YSU gets $2 million grant for training center

YOUNGSTOWN — The U.S. Commerce Department has awarded Youngstown State University $2 million to convert a downtown building into a manufacturing training center for workers displaced by the downturn in the coal industry.

YSU leaders said the money will be used to help create the Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Center at the old Mahoning County Jail at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West Commerce Street.

“This grant is yet another endorsement of and an important step towards a project we believe will help revolutionize manufacturing and workforce development in this region,” YSU President Jim Tressel said.

The center will foster cross-collaborative interdisciplinary projects in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), business, health care, the arts and other fields, according to a YSU news release.

The grant is included in $30 million from the commerce department’s Economic Development Administration to support 35 projects in 15 states under the 2017 Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC 2017) initiative. The funding, announced Wednesday by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, is designed to help locally driven efforts to communities and regions severely impacted by the declining use of coal through activities and programs that support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development and re-employment opportunities, according to a commerce department news release.

Ross said the funding is “one facet of a continuing, government-wide effort to deliver a better deal for coal country.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, called the funding a gamechanger for YSU, Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.

“Equipping workers and students with skills to be able to participate in the new American economy is one of the single most important investments we can make for long-term, sustainable growth for our community and the country. Workers with knowledge in advanced manufacturing and other STEM skills are in huge demand, and will play an integral role in solving our country’s big issues. I applaud Youngstown State for pushing this program, and working to better our entire community,” Ryan stated in an email.

Earlier this year, the Appalachian Regional Commission awarded YSU $1 million for the project. In addition, the state previously provided $3 million as cost share against the two awards.

The center is part of the university’s ongoing capital fundraising campaign, which will go public later this month. The campaign hopes to raise an additional $14 million for the project.

YSU is working on the project in partnership with Eastern Gateway Community College, Mahoning County Commissioners, Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, career centers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, Youngstown Career and Technical Centers and the Youngstown Business Incubator.