Economic Development

McDowell Hired for Amphitheater Community Engagement Role

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Derrick McDowell, founder of the Youngstown Flea, will serve as community engagement and inclusion coordinator for the new Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre and Riverfront Park.

McDowell will be paid $40,000 under terms of the one-year agreement, said Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management, which manages the city-owned amphitheater and the adjacent Covelli Centre under a contract with the city. The amphitheater is scheduled to open next month.

The city and JAC announced McDowell’s hiring following this morning’s meeting of the Board of Control, during which board members formally acknowledged the agreement between McDowell and JAC.

“I’m overly honored and humbled at the opportunity to engage the community, something that’s a great passion of mine,” McDowell said this morning after the official announcement of his hiring. “I’ve certainly done that in a number of ways already, but this will give me a greater opportunity to do this on a larger scale. I couldn’t be more excited.”

McDowell’s role will be to engage with city residents at the grassroots level, according to the news release announcing his hiring. His primary objectives will include working “directly with community groups, churches, neighborhood associations and downtown businesses to build relationships that result in the identification and production of programs, projects and events that resonate with city residents.”

McDowell, who was selected from among more than 50 applicants, is “extremely qualified,” Ryan said. “He knows the community,” he added. 

McDowell has “a very wide array of community engagement already,” said Mayor Jamael Tito Brown. The city wants all denominations, groups and organizations to have access to the site and be a part of it, he said.

McDowell will work with JAC to help market events the company has booked and create cultural events at the 22-acre site, particularly at Community Alley – the area underneath the Market Street Bridge where festivals and other community-type events will be staged – and the park, Ryan said. 

“At the end of the day, the idea is to engage and include the citizens of the city of Youngstown,” he continued. “He’s done a great job with the Youngstown Flea and I think he’ll take his energy and bring it over to help with the park and the amphitheater and everything we have going on.”

McDowell’s founding of the Youngstown Flea, a monthly showcase of makers and other vendors, which last month began its fourth season at Freeman Alley near the Covelli Centre, was partially driven by his desire to insert himself “in the narrative that speaks to where the city is headed,” he said. 

“My heart lies with the city,” he said. “When I saw this opportunity and its true definition, which is community engagement, it just really lit up with that idea that that’s exactly what I love doing already.” It also allows him to take that idea to a broader scale. “I just see great things from this opportunity,” he said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.