YOUNGSTOWN - Mahoning Valley business and political leaders hailed a signing Monday with an Israeli clean technology incubator as an important step in restoring the area's image as a world economic force.
''We plan to create a global network for clean technology headquartered in Youngstown,'' Michael Garvey, president of M7 Technologies, said after joining fellow Youngs-town businessman Jack Scott in signing an agreement with LN Green Technological Incubator Ltd. of Haifa, Israel.
The signing at the Butler Institute of American Art on the Youngstown State University campus opens the door to as many as 2,000 jobs over seven to 10 years, a goal Garvey said is reasonable with projects employing 40 to 50.
Leaders see the local effort as a cradle for startup companies dedicated to environmental technology, such as ways to make buildings more energy efficient, along with generating power through municipal waste, solar, wind and other renewable methods.
Garvey said the area has many workers, such as former Delphi Packard Electric employees, skilled in dealing with wiring and sensors needed to make buildings energy efficient.
Businesses nurtured by the partnership could spread to Germany, southeast Asia, Brazil and other countries where such technologies don't exist, he said.
Combining the Mahoning Valley's labor and marketing power with the knowhow of the Israeli incubator benefits both parties, said Scott, owner of energy-focused AST2, or Applied Systems and Technology Transfer, in Youngstown.
''Israel is very small. They want to get their technology to the U.S. That's fine because we want jobs in Youngstown, Warren, Akron,'' said Scott, whose partnership with Garvey in the Ohio Clean Technologies Group will work with the Israeli incubator.
Scott added the area can become as well-known for environmentally clean energy as it once was for making steel.
''I'm a strong believer in converting the Rust Belt to the Energy Belt,'' he said. ''We have the resources.''
Warren Mayor Michael O'Brien agreed, saying the area's entire economy could undergo a third revolution similar to the steel industry, then the auto industry.
''Because of the sustainable energy revolution, we'll be prepared for biodiesel, fuel cells'' and natural gas energy from the expected drilling boom in the nearby Marcellus Shale formation, he said.
Warren would play a key role with its Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, a clean energy incubator that will be placed at an as-yet undetermined location in the city's downtown.
Startup energy companies would begin in the Warren incubator, then ''graduate'' to the new group, which would take their technology to market.
Garvey and Scott said they're working to get funding for an education and training program that prepares workers for the new energy technologies. The funding would allow workers to be hired at entry-level wages, then further their education at a community college on their way to an associate or bachelor's degree.
Increasing turmoil about Israel's conflict with its Muslim neighbors won't affect the new partnership, leaders said.
''My partners in Haifa say it's a non-issue. Gaza is a non-issue,'' Garvey said, referring to deaths that occurred last week when Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla that was carrying aid to the Gaza Strip.
Garvey said he, Scott and AST2 Chief Technical Officer Jim Osterloh plan to visit Israel on June 25 to conduct further business.