YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A new online tool launched Sept. 7 will help connect entrepreneurs with various resource providers, from economic development agencies and business incubators to entities that offer venture capital and financing.
Representatives of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Economic Action Group and Mahoning County Board of Commissioners held a press event to unveil the Mahoning Valley Resource Compass (Mahoning.biz). The technology platform was developed for local entrepreneurs to enhance and simplify the area’s small-business development process.
“The goal of the Mahoning Valley Resource Compass is to make it easier and more equitable for entrepreneurs to access the resources they need,” said Nick Chretien, EAG executive director and director of planning and regional development for the Western Reserve Port Authority.
The website, developed with Economic Impact Catalyst, based in Clearwater, Fla., provides links to 30 state, regional and local resources, along with brief descriptions of the types of assistance each provides. They include the Northern Ohio district office of the U.S. Export Assistance Center, business incubators, state resources such as the Ohio Business Gateway and Ohio 1st Stop Business Connection, local development and planning offices and area public libraries.
“This website is a central hub for entrepreneurs and small businesses to find what specific agencies can assist them in their goals,” says Michelle Phillips, director of research for the Regional Chamber.
Mahoning County commissioners supported the project with $60,000 from its American Rescue Plan Act allocation.
The initiative grew out of a partnership of the cities of Youngstown, Akron, Canton, Toledo and Dayton in Ohio in a series led by Forward Cities, a national network fostering inclusive innovation and economic development. The series was aimed at business development in cities outside what are commonly referred to in Ohio as “the three Cs” – Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Forward Cities introduced the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, or E3 program, to support small businesses, with a special focus on Hispanic- and Black-owned companies.
As a result of the E3 exercise, the Mahoning Valley Resource Compass was developed as a technology platform for local entrepreneurs to enhance and simplify the area’s small-business development process.
“The Regional Chamber routinely provides referrals to small businesses for specific resources in financing, business planning, et cetera,” Phillips says. “The Resource Compass brings value to a small business owner by saving time and energy that instead allows them to focus on their core business. It’s easier to find resources when they are presented in one place. This targeted approach helps to reduce the obstacles and barriers that business owners encounter.”
Economic Action Group is actively involved in managing the program and has committed staff hours to keep it functioning smoothly.
“Partnering with other organizations enhances our efforts and ensures a broader impact. While this is just Phase I of our launch, we’re already looking ahead to expand and introduce additional features to further support our local businesses,” Chretien says.
Pictured at top: Pictured at top: Mahoning County Commissioners Anthony Traficanti, left, and David Ditzler help introduce the new technology platform.