WARREN - The site for Warren's green technology incubator likely will be announced by the end of the month, and officials with the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition (NorTech) already see it playing a vital role in clean energy initiatives.
NorTech has signed on as an applicant for a five-year, $129.7 million federal grant to create an Energy Regional Innovation Cluster (E-RIC) in the TechBelt region. The proposal is focused on developing new technologies to improve the design of energy-efficient building systems.
"This was truly a regional effort, with collaborators spanning across the entire TechBelt region from Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Pittsburgh and Morgantown, W.Va.," Kelly South, senior director of communications for NorTech, said.
David Karpinski, NorTech vice president and director of Energy Enterprise, said the grant is very competitive because only one proposal nationwide will be funded. Between 25 and 40 applications were submitted before the deadline, and he expects that every applicant will request the entire available amount of $129.7 million.
Karpinski said NorTech will start getting indications in late June or early July if its proposal is in the running and the grant will be awarded by September.
If the proposal is selected for funding, the Warren incubator - now known as the TechBelt Energy Innovation Center - would serve as the center for engineering, prototype development and testing, South said.
"If the proposal is not funded, we are hopeful this collaboration will lead to additional opportunities in the region," South said.
Anthony Iannucci, director of Warren Redevelopment and Planning Inc. and spearheading the drive for Warren's incubator, said the 25-member steering committee has narrowed its site selection to three locations. All three sites are in downtown Warren and all are existing buildings that would need to be retrofitted for clean-energy product development, he said.
The committee's next meeting is May 25 and a site may be chosen at that time. Mayor Michael O'Brien, who also is a member of the steering committee, confirmed that a site will be chosen in the next few weeks.
Nearly $3 million already has been earmarked for the TechBelt Energy Innovation Center, including $500,000 from the Ohio Department of Development and more than $2 million from the federal Department of Energy, which was secured by Congressman Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles.
Iannucci said a number of grants have been submitted for construction and operating costs. The federal grants have matching requirements, and local fundraising and philanthropic endeavors will be needed to cover those matching funds, Iannucci said.
"We are getting close,'' Ryan said. ''I have said all along we don't just want to do this project. We want to do it right."
Karpinski said the TechBelt Energy Innovation Center is centrally located within the TechBelt region and there are many manufacturing capabilities in the Mahoning Valley.
Pittsburgh had been the focal point because of its proximity to several research laboratories, but "at this point, we need engineers, not scientists. So it doesn't make sense to put the prototype building there. That's when we decided it should be in Ohio and Warren is ideal,'' Karpinski said.
He said the Warren incubator still will be part of the TechBelt initiative even if the grant is not received.
"We think we have something really great going on here," Karpinski said.