Monday, July 30, 2007

Great Vindy op-ed and the Mayor is blogging!

First, Mayor Jay Williams jas just become one of the first mayors in the United States to start blogging. This is exciting to see in an era where so much of what government does is behind closed doors that the mayor is willing to open himself up like that. Kudos!

The blog can be found at

In other news, the Vindy wrote a great editorial, which I have reprinted here. Be sure to read the whole thing.


Momentum is mounting toward moving the Mahoning Valley into the fast lane of the tech-based economy of the 21st century.

A triple whammy of positive development news last week illustrates that the Youngstown region has turned a corner toward remodeling its economy from one based largely on services and heavy manufacturing toward one that thrives on research and high technology. That’s exciting and encouraging, because as the economy of Youngstown and its surrounding communities strengthens, so, too, do standards of living, quality of life and community revitalization.

The three announcements last Wednesday underscore the importance of this slow but steady economic shift:

-Turning Technologies, a downtown Youngstown based producer of cutting-edge audience response software and hardware, gets ranked seventh on Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of the Hot 500 fastest growing companies in the United States.

-Empyra, which provides Web-based products to improve the operating systems of companies and agencies, has succeeded so well that it must hatch out of the Youngstown Business Incubator and settle into its own headquarters in 20 Federal Place. It has growth projections of up to 300 employees within a few years.

-U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, has secured $2 million in the federal defense appropriations bill for the proposed Youngstown Center for Excellence in Metrology and 3-D Imaging to be located at Youngstown State University, itself a growing center of scholarly, scientific and technological research.

Turning Technologies model

Of course, we did not need a national trade publication to tell us that Turning Technologies is a hot property and a rising star in the global tech market. Its hottest product is TurningPoint, a credit-card sized responder that feeds into Microsoft’s Power- Point system and enables teachers and corporate presenters to get immediate feedback from classes and audiences.

How hot is Turning Tech? Sales grew 200 percent last year, revenues are projected to increase 500 percent over the next five years and its products reach more than 80 nations. Such meteoric growth has led, in part, to construction downtown of the $5.9 million Taft Technology Center, into which TT will move next year.

Another incubator occupant, Empyra, couldn’t wait. Its growing pains at the incubator — currently at 105 percent occupancy — encouraged it to open shop at the former Phar-Mor building downtown. Like Turning Tech, Empyra has created a common- sense high-tech product — one that eliminates paperwork by allowing forms to be completed online — and markets it aggressively. Its client list includes the federal government and Proctor and Gamble Co.

These two companies, and others like them, prove that the Mahoning Valley can be a viable player in the global tech marketplace. Both, too, demonstrate a firm commitment to keeping their bases rooted in Youngstown. The low cost of operations and access to interns from Youngstown State University stand out as vital assets.

YSU plays a role

Indeed Youngstown State has singled itself out as a leading player in regional tech research and development. That’s why we commend Congressman Ryan for his efforts to enhance that presence by earmarking $2 million for the center for excellence.

The center, a joint effort between YSU and M7 Technologies of Youngstown, will be part of the university’s new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) College and will research and develop advanced manufacturing and imaging techniques.

Should Ryan’s appropriation win approval, the center would need matching funds from YSU and outside sources for completion. We’d like to think that it would be easy for many to contribute in the interest of strengthening a new and vibrant Valley economy.

Thirty years ago this September, that economy was wracked by the closing of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., which signaled the beginning of the end for the steel industry upon which this region’s livelihood was built. Thirty years later, the rapid-fire pace of research and tech-based startups in the Youngstown area signal a new era of growth, vitality and economic security.

Private and public officials in Youngstown and throughout the Valley must work to keep that momentum building.

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