Yo-Pitt Manufacturing Partnership Passed Over

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- The architects of a regional application for one of 12 manufacturing partnership designations from the federal government say they will assess the proposal’s shortcomings before deciding how to proceed with any future effort.

The application by a partnership representing 19 counties from northeastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia is not among the 12 proposals awarded Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership designations. More than 70 applicants submitted proposals for the designations, which the Obama Administration announced Wednesday.

The selected communities, named by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, will have 11 federal agencies with $1.3 billion in economic development funds work with them to make targeted investments in public-private partnerships that strengthen regional manufacturing. A liaison will also be appointed to help the partnerships execute their plans.

The cities of Youngstown and Pittsburgh were co-applicants on the TechBelt Makes application, which focused on precision manufacturing such as additive manufacturing and robotics and energy technology.

The 12 partnerships selected were:

  • Southwest Alabama led by the University of South Alabama.
  • Southern California led by the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development.
  • Northwest Georgia led by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission.
  • The Chicago metro region led by the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development.
  • South Kansas led by Wichita State University .
  • Greater Portland region in Maine led by the Greater Portland Council of Governments .
  • Southeastern Michigan led by the Wayne County Economic Development Growth Engine.
  • The New York Finger Lakes region led by the City of Rochester.
  • Southwestern Ohio Aerospace Region led by the City of Cincinnati.
  • The Tennessee Valley led by the University of Tennessee.
  • The Washington Puget Sound region led by the Puget Sound Regional Council.
  • The Milwaukee 7 Region led by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

“We have not had any official contact with anyone at [the U.S. Economic Development Administration] to understand why we were not chosen, other than we learned that there were over 70 applications and it was very competitive,” said Petra Mitchell, president and CEO of Catalyst Connections, a Pittsburgh manufacturing extension partnership that took the lead on the application.

“We heard last week that our prospects were not strong,” added Sarah Lown, senior economic development specialist for the Western Reserve Port Authority. One reason might be the disproportionate number of Ohio applicants, 10, hurting the Youngstown-Pittsburgh application’s chance of being selected, she speculated. The selected proposals included just one from Ohio and were fairly evenly distributed geographically. More were awarded in the Midwest where manufacturing tends to be concentrated, she noted.

“This is a first round. It’s very competitive,” Lown remarked. “We thought we may have too big a geographical area but one of the awardees has 27 counties. We had about 19 counties.”

“We knew it would be a competitive round,” acknowledged Barb Ewing, chief operating officer of the Youngstown Business Incubator, another partner on the application. “You put your best foot forward.” When there are so many applications for such a limited number of slots, “not all good proposals are going to move forward,” she said.

The White House said another Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership competition will be launched later this year to designate the next round of communities. The administration and federal agencies will work with the applicant communities to strengthen their plans and identify opportunities to work with the federal government on local economic development priorities.

In addition, the White House will convene the 70-plus communities that applied for the first round to share best practices in economic development planning and attracting new jobs and investment in manufacturing.

Whether the TechBelt Makes applicants will reapply together, separately or at all is unknown right now.

“We have no specific action items at this point, although I believe that we learned a great deal about the assets of our regional manufacturing community, and that we have a very good plan for moving forward,” Catalyst’s Mitchell said. “I am personally hoping that we will be able to work together to secure other resources to implement parts, if not all of our plan.”

“We don’t know what to expect until we find out where we need to recalibrate the original application,” the port authority’s Lown said.

YBI’s Ewing expects the partners to reapply. “A lot of hard work went into that proposal. We started building very good partnerships and relationships and I would be hopeful they would stay in place and we would update it and move forward,” she remarked. “I don’t think anyone made firm commitments to that but I would be surprised if we didn’t.”

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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