Business incubator is seeking support to build on its success

The Youngstown Business Incu- bator, one of the city’s greatest success stories, is entering the second phase of its life.

The incubator has paid enormous dividends on what was a modest investment by the state, initially through its Edison Technology Incubator program, but times are changing. And as times change, those who don’t adapt die. The Youngstown Business Incubator has been adapting since the day it was born, so there’s every reason to be confident about its future. But it will need the support from people, businesses and foundations that believe in its mission.

The YBI is doing a remarkable job of nurturing technological start-ups and supporting its established success stories on an annual budget of less than $1 million. At one time, about 70 percent of that budget came from the state. That is down to 50 percent now. And it is anticipated that in just five years, that percentage will drop to 10 percent.

Recently the YBI revealed how it was going to meet that goal, in part by launching a five-year fund-raising program designed to produce $500,000 a year. It should come as no surprise that the campaign is getting strong support from people who have invested their time, energy, resources and talent in the Mahoning Valley.

Jim Yukech of Catholic Health Partners is the YBI fund-raising chairman. Co-chairmen are Mike Broderick, CEO of Turning Technologies, YBI’s biggest success story; Doug Sweeney, president of Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, and Bruce Beeghly, former head of Altronic, and a member of a family prominent in industry and philanthropy in the Valley for three generations.

For different reasons, each of the co-chairmen know how important the YBI’s high-tech success story is to Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

By the numbers

Consider the figures provided by Jim Cossler, CEO and “chief evangelist” for the Youngstown Business Incubator. In the last five years, the incubator in downtown Youngstown has attracted $76 million in capital investment and created 610 jobs with an average wage of $52,800. YBI clients have paid $53 million in wages and generated total income of over $184 million. That’s an impressive result for an organization with an annual budget of less than $1 million.

Broderick credits Cossler with having the vision to see that Youngstown was capable of nurturing a high-tech company. He says YBI probably provided support worth $250,000 to Broderick’s Turning Technologies. Today the company has 250 employees, a payroll of $15 million and its employees pay more in annual income taxes to Youngstown than YBI invested in helping the company prosper.

Turning is an extraordinary success story, but there are dozens of smaller success stories and those companies, most creating specialized software, are cumulatively providing hundreds of jobs. And Cossler’s confident that there are more extraordinary success stories in the making.

Even as the YBI has paid a remarkable return to the state, the city and its initial supporters in jobs created and economic vitality realized, it has the potential to do even more if it gets the support it is seeking in this fund drive.

As Broderick says, Turning Technologies can make a difference, but it alone cannot transform the Mahoning Valley. But twenty Turning Technologies could.

There are those who may not think that’s possible. But they’re probably the same people who never imagined that Youngstown would some day get as much ink in the national press for being a high-tech incubator and a center for additive manufacturing research than for being part of the rust belt.

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