Government

Downtown Events Director Changing Perceptions

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Even before he became Youngstown’s director of downtown events, Michael McGiffin knew he wanted a role in changing the perception of the downtown.

At Youngstown State University, he served on student government – including a year as president of the Student Government Association.

“Within that role, I started to figure out that I wanted my career to better the city and the community,” he says.

After graduation, he took a job as operations manager of Kilcawley Center, the student union at the university, where he booked and scheduled events.

“I was afforded the opportunity to plan events that could positively impact students’ mindsets and impact the culture on campus,” he says. “I fell into this job [for the city] because I was pretty much already doing it. It’s just now on a bigger stage.”

What led to this bigger stage was an email. While still at YSU, a friend emailed Mayor John McNally suggesting that McGiffin be part of the search committee to fill the position. The email was also sent to McGiffin.

Nothing became of the search committee suggestion, so McGiffin decided to apply for the job.

“I had worked with two individuals who had done the job prior to me and saw a good responsibility behind the position. I thought it’d be a good way to affect the city,” he says.

In his role, he works toward many ends, McGiffin says. He is an avenue to the mayor as well as event coordinator for what he’s dubbed “in-house events” – the events the city puts on every year such as the tree-lighting ceremony in December and Fourth of July observances.

“I’m a liaison between everyone who lives or works or does business in downtown Youngstown. The mayor is really busy and a lot of people use me as a channel to him,” McGiffin says. “That can be a rewarding experience because you get to help out a lot of the people down here and get to be a messenger for them.”

Among this year’s events are music and arts festivals, including Revive Youngstown. The university will also bring its spring festival downtown for the first time, McGiffin says.

“It’ll look like a mini South By Southwest. The cool thing is that it’s a marriage of Festival on Phelps and YSU’s annual spring event,” he says, describing the event as “a family-friendly art and music festival.”

Other events to be held over the summer will include a 1,000-foot slip ’n’ slide down the Market Street Bridge and a fundraiser for Beatitude House where volunteers will rappel down First National Bank Tower.

Pictured: Michael McGiffin, Youngstown’s director of downtown events, began working for the city after five years as operations manager for Kilcawley Center at YSU.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.