Youngstown Prepares to Launch ‘Buy Local’ App

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – In the next month, Youngstown expects to roll out a mobile app to help boost small businesses in the city.

Youngstown’s Board of Control approved executing a license agreement with Colu Technologies, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, for $15,000. Under the agreement, the company will provide license and customization of a mobile app designed to highlight small businesses and create a “buy local” platform, according to city documents. 

Colu, which has its U.S. headquarters in New York, is a software company that specializes in providing cities with civic engagement platforms, according to its website. The city entered into a letter of intent with Colu in November.

“We are very excited about our launch in Youngstown, it’s been a pleasure working with an innovative city with such a rich history that is taking an outside-the-box approach to support its local businesses,” Michael Mazur, Colu vice president, business development, said in an email responding to a request for comment. “Youngstown is one of our newest cities, as we rapidly expand our platform to cities and counties throughout the country.”

The city intends to roll out the app in the next four weeks and is conducting an outreach campaign to encourage city businesses to participate, said T. Sharon Woodberry, city economic development director. Once the app is active, shoppers will accumulate points using the app by making purchases at participating retail-oriented city businesses that they can later redeem. 

“It’s kind of a way of creating a circular economy within our businesses. They’re all supporting each other,” she said. The city has targeted onboarding 100 businesses though the initiative, and so far 21 have responded to its outreach.  

Businesses can register to be included in the app HERE.

Economic Action Group is assisting Colu with data it gathered during its work for the city to assist with its COVID-19 response, said program manager Nick Chretien. 

“We’ve seen the impact of COVID and what it’s done to the economy,” he said. “It’s critical to market these businesses so people know that this is in their city and neighborhood, and they patronize these businesses.” 

The app will also provide information on community events, Woodberry added, and the city is looking to partner with nonprofits and organizations to share information and resources.

In other business, the board approved agreements with urban planning consultant Hunter Morrison and MS Consultants, as well as the sale of five parcels from the city’s land reutilization program to the Youngstown State University Foundation. 

Under the $75,000, year-long agreement that the board approved, Morrison will provide services pertaining to planning and development in the city and its surrounding communities. Morrison has worked under contract for the city since August 2019. 

MS Consultants will provide preliminary drawings, cost estimating and funding application completion for proposed improvements to East Boardman Street and Walnut streets per the $21,764 contract the city approved Thursday. 

The project is in the “very early stages” but will involve streetscape and lighting improvements, said Charles Shasho, deputy director of public works.   

The YSU Foundation will pay $3,920 for the five parcels along Fifth Avenue that total 0.34 acres. The university plans to use the parcels for parking to support the Center of Excellence now under construction, said Greg Morgione, YSU associate general counsel.  

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.