Jun 19, 2020
Fed Chair Jerome Powell Talks How to Rebuild the Workplace During COVID-19
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell held a June 19 video conference meeting addressing how to rebuild the workforce during the coronavirus pandemic. Read the full transcript here.
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Treye Johnson: (00:00)
President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. I know from working directly with Loretta that she is a strong supporter of the Fed’s Community Development function and has a keen interest and understanding of the factors that make certain individuals and communities better able to recover from economic setbacks and how can those factors be promoted more broadly. So I am very happy today that Loretta will be moderating today’s discussion. With that, President Mester, I ask you to unmute your microphone and begin the program.
Loretta Mester: (00:34)
Thank you very much Treye and thanks everyone for joining us. I really appreciate the willingness and Mayor Brown, President Tressel, Ms.Boyarko, and Ms. Borza, Mr. Chretien and Ms. Williams for serving on the panel today. And I’m really pleased to be here with Federal Reserve Chairman, Jay Powell to listen and learn from all of you. Now, the information we collect from community and business sources is really crucial to us as we set monetary policy. And especially as we look at our tools and how we can use them to set the stage for a robust and inclusive economic recovery. Some of the early data suggests that we may have seen the worst of the damage, the economic shutdown triggered by the Coronavirus. There’s some positives in the data. The May’s Job report for example, was a positive.
Loretta Mester: (01:27)
But I think the way to look at this is that you have to think in terms of levels and we certainly have a very long way to go. Now, some parts of the country, including Ohio are starting to reopen. They’re resuming broader economic activity, and I think it’s very much worth thinking about how workforces, how the labor force, and how communities that the workforce supports can better withstand and recover from economic shocks. The idea of resiliency is very salient, I think right now. So what can be done to make the workforce more resilient in the face of the economy’s inevitable ups and downs? This is especially important for racial minorities and people in low and moderate income areas where the gains in the 11 year economic expansion that ended with the COVID-19 pandemic were realized later. And to a lesser extent, degree than across the economy as a whole. The pandemic has deeply wounded the US economy because of the need to shut down or curtail operations in many businesses. And that has been a very widespread and intense level of pain.
Loretta Mester: (02:43)
But it’s also important to note that that pain has been unbelievably distributed. It’s being felt disproportionately by people with the fewest financial resources, including many of the same groups who gained only a late impartial benefit from the economic expansion. So that’s particularly distressing. If we’re all going to share fully in the bounty of a recovery US economy, it’s important to learn how to improve the resiliency of the workforce. And few regions have been called on to be resilient as often as Youngstown has been. After the well documented decline of the steel industry in the 1970s and 1980s, the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Plant and the area businesses that supplied it became more important drivers of regional growth. From 2017 until it closed in March 2019, the Lordstown Plant lost about 4,300 jobs, with an additional 3,300 jobs lost among local suppliers, businesses, and governments. And almost exactly a year later, the Coronavirus struck and the Youngstown region has been among the hardest hit in the state. So I serve on Governor Mike DeWine’s Ohio Economic Business Recovery Advisory Board on the pandemic and I can’t tell you more about the information that we’re covering today. It’s really exactly the kind of information we need to help guide the relief efforts in the state and to inform how that reopening is going. Now, I’m hoping that today’s conversation is going to help us build on what we already know about building resilience as we think about using our policy tools for the benefit of all Americans. And I think a conversation like this is especially important now because the kind of shock that we’re all enduring is unprecedented. We don’t really have experience in something like this to help guide our thinking. Now, before I introduce Chairman Powell, I want to note that today is June 19th, Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in America by celebrating the date in 1865 when slaves in Texas learned they were now free.
Loretta Mester: (05:12)
Now much time has passed since then, but the journey to equality is a journey we’re still on. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and the social unrest that’s followed in cities across the country, as well as the pandemics disproportionate toll among black Americans. Highly racial and economic disparities that must be addressed. At the Cleveland Fed, inclusion is a core value. It’s something that is front and center in how we do business every day. We always strive to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Our bank represents diverse constituency and what we learned from listening to them and events like this informs our policy making. Our goal and our hope is to have all Americans share fully in the promise and economic opportunity of our country. And I know personally that this is something that Chair Powell and all my other Fed colleagues also feel very strongly about.
