Ohio Budget Earmarks $3M for YSU Innovation Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Funds to develop a $30 million commercialization and innovation center near or on the campus of Youngstown State University made the cut as part of the General Assembly’s biennial capital budget that was introduced Tuesday.

The project – tentatively called the Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center – would be allocated $3 million from the state’s $2.6 billion budget bill toward building a center dedicated to enhancing workforce development, academics and entrepreneurship.

“We’re grateful,” said Mike Hripko, associate vice president of research at YSU. “We have to acquire more funds before we can move forward, but we’re very appreciative with the inclusion in the capital bill.”

YSU, along with Eastern Gateway Community College, the private manufacturing sector, and career and technical centers in the Valley, plan to construct a new complex dedicated to advanced manufacturing, Hripko said.

“We’ll be able to work with local manufacturers to define their needs, and see significant workforce development and academic components,” he said. “We also envision an innovation layer where there is a mechanism for people to work out new products.”

It’s unclear where the new center would be built. “This is the first step,” Hripko said, “and we’ll move forward from here.

The $3 million was part of $14.2 million approved for various projects at YSU. Among them are $2.5 million for renovations to the Ward Beecher Science Hall, $2 million toward upgrades at Meshel Hall, $2 million toward the proposed Jones Hall Student Success Facility, and another $3.75 million for “academic area renovations.”

Another $200,000 was approved for the Youngstown Business Incubator to help it renovate the former Vindicator building, which is being converted into space to house companies involved with additive manufacturing.

“It will be used to help enhance the building’s accessibility for equipment,” said Barb Ewing, chief operating officer for the YBI.

Excluding the recent award, the YBI project has received $3 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, another $1.5 million from an earlier state budget item and $500,000 from the city of Youngstown.

Bids related to renovation work at the building will be opened May 2, Ewing said. A contractor will be selected after the submissions are reviewed and the project should “move very quickly” after that, she said.

Other budget allocations that affect Youngstown are $1.25 million for renovations at the DeYor Performing Arts Center in the downtown, $500,000 for the Butler Institute of American Art and $500,000 for the Henry H. Stambaugh Auditorium on Fifth Avenue.

The budget bill approved a total of $24 million in funding for projects throughout the region.

The Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Lisbon was allocated $300,000 for improvements to its restrooms, while another $200,000 was secured for an arch bridge in that village. Another $50,000 was earmarked for an expansion at the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center in St. Clair Township.

In Trumbull County, the W.D. Packard Music Hall in Warren received $200,000 to repair its elevator while First Step Recovery, Warren, was allocated $100,000 to expand its kitchen and gym.

Waddell Park in Niles received $$67,500 to help fund improvements to its swimming pool.

“I am proud to see that, once again, the 32nd District has received funds from this year’s capital budget,” state Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, said in a statement. “This funding will help provide our communities with the vital resources they need to function effectively and improve our local infrastructure as a result.” Cafaro’s district encompasses all of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties and a portion of Geauga County.

Hearings on the budget bill began Tuesday. The bill is expected to reach Gov. John Kasich’s desk early next month.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.