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Collaboration Forms Mahoning Valley is for Entrepreneurs - The Business Journal

A collaboration of organizations ranging from some of the Mahoning Valley’s major players in economic development to agencies not normally associated with economic development is coordinating on creating a resource pipeline for entrepreneurs. The newly formed organization, Mahoning Valley is for Entrepreneurs, steers entrepreneurs to resources they may need depending on the stage of their companies, said Sara Wenger, economic development program manager at Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. A guide that the initiative assembled defines the support participating entities can provide entrepreneurs at the idea, startup, emerging or mature stages of their ventures, including capital, financial analysis, growth and business planning and research and development. The organization will host a business startup workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Raymond John Wean Foundation in Warren. Mahoning Valley businesses accounted for $35.8 billion in sales in 2015, according to the organization’s charter. However, the need to encourage more startups and help early-stage companies is highlighted by statistics that reflect the decline over 10 years in the number of businesses operating in the Valley. In 2015, the number of businesses in Mahoning and Trumbull counties was 9,532, down from 10,067 in 2010. The need for such an initiative, an outgrowth of Eastgate’s most recent comprehensive economic development strategy, became apparent about 18 months ago, Wenger said. Staff at Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., which had offered its first round of business classes, noticed that students in the courses – many of whom had plans in the idea stage or not much further along — were having difficulty finding where to go next. The Mahoning Valley has “a great entrepreneurship ecosystem” but its resources aren’t always as well connected as they should be, said Liberty Avila, YNDC land reuse director. Entrepreneurs in the very early stages often were “bounced around” to various organizations and didn’t know what each did, Avila said. Most are geared toward existing businesses or entrepreneurs with plans closer to the startup stage. “Some organizations are not set up to help with business plans at all,” she said. The problem extended beyond clients not knowing the resources available or the role of each agency, said Crystal Volinchak, administrative assistant at the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Youngstown State University. In some cases, the agencies themselves were unaware of what the others did or what their specialties are. Read the full story from the Business Journal here.