Loretta Mester: (06:18)
So Chair Jay Powell took office as the Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in February 2018 after serving as a member of the Fed board since 2012. Now one of his jobs as Chair is to oversee the Federal Open Market Committee, or what’s commonly said as FOMC, not The Fruit of the Month Club, the Federal Open Market Committee. And that’s the committee that sets interest rates and other aspects of monetary policy. Now, when we meet there is 19 seats at the table. Most of them are filled with people with strong views on the economy and monetary policy and in eagerness to discuss them. And the great thing about the committee is that we work towards a consensus. And I think Jay Powell has been particularly very skilled at doing that. He lets everyone have their say and he guides us towards a consensus view.
Loretta Mester: (07:17)
He hasn’t allowed the Fed to get distracted by outside criticism. He always is guarding the institution’s independence in setting monetary policy by keeping it focused on our congressionally mandated goals and maximum employment and stable prices. And he also is very committed and understands value to hear from our constituents about their experience of the US economy especially in tough times, like the ones that we’re going through now. With that, let me turn it over to Jay Powell who will present some remarks. Jay.
Jerome Powell: (07:57)
Thank you. Thank you very much Loretta and also Treye and thanks to everyone for being here today. As Loretta suggested, I’m here to listen and learn today. So I’ll keep these remarks pretty short, conversations like this are incredibly valuable to us because they give context to reams of data and definition to this huge United States economy that we have. And they also help us solve problems on a practical level. So for example, feedback from our investing in America’s workforce initiative found a pronounced need for workforce and economic development programs to more closely align. In addition, employers input has influenced work across the Federal Reserve system, including at the Cleveland Fed, as they look at how skills on the lower end of the pay scale can transfer to higher earning jobs. So from me and my colleagues, thanks for your time today and for your ongoing help and insight.
Jerome Powell: (08:51)
As Loretta noted, we are meeting on Juneteenth today amid a renewed reckoning of racial injustice. The pandemic has again exposed a range of troubling inequalities, most of them of long standing. As this national discussion continues, it’s critical to remember that equity includes access to education, to work, and to economic opportunity. And I was reminded this morning that Dr. King actually delivered his, I Have a Dream speech, just a few blocks from our headquarters in Washington DC at a rally, the full title of which was, The March for Jobs and Freedom. So we meet today amidst immense hardship and suffering from the Coronavirus. Lives and livelihoods have been lost and uncertainty looms large. We’re all grateful to our frontline healthcare workers who put themselves in harm’s way every day. And to the essential workers, the many essential workers who help us meet our needs every day. While we’re all affected, the burden has fallen disproportionally on those least able to bear it.
Jerome Powell: (09:57)
Before the virus swept the globe, the American economy was in a good place. We were experiencing the longest expansion on record and unemployment had reached historic 50 year lows. However, that’s a national average and it’s a very large country and that glosses over stark realities. The economic good fortune had alluded pockets across the country, including to a significant extent Youngstown. A particular cruelty of the pandemic has been its disproportionate impact on many areas that were already suffering. We will make our way back from this, I’m confident of that, but it will take time and it’s going to take work. Some of the most valuable information we get from these discussions is how people are working together to create growth, to get back.
Jerome Powell: (10:44)
Your feedback can be an invaluable example for other communities with similar challenges. The Lordstown closure served as a reminder of how interconnected local economies can be and other areas have experienced similar losses. Your work on diversifying the economy, on skills development, on small business support programs, and so many other things can serve as models for others to replicate. The path ahead is going to be a challenging one, but given the opportunity, my colleagues and I will always bet on the American people and on the kind of community resolve and dedication that you’ve shown here in Youngstown and that we’re going to hear about today. So I’m looking forward to your insight and hearing more about how you’ve been working to revitalize Youngstown’s economy. Thank you very much and thanks for all you do.
Loretta Mester: (11:33)
So thank you Chair Powell and let’s get the conversation started. So you really can’t have a conversation about Youngstown and workforce resiliency without talking about the Lordstown GM Plant. The shutdown of that plant 15 months ago had a significant negative impact on Youngstown and the rest of the Mahoning Valley for both workers and small businesses. So my first questions are going to be about the aftermath of the Lordstown GM Plant closing. More specifically, what have we learnt about the closing of the plant? How did organizations change to respond to the needs of workers and businesses? And what steps were taken to help the community build up its resiliency to this type of shock? And for this question, I’d like to start out with the Mayor, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown. Mayor Brown was elected the 51st Mayor of the City of Youngstown in November 2017. And I really appreciate and thank you for joining us today for this discussion.
