Manufacturing Coalition Hears Update on $30M Project

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville in April during his tour of the country, Dr. Jimmie Bruce, president of EGCC, explained to him the concept behind the Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center.

“He told me that he’s really never heard of anything quite like this,” Bruce said.

Bruce and others were on hand Aug. 11 at The Mahoning County Career and Technical Center to hear YSU President Jim Tressel give an update on the shared-use facility that will be designed to support training, research and development for advanced manufacturing technologies. Robotics, electronics and 3-D printing, in particular, will be emphasized.

Tressel spoke during the quarterly meeting of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition.

“This looks like a $30 million project,” Tressel said. YSU has received $3 million from the state capital budget toward the project. In 2018, YSU plans to update the state on its progress. The university has also received a $1 million federal grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The center will be housed at 360 W. Commerce, St. in downtown Youngstown, currently the site of Mahoning County Minimum Security Jail. YSU recently received approval to purchase the site from the county for $525,000.

There’s $6 million of industrial equipment that’s currently waiting to be centralized at the two-acre site, Tressel said. “We are thinking of developing it up to 70,000-plus square feet.”
There are tentative plans to build an “innovation atrium” on-site. The space, which could resemble communal spaces that businesses such as Facebook and Google have built for employees, would help foster a collaborative atmosphere where students could gather and brainstorm, Tressel explained.

YSU has invited state legislators to campus Sept. 15-16 to hear about the acquisition of the former jail for the center. “We’ve got to get moving, and we’ve got to get people buying into it,” Tressel said.

“We have a rough timetable of about two years until we’re finished,” said Mike Hripko, associate vice president for research at YSU. “We’re going to able to build an advanced innovation center based on the budget that we have. So, as we’re continuing to be successful in grant funding and philanthropy, we will be able to build a more significant center with a larger scope and footprint.”

The idea for the center dates to 2013, when the members of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition began brainstorming with technical schools and employers about ways to train workers to meet the needs of modern manufacturing.

“We needed to create some type of shared facility to allow us to advance the capabilities of instructors and equipment,” said Brian Benyo, president of Brilex Industries Inc., a founding member of coalition.

The center will be open around the clock. It’s primarily designed for students from YSU, EGCC, Trumbull Career and Technical Center, Mahoning County Career and Technical Center and Columbiana County Career and Technical Center.

Hripko described the center as the focal point of an “advanced manufacturing ecosystem.”
“There will always be facilities and resources nearby,” he said. “The Youngstown Building Incubator’s Building 5 is really an important part of this ecosystem. We will be able to move quickly between the university, the community college, career and technical centers and the innovation center.”

Tressel emphasized the need for educators and employers to be on the cutting edge of the latest in manufacturing technologies, in order to make the Valley an attractive place for workers to settle, something he said the innovation center will help assure.

“We’re going to have opportunities for young people. We’re going to have opportunities for people to come and move here and work here,” he said.

Pictured: YSU President Jim Tressel gives an update on the proposed Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center.

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