Tag Archives: Youngstown State University

Does Youngstown’s Revival Leave the Working Class Behind?

Who is benefiting from the strides being made to redevelop the city of Youngstown?

That is the question posed by Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University, in a critical article titled “A Renaissance for Whom?”

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The authors point out that despite the success of high-tech start-ups in the city’s downtown, the average city resident has seen her fortunes decline during the current recession. And the situation wasn’t pretty before that.

“Much has been written recently about Youngstown’s Renaissance,” write YSU professors James Rhodes and John Russo on the CWCS’s blog. “Fox News, BBC, The Economist, Entrepreneur, and Inc. have all touted the local area as recovering economically.

“While all the publicity and positive representations have been great for the city’s self-image and provided much-needed momentum for economic development, both local leaders and most journalists have ignored the city’s real problems:  high unemployment, poverty, continued high crime rates, and the deterioration of the Youngstown’s neighborhoods.”

Rhodes and Russo point out that Youngstown’s Metropolitan Statistical Area has lost a net total of 9,000 jobs since the recession began. In March, the local unemployment rate hovered at 14 percent, among the highest in the state.

“The Mahoning Valley, like the nation at large, is in the midst of major social and economic upheaval,” they write. “Long-term unemployment contributes to drug abuse, crime, domestic violence, health problems, the break-up of families, and racial antagonisms.  Community support institutions are besieged by requests for help even as their economic support – whether from donations or state funds – is declining.”

Rhodes and Russo are absolutely right and their point is important to keep in mind. People are suffering in Youngstown. I’m not sure that diminishes the city’s success in certain initiatives–downtown revitalization and technology-based economic development–although it’s obviously troubling.

I think everyone hopes that someday these developing areas of strength will reach the point where they have a recognizable effect on unemployment, poverty and the associated ills. Perhaps Russo and Rhodes’ point is that the benefits won’t be as widely distributed as was the case with a manufacturing based economy. That may be true. There’s a certain paradox in progress, I guess.

-AS

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Filed under Economic Development, Headline, Labor, U.S. Auto Industry

A High Profile Arson in Youngstown

The city of Youngstown is experiencing another arson spree, this time though the crime is personal for many city activists.

A historic mansion in the Wick park neighborhood was burned a few weeks ago, according to the Youngstown Renaissance blog.

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After

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Instances of Arson are familiar in the city, however, many city boosters are outraged because there was talk of renovating the particular house and the Wick Park neighborhood is the site of an ongoing revitalization campaign that is seen as crucial to stabilizing downtown and Youngstown State University area.

The fire was part of a series of arsons that police believe are related.

Check out Youngstown Renaissance for all the details.

-AS

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Filed under architecture, Crime, Featured

Photo Essay: Pittsburgh’s Carrie Blast Furnace

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a city built by steel. The belching smoke and fire from the great mills was an omnipresent reminder of the area’s dominant industry. Pittsburgh’s vast steel operations played a large role in building the nation’s infrastructure; at one point, half of the country’s steel came from the three rivers. The city’s mills were at the heart of a war machine that won two world wars and made America the manufacturing envy of the world.

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However, a confluence of events in the 1950’s and 60’s exposed fatal chinks in the armor of Pittsburgh’s steel industry: overseas competition, inadequate capital investment, bad labor-management relations; and the exhaustion of local natural resources proved devastating. 

The late 1970’s marked the beginning of the end for Pittsburgh’s dominance in steel. Hundreds of thousands of steel workers would lose their jobs as the once mighty blast furnaces were silenced. The city and the region were plunged into a economic depression that challenged the area’s very future.

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Today, Pittsburgh has largely reinvented itself as a center for robotics and emerging technology. Large scale urban renewal and the expansion of retail has erased much of historic Pittsburgh. The steel industry and the struggles of labor have often been forgotten, or downplayed. Most people now would probably be more apt to recognize the “steel mark” logo as belonging to a football team, instead of US Steel, who it was originally designed for.

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These photos I’ve taken are from the remains of U.S. Steel’s, Homestead Works. The Carrie Blast Furnace, abandoned in 1978, was once part of this sprawling industrial complex. Now, nature and the elements have begun to reclaim her. Though her mighty furnace is now quiet, this rusted hulk is a powerful reminder of the painful death of the region’s steel industry.

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This post was authored and photographed by Sean Posey, a documentarian and a graduate student in history at Youngstown State University.

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Filed under Art, The Big Urban Photography Project