Loretta Mester: (12:36)
So Mayor Brown, the Lordstown Plant used to be described as the economic lifeline to the region. But when GM announced that the Lordstown plant would close, you said, and I’m going to quote you, “Northeast Ohio more specifically Youngstown, and the Mahoning Valley were competitive. We will take on any challenge that you give us and we’re up to the challenge. This place, the people here, we have that grit.”. So Mayor, can you tell us how the Youngstown community has responded to the need of workers and businesses in the aftermath of the Lordstown GM closure?
Mayor Brown: (13:15)
I can. First of all, I want to say thank you to President Mester and Chairman Powell and Treye for your thinking about Youngstown and having this conversation. I think it’s just one of the first steps to get us moving in the right direction. Youngstown has that grit, the Mahoning Valley has the grit where we’ve come across challenges before. The first thing that we had to realize that we need to come up with a workforce. And if I could put my sports analogy together, we needed a bench. We needed to make sure that the workforce was ready for industries if they were looking for a place to land that we said, we had the workforce that’s ready to go. And that’s only because we had a great university and a great community college that made sure the workforce were ready and moving in the right direction for us.
Mayor Brown: (13:59)
So that that’s one piece that we’ve been able to sustain from the closing of Lordstown. It was not just the plant that affected the regional economy. It was the supply line. Many people look at Lordstown as just one economic piece of it. But the supply line, now the individuals who were making the different parts were coming from various parts of the area. So it was more of a regional impact. And for me as the Mayor of Youngstown, the plant is not located in the city, but it’s been a very good economic boost for many of the residents that I work for in the city of Youngstown.
Mayor Brown: (14:33)
And the last thing I’ll say, and just for opening conversation, now we’ve got to get to the point where we kind of have that one stop shop with individuals where we match with the employer, with the employee, with those skill sets that they need to move in the economy that we’re talking about. And that’s going to happen with our universities, with our community college. But also the piece that I love more than anything, we’ve become a team, we’ve put aside our differences. I’m working with the Chamber, the Port Authority, WRTA, YSU, Eastgate Regional Government. We’ve come together as what I call a team of rivals. We’ve looked at one voice and one [inaudible 00:15:11] in the Valley and I think that’s how we’re going to be successful.
Loretta Mester: (15:16)
Okay. Thank you Mayor Brown. I actually want to point out that actually the research that’s being done says that approach is actually very successful. So I commend you on taking that collaborative approach. So next I’d like to hear from Sarah Boyarko. Sarah is the COO and Senior VP of Workforce Development for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber. And thank you Sarah for joining us today. So back in 2018, even before the Lordstown Plant closure was announced, you said that, and I’m going to quote you, “The region would be able to support the individuals who lose their jobs at the plant.” And you attributed this to the business expansion work that the Chamber and others have done in recent years to diversify the economy. So Sarah, can you talk a little about some of those efforts that your organization has been engaged in to support businesses in the region?
Sarah Boyarko: (16:17)
Sure. Thank you President Mester and also Chairman Powell for inviting us to participate today. We’re happy to be here. As you mentioned earlier, I think as a result of the experience that we had with the downturn and eventual decline of the steel industry, as well as a result of the slow but ongoing reduction of the workforce at the assembly plant over a significant period of time, I think that one thing that helped us is the fact that Valley companies, political leaders, economic development professionals, have all worked collectively to diversify the community. And our driver industries relative to their investment, the job opportunities, as well as the overall payroll to ensure that all of our residents have an employment opportunity. Because of this, had General Motors closed 20 years ago let’s say, the impact could have been much more significant to the automotive supply chain as well as service providers.
Sarah Boyarko: (17:18)
Many of the companies have diversified their own products within that industry as well as the companies that they sell to or work with. So their customer base over the years. So certainly we experienced a slowdown in many of those companies as a result of General Motors’ announcement, but not necessarily a full closure for many of them. With the layoff of the second shift at the assembly plant occurring in the summer of 2018 when I am quite certain I was interviewed for that statement, the third shift ending prior to that, the future of the facility was certainly unknown at that time. And since the closure, the dislocated workforce has had a variety of options that included, retirement for those folks that were able to do so, taking advantage of transfer options that General Motors administration offered to all of their workforce in Lordstown, as well as seeking local employment elsewhere, in addition to the retraining that we’re talking about today.
