City, Score, Library Unite to Help Entrepreneurs
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Community Planning and Economic Development Department, the Youngstown chapter of Score and the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County will promote the resources each offers to new and business owners within the city.
The city Board of Control formally approved a memorandum of understanding among the three entities at its meeting Tuesday just before a press event announcing the agreement.
The memorandum grew out of an informal meeting of representatives of the three organizations this past summer, during which reaching out to the community and sharing resources was discussed, said T. Sharon Woodberry, director of the city department.
“Each of the organizations here brings something different to the table. By us collaborating and promoting what each does, we think it will comprehensively provide services to businesses,” Woodberry said. Through her department, the city provides loans, grants, tax abatements and other forms of economic support to businesses locating or already in the city.
The effort will focus initially on the major corridors but be open to established businesses and startups throughout the city, representatives of the organizations said.
“The city of Youngstown has a tremendous opportunity to grow its business base,” said Frank Bordonaro, chairman of the Youngstown Score chapter. Score – formerly known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives – provides business counseling to companies and startups. The chapter has 35 members who have experience in business and entrepreneurship.
Members of Score will serve as “unpaid mentors” to startup businesses availing themselves of city assistance, Mayor John McNally said.
“We’ll be hosting the Score members in our community planning and economic development department for the mentorship and business plan assistance, and the Score members are also going to participate with us in corridor meetings with the with the businesses and inform them of the area resources that are available,” McNally continued.
Owners of businesses and entrepreneurs can also contact the partners by phone, on their websites, or by visiting any branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.
By their third year, many businesses “really start to struggle” and aren’t sure why, Bordonaro said. “We can help provide the analysis of their individual business to really focus into. Sometimes it’s only one or two issues that need addressed and that can save that business.”
Score counselors work in teams of three or four, said Charles Whitman, retired director of career services at Youngstown State University. “All of us only have so many tricks up our sleeve,” he remarked.
“A number of people that come to us at Score are people that have an idea of a business that they would like to do. … A seed has been planted and they would like to grow it,” said another Score volunteer, Thomas J. Carney, retired president of Carney-McNicholas Inc. Score often sends entrepreneurs to the Public Library to use its resources to write a business plan.
“The business plan then comes back to us and then we look at it and then we try and get them some suggestions on how to improve their business plan,” Carney added.
In many cases, the ideas entrepreneurs bring don’t require them to locate in “the high-rent areas of Boardman, Poland and Austintown,” Bordonaro said. The partners will encourage the businesses to find “much more cost-effective locations” inside the city for their startups, he said.
The library provides access to marketing resources, business plans and competitive analysis through databases such as ReferenceUSA or Demographics Now, said Stuart Gibbs, business librarian at the Public Library.
“The library is also going to provide programming for these individuals so they can help locate their customers and know their customers better,” Gibbs said. In addition, business owners and entrepreneurs can book time with him to browse the available resources.
“It can be overwhelming to go in and look at that on your own so he is available to be scheduled for appointments to get an overview of those resources,” said Heidi Daniel, executive director of the library.
She described the library as “thrilled to be strengthening our partnership with Score and the city.”
In addition to serving as a resource for Score, the library joined with the city last year on Google’s Get Your Business Online program.
That initiative “did not get the turnout” hoped for, Woodberry acknowledged. “I was astounded to find out all the resources that the library had,” she added.
Youngstown economic development department
Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County
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