The Economic Action Group meets once a month to discuss ongoing projects and new ideas.


Meeting 29

July 19, 2016


David Jurca of Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative


Coldscapes PDF

Coldscapes Presentation


Meeting 28

June 28, 2016


Courtney Boyle of MS Consultants

Kristen Zeiber of Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative 


Download here


Rain Garden Installation


May 24, 2016


Andrew Shepard-Smith and Gary Clark of YSU’s Office of Research Services

Wilma K. Levengood and Madeline Grimes


Research Integrity: Grant Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

Perceptions About the Arts in the Mahoning Valley


April 19, 2016


Afif Ghannoum

Afif is the President of ARMS Pharmaceutical and Oasis Consumer Healthcare.  A former “BigLaw” associate, Afif oversaw the investment process and investor relations for over $8 million in investments as president of a Phase II drug development company. He is the creator of the “Napkin to Shelf” strategy and the author of “The Napkin to Shelf Blueprint: A Step-by-Step Guide to ACTUALLY Turning Ideas into Amazing Consumer Products”. Afif’s presentation will focus on product delivery, and how to transform an idea into something tangible and valuable. Afif will also take us through a deep dive on the realities and opportunities for successful fundraising in weaker market cities.

In the spirit of our middle name, Action, we are excited to “youngstownize” Afif’s concepts in order to deliver our own initiatives and action steps into tangible gains for our community.

Sara Wenger


Download here


Napkin to Shelf, “How to Turn an Idea into a Consumer Product”


February 24, 2016


Ellie Platt, Phil Kidd, and Daniel Rauschenbach


Download here


Parking Overview


January 19, 2016


Law Department Monitor Assistant/Coordinator
Mark D’Apolito of the City of Youngstown 


Download here


Downtown Parking Presentation


November 17, 2015


Michael Hripko of YSU’s Regional Economic Development Initiative, Barb Ewing, Dione Alexander, Jeanine Colozza, and Don Pattison of Village Capital Corporation, and Dominic C. Marchionda of YSU’s Regional Economic Development Initiative


Youngstown State University, VP for Research, Michael Hripko led off the meeting introducing himself and explaining the role that the YSU Regional Economic Development Initiative would have in future EAG operations. Potential actions include community planning and economic development technical assistance, GIS mapping, strategic and long range planning, and action and implementation planning.
Barb Ewing of the YBI introduced Village Capital Corporation from Cleveland, as the organization assisted YBI in the Vindicator Building Project.
Speakers from Village Capital Corporation (VCC) were Dione Alexander, Jeanine Colozza, and Don Pattison. VCC is a subsidiary of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress that provides real estate financing to catalytic community projects. They discussed projects in both Cleveland and the Mahoning Valley, and the potential role their organization could play in future development projects.
Dominic C. Marchionda provided a project summary on the Kent State University Cleveland Urband Design Collaborative and a video illustrating the student’s work was shown.


Village Capital Corporation


October 23, 2015


Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative Students and Faculty, Bob McGovern and Ellie Platt of the Mahoning Valley Young Professionals


The October Economic Action Group meeting was led off by the Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. The CUDC students outlined their plan of action for the Urban Design Charrette and acquired stakeholder feedback through all attendees offering their own unique visions.
Next was Bob McGovern and Ellie Platt presenting on behalf of the Mahoning Valley Young Professionals. They discussed MVYP’s recent survey to local young professionals and how the data would be used in the future. 


September 15, 2015


Nick Chretien of YSUscape, Lavea Brachman of Greater Ohio Policy Center, Dominic Marchionda of YSU’s Regional Economic Development Initiative


The 20th Economic Action Group meeting was hosted at the Youngstown Business Incubator on September 15th.

Nick Chretien updating the group about the status of the Certified Local Government (CLG) legislation. He also discussed the progress that YSUscape has made in the Wick Park neighborhood and area adjacent to Youngstown State’s campus. YSUscape’s next workday is scheduled for the morning of October 31st.

Next was Lavea Brachman of the Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) from Columbus. GOPC is a non-partisan, non-profit that champions revitalization and sustainable redevelopment in Ohio through policy and practice. Her presentation focused on an updated presentation regarding GOPC’s assessment on a potential Youngstown Center City Organization.
Closing the meeting was Dominic Marchionda summarizing the partnership between the YSU Regional Economic Development Initiative and Kent State University Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative and Kent State University College of Architecture and Urban Design.