Sarah Boyarko: (18:28)
I can say that in the immediate aftermath, the Regional Chamber worked with our colleagues in the Chamber world and economic development throughout Northeast Ohio, and Western Pennsylvania to create a list of over 100 companies that had open positions at that time, as well as conducted outreach directly to our organization and our peer organizations, seeking access to the General Motors’ workforce and the impact of supply chain. So they were ready and willing to hire those individuals. This list also included resources for education and training providers as well as the Small Business Development Center and the Minority Business Assistance Center for those workers that maybe had an interest in starting their own business. There was also a significant community response during this time many of which my peers on the call here I’m sure recall. For example, we had a local retail developer that presented gift cards to all impacted workers and a variety of companies, businesses in the region that offered discounts as well as a variety of services and other purchases that they were able to take advantage of.
Sarah Boyarko: (19:45)
I think that one additional unique offering that we would need to certainly share this morning with a significant number of the dislocated workers looking at certificate and associate degrees, Eastern Gateway Community College during that time announced a free tuition program for all workers and relatives to the assembly plant and the corresponding supply chain and service providers. So that was available to all of the impacted workers and their family members.
Loretta Mester: (20:16)
Wow. That’s significant. Thanks for noting that.
Jerome Powell: (20:20)
What was it? Was it sort of tuition free? Was there support for that?
Sarah Boyarko: (20:31)
There was. So Eastern Gateway Community College offered that through one of their programs. So that was rolled out not too long after the closure. So any of those individual people that were employed at General Motors or the suppliers or any service providers in our market that were directly impacted by a job loss and or their family members were all able to take advantage of that.
Jerome Powell: (20:55)
Yeah. That’s great.
Loretta Mester: (20:58)
That’s great. Are people tracking to see the outcomes? To see whether the people completed the degrees and whether they found jobs after that?
Sarah Boyarko: (21:08)
I’m certain that Eastern Gateway is tracking all of that information. We would probably have to get direct input from them for some specific numbers. We have received positive feedback from our peers as well as the individual companies that they have brought folks on. We naturally don’t have any of their personal information as in individual names and so forth, but they have hired folks. I think it’s probably important to mention as well that some of those companies actually were UAW companies. So a lot of those people were able to go there directly. In addition to one of the firms that unfortunately did close in our market at that time was Falcon Transport and those individuals with the access to the CDL were able to get picked up very quickly.
Loretta Mester: (21:56)
Okay, great. Thanks for that information. Very interesting. So now I’m going to turn to Jessica Borza who on my screen is right next to Sarah. She’s a Executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition. And Jessica, you’re a strategic advisor at Thomas P Miller & Associates, a consulting firm that’s focused on workforce and economic development. So back in December 2018, you spoke about the local labor market needing to get comfortable with the idea of lifelong learning to stay competitive. And we were just talking about education so this is a great segue. At the time, the coalition was working with local training centers to design programs to help workers who weren’t quite ready to transition from GM to another plant. Can you speak about the efforts to help displace workers who needed some training to find other employment?
Jessica Borza: (22:56)
Sure. Absolutely. And Thanks for having us. Yeah. So I’d echo what Sarah commented about as far as we did have a variety of our manufacturing companies who were willing and eager to take on some of the most skilled workers that were affected by the GM layoffs. The reality in our labor market is that it continues to be a very high demand for those skilled positions. And so they were able to transition relatively easily and I’ve heard anecdotally from our members that they brought individuals on who were able to make an immediate impact within their companies. And in other cases, they were able to take advantage of some of our earn and learn programs. We’ve done quite a bit of work in the Valley around apprenticeship and other innovative earn and learn programs. And so they were able to bring them on so there was no disruption in their wages. But then the company continued to support their advanced skill acquisition through sending them to additional training so that they could continue to get the skills that were needed to be successful in those jobs and to continue to advance.
Jessica Borza: (24:05)
For us, one of the challenges that presented itself is, because we know that there’s such a high demand for these manufacturing workers which is exacerbated by retirements that we’re seeing now and in the near future, the headlines that come out of such an event like the GM closure became a real headwind for us. So as we’re trying to get the word out in the community about the good jobs and career pathways that exist in manufacturing, it’s difficult to compete against the reality that we did have some significant job loss there within those companies. So our focus was on really that big question though that you asked, which, how do you help those employees that didn’t have as high of a skillset? And that’s really been the focus of our group, the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition over time. So we represent a group of manufacturers who have organized really solely for the purpose of making sure that there’s a really good connection.
