Youngstown Revolution

by Megan M. on July 31, 2007 · View Comments (Blog) |

This is difficult to write.

I started writing this Friday, and I’ve been working on it for days. This is really a dramatic change, if not a sudden one. It feels like an about-face, and it’s a little embarrassing. I’ve been thinking on it for a long time. I’m absolutely sure about it now.

Here’s what I started with: hometown negativity.

Over the last two or three years I have expressed a lot of unhappiness about Youngstown, where I lived for twelve years before moving to Austin. By then, Youngstown seemed representative of everything that was wrong with the world; dead economy, abandoned buildings, friends with unwanted pregnancies and DUIs, and people I cared about displaying careless attitudes about sex, safety and sanity. It felt like an environment feeding on itself. It felt like a bad place to be.

While I lived there, I was constantly avoiding social interaction. Everything happened at a bar, with alcohol, which is one thing, and cigarette smoke, which is another. None felt moderated: If we were getting drunk, we were getting very drunk. As a result, I spent a lot of time at home, by myself. On top of that, business felt wrong – the whole vibe felt wrong. If someone was doing good business in Youngstown, it definitely wasn’t me. Without a solution I was pretty sure I’d be closing up shop in favor of fast food job security, because who else would pay the rent on my cardboard box? Family finances were headed downhill. It was time to move to greener pastures while I still could. So I did.

The contrast between the incredibly unhealthy space I occupied in Youngstown and the overwhelmingly positive space I now occupy in Austin was unbelievable. It reinforced my certainty that Youngstown was a dangerous place to live – the environment, the influences, and many depressed, thoughtless people. To me, Youngstown was synonymous with trapped.

As you might expect, I wanted the people I loved out of that city. I wanted my friends and family to make their own decisions, but I wanted them to know where I stood: Not in Youngstown. I expressed this frequently.

As it turns out, I was kind of wrong.

Anything out there is only what we perceive it to be, but I didn’t have access to another perspective – at least, not that I knew. One fellow with whom I crossed paths had a plan, and seemed to have the funds to back it up, but he was just one possibility. There were others, I’m sure now, but I didn’t know them. They didn’t exist for me. I don’t think I realized what was going on until this year, when I started to really pay attention.

There was something happening in Youngstown back then, and it’s become much more powerful since. Something really interesting: the presence of revolutionaries!

My reality then was that Youngstown was a lower circle of hell, and irredeemable. It’s all rather shameful. Irredeemable?? Oy. Anyway, that’s the way I felt. I felt that way recently. But then I started learning about the people who are doing something positive in Youngstown, and I’ve changed my mind. I mean, really changed my mind!

This year I started hearing some crazy things out of the Mahoning Valley. Crazy, crazy things. Hearing that people were working hard, creating a new vision of the city they wanted to live in. What?? You mean you can make something what you want it to be?! Hell, I knew that! I sure never tried to apply it to a whole town. Business building is something I am really interested in, but city building? Sounded too big. Maybe impossible.

But then I started to hear all about how it was working.

I’m always a little astonished to find out what a dip I can be. Because why shouldn’t it work? Why on earth shouldn’t every single person in Youngstown be as powerful as I’ve always been so sure human beings can be? And why shouldn’t I expect them to manifest that, and make something wonderful? I don’t frickin’ know. But it’s awesome!

So, I’ve been reading Brooke Slanina’s Oakland Stage blog, and a ton of others; Brooke goes on and on about the possibility of growth in Youngstown, but there’s always this underlying thread that it’s dependent on what Youngstowners themselves are willing to do. The city needs the effort and focus of citizens to survive, and more than that, to become brilliant. All of my Youngstown negativity would still be real to me, if it weren’t for the time and attention of really real people working to make it better. Those people exist, I have discovered, and they have the intelligence and creativity and pure force of will to back their awesome ideas! Brooke hasn’t been kidding me all this time. She’s not fucking around, either.

Youngstown has been all over the national news. NPR covered the city’s plan for “shrinkage” – go ahead, laugh. It’s a great plan! John Edwards’ poverty tour, Youngstown 2010, the awesome activities of the Youngstown Business Incubator, not to mention stuff on C-Span, in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal – it’s time to pay attention! People are doing something now. They need help.

