YBI Focuses on 3 Initiatives, Strategic Plan

YOUNGSTOWN – The Youngstown Business Incubator guided its companies through the uncertainty of the pandemic in 2020. The staff of 15 worked throughout the five-building campus downtown on three notable efforts: the Minority Business Assistance Center, the Entrepreneurial Services Program and the Additive Manufacturing Services program, says Barb Ewing, CEO.

The YBI is now developing its next five-year strategic plan, she reports. One of its immediate priorities is finishing renovations to Tech Block Building 5, the former Vindicator building. The site will be used for additive manufacturing startups, which are a growing segment.

In 2020, the Minority Business Assistance Center staff, led by Vernard Richberg, logged more than 1,000 hours assisting clients with state and federal loans and grants, job stability and business growth. Microbusiness grants were awarded to 34 MBAC clients.

The MBAC team helped local businesses secure over $400,000 in Paycheck Protection Program and Emergency Injury Disaster loans. And entrepreneurs supported by the center raised $1.575 million in low-interest loans and contract opportunities valued at over $725,000. The effort resulted in the creation of 21 jobs and the retaining of 29 more.

The Entrepreneurial Services Program, headed by Corey Patrick, helped portfolio companies develop cash-flow runways, and find new ways to raise capital. One example is FishMySpot, an online platform that connects pond owners to anglers, which saw an increase in users, as fishing was one of the few COVID-safe activities.

Three portfolio companies – Fitz Frames, VistaAST and Pamton 3D – invented and produced personal protective equipment, Patrick notes.

Meanwhile, the Additive Manufacturing Services Program, led by Stephanie Gaffney, is working to create a digital supply chain for the U.S. Army. The goal is to give the Army the ability to directly source 3D printed parts from companies in northeastern Ohio.

Through a partnership with Brite Energy Innovators in Warren, YBI also joined the U.S. Air Force Academic Partner Engagement Experiment to support small businesses and researchers in their efforts to secure federal research funding. In the last round, two of YBI’s portfolio companies – Juggerbot 3D and Engineered Products Inc. – scored funding for new product development.