Jessica Borza: (25:03)
… solely for the purpose of making sure that there’s a really good connection between the demand that exists within our manufacturing base locally and our partners in education and training. We’ve been working with our career and technical centers, Eastern Gateway Community College, Youngstown State University and others to build a system of education and training programs that are really in tune with the competencies that are needed by our manufacturers locally so that we really have high-quality programs that also complement one another. They’re organized in such a way that somebody can get the skills that they need in a relatively short amount of time to enter into these jobs, but then also can continue their education and skill acquisition, that lifelong learning that you mentioned, and build skills over time so that they’re also building their earning potential and kind of stacking those credentials on one another.
Jessica Borza: (26:01)
That’s really what’s necessary, what we’re hearing from our manufacturers in order for them to remain competitive and to stay strong and grow. That’s our continued focus, but the good news for the GM workers was that many of those programs were already in place. They were able to take advantage of them along with some of the resources that Sarah mentioned through Eastern Gateway and other training providers.
Jerome Powell: (26:28)
It’s interesting and a little bit unusual I think that there’s that much additional demand for high-skilled manufacturing workers. In a lot of parts of the country, manufacturing has dwindled and is no longer a major force. It sounds like in the Mahoning Valley you’ve actually got ongoing demand, which is a great thing, because manufacturing jobs are really important. They’re very high value added. They tend to generate jobs downstream. I’m telling you this. You know this better than I do. I guess the question is, is there enough demand? If the two major schools and the other programs can create the skills in those people, is there enough demand for those people or are some of them having to move on into different industries? Are those industries also present in your region?
Jessica Borza: (27:22)
We’re really seeing demand sufficient enough. Those students that are coming out of either the high school career and technical center programs or post-secondary are really sought after. It more becomes part of the role that we play as a sector partnership in our community is providing those connections and making sure that manufacturers know how to access those students and that the students also are getting some early work experience to gain those connections with industry to kind of take some of the friction out of the labor market so that it’s seamless and they’re able to have a pretty steady pipeline. So yes, there has been.
Jessica Borza: (28:03)
We make sure that we are serving as a feedback loop between our education partners and our workforce partners in the industry to make sure that supply and demand is balanced out. There actually was a time, and this has been several years ago, but we saw a little bit of an oversupply of welders. We gave that feedback to our institutions to make sure that they were informing the career guidance that they were giving to their students to make sure that we weren’t making promises and therefore having students need to move out of the area or whatever. It really works both ways.
Loretta Mester: (28:40)
That’s really fascinating. One of the research programs here at the Cleveland Fed and at some of the other reserve banks is on this opportunity occupations work, which is I think also trying to get the word out about these jobs that actually pay above the median that are good jobs that I think people don’t realize it all the time. It’s sort of the same theme about are people really understanding that there’s demand for some of those jobs. Thank you.
Loretta Mester: (29:08)
We have this theme developing about training and education. I think it’s a good time to turn to Jim Tressel, who is the president of Youngstown State University. He’s been president there since 2014. A 2018 study commissioned by the state of Ohio looked at the overall impact of colleges and universities on their regions. Beyond the economic and jobs impact, YSU’s [civica 00:29:39] and collaborations were also highlighted. You have 12 industry partners, which is a very high number, 21 universities and 75 other partners.
Loretta Mester: (29:50)
President Tressel, can you speak to us about your thoughts on Youngtown State’s role in helping to move the regional workforce forward? In particular, you have an Excellence Training Center, which I’d like to know more about. It sounds like a program designed to tailor worker skills to the immediate needs of the local employers, which we’ve been talking about. It is consistent with this research that the Fed’s doing about opportunity occupations. Can you tell us about the center and other ways that Youngstown State partners with the community to promote workforce development and resiliency in the region?
Jim Tressel: (30:34)
Thanks so much, President Mester. It’s truly an honor to represent Youngstown State. As you mentioned in that study, we have a real desire to be an impactful group here in the Mahoning Valley. Our faculty work extremely hard. Our staff work hard. Our economic development folks work hard. I’m just kind of representing them today, because I’d probably less of the work than any of them. I’ll try to do my best with that. Chairman Powell, thanks so much for your steady hand during these times. It’s probably the most challenging times I’ve seen in my life and I’ve lived a long time. I certainly appreciate all that you’re doing.
Jim Tressel: (31:18)
I think the theme that you’re seeing is the collaboration we have here in our region. You heard it all the way from Tito through Jessica and Sarah. I think that is the key to what we’re trying to do. We’ve worked extremely hard because we’ve been appreciative of the assistance we’ve gotten from the federal government, from state governments. Now we’ve been given opportunities and we really think that we’re not going to be short on opportunities. We’re going to need to make sure we do our part to execute. That Excellence Training Center that you’re talking about, President Mester, really began about five years ago as an idea. It was really Jessica and the Manufacturers Coalition that got together with some of our faculty and talked about some of the needs, some of the opportunities, some of the research and some of the things that maybe we could get together to work on.