The idea of watching and not helping gives me horrible physical pain. They’re doing what I always wanted, when I was disconnected from everything, but never knew quite how to start. If I had known this was going on before the Austin Vortex drew me south, who knows what might have happened? But that was then, and this is now. And we can help now.

I have some big ideas about how I can affect Youngstown’s new energy from where I am, but most of them will take time. Some of you are still there, uncertain or struggling. You know something needs to be done, but you don’t know what to do. This is something you can do. At the absolute least, it’s time to start taking action to change the way we think about this city.

I used to tell people to leave before they no longer had a choice. But that’s not fair. It’s not fair to the city, or to the people who are working hard to make it better. And it sure as hell isn’t fair to those who might leave because they “have to”, when in staying they could make an incredible difference.

If you can stay, and make that difference… please do.

God, I understand needing to make one’s fortune elsewhere. If I had known all this would happen, I might still have gone south – many people are having a hard time making ends meet in the rust belt, and I am intimately familiar with that wavelength. You don’t have to convince me. If you’re that person – the way I was last year – then for heaven’s sake go and do what you need to do.

But some of you… some of you are doing okay. Some of you can make a real difference by staying, by getting in the loop with other Youngstown revolutionaries and making all of this work.

Whoever you are, whatever situation you’re in, I am trying to persuade you to believe in this. And now I’m going to persuade you to say something. Because it’s easy.

I’m going to tell you exactly what you can do to help.

No matter who you are or what’s going on, there are three things you can do to start helping right now, with almost no effort on your part! It doesn’t take much to get the word out, and here are some really easy ways to do it.

Three Easy Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW:

1. Ask your friends to read this post. It’s really important that people connected with Youngstown (and even elsewhere!) start to realize what’s happening there.

2. Write about the Youngstown effort in your blog. You can even link directly to this post, and send people here to find out about what’s going on.

3. Add this entry to Digg,, StumbleUpon – and anywhere else you can think of! The more people who hear about what’s happening in Youngstown, the better, so link traffic is a good thing.

I know that many of you want to do something positive, but you feel stuck. Oh god do I know that feeling. But there are so many people who want to help, and who can use your help. If you are feeling stuck, or afraid, it’s okay. IM me. Comment here, and we’ll help each other. The more of us that band together to create this thing, the faster it will happen and the more amazing it will be. Youngstowners are envisioning a healthy economy, a growing city, an urban paradise – but they need people to make it happen. If that sounds as awesome to you as it does to me, then I’ve done what I set to accomplish with this first post! (That makes me so happy.)

I’m doing something from 2200 miles away. What are you waiting for?!

  • brooke
    oh my darling!

    i should say you have hit a nerve about youngstown. thank you for the incredible message, the motivational words, and the kind acknowledgement of the oakland's blog.

    you rock it out.

  • Christopher Barzak
    For example, Lenny said:
    "What I care about is helping the average kid on the East Side or the South Side make it past 25 without being dead or addicted to drugs or with five kids of his own that he cant afford to take care of. I don’t see anybody seriously discussing these topics with the same depth they talk about 2010."

    I think that's very true. And I think because Lenny sees this so clearly, he should start that conversation. He had the Walruss, but unfortunately that didn't work out for reasons beyond his control. But I'd love to see him start a blog or something like it that doesn't have overhead to worry about, and start this sort of conversation up for people to come to with ideas as well.
  • Christopher Barzak
    I saw you last night and hadn't seen this reply, Phil, but I'll just say again for the record that my post wasn't directed in only one direction, but in any direction. There are people doing different things for the city, because individuals and groups can't get much done if they try to "do it all". I don't see any nefarious accusation implied by using the word "angle" to describe where people are coming from, and what they can do for a community, so you shouldn't take offense to that word, at least when I use it. It's a neutral word in my opinion. I suppose others use it for "spin" but I think it describes something that is just a fact about the human condition--that we're all coming from our own viewpoint, or angle, perspective, etc, on the reality we're living in. And my comments weren't specifically directed towards the "cheerleaders" (also a word I wouldn't use as negatively as you seem to think it is, because cheerleaders are necessary for progress as well). It was for the critics who are unhappy with whatever others try to do, but which they find not to be enough. I agree that not enough has been done yet, but I myself am a cheerleader, unapologetically, for what *has* been done so far. You can't redeem a city overnight. You can do it little by little though. Critics will criticize. They're geared that way. But it's best to just keep on doing what you or any of us can (I *did* want to emphasize this point, that not everyone can "do" the same things, that we're all inclined to efforts that are innate to our personalities, and that those should not be dissed either because they don't match up with some ideal of what people should be doing based on what one person or another does. That there has to be room for lots of different kinds of people who can do different sorts of things for the city to find its feet again. And I think critics can be good for the city too, but only if they're constructive. Too often critics tear down without offering any ideas or efforts of their own.)
  • Lou

