YOUNGSTOWN - Using innovation to polish up the Rust Belt was the hope of the inaugural TEDx Youngstown event Friday. About 100 people attended the sold-out day of speeches given by local progressive-minded individuals at the Youngstown State University Williamson College of Business Administration.
"It's thinkers and doers coming together and sharing ideas that are worth spreading," said Lorilyn Shandor, event planner. "We have 18 phenomenal speakers on everything from sustainable farming to additive manufacturing."
TED is an international set of conferences focusing on technology, entertainment and design, hence the acronym. Independent conferences licensed through TED are held in venues across the nation.
At Friday's event the crowd was mesmerized by the piano playing of Cicilia Yudha while Ewelina Boczkowska spoke on Chopin's Mazurkas. They also listened to Congressman Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, talk on mindful living, and Adam Earnheardt explain how sports fans using social media can cause social change, among other speakers.
"It was a lot more than I thought it would be. I'm so used to listening to people with ideological points of thinking, that it was different," attendee Jim Converse said.
He said he helps to manage the Youngstown farmers market. Sitting across the table from him at lunch was attendee Cynthia Rogers of Boardman, who said one of the first talks of the day about how you spend your thoughts really stuck with her.
"It's like sitting at a table and deciding who you sit with and if you don't like it, get up and leave," she said.
For Shandor, the theme of innovation hits close to home. When she came back to the Mahoning Valley about 10 years ago, she was involved in a study on "brain drain" of people deciding to leave the region to be successful somewhere else.
Innovation is what has been turning the region around, she said.
"It all comes back to innovation, whether its arts or factories, it all comes back to innovation," she said. "You don't have to leave here to do great things."
Jim Fogarty of Warren-based 2 Ticks & The Dog Productions was among the day's speakers. He said his speech focused on being a successful visual artist in northeast Ohio.
"The basis is how a group of artists collaborated in one small project that expanded," he said.
When he moved back to Warren in the 1990s with a film degree, he said it was far from being a mecca or even a haven for artists. While making a career in the area wasn't easy to come by, he said he was inspired by seeing the modern day artist renaissance occur in Seattle and Austin.
"I didn't want to join a scene, I wanted to make a scene," he said.
The TEDx event he said is a sign that the region has already come a long way.
"I think it is a great testament just that we're having it here," he said.
Shandor said the idea to hold a local TED conference had been tossed around for three years or so, and last April, a group decided to go through with it. Representatives from the Mahoning Valley Young Professionals, Park Vista of Youngstown, the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, the Youngstown Business Incubator, and the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber helped plan the event with others.
Shandor said she hopes attendees are able to take something from the talks that will inspire them or change their mindset.
"I think anything that showcases the great things we're doing it good for the region. It's a push for the people," she said.