Jim Tressel: (32:21)
Then as we thought about all of the various partners in the area, we thought we had a great opportunity to put together something special. It began as the Mahoning Valley Innovation Commercialization Consortium, because it was a group coming together to see if we can meet the needs across the continuum. Of course, we have the educational groups at Youngstown State University, Eastern Gateway Community College. We had our career and tech centers from Mahoning County, Trumbull County, Colombiana County involved. Of course, our city was involved. Our Youngstown Business Incubator was involved. America Makes is right here, right downtown across the street from the mayor’s office. We had our Manufacturers Coalition.
Jim Tressel: (33:07)
We had that whole group come together to talk about creating this training center. It has evolved to being in a consortium working on all of these opportunities. Then specifically, we just began construction on the Excellence Training Center after really getting great support from the state of Ohio from a funding standpoint. EDA, the Appalachian Region Commission all stepped up. We had philanthropic work through YSU’s foundation. The renovation on an existing building that we happen to get from the county, there was another partner involved in this. Then the new build, the shovel is in the ground. A year from now, our dreams will come true that we’ll have this center that will be focused on workforce. It will be focused on research. It will be focused on commercialization and prototyping and some low-volume manufacturing and so forth.
Jim Tressel: (34:10)
The center itself is going to be 55,000 square feet. We were dreaming about 75,000 square feet, but we didn’t quite raise enough money to get there. But I think they’re building one floor so that we can add another floor and think about the future. We have various areas in that Excellence Training Center. For instance, each Eastern Gateway Community College will have an area that we’ll be able to train on CNC machining that will be focused in on some of the things that they’re doing.
Jim Tressel: (34:44)
There’ll be a lot of shared spaces. I had to write them down here because, again, I’m not the expert like the folks working on it every day. But manual machining, sheet metal stamping and cutting, CNC wood shop, industrial maintenance will be ones that we’ll be able to share and utilize. Whether it be utilized to get young people interested and see this beautiful facility and say, “Here’s the opportunities,” or for companies to help train or maybe even our faculty who are outstanding in the research fields. There’ll be some shared areas.
Jim Tressel: (35:22)
Then there’ll be some areas that are really focused where we think we have that great connectivity with America Makes and the Youngstown Business Incubator in the whole area of additive manufacturing, because our folks are fortunate to have all of those ties. We have some amazing faculty from that standpoint. A lot of the 3D sand printing, the metrology and CT scanning, binder jetting, automation, robotics. We’ll have a foundry in there. What we’re trying to create is the whole continuum. Our real goal is to see if we can get our young people excited about what’s right here at Youngstown State or Eastern Gateway Community College, what’s exciting about going to one of the career and tech centers, what are those opportunities that can grow from that.
Jim Tressel: (36:14)
Again, it’s really the outcome will be based upon how well we can collaborate, how well we can bring people in, let them know the opportunities. We really do believe that we’ve been afforded wonderful opportunities. We think this Excellence Training Center can be a great catalyst for us in the future.
Loretta Mester: (36:38)
That’s great, President Tressel. I can’t wait to go see it. You said in about a year it’ll be ready?
Jim Tressel: (36:44)
Loretta Mester: (36:44)
Jim Tressel: (36:45)
We’ll bring you out for the ribbon cutting.
Loretta Mester: (36:45)
I want to be there.
Jim Tressel: (36:46)
We like ribbon cuttings here.
Loretta Mester: (36:52)
I want to be there. I think it’s time to segue into another set of questions. I want to bring the conversation back to the President. Not to bring us down, but we’re going to talk about COVID-19, the pandemic. We’re three months into it. States are starting to reopen. They’re all doing it in different ways and different time tables. There’s a great deal of uncertainty, obviously, about how the pandemic will play out and how it will be affecting and changing our lives. We do know, of course, that some businesses and industries are going to be impacted significantly. I’d like to hear a little about the changes your organization has made because of the pandemic.
