Youngstown Launches Search for Economic Development Director

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The director of Youngstown’s department of community planning and economic development said she expects to have a new economic development director in place in about three months.

The city advertised the position starting Monday, said Nikki Posterli, who also serves as chief of staff to Mayor Jamael Tito Brown.

The economic development director’s role has been vacant since T. Sharon Woodberry’s departure about a year ago. The position will be advertised on the city’s website, social media and various job-posting sites for the next 30 days, during which Posterli will convene a search and interview committee. She anticipated interviews will take place over the following month, with a final selection taking place the month after.

According to an overview of the position detailed in materials prepared by the city, the economic development director will be responsible “for the city’s economic development functions and for administering the city’s economic development incentive programs,” including those offered by state and federal government. The individual also will “manage and supervise” CPED’s economic development division.

Salary will range between $69,3342 and $76,449, depending on experience.

Posterli said she chose to delay posting the opening to update what it entailed. The previous job description was 15 years old. “So I wanted to make sure before I posted that it was relevant,” she said. Previously, the economic development director reported to the city finance director, for example, but now will report to the CEPD director.

The city is in the process of updating its business incentive packages so those incentives meet the needs of all company owners, she said. That included eliminating some of the restrictions on the city’s façade program so grants are easier for small businesses to obtain.

Posterli also wanted to position the city to be more proactive than reactive in its economic development strategy. In the past, the city waited for business opportunities to come and tried to make them work, regardless of the opportunity.

“We were not shaping what Youngstown is [and] what we want it to be,” she said. When business came, the city attempted to offer whatever incentives were available to meet their needs.

The city’s new approach will be to outline its needs and the direction it is taking.

“It was more of a shift in how we present ourselves and how we tell our narrative,” she continued. “So now, there’s an expectation here … that we’re not just going to accept any business because it’s a business. We want the right business, we want the right partnerships. And it has to be a partnership that works for the entire community, not just to make revenue for the business at the sake of the city.”

Additionally, Posterli wanted to make sure the position concentrated on collaboration with the city’s various local partners, which she took time to visit to see what they do well and how they can benefit the city, and to see what incentives and resources the city can build around that external support.

“I wanted to make sure that we had a core team, a strong core team of resources and partnerships, that then kind of built itself around what we’re doing here internally. That was important for me,” she said. “What I don’t want to see is what has happened historically in the city, is that as administrations change and evolve, the plans always change and evolve, and nobody knows who’s on first.”

Those partners include the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Western Reserve Port Authority, Valley Partners, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and Economic Action Group.

Eastgate’s role in economic development is to “set the table for others,” Jim Kinnick, executive director of the planning agency, said. Eastgate secured the funds for a feasibility study for a new interchange at Interstate 80 and state Route 304 that ultimately could lead to opening the city’s Crab Creek area on the East Side for economic development.

“We look to attract the funding to do the planning portions,” he said.

Eastgate was a key partner in the Smart2 Network project to upgrade downtown Youngstown streets, and there are plans to expand those improvements along key corridors, including Market Street, Mahoning Avenue and Belmont Avenue.

“We want to grow those corridors,” he said. “We’ve always said we’re going to start downtown with the urbanized corridors and grow out.”

The city is working with the chamber to assemble a database of available sites. The chamber conducted a ward-by-ward survey to identify properties “and where properties can be put together to form big sites, because big is the desire right now of site selectors,” Guy Coviello, Regional Chamber president, said.

“Where the city has the unique opportunity is it has a labor surplus,” Coviello said. “So there’s interest from site selectors to want to be in or very close to the city, where there’s access to labor.” That has drawn particular interest in the East Side.

“We’ve missed several opportunities because we’re not site ready,” Posterli said. “So we’re positioning ourselves to be site ready. We’re looking at the assets that we have. We are doing some land assembly internally, and with our partners, we’re looking at how we’re zoned.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.