August 21, 2015


Nick Chretien of YSUscape, Jillian Smith of the Youngstown Business Incubator, Aaron Young, Executive Director of Mill Creek MetroParks


Economic Action Group Meeting #19 took place at the Youngstown Business Incubator on August 21.

Michael McGiffin led the meeting with an update regarding the Wayfinding/Signage Plan. Studio Graphique is currently refining their design mockups that were connected during their Dig Down Phase.

Next was Nick Chretien presenting an update regarding the Youngstown State University Student Organization, YSUscape. Nick discussed YSUscape’s past and future workdays in the areas directly adjacent to YSU’s campus and how it can positively affect the University.

Following was Jillian Smith, a Policy Intern at the Youngstown Business Incubator and member of the Mahoning Valley Young Professionals. Jillian detailed MVYP’s desire to bring in Vangard’s Next City Conference to Youngstown in Spring of 2017.

Closing out the meeting was the Executive Director of Mill Creek MetroParks, Aaron Young, who provided the Administrative Report. Young discussed the MetroParks’ Strategic Plan, Action Plan, and Upcoming County Levy.


July 28, 2015


Rachel McCartney, Dr. Ronald Chordas, and Nick Chretien of  Youngstown State University’s Regional Economic Development Initiative, RJ Thompson of  Youngstown Design Works


At the July EAG Meeting, the Youngstown State University Regional Economic Development Initiative highlighted their strategies and findings within the plan for economic development in Youngstown.

First was Dr. Ron Chordas who presented an overview of the Economic Development Strategic Plan as a whole. Next was Nick Chretien, who informed the group about Opportunity Sites for potential industrial and commercial businesses within Youngstown.

The last presentation came digitally from RJ Thompson, who shared his ‘City of YOU’ Marketing campaign vision.


June 16, 2015


Don Stiker and Scott Wolovich of Pittsburgh’s New Sun Rising, Sharon Letson and Phil Kidd of Youngstown Cityscape, Chris Faircloth of Akron’s Economic Community Development Institute


Guest speakers from Pittsburgh and Akron joined the Economic Action Group this month. Dan Stiker and Scott Wolovich spoke to the group on behalf of New Sun Rising out of Pittsburgh. New Sun Rising deals with the incubation of creative ideas in select communities in Pittsburgh, and presented how they operate their MODE Impact Incubator.

Next was Phil Kidd and Sharon Letson of Youngstown CityScape speaking about the Heritage Ohio workshop in Cleveland and recapping the 18th annual Planting Day that took place on May 30th. Downtown Events Coordinator Michael McGiffin followed with a Wayfinding Signage Plan update.

Closing out the meeting was Chris Faircloth from Akron’s Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI). He spoke on the incentives his organization offered in financing various economic development projects.


May 26, 2015


Professor Emeritus Thomas Maraffa of Youngstown State University’s Geography Department


May’s Economic Action Group meeting took place after a long Memorial Day Weekend and brought together stakeholders to hear from Dr. Tom Maraffa and Abby Beniston.

Dr. Maraffa presented his Peer City Analysis which focused on the Central Business Districts of 15 peer cities, and how they compared to Youngstown.

Abigail Beniston from the City of Youngstown Department of Code Enforcement and Blight Remediation informed the group of the City’s new code enforcement technology and how it was being utilized to combat blight throughout Youngstown.


April 21, 2015


Executive Director, Sharon Letson and Associate Director, Phil Kidd of Youngstown CityScape, Vice President of Government Affairs and Media at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, Guy Coviello


Downtown Events Coordinator Michael McGiffin gave an update regarding the Downtown Youngstown Wayfinding Signage Plan. Sharon Letson and Phil Kidd of Youngstown CityScape presented Youngstown CityScape’s future plans and Planting Day. Guy Coviello of the Regional Chamber closed the meeting out with a presentation of the State of Ohio’s Capital Budget and its effect on Mahoning County.
Check out coverage of the meeting from The Business Journal and the Vindicator


March 17, 2015


Students from Holy Family, Sara Wenger of Eastgate Community College, Dominic C. Marchionda of YSU’s Regional Economic Development Initiative


Last months Economic Action Group featured students from Holy Family and the unveiling of the Downtown Vision and Action Plan.

The meeting, which took place at the Youngstown Business Incubator, had students from Holy Family present their Feeding Future Cities report. This vision for Youngstown’s future won honors at the state competition.

