Appalachian Commission funds will help ‘elevate every entrepreneur’ – Business Journal Daily
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A $1.35 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will help the Youngstown Business Incubator better fulfill its mission to “uplift every entrepreneur,” said YBI CEO Barb Ewing .
YBI was among the recipients of nearly $21 million in grants from the CRA’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization — or Energy — initiative, which targets federal resources toward communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal-fired power plant operations and coal-related procurement. industrial sectors.
The grants were announced Thursday morning at America Makes, a YBI tenant.
The Power program was created to address the decline of the coal industry, which has devastated communities, ARC federal co-chair Gayle Manchin said in an interview after the news conference. While people talked about “dirty energy,” the accompanying stigma was attached to people who worked in the coal industry, she said.
“People have lost hope. There was no sense of purpose,” Manchin said. “Part of the reason for the Power grants was to wake people up and say we can diversify, there are ways to bring the economy back.
“People in these areas are strong, hard-working and have job skills that can be reused in other industries,” she said.
The grant to YBI will support the Lake to River Small Business Success Project, which will allow the incubator and its partners to expand their work with small and medium-sized businesses across a seven-county region. Over the three-year grant period, 1,444 planned businesses will be improved, 2,515 businesses served, 240 jobs created, 300 new businesses created and $7.5 million leveraged in private investment, according to an ARC award summary.
“This funding will truly allow us to achieve our mission, our vision to uplift every entrepreneur,” Ewing said. “We will be able to support startups in traditional businesses, not just those owned by women, minorities and veterans.
The funds will enable two additional business advisors to be hired at YBI.
“Our plan is to put one adviser in the north and another in the south, so that we really meet the obligations of the whole region,” Ewing said.
“The number of people we can serve now will increase, and without the struggle of just three people to do so. Now we will have a few more people to help us,” said Stephanie Gilchrist, director of the Minority Business Assistance Center at YBI. “It’s huge, instrumental and will definitely have an impact in our community and beyond.”
Additionally, the funds will allow YBI to develop programs to support supply chain diversification and get anchor institutions thinking about how they can support small businesses by buying from them.
“It’s the most important thing you can do for small businesses,” Gilchrist said.
With this funding, YBI will help companies access capital, seek out sourcing opportunities, develop business plans, adopt cutting-edge technologies, and support startup creation. The program will also provide access to business advice, grant writing, technology advice, technical assistance workshops and boot camps, advice for advanced manufacturing projects and to the diversity of the supply chain.
“Your work is essential to the future competitiveness of Youngstown and the state of the Appalachian region,” said Alejandro Castillo, assistant secretary of the US Economic Development Administration.
The type of investment announced on Thursday “helps build capacity” by helping business incubators and minority-owned businesses, but also helping companies with their workforce development programs, a- she declared.
The funds are not intended to be used as a ‘band-aid approach’ to meet the needs of communities, but rather for them to make ‘truly transformational investments’, ‘dream big’ and consider where they want the country to be. 25 or even In 50 years, says Castillo. “This particular room has the architects” who will not only create the plan but will be the builders.
John Carey, director of the Ohio Governor’s Office of Appalachia, said that during Governor Mike DeWine’s tenure as ARC co-chair in 2020, he said he learned that the ARC was very “focused on results” and operates on a bipartisan basis.
“It’s really about serving the people on the pitch,” he said.
Following the grant announcement, Manchin led a panel discussion of current and former Power grant recipients, including Ewing, as well as Castillo, Carey and Briggs White, deputy director of the Coal Communities Interagency Task Force and power plants and economic revitalization.
The EDA is just one of many bureaus and offices of the Department of Commerce – which includes the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Federal Communications Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – which can have an impact on economic development.
“Economic development is not linear. It’s very complex,” EDA’s Castillo said. To ensure longer-term economic growth, there needs to be more strategic planning and greater collaboration. For example, as electric vehicle technology is adopted, charging stations need to be incorporated into economic development strategies, she said.
She also took note of the money spent in the 300 federal laboratories.
“We spend all this money, but this technology is in our labs. We have a challenge that we need to solve, which is to take this technology and release it for entrepreneurs so that we can commercialize it,” she said.
Roundtable participants highlighted several needs and priorities in the communities they serve, including broadband access, infrastructure and workforce development.
They also identified the opportunities that presented themselves to them. Tourism is now Kentucky’s third-largest industry, said Tammie Nazario, director of the Kentucky Wildlands Regional Tourism Initiative, which received $1.2 million on Wednesday.
“Many people don’t believe that tourism is synonymous with economic development,” she remarked.
Having leadership provided by anchor institutions in a community is important, but cost sharing “tends to be a huge challenge,” White said.
Community colleges are uniquely positioned not only because of their flexibility, but also as gateways to other secondary opportunities, said Betsy McIntyre, director of the Tri-State Energy and Advanced Manufacturing Consortium at Westmoreland Community College in Pennsylvania. The consortium received $699,625 on Thursday.
“They’ve become very, very flexible in their scheduling,” she said.
Castillo stressed that workforce development must be designed for today’s needs so that participants know they have a “good-paying job” available to them after training is complete. Additionally, there needs to be a focus on opportunities for entrepreneurship, such as those provided by the federal infrastructure bill, and connecting those opportunities to underrepresented communities.
“Small businesses are still the backbone of the country,” YBI’s Ewing said. “The pandemic has changed the world as we know it, but it hasn’t changed that.”
Deborah Prosser, director of business development at the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission, pointed to a societal barrier that prevents young people from starting their own businesses after college.
“They have so much student debt that they can’t afford to be an entrepreneur,” she said. His organization received $509,948 to develop an e-commerce marketplace for startups.
The involvement of economic development organizations and leaders at the local level is also important when developing strategies, participants said.
The work of the YBI-led initiative aligns “very well” with the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s “overarching strategy to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into our purpose so that we can better serve minority women and veteran-owned businesses in the marketplace.” said Sarah Boyarko, Chief Operating Officer.
“As a whole, our community has for too long seen disparities – big disparities – in educational attainment, health outcomes [and] income level, and I think this work will help close those gaps,” she added.
YBI’s partners in the initiative also welcomed the support.
Brite Energy Innovators in Warren hosts a YBI-based Minority Business Support Center office. “This effort will go directly to helping that and serving more entrepreneurs, so we’re really excited to be able to use our facilities and move this initiative forward,” said Rick Stockburger, president and CEO of Brite.
Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center in Salem, said the grant will allow the center to create new training programs that connect with entrepreneurs, including among its immigrant population.
“We have a large Guatemalan population, and this is going to help us do more outreach and provide tools to more of our minorities in the region…to help them become business owners or entrepreneurs or advance in their career,” she said.
Pictured: Among Thursday’s panelists were Barb Ewing, John Carey, Gayle Manchin, Alejandra Castillo, Briggs White.
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