Jessica Borza is a matchmaker. Sarah Boyarko likes to “figure out puzzles.” Both are leaders who bolster the region’s business and economic ecosystem.
Boyarko, chief operating officer and senior vice president for economic development at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, manages the Mahoning Valley team that puts together a package of incentives and amenities designed to convert a job-creation prospect – here or elsewhere – into new payroll.
Topping every prospect’s must-have list: a skilled workforce, which is Borza’s top priority.
As executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, Borza works with industrial companies and educators to recruit and train skilled workers.
Both were interviewed by Jeff Leo Herrmann, CEO of the Youngstown Publishing Co., as part of the Brain Gain Youngstown Leadership Podcast series.
New episodes are posted every Wednesday and are available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Listeners can also go to BusinessJournalDaily.com/series/brain-gain-leadership-series.
Putting the Pieces Together
Growing up, Sarah Boyarko learned leadership lessons from her parents, who operated a family business, a successful restaurant. When she and her siblings were old enough, they worked there, doing whatever tasks were required to cover the shifts.
“It was a very good lesson on work ethics and the importance of customer service,” Boyarko says.
Growing into roles in management with the Regional Chamber, she took notes from local business executives.
“I had an opportunity to sit down with them and learn of all the great things that they’re doing. There are so many things in this community that no one ever hears about,” she says.
Boyarko’s customers are chamber members, who may need help planning and funding a business expansion, and the residents of the Mahoning Valley, whose economic vitality relies on the companies successfully operating and creating jobs here.
Her prospects are companies that are expanding, no matter where they are based.
“It’s doing our homework here locally and reaching out strategically,” she says. “I very much like to organize things and figure out puzzles. …
“It’s not throwing it out and see what sticks. You’re wasting time and money doing that,” she says.
“It’s who’s already here and who’s not here. Where are the holes in supply chains? If we look at a specific industry, who’s not here yet? Can one of our local companies fill that hole, or maybe two companies partner to fill that hole?
“One of our additional roles at the chamber is business-to-business matchmaking, whatever that might look like. Can we bring business leaders together within an industry and say, ‘Does anyone want to take this on? Do two of you want to partner?’ ”
‘Matchmaker’ for Manufacturers and Workers
Jessica Borza dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, “like most 8-year-old girls.” But when she reached high school, that ambition faded. So she met with a guidance counselor who arranged a skills assessment test “to do career exploration.”
The executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition says the test revealed alignment with communications and public relations. Today, she is communicating the importance of skills assessments –and earning industry credentials – as she matches manufacturers who need skilled workers with workers who need job training.
“Oftentimes we’ll find ourselves in the matchmaking role, helping the students to find the experiences, the companies who are invested in that culture of learning. Then we’ll match them based on geography and the type of manufacturing that they might be interested in. Manufacturers rely on us and have confidence in us,” she says.
The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition was founded in 2011 to develop recruitment and training programs for in-demand advanced manufacturing jobs. Local companies and education partners work together to build the talent pipeline through career pathways, apprenticeships, mentoring and problem solving.
“We’re dedicated to making sure that one company doesn’t have an advantage over another company,” Borza says. “Collaboration is a little bit of a dance at times. You’ve got to make sure that you understand everybody’s vested interest. But you must also demonstrate that by working together there’s so much greater value. We can have so much more impact if we’re all rowing in the same direction, as they say, and getting that alignment.”
Pictured: Jessica Borza and Sarah Boyarko.