Next, Sara Wenger and Dominic C. Marchionda, presented the Downtown Vision and Action Plan. The plan is the first comprehensive plan for downtown and was formed over the course of the past year with stakeholder input from around the community. The plan hopes to engage the community and coordinate public, private, and nonprofit groups.


January 20, 2015


Jenn Stofko of Youngstown Thermal, Will Tarter of OneCommunity in Cleveland, Michael Wilkos of the Columbus Foundation


The Economic Action Group assembled for Meeting #13 which took place on January 20th at the Youngstown Business Incubator. The group had a full agenda featuring 3 different speakers from around Ohio.

Leading the discussion was Jenn Stofko of Youngstown Thermal. She spoke of the potential benefits to property owners and business owners if the city were to develop an Energy Master Plan for the city.

Next was Will Tarter of OneCommunity from Cleveland. This presentation informed the EAG about the benefits of having OneCommunity’s high-speed Fiber Optic network and how it could be advantageous to the city in both business and economic development.


December 11, 2014


Martin Hume of the City of Youngstown Law Department, Bill D’Avignon of the City of Youngstown Planning Department, Dominic C. Marchionda of YSU’s Regional Economic Development Initiative


December’s Economic Action Group meeting consisted of updates from many of the group members. The Wayfinding/Signage project officially selected Studio Graphique as the firm to conduct the dig down phase, City Law Director Martin Hume informed the attendees that this project would begin early this year.

Another often-discussed topic at these meetings is historic preservation, in support of future preservation efforts, CLG legislation is being discussed for local implementation, which Bill D’Avignon informed the group about.

To close out the meeting, Dominic C. Marchionda introduced the framework for the Downtown Visioning Tactical Implementation Plan.


November 18, 2014


Nick Chretien of YSUscape, Graphic & Interactive Students of YSU


The November Economic Action Group meeting focused primarily on the diverse skillsets of Youngstown State University students. Leading off the meeting with the first presentation were Graphic and Interactive Design students, with one of their professors RJ Thompson. The students designed the wayfinding app ‘Route’ which would allow for a more navigable Downtown.

Next was YSUscape, represented by Nick Chretien, who presented the YSUscape Progress report. Within the progress report were activities that the group had participated in this year such as Neighborhood workdays, fundraisers and their mural project.


October 21, 2014


Sharon Letson of Youngstown CityScape, Dante Zambrini of Eastern Gateway Community College, Barb Ewing of the Youngstown Business Incubator, Dominic Gatta of the Gatta Companies, Jimmy Sutman of Purple Cat, Dominic J. Marchionda of NYO Property Group, & Tom Humphries representing the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corporation (YCACIC).


October brought in a very big month for the Downtown Youngstown Economic Action Group.

The Wayfinding/Signage plan for the city moved forward on October 15th when 3 firms gave presentations at the Covelli Centre to stakeholders who were interested in seeing which firm was the best fit for the needs of Youngstown; these firms being Corbin Design from Traverse City, MI, KMA Design from Carnegie, PA, and Studio Graphique from Cleveland. The Placemaking project team is expected to officially choose a firm within the next month and then initiate the dig-down phase of the plan.

On the 21st, the whole Action Group convened at Meeting #10 to listen to Downtown Property owners present their complete project inventories consisting of past, present, and future development plans. The group consisted of owners who had very unique sets of properties within Downtown.


September 23, 2014


Sarah Lown of the Western Reserve Port Authority, Bill D’Avignon of the City of Youngstown Planning Department, Sharon Woodberry of the City of Youngstown Economic

Development Department, Frank Rulli of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, & Mike Conway of the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation


Economic Development Financing Options was the key topic of Economic Action Group Meeting #9. After updates updates on both the CLG and the Signage RFP the group learned of the various financing options for the City of Youngstown.

Speaking on this financing tools first was Michael Conway who is the Executive Director of the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation. Next was T. Sharon Woodberry who is the Director of Economic Development for the City of Youngstown. Senior Economic Development Manager, Sarah Lown of the Western Reserve Port Authority speaker to talk about financing options.

Frank Rulli’s presentation on Historic Preservation showcased a different financing tool, the Historic Tax Credit. He talked of the impact that it has had on Youngstown’s city center within the last 5 years and the upcoming projects that would not be possible without the tax credits.

To close the meeting there was a review of the project matrix.


