Youngstown Grows as Export Hub

By Alyssa Pawluk

From 2009 to 2012, the Youngstown-Warren area has flourished in its industries, healthcare, workforce and housing sectors, factoring significantly into its economic success.

According to a study conducted by the Brookings Institution, the region was rated number one in the United States in export growth percentage from 2009 to 2012.

The industry that ranked highest in metropolitan export change was transportation equipment in 2009.

Mousa Kassis, international trade adviser of the International Trade Assistance Center at Youngstown State University, said that Youngstown is becoming a global player in exportation through its growing industries.

“Exporting in particular has been growing in this area. In 2010 to 2012, the Youngstown region, from Warren to Sharon, Pennsylvania, was rated number one in export growth in the nation. So that is a good sign that there are globally-oriented businesses in this area,” Kassis said. “We have many manufacturers, and there is great potential for growth with the discovery of shale products, and technology, which is transferrable overseas. It has given us even more potential hope of exporting and becoming a global player.”

Kassis said that about 75 percent of global consumption is outside of the United States, along with 95 percent of the population, and it is easier for companies to make a profit through exporting.

“Export growth means the area economically will grow. Exporting and being a global player, you have to do it, otherwise businesses will sink because of the global competition,” he said.

Kassis added that the world is “metro to metro,” and Youngstown needs to build its own metro to trade with other large cities in the world.

Kassis said that the Youngstown-Warren region needs to increase its competitiveness, and encourage export efforts among businesses, as well as introducing new manufacturing technology to encourage growth as a large export city.

“We still have a good primary metal and steel industry production here. We also have many smaller companies and sections in the economy that could be very well diversified,” he said.

Primary metals, fabricated metal products, machinery, transportation equipment, chemicals, plastics, engineering services, forestry and grain production are big industries in the regions of Youngstown-Warren, Butler, Erie and Columbiana.

“The focus is to build and continue to build on all of these strengths, and we have a very competitive advantage in this area. The lower cost of energy is going to be a game changer for this area. Our manufacturing will be able to compete with overseas, mainly China, because of this factor. Lower energy costs for manufacturers are a huge advantage,” Kassis said. “Given the cost of oil and energy being lower here, that is going to speed the process to be more competitive with China and other places in the world.”

Last semester, the Williamson College of Business Administration partnered with the Ohio Development Services Agency to offer a program to students that would enable them to gain experience through exporting companies like Warren Steel Holdings or McDonald Steel.

“Youngstown has had a history of exporting, but is becoming more prominent now. Now, at YSU, we are having a program with Ohio Development Services Agency that partner with Williamson College of Business Administration to offer an export internship program. That program also does this with Fischer College of Business at Ohio State University,” Kassis said.

As part of the program, YSU will accept and train 10 students with a junior or higher standing with at least a 3.0 GPA of any major.

The program deadline ended last semester on Dec. 10, and the students accepted will work 40 hours a week at any exporting company for four months. The school is offering a supplement for students who might have to relocate.

“That just shows the dedication of Williamson College, YSU and the state of Ohio for a new trajectory oriented toward oversea exporting and international trade,” Kassis said. “That is huge, building a human capital that is focused on export.”

Ohio will reimburse YSU, and YSU will reimburse the companies up to $3,600 of wages that a company will pay to the student.

“We will continue this program. We are very excited about it,” Kassis said. “We started it for the need, and the most important factor is building a human capital toward globalization.”