Redefining ‘Rust Belt’: Youngstown’s technology boom

Technology businesses moving into the city have more Youngstown State students interested in the engineering and entrepreneurship programs

The technology boom in Youngstown is redefining the "Rust Belt" as the "Tech Belt."

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Formerly known as the “Rust Belt” region after the steel industry collapsed, cities like Youngstown are now being renamed “Tech Belt” cities.

The area has become a major hub for technology start-ups. The Youngstown Business Incubator created over 400 tech jobs, and has been ranked the number one University Affiliated incubator in North America twice.

“We’re resilient, you know. We don’t stop, we don’t give up,” said Brittany Housel, YBI Director of Program Management. “Entrepreneurship’s hard. We find that our entrepreneurs here are a lot more likely to keep pushing through.”

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is one of the largest innovations luring millennials to Youngstown.

America Makes, located downtown, is one of the nation’s leaders in 3D printing research.

“They’re talking about even more double-digit growth, not just this year, but year over year,” said America Makes Director of Operations Rob Gorham.

CEO and President of M7 Technologies Michael Garvey says incorporating high-level technology in a business is key to survive in today’s global economy.

He says businesses in Youngstown are thriving more than other cities because they caught on to that quickly.

“What technology you decide to integrate into your business model is up to those individual businesses, but you have to have from a sustainability standpoint, you have to have technology involved.”

In 2008, Youngstown State combined several colleges into one giant Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program.

“There’s an opportunity for students who graduate from here to stay here, but we’re actually working to attract students from outside of the region into this area just so that they can have access to those resources,” said Darrell Wallace, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at YSU.

Technology businesses moving into the city and their partnerships with YSU have caused more students to be interested in the engineering and entrepreneurship programs than ever before. YSU’s entrepreneurship program alone grew by 75 percent from just last year.

“It’s a very tight-knit community,” Gorham said. “It’s very easy to go talk to the chamber of commerce, go talk to the president of the university, and actually start to come up with things that we can do together that have a big impact.”

The university is continuing to expand the program to meet the demands of students and businesses that many of the students do research for.

“Beginning in the fall, we’ll be open for students from STEM, students from Creative Arts and Communication, and Business to come together and create new projects and services to advance manufacturing,” said YSU’s Director of Entrepreneurship Donna Walsh.

The graduating mechanical engineering class from YSU has grown from 14 to 47 students in the past five years. Department Chair Hazel Marie says almost all of those students have jobs lined up in Youngstown.




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