Upcoming Program Aims to Increase Manufacturing in the Mahoning Valley

By Morgan Petronelli

The Mahoning Valley was built on the backbone of manufacturing. Over the past few decades, residents have witnessed a significant drop in manufacturing jobs in the Valley, resulting in low economic development and poor job infrastructure.

One upcoming program aims to provide more opportunities for manufacturing in the Valley.

Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow (LIFT), Youngstown State University Research Foundation (YSURF) and the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition have banded together to create a program called the Mahoning Valley Innovation & Commercialization Center (MVICC).

MVICC is going to essentially be a manufacturing incubator that trains people in different aspects such as engineering and business. Plans to bring manufacturing opportunities to the Valley through tailored courses and curriculum pertaining to both the engineering and business side of manufacturing have been set in motion.

This program aims to bring manufacturing back to the Mahoning Valley in hopes of spurring economic development and job creation. YSURF has previously reached out to both the state and LIFT for public funding and investments to jumpstart the initiative.

Mike Hripko, associate vice president for research at Youngstown State University, said that the program is designed for students from colleges and technical centers.

“It’s envisioned as an educational and entrepreneurial hub where we’ll bring together students from career and technical centers, the community college and the university, as well as business and industry to do classes, certificates and workforce development,” Hripko said.

LIFT is a lightweight manufacturing developer that aims to reestablish manufacturing in the U.S. Joe Steele, the communications director at LIFT, said that the company reaches out to people locally and regionally to teach them.

“We want to educate people about manufacturing and help steer people towards the STEM related careers or STEM related curriculum to encourage them to do manufacturing, or engineering, or something along those lines as a career choice,” Steele said.

Steele said he wanted LIFT to invest in the Mahoning Valley because the company saw potential in Youngstown State University.

“It’s their time now to really put the program together and build it up,” Steele said. “We will follow along, and we will help make sure that it does so.”

Hripko said the purpose of the program was to ensure that the Mahoning Valley had access to the best and most modern equipment backed with a skilled workforce.

He later said that the goal of MVICC is to offer a unique program setup where students from the area join together to learn the ins and outs of manufacturing “under one roof.”

By placing the expensive equipment needed to teach in one facility, more students could gain access to more equipment they otherwise would have never come in contact with and gained experience from.

The MVICC is not only just for STEM — Hripko states that there are opportunities available for students of various educational backgrounds.

“I think there is a broad spectrum of curriculum that can take advantage of this center,” said Hripko. “Manufacturing is kind of an engineering-focused career, but there’s a significant opportunity for business and the creative arts to engage in new forms of creativity.”

This program is still currently in the development stage, but is slowly getting to where it needs to be for startup. Hripko stated that last summer they applied for state funding and the state of Ohio granted the initiative three million dollars.

They are still applying for more grants and Hripko hopes that they will receive enough capital soon, so they can begin identifying a building to house the MVICC.