August 10, 2014


Representatives from City of Kent, Kent State University, and PARTA spoke to EAG regarding the collaborative projects taking place in downtown Kent


The Youngstown Economic Action Group met once again on August 19th at the Tyler History Center to learn more valuable lessons on how to improve the city. The keynote speakers at the meeting were members of the Kent/PARTA Planning team, of which briefed the group on the urban revitalization of Downtown Kent. The planners for Kent spoke on similarities between Youngstown and Kent, and showed how they overcame adversity to get great things done by collaborating with many different entities.


July 29, 2014


Sara Wenger of East Gate Community College, Pam Lilak of the Downtown Wellness Community


July brought Pam Lilak of the Downtown Wellness Community and Sara Wenger of the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments to speak to the Economic Action Group.

Pam introduced members of the EAG to the Downtown Wellness Community and their mission statement which is to facilitate activities and to encourage behaviors which promote an integrated approach to health and wellness.

Sara’s presentation presented a Comprehensive Parking Study of the Downtown Youngstown city center. She illustrated that there is a severe underutilization of current surface parking within the central business district and that parking strategies should be revisited.


June 13, 2014


Graphic Design Professor of YSU and Director of Youngstown Design Works, RJ Thompson


YSU Graphic and Interactive Design Professor RJ Thompson spoke to the Economic Action Group in June concerning the value of social design.

His presentation of social design showcased the mindfulness of a designer’s role and responsibility in society; and the use of the design process to bring about social change. RJ’s presentation was followed with a group discussion concerning marketing of certain assets within Youngstown.


May 20, 2014


GMF Youngstown Bootcamp Panelist & President, Cleve Ricksecker of SID’s Public Services Association


Cleve Ricksecker of the SIDs Public Service Association out of Columbus spoke to the Economic Action Group in May about the potential value a SID could serve to the city center of Youngstown. Cleve paralleled entities in Columbus to those in Youngstown to show who would be involved in the process of forming a SID.

Next, Marty Hume of the City Law Department announced that City Council authorized the use of $26,000 for the Wayfinding/Signage project.

To wrap up the meeting, the group reviewed the Map visioning session that was discussed at meeting #4


April 10, 2014


Environmental and Urban Design Expert, Cathy Fromet of Studio Graphique


Meeting #4 consisted of the group first revisiting the 3 main topics put in place, placemaking, way finding, and marketing. All were agreed upon as things that can be improved upon and bettered. Mayor McNally gave an update on his signage improvement plan and told us of the difficulties due to having a limited amount of people. Cathy Fromet from Studio Graphique was the guest speaker. Cathy discussed the various signage and placemaking techniques. Some of the main points that Cathy made were discussing state/city requirements and getting the community involved. Funding sources were a topic of discussion as the private and public sector need to work together.


March 13, 2014


GMF Youngstown Bootcamp


Meeting #3 immediately followed the GMF Youngstown conference and much of the meeting was focused around the GMF event. A noted interest from the GMF conference would include the Streetsense presentation. Dominic Marchionda went over other cities’ signage plan and if it would be welcomed here. Another notable presentation was the historic transformation of Wooster, in which revitalization took place in a small cluster. SIDs were an ongoing discussion and the group thought they would be a good thing if they were brought here. Mayor McNally’s signage plan recently began to show up downtown with the appearance of special ‘Downtown’ signs. It is a fact that these can still be improved upon. Groups were divided up into placemaking, marketing, and visioning.


February 4, 2014


Dr. Ronald Chordas of YSU’s Regional Economic Development Initiative


Meeting #2 continued to explore the Economic Development Grant opportunities. Dr. Chordas, director for the Center of Urban and Regional Studies, gave his direct input on the topic and lead a visioning session in which themes were explored with the group. Three themes established themselves as the main concerns. These would be marketing, placemaking, and development. Signage was determined to be the #1 issue to tackle downtown as most of it was unorganized and not up to date with present day standards.


December 10, 2013


Economic Development Strategists
Chris Schmenk & Caleb Belle of Bricker & Ecker


The first meeting was the start of this group’s collaboration. The first issue covered by the group was the US EDA Planning Grant, which is a grant sponsored and administered by the YSU Center for Urban and Regional Studies. This grant would help develop the city due to the $250,000 that the grant would provide.

The next issue was the implementation of a strategic plan, which would have to be place based and cater to the city’s needs. Signage was the first plan that the group wanted to tackle and the subject was explored more. Design and funding were two of the primary concerns.

After discussing signage, the group listed all the downtown anchors and nodes of development. SWOT analysis was critiqued.