

The goal is to have 1,000 members in six months.

The incubator hopes to eventually extend the effort so that includes the entire technology community from Cleveland to Pittsburgh.

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