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One word for Warren Incubator: Electronics

May 20, 2008
By LARRY RINGLER Tribune Chronicle
YOUNGSTOWN — Electronics would be worth pursuing if Warren officials form a business incubator, says the ‘‘chief evangelist’’ of the Youngstown model that local leaders hope to emulate.

‘‘I don’t see another electronics incubator anywhere else,’’ James Cossler said Monday after he watched his Youngstown Business Incubator tenant, Turning Technologies Inc., expand into the state-of-the-art Taft Technology Center with a dedication ceremony. ‘‘Warren needs to do one thing and be world class at it.’’

The Warren area already has expertise in switches and other electrical parts through vehicle wiring harness maker Delphi Packard Electric. Delphi Packard is shedding workers as its parent, Delphi Corp., goes through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, he said.

Cossler, who guided the incubator from its formation in rust belt Youngstown’s decaying downtown on Federal Plaza West in 2000 to its 30,000-square-foot expansion, said focusing on electronics in Warren would fit well with Youngstown’s emphasis on software.

‘‘What drives electronics? It’s software. An electronic device is stupid without software’’ to make it work, he said.

Warren Mayor Michael J. O’Brien said the city is positioning itself with downtown buildings and important government officials to make this happen, hopefully within two years.

O’Brien said the city has options on two buildings on West Market Street on Courthouse Square — the former Showcase book store and the former state Job and Family Services office space. The $500 options each expire in July.

U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles, noted the seeds of the Youngstown Business Incubator were planted 10 to 15 years ago.

‘‘We want to do it quicker in Warren,’’ he said. ‘‘We have to figure out how to do it.’’

State Rep. Tom Letson, D-Warren, noted about $500,000 is contained in the state’s capital budget for a Warren incubator, adding, ‘‘We’re looking to expand that and hopefully borrow from the ground already broken here.’’

Matching Youngstown software incubator with an electronics one in nearby Warren would create a cluster that would attract like businesses, just as the Youngstown incubator does, he said.

The next two tenant companies for the Youngstown incubator are coming from Pittsburgh and Akron because ‘‘there’s nothing like this there,’’ he said. ‘‘If you’re one hour away from this facility, you’d be foolish not to be here.’’

Cossler offered two other suggestions for a possible Warren incubator: Start small and find a ‘‘chief evangelist.’’

The Youngstown incubator, which started with 15,000 square feet in an old downtown building, had time to grow because it had low building taxes and other overhead costs, he said. The incubator now has 250 jobs averaging $58,000 a year.

It also had Cossler preaching the improbable gospel of high-tech software in a city known for rusting steel mills and crime. He said someone has to do the same in Warren.

‘‘Someone in Warren has to take the bully pulpit. It can’t be done by committee,’’ he said.



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