    Great post, Sorry I came to the party so late.

    I, too, feel that there is a current of change happening in Youngstown, and started my website to both capitalize on this change and help promote it.

    I think Youngstown's problems are large and many, but not insurmountable. There's still a lot of hand wringing and "Woe is me" attitude around here, but the overall climate is changing.

    The biggest change is, IMHO, Political. The feeling is that the new crop of politicians are not as connected to the party machine and instead are professionals who actually, maybe, some of the time, LISTEN to their constituents and do their jobs.

    Wow, How controversial.

    Anyway, Keep up the good work. Hope to see you Boomerang back when your successful.
  • Defend
    There is a lot of truth in what you have said, Chris. I agree with a great deal but I object in the instance that I or people like me "come from one angle". I think that is an unfair statement as it has the tendency portray people like myself as "cheerleaders", punishing them for frankly, putting their names and positions (or balls)out there. This punishment is by the same people who traditionally do not take the time to find out how those individuals came to reach such positions. The result of my efforts results in a "cringe" by some folks - in this instance, a man I have never had more than a 30 second conversation with in my life. Maybe I am too quick to judge myself and therefore a hypocrite. If so, Lenny, then I apologize.

    Regardless, I find that people like myself are judged from a convenient distance. Categorized because it is convenient. You and I know each other, so I find it quite shocking that you - with no malicious intentions, which is understood - would outline what you have outlined above in this specific regard but I still respect your opinion.
    Many, many people that know me know I about some of severe ills of this city. I deal with rapists, murders, child molesters and every other conceivable piece of s--- that comes through this town for a living. I've been shot at and have have had weapons put to my head for such ridiculous reasons as holding a sign for something I believe in to chasing crack heads out of Wick Park. Back here on the North Side, I have and still do live among mentally ill individuals, the poor, the uneducated, and the children of the damned, to be sure. I'm integrated in the national and local political system, I read about urban revitalization efforts everywhere like it's nobody's business, I was a member of a black Political Action Committee on Oak Hill. I've seen people die. I speak to the Board of Education and teachers who are frustrated. I talk and work with Sheriff's Deputy's. I am "aware" more than I receive credit for..more aware than many our age yet but, of course, not like that of victims of this town themselves.

    Do these things make me some kind of hero. No. What they do is help to justify my argument that when I say I Defend Youngstown, you better understand that it is anything but a cheer leading effort. Mindless support for the good in the city is counterproductive and a waste of time. You must first embrace and accept the worst before you can believe in change. But if you do realize this and still choose to do nothing but complain or state the obvious, then either leave or get the hell out of the way - preferably both. This is Youngstown, Ohio - we don't have a time or place for people without ideas for improvement.

    P.S. Chris - this post is not directed toward you. Rather, I'm simply addressing the message to all those critics out there I've never had the honor of meeting yet but presume to know what I and Defend Youngstown is completely about. Peace out.
  • Christopher Barzak
    I think Lenny and Phil are coming at the problems the city faces from two different directions, and both are valid and necessary to be heard. While revitalization efforts and local successes*need* to be honored and celebrated (two words--and actions--whose meaning and importance for culture-building we have forgotten in the past three decades, especially here in the valley and places like it that have been hurt badly) we also need to keep our critical skills about the problems we're facing sharp. Entertainment and good PR won't save Youngstown or the world, but it does help send signals to the world outside our area that we're not unable to work with what we have and try to make the area as good as possible with what we have to work with. I grew up working class too. Not in the city, but in a rural area in Trumbull County. When my dad didn't have work, we ate whatever he brought home from hunting. Squirrel, rabbit, deer. Things got a little better as I got older, and I was able to go to college, but it was always a huge problem money-wise, and my parents and I did what we could to keep me in school until I graduated. Throughout all this, from when we were at our poorest to when my parents dragged us over the edge of the working poor into the lower middle class where you look down suddenly from the edge you just pulled yourself over and can see where you came from and are really scared that at any time something bad will happen to knock you back over that ledge, my parents put on their best faces to others, made our home as presentable as possible, and kept working at fixing our problems. I think this is mainly a micro-version of what Youngstown is trying to accomplish on a macro level. I'm a fiction writer, so forgive me for thinking in metaphor and simile.

