Former Vindy building now YBI's newest additionPublished: 11/5/17 @ 12:01
By KALEA HALL
Two years after the Youngstown Business Incubator took over The Vindicator’s 86-year-old office building, YBI leaders are ready to show off the newest addition to their now five-building campus downtown.
The building, referred to as Tech Block Building No. 5, at the corner of Vindicator Square and Boardman Street, will reinforce the west end of Federal Street as downtown’s Tech Block with a grand opening set for December.
The building will also reinforce Youngstown’s role as the center of a Tech Belt that extends through Ohio into Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“YBI, America Makes and Youngstown State University have a vision for creating a world-class ecosystem,” YBI CEO Barb Ewing said, recounting the exhaustive, yearlong, multi-million dollar renovation. “In order to create that vision, we have to have the facilities and the equipment.
“This particular facility is really at the center of the storm.”
A building used to print daily newspapers until 1972 will now be a place for additive manufacturing, the process of using certain materials to make 3-D objects layer by layer. It will house YBI’s additive manufacturing portfolio companies, a classroom and equipment.
The building was constructed in 1931 for the Youngstown Telegram. In 1936, The Vindicator acquired The Telegram, and the next year, the newspaper relocated there from its former headquarters at what is now the 21 WFMJ-TV building at Phelps and Boardman streets. News operations relocated to a newer production building on Front Street in 1988, with all operations consolidated there in 2015.
“This building was ‘home’ to all four Vindicator generations of our family, so while we sadly miss its confines, we are genuinely thrilled at its rebirth through YBI,” said Mark Brown, Vindicator general manager, whose mother Betty Brown Jagnow is the newspaper’s publisher.
“It served and protected us well for nearly eight decades, and we are certain it will do the same for YBI and its client companies,” Brown said.
YBI took over the building in 2015. Renovations were completed with a $3 million U.S. Economic Development Administration award, a $1.5 million state award and a $500,000 award from the city. To purchase the building, YBI had to take out a $700,000 mortgage. Naming opportunities for donors are available for inside the building and the building itself to help pay down the mortgage.
Knowing how important it was to preserve the building’s history, YBI kept the historic
grandeur of the building while transforming it into a modern tech space.
“You can get a feeling for what it was but also see what it will be,” Ewing said.
The building still has the historic Vindicator marquee anchored to it. Through the front doors is an original marble staircase that leads to a lobby where the former art deco Vindicator doors are on display.
To the right are offices, including YBI portfolio company Strangpresse’s office space, and to the left is the Samuel A. & Judy B. Roth Innovation Space, where equipment will go, and more offices will be built for companies.
The innovation space overlooks the high-bay manufacturing space – named the Murray & C. Kenneth Fibus Advanced Manufacturing Lab – where equipment will be used. Both the second and third floors provide more space to house additional companies.
Fresh coats of white, bright blue and green paint and lots of new lighting give the inside of the building a new life. It also has a new electrical system and passenger elevator. The old is still visible in original wooden doors and some wood-covered offices. There’s an industrial elevator and a high bay – ideal to be able to house larger additive manufacturing equipment.
“For so many different reasons, it was the perfect building for us,” Ewing said. “First and foremost, its proximity to our campus right beside America Makes. More importantly, it is a manufacturing space [and] the fact the newspaper was printed there and that it had an industrial
elevator and garage door openings, too, allow equipment and materials to move in and out made it even more ideal to us.”
A MANUFACTURING ECOSYSTEM
YBI was a highly successful business-to-business software company when Youngstown was selected to house the first additive manufacturing hub created by former President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012.
America Makes, 236 W. Boardman St., is a “collaborative partner” in additive manufacturing. It serves as a place where people in the industry can convene, where information is coordinated and as a catalyst for investment.
YBI saw the opportunity and became involved with additive manufacturing. Today, YBI has 10 to 12 startups involved in additive manufacturing.
Before the renovation, YBI didn’t have a manufacturing space of this stature for its growing additive-manufacturing companies.
The equipment inside the new building will primarily be high-end additive-manufacturing equipment that would be used to print parts and tooling.
America Makes will have an industrial-sized metal printer in the building.
“For us, it is huge because we are space-constrained here,” America Makes CEO Rob Gorham said. “The ability to have that expansion space is important to the ecosystem. What we are most excited about is where the potential lies and the historical significance of what [the building] meant prior and what it is turning into.”
The space and equipment will be used by portfolio companies, YBI’s industry partners and manufacturers that could benefit from advanced manufacturing.
“If we are successful in our vision we will have programs in place so [manufacturers] can come in and learn,” Ewing said.
Students also will have access to the equipment, as long as they are trained and certified.
“We are trying to make Youngstown a regional, national center for those [additive-manufacturing] skills,” said Mike Hripko, associate vice president for research at YSU.
Tech Block Building No. 5 will be home to four YBI additive manufacturing portfolio companies: Strangpresse, Vista AST, Juggerbot 3D and 3D PrinterWorks. More companies are expected.
Strangpresse, a designer and manufacturer of additive-manufacturing extrusion heads for the aerospace, automotive and marine industries, wanted to have a space where it could meet with customers, and a first-floor office space was just right.
“We thought it was the best space in the building,” Strangpresse CEO Chuck George said. “It gives us first- class office space, and we have access to equipment.”
Strangpresse was started in a YBI conference room in 2014.
“Being in YBI has helped us a great deal,” George said.
Strangpresse received $25,000 in funding by winning the AMPED technology startup competition sponsored by YBI– and made new connections.
“It’s more than just traditional networking,” George said.
The funding and connections helped Strangpresse’s growth.
Recently, Strangpresse secured an exclusive license for technology that will significantly improve the speed and quality of printing in additive manufacturing.
The licensed inventions come from the Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory and can quickly extrude hundreds of pounds of polymer material, particularly attractive for large-scale systems.
George, who used to be an accountant in a downtown Youngstown bank, remembers how the downtown area looked before the “Tech Block” emerged.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a new era.”