In Youngstown’s early days, corridors like Market Stree, Mahoning Avenue, Belmont Avenue and South Avenue helped the city expand and spread, creating thriving suburbs feeding off the inner-core.
Decades later, planners want to flip the phenomenon – using those same corridors to flow economic development back into the city.
And YSU is at the center of those efforts.
“One of our objectives is to identify opportunity sites along these corridors that can be used to attract industry and business, help create jobs and begin to grow the city’s economy,” said Rachel McCartney, economic development analyst in YSU’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies.
The Center is the administrator of a two-year, $220,000 federal grant to the city of Youngstown from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The goal is to produce a viable plan that will, among other things, map out a strategy to attract new and emerging businesses to the city for long-term economic growth and stability.
McCartney, previously community development program manager for the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, is leading the planning effort. Dominic Marchionda, city-university planning coordinator for the Center, is also involved, all under the leadership of Tom Finnerty, associate director of the Center, and Ron Chordas, associate provost for University Outreach and executive director of the Public Service Institute.
Part of the plan focuses on how to better link the city and the YSU campus. Among the early initiatives is a survey to determine how many and how often YSU employees and students go downtown to utilize businesses, such as restaurants. A similar survey is planned for employees at St. Elizabeth Health Center on Belmont Avenue.
Also underway is a “cluster analysis” to identify industries and companies that fit into the region’s economic footprint and then to market the “opportunity sites” along the city’s main corridors to those entities, McCartney said.
In addition, an “economic action group” of 30 to 50 community and business leaders has been meeting monthly at the Youngstown Business Incubator to begin discussions about a “visioning plan” for downtown Youngstown, Marchionda said. Also being formed is an “anchor institution consortium” made up of YSU, hospitals, banks, the city and more to collaboratively direct and focus resources and economic development activities, an approach McCartney said is based on successful efforts in Detroit.
“So we have a lot of balls in the air right now,” she said.
Finnerty said the planning effort is a continuation of Youngstown 2010, an award-winning, joint city-university plan developed in the early 2000s that called for a smaller, greener and cleaner city.
“This initiative is really a further evolution of what we did a decade ago,” he said.