    Resting on the laurels of good PR and entertainment economy building alone, though, and even factoring in the tech industry successes recently, is too early and not enough. We need to do more still, and we need to do more for the people living in poverty here. I think we have a variety of people with different things they can offer to help, and that we shouldn't tear each other down for doing what we can. Tearing each other down because we aren't all coming from the same place with our abilities and perspectives is the main ingredient necessary for disaster, which is what's been on the menu for this area for the past three or four decades every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I'm tired of that menu. I want this area to have more opportunities for people to become their better selves. And one of the things that we have to stop doing is expecting everyone else to be like we are, whoever we are, and to accept and appreciate what others have to offer, even if it comes at things from a different angle than the angle we have, even if it means being humbled because our idea isn't always the best one. Between the people whose personalities are best suited for highlighting the positives and the people who are best at highlighting what's problematic and is being ignored, and everyone who is a blend of these two sorts, like I myself am, we can get a lot accomplished. But we need to be able to see each other and who we are and how we're going about doing things as different corners of the same foundation. We need both positive PR and critical acumen. We need to pat ourselves on the back for anything good we manage to make happen, and we need to be able to say, while honoring any good we can make happen, that it is not enough yet. Not yet. And then, after that, try to fix something else that hasn't been fixed yet.
  • Tyler Clark
    We're not saying problems don't exist. We're all too aware of them, hence our boosterism of local successes. The challenges we face don't negate our progress. Rather, they amplify it. The more "entertainment and good PR" we have, the more people will be attracted to the area and produce local revenues to help combat problems like crime and poverty. You can't always pick where the improvement starts. You take what you can get, roll with it and try to build on it.
  • Megan M.

    The things you're talking about are very scary and very real, and I agree with you strongly that ignoring the bad scaries is not going to make them go away. But I also really believe that encouraging positive interest and enterprise will bring eyes and minds to the city for whatever purpose -- whether it's a discussion about arts and entertainment or a focus on the very real and upsetting situations you have on your mind. These are things that can be fixed if people sit up and take notice of them, decide that they're worth fixing, and take the time to do something about them! And changing perceptions -- though it is, as you said, far from the complete solution to all problems! -- can still help bring that attention where it needs to be.

    Opinions will obviously vary as to how powerfully positivity can affect Youngstown's circumstances, and you've seen how strongly I believe in it myself! But someone has to remind us that we are not dealing solely with a lack of good publicity, and you have done that beyond any shadow of a doubt. Very excellent!

    The revolution is not how one person sees it; the revolution can be whatever we want it to be. Each of us will make our part into the catalyst that does what we need it to do. Together, we're going to be pretty awesome.
  • Lenny

    I don't have all the answers (even many), but I also don't think cheerleading is going to help any problems. When I hear you or other people hype (and that's what it is, in large part, hype) the Youngstown 2010 cult of personality that is rapidly surrounding Jay Williams, Anthony Kobak and Hunter Morrison, I can't help but cringe. What I hear coming from Defend Youngstown is "stamp out criticism and reinforce positive thinking." That to me sounds like the definition of political public relations or the work of some bullshit self-help guru. On the contrary, criticism is vitally important to any functioning Democracy. Only fascists (and Scooby Doo villains) argue, “We could get so much more accomplished (could have gotten away with it) if it wasn’t for all the naysayers (meddling kids).”

    You say you are disappointed that I have the opinions that I have? I'm disappointed at your level of tolerance for divergent viewpoints. I doubt you have the same view of criticism when it comes to our current national government and projects. For example, besides Rush Limbaugh, who in their right mind would be disappointed with someone’s negative views of George Bush and the federal reaction to Hurricane Katrina. They might not agree with it, but they shouldn’t be disappointed that the viewpoint is allowed to exist. I hope that Phil Kidd isn’t Youngstown’s Rush Limbaugh.

