Growth Report 1: YBI Spurs Growth with Innovation, Help for Startups

By Jessica Sprowl
Director of Marketing and Communications

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Guided by CEO Barb Ewing, the Youngstown Business Incubator experienced remarkable growth in 2023 as it fostered innovation and drove economic development in the region.

YBI was named an SBA Stage Two winner in the 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition for fostering a national advanced manufacturing ecosystem, in partnership with America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute and Youngstown State University. YBI aims to promote grants, encourage investment in early-stage manufacturing, raise awareness of advanced manufacturing technologies, and support diversity and inclusion in underserved communities.

YBI’s Evolve Technology Entrepreneurship program, led Chandler Fiffick, served 51 startups, creating or retaining 289 jobs, with clients raising $25.39 million in capital and generating $9.12 million in revenue.

Evolve collaborated with Dev Youngstown to aid Pave Routes, a local startup, which received positive feedback and a second round of funding. The initiative allowed student developers to gain practical experience and enhance their skills.

Stephanie Gaffney, vice president of advanced manufacturing, and the efforts of her team led to the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies by 73 companies and it assisted 44 small businesses in submitting successful federal research projects. YBI also secured $250,000 for ceramic 3D printing workforce education, equipment and materials.

Empowering small, minority, and economically disadvantaged businesses is achieved at YBI through the Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC) and supply chain diversity program. In 2023, Karrington Griffin’s leadership as director of supply chain diversity enabled clients to gain more than $263,000 in contracts.

MBAC Regional Director Tanisha Wheeler led the Tier II Minority Business Assistance Center team, in partnership with its Tier I MBAC partner, Valley Partners, in certifying 58 minority businesses.

An example of client success for MBAC and the supply chain diversity program is DOPE Cider House & Winery owner Hannah Ferguson, who won the audience choice award at YBI’s Shark Tank event and recently secured a contract with Whole Foods for Ohio distribution.

Youth Entrepreneurship director Megan Payich fosters entrepreneurial skills and broadens students’ horizons through virtual reality and partnerships. More than 125 students witnessed the capabilities at YBI’s advanced manufacturing building during student tours. YBI orchestrated over 50 virtual field trips, reaching more than 850 students. Additionally, YBI provided one-on-one counseling and connected students with entrepreneurs and mentors, which resulted in two successful student ventures.

Looking ahead to 2024, YBI, in partnership with America Makes, is working to establish an innovation hub for defense and aerospace, which includes the development of a second manufacturing facility. YBI has completed documentation for improvements to its existing manufacturing facility, Tech Block Building 5, and launched a new capital campaign to meet the infrastructure needs of its original building.

Pictured at top: Hannah Ferguson of DOPE Cider House, center, won the audience choice award at the YBI Shark Tank event in October. Standing behind her are event volunteers and the sharks. From left: Jeff Ryznar, Rich Wallack, Danny Catullo, Marty Bushey, Rob Fox, Ellie Platt, Herb Washington, Tom Fleming and YBI CEO Barb Ewing.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.