Awards & Events

Regional Chamber Honors Educator, Broadcaster

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Workforce development initiatives and two community leaders – an educator and a broadcaster who are connecting job-training resources with business needs – were highlighted Thursday morning at the annual meeting of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

Jimmie Bruce (pictured left), president of Eastern Gateway Community College, and David Coy, president/general manager of WKBN, WYFX, WYTV and WYTV-DT, were honored for their work providing and communicating workforce training and job opportunities.

Bruce, who presented the William G. Lyden Jr. Spirit of the Valley Award, said the community college is “working to make the Mahoning Valley better and stronger.”

“Workforce development is obviously a huge issue in our community,” said Coy, who received the Donald Cagigas Spirit of the Chamber Award.

Three years ago, WKBN-TV began broadcasting a weekly series, “JobsNow,” at 6 p.m. Tuesdays. The initiative, in partnership with the chamber, last year received first place in an awards program sponsored by the Mid-America Economic Development Council.

Coy noted that “local journalism and serious journalism” is on the decline in many parts of the country. Recalling the start of his career at WKBN, he made reference to the family who founded the station, the Williamsons, and the requirements for public service of broadcast licensees.

“We take our responsibility to provide local news very seriously,” he said. And community service is “not just an obligation but an honor.”

Coy credited WKBN news director Mitch Davis and anchorman Dave Sess, “who does the heavy lifting,” for embracing the JobsNow series and making it so effective that job-seekers have been known to line up the morning following after a company seeking workers has been profiled.

And Coy joked that his fellow honoree, Bruce, is “getting more face-time on our station than our employees.” He was referring to coverage of the newly launched program at Eastern Gateway to provide free tuition for workers furloughed from General Motors Lordstown who would like to learn new skills.

The community college, described as the largest in the country with students from all 50 states, serves 18,000 students enrolled in 40 programs offered at its Youngstown Campus, its main campus in Steubenville and online.

Since becoming EGCC president in 2014, Bruce has shifted the curriculum to adapt to the need for workers with particular skills. Among a new high-demand program is training for commercial-truck drivers.

“When I moved here in 2015, I learned very quickly that the Mahoning Valley represents resiliency, hard work and pride,” Bruce said.

“This mirrors what Eastern Gateway Community College is doing – providing opportunity.”

Bruce noted the strength of the education infrastructure in the region, citing Youngstown State University, Kent State Trumbull and the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center. “We all work together and complement each other all the way from short-term credentials to masters and doctorate degrees,” he said.

Eastern Gateway is expanding operations in a newly renovated structure, the former Harshman Building in downtown Youngstown that will house offices and classes beginning in the fall semester.

“We’re expanding our footprint downtown,” Bruce said.

On March 27, he noted, the Valley Center of the school will be rededicated as Thomas Humphries Hall in honor of the retired CEO of the chamber.

James Dignan, who succeeded Humphries, closed the annual meeting with brief remarks drawing attention to the $2 billion in economic-development projects in the pipeline for the Mahoning Valley such as the TJX distribution center in Lordstown and the Lordstown Energy Center.

Yes, the closing of GM Lordstown is a “gut punch,” he said, quoting the president of Local 1112 of the United Auto Workers in what was the only reference at the annual meeting to the plant shutdown.

The Mahoning Valley will get past the economic adversity because it has experience doing just that, Dignan said.

“Been there, done that.”

Editor’s Note:
A proponent of fossil fuels provided the keynote address at the event. Coverage of his remarks will be posted tomorrow morning.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.