    I think there are plenty of good things about what's going on, but I also think those good things are helping to mask the bad things that are still happening. I think its great that blighted areas are being torn down. I don't think its great that some of the city's poorest may end up being abandoned in the shuffle (despite what planners say). I think its great that violent crime is down 21 percent, to use your stat (of course the population has shrunk too; is that stat per capita?). I don't think its great that gang murders (or drug related clique murders, as is probably more accurate) are still a major problem (Youngtown is still the third most dangerous city in the country, according that survey last year). I think a strong entertainment scene is good, but without the financial support of a good economy to hold it up, its going to either collapse in on itself or consist solely of upper middle class hipsters with rich parents who can afford their instruments or art supplies.

    I think when you talk about a Youngstown recovery, you have to include all the information, not just the good stuff. And by being aware of how the media works and being an avid follower of media criticism, I don't think that logic dictates because the media covers it, it must be good. If you've noticed, ever since that “Governance” story came out, all the other mainstream media stories that followed have aped its tone, content and structure with little deviation. This is because most media types are lazy. When the mainstream media swoops upon a local town with a story they deem nationally significant, they look for the easy angles that will tell the best story, they aren’t necessarily looking for the the complete truth (and you couldn’t fit the complete truth in a 700 word story anyway). Further, it’s not considered unusual or out of the ordinary for an urban city to have gangs, drugs and murders, so they don't cover it. It's the classic man bites dog test. Black kids killing black kids, all high school drop outs with few future prospects, that is the dog biting the man. It’s ordinary, not news. A city trying to shrink instead of grow? That's out of the ordinary and will get covered. I'm not even passing judgment on the idea of smart shrinkage. It's a good idea and worthy of coverage. But it's not the complete story.

    I consider myself working class, like most people in the area. I've worked real jobs in my life, in factories and call centers and shipping bays, beyond my stints dabbling as a journalist and musician (and in fact, I think the fact I am working class makes me a better journalist and song writer). I come from a poor family, a single mother home. My mother was on welfare when I was young; I got free lunch at school for a long time. I, like a lot of people in this area, have some proper higher education, but no degree. I'm struggling right now to go back to school because of money issues. I strongly agree that there needs to be more jobs for educated people, and the efforts to bring jobs in the area for college grads is admirable, but a simple numbers game (or peek at census stats) shows that there are more non-college grads than grads in this and most areas. Something needs to be done (what exactly, I haven't the slightest clue) to help the working poor, the blue collar people, the ghetto, the young urban black male, the kids in the Youngstown City Schools who will drop out. Show me a real effort to help these kinds of people (of whom I consider myself one) and I’d gladly sign onboard to volunteer. As fine of ideas as they are, tearing down some houses, increasing the annual number of Kenny Rodgers concerts and bringing in high tech jobs is not going to greatly help these kinds of problems.

    I don't care about helping Kimmy Sue Poland and Brad Michael Boardman find a job in the Valley after they graduate from Ohio State with their degree in business. They have other options; they can help themselves. What I care about is helping the average kid on the East Side or the South Side make it past 25 without being dead or addicted to drugs or with five kids of his own that he cant afford to take care of. I don't see anybody seriously discussing these topics with the same depth they talk about 2010.

    Will the year 2010 be better than 2000 was or 1990 was? Probably. Will Youngstown still have a lot of unaddressed and unresolved problems? Undoubtedly.

    Defend Reality.
  • Chris Rutushin
    This is a great awakening that you have come to. I had the same about three years ago . It's easy to use the valley as a scapegoat for our own misdirection and indecisions. Every place in the world has it's own problems but it's really our own perception to the world around us. Do you want to to miserable and let the negativity influence your actions or do you want to "be the change you want to see in the world?"

    I came back to make a film I set out six years ago. This was my third time around and it's not because it wasn't ready to be made. I was finally ready to get off of my ass to do it and when people saw that I was serious, everyone came out of the woodwork to help. It's been a positive experience for myself, everyone involved and for Youngstown. If it's positive, people will get behind you and paying it forward really does work.