Loretta Mester: (37:50)
Have you shifted delivery of your services? What barriers have you been forced to address to serve your clients? What’s really happened in terms of your ability to serve your clients positive or negatively? For this next round, I’d like to start with Carmella Williams. Carmella is the director of diversity and inclusion at Youngstown Business Incubator. She’s also the owner and kitchen chemist of Carmela Marie Incorporated, a natural hair products company founded in June 2013. Carmella, we all know that small businesses have been greatly affected by COVID-19 and they’re going to be already adapting to the pandemic. Could you please tell us about the impact of COVID from a small business perspective, both the companies you serve, but also you have your own experience that you can share with us?
Carmella Williams: (38:58)
Yes, thank you for having me. From what we’ve seen when COVID hit from being a business owner as well as counseling businesses, we found oftentimes with minority, specifically black-owned businesses, that the customer base was not diversified enough to be supported outside of their community. With there being a lot of individuals who were laid off, income’s not coming in, those businesses were actually feeling that. Essential workers who were underpaid, that they weren’t getting what they were used to getting as far as clientele. With that, what we wanted to do because since COVID hit all of the large events were also canceled, which put a lot of small businesses under great stress. Because for instance, my business 60% of the income was reliant upon actual in-person, face-to-face expos and conferences where people would vend at, especially consumer packaged goods companies.
Carmella Williams: (40:10)
At the incubator, we actually started to create opportunities to train those individuals to learn how to pivot from going from brick and mortar to streamlining their actual how they were getting access to their clientele and going online. A lot of the times we saw that there wasn’t a website or they didn’t have digital media presence. We helped them to do that. Also, what we were able to do was provide cross-marketing opportunities to businesses who might not have had a predominantly white customer base outside of the black and brown communities. By doing that, more of the community became aware of them and as a result could support them by purchasing. One particular business that we did an actual simple Facebook Live I went to on my day off, was all-in-one beauty supply store. We did a Facebook Live and just touted about the new ownership of this black-owned business. What she said immediately happened was that she saw an influx in her client base, new clients and became aware that she was there and that was a locally-owned store. We saw that. That was excellent. We also know that small businesses do not have access to capital to be able to pay for marketing, which they don’t deem an essential piece. Which it is an essential piece, right? We wanted to make sure that we showed them how to do that and tell them and show them that it was actually possible.
Carmella Williams: (41:59)
Now with that said, we continue to do actual training with our small businesses one-on-one so that we can customize a plan for them to be able to pivot into ways of making money outside of face-to-face so that they actually sustain themselves through this time.
Loretta Mester: (42:23)
There’s some positives there in terms of marketing and learning how to expand your customer base. But overall, the pandemic must be a very big burden on the small businesses in the region.
Carmella Williams: (42:36)
It is. A lot of the times, and I know we’ll talk about this, while we were … incomes got shut down. Now we were trying to help them apply for the EIDL alone and the PPP and for some, unemployment. It became extremely hard. It became very furious. As the counselors at YBI, we got in the trenches with people. We were literally trying to do all that we could, weekends, nights to make sure that they were getting that handheld experience. Because a lot of times, they were not familiar with how to even do the process. They had several questions. It wasn’t just send them a link and here you go. We were actually there. We did as much as we humanly could with the staff that we have. We do have [inaudible 00:43:30] certified business counselors at the business incubator. Yeah, it was hard, extremely hard at first. It is still hard now because we’re still trying to navigate those terrains.
Jerome Powell: (43:43)
Carmella, your businesses is obviously one that was very directly affected given your selling through those events. You’ve been very creative in working around that and in helping others do so too. I’d be interested in two things. One is, Youngstown generally, was there a pretty big shutdown? Were all the businesses shut down? Are things now opening up? How’s that going? That’s one thing. Just, I’d be curious about that.
Carmella Williams: (44:18)
Yeah. When everything shut down, my company went from probably about six different events back-to-back in one month, let’s say the month of April to zero, which comprised 60% of my sales on a normal year. Now I know that 60% of my sales are out the door, right? The first month was very rough. As you know, now I had to create and think of ways to generate capital to pay the base bills that I already had in place from month-to-month. That’s when I just I sat and I went back to the basics and began implementing plans of touching my clients through email, through phone calls, through text messages. Sometimes we think it just has to be other ways. I started doing that. I did see that kind of turn around.
Carmella Williams: (45:13)
Now as we progress to now, there are some things that are actually happening. For instance, in the black community Juneteenth celebration, there is an actual event on Saturday in Youngstown, as well as another Black Business Expo next week in Warren. I am seeing a lot of black businesses actually to sign up as vendors should be there. That’s something that was not there initially on my calendar with the state opening up. I think we’re going to see more rallying behind that where more businesses are being supported, specifically black-owned businesses due to what we are experiencing now in today’s climate.
