By Jennifer Rodriguez
A new entrepreneur program called N.E.W.S. Block will be up and running in the city by the end of summer.
The city of Youngstown, Community Initiative to Reduce Violence Program, Youngstown City Council, Youngstown Neighbor Development Corporation and Youngstown’s The Colony are collaborating to create the program.
The program is designed to give an opportunity to local residents to start a new business. Entrepreneurs can submit a proposal and, if selected, will be assisted throughout the process of opening their business.
Jonathan Bentley, director of the Youngstown Human Relations Commission and one of the program’s organizers, said he and other program organizers will assist people who are selected.
“We’ll sign you up for business classes and make sure you’re not just going in cold turkey,” Bentley said. “We’ll give you the training, the access to finances, give you the connections you need to get your business up and running.”
The businesses will be housed on the south side of Youngstown, on the corners of Warren Road and Hillman Street. Two large shipping containers will be placed on each corner, so there will be eight containers total. Each one will house a new business temporarily.
“These things are the size of houses, apartments; you can live in these things,” Bentley said.
First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver said the goal is to make the community a self-sustaining area where Youngstown residents don’t have to leave the area to purchase goods.
“The way this project was actually birthed was a bunch of people came together saying ‘What can we do with all the vacant land?’,” Oliver said. “There is also an issue when it comes to crime with our young people in the city not having anything to do, not having any resources and not being able to obtain jobs.”
Eventually, the entrepreneurs must move into their own storefront when their business expands. The program will allot a certain amount of time to remain in the temporary container.
That way, new business owners can join the program and have a shot at growing their business.
There are certain qualifications for the program. You must be a Youngstown citizen, have low to moderate income and must be 18 or older. A criminal background will not prevent you from being selected.
Oliver said the program will be available to returning citizens, those who may have been incarcerated or in the CCA program.
“After people get in trouble they need something to maintain their life so they don’t go back to crime or back to street activity. We can graduate them from a program straight into entrepreneurship,” Oliver said.
The program will start out on the south side of Youngstown but the plan will be to eventually open a location on each side of town.