    One person alone can't change a city or it's perception but if each person does the best at what they do whether it be a film or music, working at a homeless shelter or a hospital, running or even supporting local restaurants and is making a contribution to the cause and a difference in our community. Each small pixel adds to the picture. I'm proud of what Youngstown can become and that our group of 20-30 somethings are coming back to share their international experiences and applying what they've learned for the benifit of the whole community.

  • Defend

    1. Despite homicide rates, violent crime is down 21% since 2000.

    2. Bringing jobs? Calling centers and selling insurance isn't an economy supporter. Neither is a lack of qulified candidates (educationally speaking)

    The knowledge-based economy is what we are embracing:

    The YBI is recognized as a state and national model for technology business incubation. Turning Technologies is experiencing a 330% growth rate per year and is the 7th fastest growing small business in the US. 102 new jobs with starting salaries of $58,000 are comming in March to downtown. M7 Technologies and Eyperia are about to reach similar growth in the next 2-4yrs...and this is only the very beginning of Tech emergence.

    Cleveland Clinic and UH are looking for expanding toward the Valley. Congressman Ryan and Hunter Morrison are working a partnership with YSU and the local medical infrastructure.

    The STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) college is one of the first of its kind in the nation (seed planting).

    We have just secured $2 million to start a School of Excellent in Metrology & 3D imaging which will serve as a DIRECT pipeline for M7 Tech (, a world leader in their field.

    The Regional Chamber is looking to consolidate school district administration and county government in hopes to find enough savings to provide free tution to all graduates of Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbia high schools in order to grow the pool of qualified candidates for businesses considering moving to the Valley. There is only 1 other city in the nation who has tak

    Not to mention we have a U.S. Congressman who sits on the Appropriations committee, understands the important of a knowledge-based economy in Ytown, and is pumping millions upon millions into inititatives that support it.

    3. You undermine the importance of enterainment and appearance. Check out Rebecca Ryan's work, the Brooking Institution, Richard Florida or study's on the Broken Windows theory (in general or in specific). Youngstown 2010 is recieving national and international attention. We must be doing something right? For those who don't know about Youngstown 2010, check out their website( Basically, it's a plan which aims to finally clean up (by shrinking the city) 30yrs of blight that has accumulated so as to build on existing strengths as well as get a greater control on complex socio-economic urban issues (that which we have failed to do for the past 30yrs as we sat around and complained about the mills closing, crime, the economy, lack of entertaiment, and blight).

    I could go on and on but I'm not. This is shameful. You are a highly intelligent individual in this Valley whith great talent. While I understand where you are comming from, why would you - of all people - want to be part of the problem? I am disappointed.
  • Joe Lowry

    Awesome post. It's great to see people finally starting to spread the word about the vision that is Youngstown. With more positive attitudes, things can be turned around.

    To Mr. Crist, the Valley is starting to boom with tech jobs (as is evident from the work of the Chief Evangelist).

    Think positive thoughts, folks, and you get positive actions and positive rewards.

    Joe Lowry
  • Jan Crews
    When intelligent, thinking adults read and learn what is happening in Youngstown, they will agree that change can happen and jump on the bandwagon to help.

    Change won't be fast. Youngstown didn't fall into this situation overnight--it won't recover overnight. But with deliberate thoughtful work by its defenders, it will return to a better place than it was before.

    In response to the Anonymous comment above, if you want Youngstown City Schools students to graduate, you have to start encouraging them in kindergarten. Buy a book for a kindergartener or first grader to get him or her excited about reading and learning.

    If you want them to go to college, you have to start encouraging them in high school or middle school. And you have to help them find the funds.

    If you want to see Youngstown Business Incubator and its composite companies succeed, take your knowledge and skills and apply for those jobs.

    I am the mother-in-law of a native Y'towner and the mother of a YSU grad. They've just returned to Y'town to help it grow and recover. They see the inherent goodness and want to raise their family in this kind of place. And I plan to follow them. When I see what's happening in Y'town, my heart wants to help make this goodness happen.

    Don't be a naysayer. Get off your butt and help us all make this thing happen!
  • Defend
    This is exactly what is needed and, yes, there is certainly a revolution underway. It is a great time to be a Youngstown-American...local or otherwise. I've spread this link to others who will greatly appreciate your words and will spread the message to even further circles.

