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The ‘Maker City Initiative’- Bringing Optimism to the Future of Youngstown, OH

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Lay-offs from the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company's sparked depression in Youngstown

Lay-offs from the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company’s sparked depression in Youngstown

On Monday, September 19, 1977, the once thriving city of Youngstown, Ohio would experience a day all residents wish they could forget. Also known as ‘Black Monday’  The Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company notified 5,000 workers that they no longer had jobs, catalyzing the beginning of the city’s economic destruction.

Over the next 40 years, Youngstown would come to be known as ‘The incredible shrinking city’ [as mentioned by CNN] as more than half of the city’s 165,000 inhabitants migrated to more prosperous areas. Throughout this period, complete with multiple ‘come-back’ ideas (ie blimp manufacturing), efforts to stop this economic decline have had only marginal success. Youngstown, Ohio continued to search for a resolution to reverse their economic slide.

Jump ahead to August 3rd, 2014. It’s a hot, overcast day in Northeast Ohio, and while there has been recent promising change in the city’s demeanor, there is something felt in Youngstown that has been lacking for a long time: hope.

Ryan and AM founding director Ralph Resnick hold the signed Youngstown Maker Manifesto

Ryan and AM founding director Ralph Resnick hold the signed Youngstown Maker Manifesto

In the finale of the four-day ‘Youngstown Maker City Initiative’ event, hundreds of people gathered outside of the nationally recognized 3D printing hub, America Makes, to tour the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. In addition, attendees were able to canvass with the 12 local makers exhibiting their additive manufacturing involvement. The event included a ‘3D Printer Shootout’ hosted by Make: Magazine where many of the industry’s leading products went toe-to-toe in rigorous analysis.

Also in attendance was US Rep. Tim Ryan who challenged the community to [as quoted in The Vindicator] “figure out some way, shape or form we can convert our economy to fuel this next movement,” and in regards to 3D printing stated “The reality of what we are experiencing is a complete transformation of manufacturing.”

The goal: mold Youngstown’s culture to that which 3D Printing can thrive. On all fronts, from elementary schools, to public libraries, to local manufacturers, and local Makerspaces, the same energy that once made Youngstown a thriving industrial focal point during its steel-making heyday is now being focused to turn the city into a 3D printing powerhouse. It seems there are brighter days ahead for the poster child of deindustrialization.

Could 3D printing be the key to a revitalization throughout some of America’s deindustrialized cities?

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