Economic Development

Incubator’s Growth Won’t Stop at Fifth Building

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Business Incubator’s acquisition of the former Vindicator building downtown is just the start of future expansion efforts, says its executive director.

“We’ve got to think about our sixth building and seventh building,” says Jim Cossler. “We’re not going to stop growing.”

The YBI purchased the former Vindicator office building at 29 Vindicator Square for $654,000, according to records from the Mahoning County auditor’s office. Asking price for the building was $700,000.

Cossler says the price covers the relocation costs of Vindicator offices to the newspaper’s production building across Boardman Street. A press event to announce the YBI’s acquisition is scheduled for tomorrow.

Renovation of the building is expected to cost about $6 million, Cossler reports. “We can expect to put the first hammer to the building in August, and we’re looking at a six-to-eight-month completion date.”

Once finished, the building would house companies that have graduated from the Incubator and are marketing their products. The YBI houses mostly high-tech firms that engage in software development and was last year named the No. 1 university-affiliated incubator in the world.

YBI wants to use the building to attract startup additive manufacturing companies, Cossler says.

What is most appealing about the building is the area where the newspaper’s printing presses were located, he continues.

The space is perfectly oriented to suit additive manufacturing and 3-D printing equipment.

“That is going to be the heart of YBI’s move into additive manufacturing and 3-D printing,” he says.

The building should fill up quickly, Cossler notes, adding it could have at least “a couple hundred” employees working there in 12 to 18 months after it’s opened.

Cossler says he loves the look of the building, constructed in 1931 for the former Youngstown Telegram,  which features an Art Deco style. The Vindicator acquired the Telegram in 1936 and moved its offices there shortly afterwards.

“The fact that we’re able to repurpose it for high-tech companies to carry the building into the next century is not only exciting for us, but for everybody in the Mahoning Valley,” Cossler says.

The incubator received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, $1.5 million through the state’s capital appropriations budget, and $500,000 from the city of Youngstown to help fund the renovation project.

Former Mayor Jay Williams, now assistant secretary of commerce and director of the federal agency’s Economic Development Agency, is expected to be on hand for the announcement Thursday.

The Raymond J. Wean Foundation, Warren, provided the YBI with a loan through Cleveland-based Village Capital Corp. to purchase the building, while other local foundations have stepped up to support the effort.

“We could still use additional funds for the building,” Cossler says. “We have the money to get the building open and get it ready, but we’re still in the process of raising some additional funds to finish it out the way we want to.”

YBI, at 241 W. Federal St., has expanded three times since it transformed its business model into an accelerator for high-tech companies. The Taft Technology Center next door, houses the Incubator’s most profitable tech-company graduate, Turning Technologies, while the Semple Building was renovated soon after.

America Makes, the first of the Obama Administration’s advanced manufacturing hubs, occupies the fourth YBI building located behind the West Federal site.

“This is an affirmation that we can do anything we put our minds to in Youngstown, Cossler says.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.