Ryan wants merging of valleys
YOUNGSTOWN — Two congressmen are on a tour in an effort to merge the money of Silicon Valley with the manufacturing expertise of the Mahoning Valley
U.S. Reps. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, and Ro Khanna of California stopped Wednesday in Youngstown for a roundtable discussion with Silicon Valley venture capitalists Ryan is trying to draw into business in Youngstown and other depressed manufacturing towns.
Khanna, a Democrat who represents a district in California where Silicon Valley is, said a partnership between the two regions makes sense because with costs so high in the Silicon Valley, businesses would benefit by investing in areas that are cheaper to operate in like Youngstown, Akron, Detroit, Flint, Mich., and South Bend, Ind. where the “comeback cities venture capitalist tour” also is making stops.
“We can’t just have people working at Google and Facebook, we need to look more broadly to get talent. We should be looking here at Youngstown and seeing all of the talent that there is. It’s in their economic interest,” Khanna said. “This is not some act of ‘come here and get a handout,’ this is about the strategic interests of these companies that will be served if they expand their imagination.”
The two are traveling with Xuezhoa Lan, founding and managing partner for Basis Set Ventures, and Patrick McKenna with High Ridge Global, both San Fransisco-based companies.
“We’re seeing a lot of opportunities to increase the process, quality and potential work flow of our manufacturing, which is really what we are looking for. And also, there are a lot of assets here regarding large enterprises, factories, that could be potential customers,” Lan said.
Lan said she looks forward to learning more on the tour while she looks for investment opportunities.
“If the system is not working for everybody, it’s not going to work for anybody. I’m from a small town, and I’ve had a successful career in Silicon Valley, I’ve been very, very fortunate to be successful. But I also know that not everybody is coming along. The economic divide in this country is driving a cultural divide, which is driving a political divide. And so, to me as a business person, I actually think the big way to contribute to addressing the political divide and the cultural divide in this country is to do what I do best and actually work on the economic issues,” McKenna said. “So, the more that I can bring in the know-how, the capital and the knowledge networks that I built up both in the Silicon Valley and in New York, to places like Youngstown, this is the way that I make my biggest philanthropic contribution to this country.”
Ryan said the next step to make the tour turn into actionable results is to continue “building relationships” between the regions and venture capitalists.
“We need to take it to the next level, where you start getting into profits and job creation, bigger investments,” Ryan said.
“When you start cross-pollinating all of this money and expertise with technology, regardless of where it is in the country, that is when you get balanced growth, sustainable growth in the country. And that is what we are looking for,” Ryan said.
Ryan said the tour is stopping in cities with similar problems to get the attention of venture capitalists who see the value in operating in a cheaper place to live and do business.
“We have to highlight all of these cities,” Ryan said. “We’ve gotta start thinking a lit be deeper than just crossing our fingers and hoping someone shows up in Youngstown and wants to start investing a couple of million bucks in some companies. We gottta have a strategy and a path executing our plan, It’s been 15 years in the making, but here we are with a bunch of venture capitalists from Silicon Valley, so we are moving in the right direction.”