YBI Envisions Its Future in Old Newspaper Building

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As he toured the 57,500-square-foot structure will become the fifth building of the Youngstown Business Incubator campus, “You get a sense and an appreciation” of the history of the community, Jay Williams said Thursday.

Williams, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce and administrator of its Economic Development Administration, was among the guests who toured the former Vindicator building before a ceremony marking its sale to YBI.

During the tour, Williams picked up a copy of a 1984 newspaper “just to read what the news of the day” was.

“The history that has been attached to this building, while relevant, is really ample to prepare us to move forward,” he said in remarks at the ceremony afterward.

Plans call for dedicating about two floors of the building to additive and hybrid manufacturing and two floors for space for graduating YBI portfolio companies, said Barb Ewing, YBI chief operating officer.

When David Kosec, property manager for the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp., first started talking about converting the building to part of the YBI campus, “I thought he was out of his mind,” Ewing said. As YBI officials went through it, she began to see the possibilities.

“We are so fortunate that all of the winds came together,” Ewing said.

Constructed in 1931 with reinforced concrete and structural steel, the building can accommodate additive manufacturing equipment just about anywhere, “with no concern about the building not being stable,” she noted. Design and engineering work should continue into this summer and construction should take about nine months.

Space should be ready for tenants in about a year, Ewing said. Much of the work is updating electrical and other building systems.

“We’re not going to do final build out of the entire building, because until we know who the tenants are there’s no point in putting up walls,” she said. She projects 15 to 20 tenants will be housed in the building “but we projected six tenants” in the building where Turning Technologies is “and we have one,” she noted.

Those on the tour had a glimpse of how newspapers were once printed. Only the offices of The Vindicator advertising department remain (although not much longer). For nearly half a century, the structure also housed its newsroom and printing presses, before they were moved to its building across West Boardman Street.

Ewing’s favorite part of the building is the high bay area, which will provide a vantage point for visitors to view the activities. “It is really going to be the showcase of this facility,” she declared. “If I had any second thoughts about buying it, every time I walk over here I see the potential. Those concerns disappear.”

Attached to the ceiling remains the infrastructure for a crane, a feature Ewing says she would like to see restored. “Part of the work that we will be doing – and part of the fundraising that we have to do – is to get that crane reinstated,” she said.

Relics from the history of the newspaper remain scattered throughout.

Remnants of old printing presses remain in the basement as well as old garage-sale signs and newspaper coin boxes. Massive desks where reporters and editors worked, last used in the late 1980s remain in the empty former newsroom.

In a space adjacent is an old linotype machine, a relic of the time when typesetting was done by hand.

“My grandfather used to be in the printing business,” Martin Abraham, interim provost at Youngstown State University and a YBI director, recalled as he explained how the obsolete machine worked.

“A lot of the work has already been done in the building,” Ewing said. “It may look a little bit rough but the Browns” – the family who own The Vindicator and sold the building to YBI – “have been wonderful stewards of this building. The paint may not be fresh but the roof has always been taken care of and the windows have been replaced.”

Selling the building to YBI was “a big commitment [of the Brown family] and we really want to respect that and make sure that they feel like the heritage that this brings to the table is respected,” Ewing added.

“We try to do that in all of our buildings. Part of the cool factor of being in downtown is that you have historic buildings, fairly unique buildings like these,” she said. “It is absolutely crucial to the character of the downtown that we try to preserve as many of these beautiful buildings as we possibly can.”

In one sense, the building’s past will be carried on in its future, said Ralph Resnick, president and CEO of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining and founding director of America Makes, a YBI tenant.

“We’re going from printing to three-dimensional printing,” he remarked. “It’s a nice continuance of the legacy.”

Pictured: Barb Ewing takes Ralph Resnick, Martin Abraham and Jay Williams on a tour of the old Vindicator building that will be converted into the YBI’s fifth building.

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