Gary Smith, who works in the Kansas office of the USDA, helped plan the Greensburg Business Incubator. Smith says the first step for planners is to ask, "What does the community have that they want to build upon?" In the case of Greensburg, it was the community's shared vision of rebuilding after its disastrous tornado. A traditional business incubator serving as a downtown anchor fit that vision. Additionally, the city was eligible for disaster funding to finance the incubator.
I like downtown Warren, but so much more could be done to revitalize it. A strong city center can do wonders for the entire region. Consider Wooster:
Invest in downtown. Town centers are the communal heart. Too many Midwestern towns let their main streets go to seed. More than anything, this reveals a community that just doesn't care anymore. Who wants to invest in a town with a slum at the center? Columbus, Pella and Wooster look like the good places they are. Wausau may have economic problems, but you'd never know it from its beautifully rehabbed downtown.
Warren is headed in that direction but a recent announcement by Congressman Tim Ryan suggests that this small city is ready to put economic development into overdrive:
The officials said they want to bring the kind of benefits downtown Youngstown has enjoyed from the Youngstown State University’s proximity to the central business district. Ryan said the campus would tie in with the “green” energy incubator being developed in downtown Warren.“This is the catalyst,” he remarked. In the future, this will be the day that people point to when they ask when did Warren change, he said.The campus would be located somewhere on Courthouse Square, Ryan said.
That kind of vision is a game-changer and positively plugs Warren into globalization. The ideal location of an institution of higher education is downtown. Innovation thrives in dense areas of face-to-face interaction. Pack it all in as tightly as you can. Let the proposed community college campus house the incubator, introducing students to green entrepreneurial opportunity.
Downtown Warren is now positioned for a jump start. Kudos to Ryan and Governor Ted Strickland for realizing downtown's potential.