JobsOhio Unveils ‘Elite’ Initiative at YSU Meeting

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Small- and medium-sized businesses in the Mahoning Valley will have the opportunity to participate in the London Stock Exchange Group’s Elite business training program. 

As many as 20 local businesses will be part of Elite’s second cohort in Ohio, announced the JobsOhio board of directors Thursday.

JobsOhio, the state’s private nonprofit economic development corporation, met at YSU’s Kilcawley Center. More than 200 economic development specialists, local officials and community and business leaders attended the event and more than 150 individuals streamed the event online, a JobsOhio spokesman said.    

JobsOhio, in partnership with the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, will fund the Elite program for the selected business leaders. 

Elite, which has its North American headquarters in Cleveland, puts participating companies “though a curriculum to help them think about their business differently,” said Dana Saucier, JobsOhio’s vice president and head of economic development. 

JobsOhio previously supported 10 entities in Appalachia “as kind of a first trial,” he said. Upon completion of the program in October, the companies attended graduation ceremonies in London. 

“There is a whole abundance of services that will be offered through that one-year training,” said Sarah Boyarko, the Regional Chamber’s chief operating officer. “A lot of it will be strategy around marketing. There will be access to global funding resources and capital, as well as a variety of business resources that each individual company might be interested in receiving.” 

The year-long program includes structured programming on strategy, innovation, operations, marketing, governance and risk management, talent management and leadership, according to JobsOhio. Companies also receive individualized consulting and business support from some of the world’s top business and investment experts. 

Businesses that participate in the program tend to grow faster than ones that don’t participate in it, experiencing seven times the growth, Saucier said. 

“As a result of that growth, typically they hire more people,” he continued. “We see that as another way to help our small and medium companies in this region.”

The Regional Chamber is still identifying local companies to participate in the program, which will begin in the first quarter of 2020, and interested companies can contact her, Boyarko said. 

Thursday’s JobsOhio meeting was part of a “busy week in the Mahoning Valley,” with Gov. Mike DeWine holding a cabinet meeting in Canfield and signing a new health bill, said JobsOhio board chairman Robert Smith, before the cabinet fanned out across the area. Among the stops were the Ohio Development Services Agency and TourismOhio stopping at a roundtable discussion at The Grand Resort in Howland.

It’s also been busy recently from an economic development perspective, with Lordstown Motors Corp.’s announced its acquisition of the former General Motors Lordstown plant and GM’s announcement that it would partner with LG Chem to build an electric-battery plant in Lordstown.

“We are so honored to have landed this amazing project. Consumers are embracing the electrification of automobiles,” Saucier said. 

At the JobsOhio board meeting at Youngstown State Thursday were chairman Bob Smith, President and chief information officer J.P. Nauseef and Lester Lyles, compensation committee chairman.

He credited Kristi Tanner, senior managing director, and Jonathan Bridges, automotive sector director, for recognizing the trend more than five years ago, and engaging with the few companies that can make these kinds of batteries at the scale necessary. 

“This is the pinnacle of the electrification trend,” Saucier added. “This is the plant that’s going to make the actual cells that go into the car. I can tell you that’s the most complicated component of that. There are almost no tolerances to get it wrong.”

Local officials are excited about the opportunities presented by the auto industry projects as well as other projects including the TJX Companies Inc. distribution center in Lordstown and developments surrounding the regional petrochemical play, YSU President Jim Tressel said. 

J.P. Nauseef, JobsOhio’s president and chief investment officer, “is always a phone call or a text or an email away when we have needs,” he said.  

“I’ve never personally, as a businessman,” said Sam Covelli, owner of Warren-based Covelli Enterprises, “felt better about doing business in Ohio, and I’ve never felt better about doing business in the Youngstown area.”

Nauseef and his staff, who have worked across the state, “care about this community and they care about every city in the state of Ohio, he said.  

“We are a service organization,” Nauseef said. “We are here because we love Ohio, we love the mission of Ohio and we believe that our job is to help the rest of the world recognize Ohio for how we recognize it: as the best place to live, work, invest in a business or bring your career, to live your version of the American dream.”   

JobsOhio, created in 2011, has had a core strategic focus on nine economic sectors, including advanced manufacturing, health care, automotive and food/agribusiness. More recently, it added federal and military installations and air service. 

JobsOhio looks at the data it gets in the regions down to the local level, as well as reports on trends generated by third parties, and aviation and air service jumped out from both sources, Nauseef said. 

“If we’re going to be able to better compete in the future, we need to figure out a way to get better air service,” he said. 

The market normally takes care of that, but without air service “you can’t get the big opportunities, so we’re trying to bridge the gap, identify strategies that can help accelerate the addition of new routes across the state to the regional airports and also try to identify and secure some international routes,” he continued. 

As part of the new aviation initiative, Terry Slaybaugh, JobsOhio managing director for economic development infrastructure, has been in touch with management at Youngstown/Warren Regional Airport. 

“They’re working very closely to identify opportunities to bring service back to this airport,” Nauseef said. “We should have more information over the next few months, but we are working aggressively right now with the community leaders here to identify opportunities.”

During his report, Nauseef also reported on what he described as JobsOhio 2.0. The JobsOhio team has been going through “an exhaustive process to evolve our strategy,” he said. 

The organization engaged a consultant to assess what JobsOhio is doing today and what trends are taking shape. The agency took the recommendations made by the firm to the road, hosting a listening tour with regional and local partners for further input.

The next phase of the organization will involve focuses on strengthening innovation in Ohio; generating talent for employers; expanding the portfolio job-ready sites that would be available for projects. 

JobsOhio will roll out strategies over the next 12 to 18 months, he reported. 

“One of the reasons that we heard we don’t win deals is because we don’t have a site that’s ready to accept it,” Nauseef said. “Companies move very quickly and they want what they want today.”

Another element of JobsOhio 2.0 that will target the Mahoning Valley is an inclusive growth strategy, he said. The strategy will provide “executive-level focus on priority investment areas, areas that have suffered the most over the last 10 to 15 years, areas that have been it especially hard by the economy,” he reported. 

A senior executive will be assisted to focus efforts on making sure that every tool in the JobsOhio toolkit and more is available to those targeted areas. 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.