    Never give up the fight for this city. So help me, we are going to win this battle. To borrow a quote from a local activist: "We are the people we have been waiting for."

    One day, someone somewhere will sit with a friend on a park bench in an nondescript area in town not much different from ours at present. One friend will say to the other, "There is no hope here." to which the other friend will reply: "Yes there is. Remember Youngstown?"
  • Anonymous

    I think I speak for all in Youngstown in thanking you for your thoughtful post.

    Things are indeed changing dramatically in Ytown.

    When were first launched YBI's B2B software focus mission in 2001, even I wasn't sure that we would be successful with it.

    But, today our portfolio companies now employ well over 200 people. Ours apps are selling not only across the country, but in over 45 other nations as well. And they are being purchased by corporate customers that include Textron, Firestone, Lockheed Martin and IBM and higher education customers that include Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Stanford.

    By 2009, YBI will become a four building campus in downtown Youngstown, filled with thousands of high- paying, knowledge-driven jobs, created by B2B software companies with global markets.

    Youngstown has really become an experimental laboratory. New ideas are not only welcomed, they are sought after. New and very diverse voices are at the table now, because we finally realized the old guard had not served us well.

    Come see for yourself.

    Jim Cossler
    Chief Evangelist
    Youngstown Business Incubator
  • Tyler Clark
    There is much hope. We're working hard right now to get the job done. People will begin to believe the more progress we make, issue by issue. (Never give up, never surrender!) There is a renaissance happening in Youngstown, and people are waking up to it. Slowly but surely.
  • Lenny
    oh. i didnt sign that post...
  • Anonymous
    The problem is, the Youngstown "revolution" is only trying to make things prettier and provide more entertainment options. There is nothing being done to actually bring business to Youngstown or the Mahoning Valley (and most efforts that exist are just to keep Lordstown and the Air Base IN the Valley). Sure, beautifying the city is a good step, but it won't lead businesses to relocate to the area. And bringing entertainment to the area (if you can call Kennies Loggins and Rogers entertainment) is nice, but that should be a reaction to an existing, engaged scene, not a way to help the valley. And crime hasnt gone down at all, if anything the crimes have become more shocking than ever. But now the gangs are black, not Italian, so nobody cares if black kids shoot black kids. Nothing is being done to eliminate the root causes of these problems. Fifty percent of Youngstown City School students don't graduate.

    Youngstown hasn't improved, Youngstown's public relations department has.
  • Megan M.
    James: That's why they need US!
  • James
    I probably should be more constructive with my comments. So here goes. I know about a lot of these articles and organizations. I even did some canvassing for Youngstown 2010 in its early days. The Oakland is probably Youngstown’s best hope of reviving itself, that and actually shrinking the city to help conserve resources. I say this because if Youngstown is ever going to regain a sense of hope and pride, it is going to need some sort of focal point that the community can gather around to recreate itself. The Oakland looks like its trying to fulfill this role and that might actually be the catalyst that’s needed. That said, I’ll probably stop by the Oakland next time I’m in town. I used to know a lot of people connected with it (Jack for one).

    All of that said, I must sadly disagree with your optimistic outlook for our former city. Mostly due to the fact that I have worked to help give hope to people and get people involved back when I lived there. For every one person who was energized and helpful there were three who were being lumps of flesh that were resentful of anyone who wanted to change things (Hell I even called a few of these people friends). The biggest threat Youngstown faces is there people, as the only thing they do is actively prevent things from changing. I can say, with some shame, that in the end I transferred my community service activities to animal rescue as it was an area where I could actually do some good. That and dogs and cats actually want help, unlike many people.
  • Emii
    Hmmm. I kind of am madly in love with NYC but having hope for the future of Y-town is a nice thought. :) Personally I never really avoided being social, I was either at the Youngstown Playhouse or at Rosie's most of the time. The drinking and smoking scene was beyond me. Go Youngstown!...?
  • Mathew
    Great post, Meg!

    I echo a lot of what you say and hope for the best for Youngstown.

    In addition to what you've written here, folks can check out the following blogs:

    Mayor Jay William's blog:

    Defend Youngstown blog:
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