Carmella Williams: (45:59)
I’ve been seeing a lot of that. A lot of people being intentional about talking about black-owned businesses, as intentionally supporting black-owned businesses in ways that I’ve never seen before. As a result with Carmella Marie, my sales are up on a month-to-month basis. Even as I talk to my clientele, their sales are up on a week-to-week basis. Now that we are more aware of how inequality does exist, how racism affects all. I know that we will continue to see those numbers and those awareness pick up overtime.
Jerome Powell: (46:45)
Thank you. Thank you.
Carmella Williams: (46:45)
Loretta Mester: (46:47)
That’s great to hear, Carmella. Thank you for that.
Carmella Williams: (46:51)
You’re welcome. Thank you.
Loretta Mester: (46:52)
Next, let me turn to Nick Chretien. You’re the program manager for the Economic Action Group, which is a nonprofit organization focused on developing the urban cores and corridors of the cities of Youngstown and Warren. Much like the small businesses you typically serve, the pandemic has forced your organization to shift its operations a bit. Can you share with us about how you’ve approached that and what the Economic Action Group has been doing since the onset of the virus? What you’ve learned through your new efforts and how the commercial redevelopment sectors outlook is? I think that’s going to be interesting for us to hear about. Also whether programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and another relief programs, how that’s impacting the businesses that you serve?
Nick Chretien: (47:49)
Absolutely. Thank you for having me today. Presently, we do see the demand for space slowly, but surely starting to go back up. At the beginning of the crisis, we realized that it was a very tough time to actually go looking for businesses to locate, to expand or make large-scale investments in our communities. We realized that it really was necessary to kind of pivot where we were focused in terms of our work plan as an organization. We realized we still possessed organizations that related to small businesses and could also be deployed at this point in time to assist, those skills being outreach and engagement. Also, being able to manage data. Then we were also a part of the local COVID task force, which took many of the partners on the call today and others regionally to weekly meetings via Zoom, where we discussed the priorities and the gaps in service where we kind of found our place to deploy our skill set.
Nick Chretien: (48:53)
Doing that, we worked with both the cities of Youngstown and Warren locally in the Mahoning Valley to do this outreach service, to make businesses, small businesses aware of the federal resources available through the CARES Act and any resources that eventually became available through the city’s block grant allocation. This effort was also assisted by the local foundations who created the Mahoning Valley Community Response Fund, which was huge in the local response. But our efforts were really targeted at getting these resources out to the businesses, supporting the ongoing operations in support of the essential workers that were working through the pandemic and then track the data at the local level and use it for a targeted recovery as we come to the end of it.
Nick Chretien: (49:42)
The results of our efforts personally, our team has quadrupled in size. We’ve made thousands of calls and reached out to over 1,800 businesses in the Mahoning Valley, 720 responses, more, more than 720. We’ve certainly seen the impact of these programs making a positive impact on the region. We’ve seen it from the very early on …
Nick Chretien: (50:03)
Making a positive impact on the region, we’ve seen it from the very early onset of the pandemic being in the very low percentages, one and two percent. Ticking up, I think we’re near 15% of the businesses that we’ve had contact with have actually received resources with even more, still interested, still applying and still going for additional resources as the reopening process starts. Having this data at our disposal, I think we’re in a very good position in terms of being able to target our recovery. And we’re going to be continuing on this path for as long as possible even as our commercial redevelopment efforts start to ramp back up. We’re going to be continuing to use the data, to see who we did not reach, who is the most impacted were any sectors disproportionately impacted locally, and then continue to work with the cities, mayor Brown, mayor, Franklin and Warren, to see what type of full time programming, not only during the pandemic, can we implement to assist these businesses during normal times to, to foster a more inclusive ecosystem for entrepreneurship in the moaning Valley?
Jerome Powell: (51:10)
Nick, just to be clear if I caught that the 15%, those were a percentage of the companies that had gotten PPP loans?
Nick Chretien: (51:17)
PPP or EIDL, yeah.
Jerome Powell: (51:19)
Nick Chretien: (51:19)
Jerome Powell: (51:19)
Nick Chretien: (51:21)
We group them together, yeah. It was the first few weeks when we were doing this, it was down 1-2%. And then we’ve seen that progression both in terms of sheer numbers and proportionally of who we’ve reached out to progress to that 15% right now. And we anticipate to be even higher as we progress, but we don’t have our final numbers as we’re still doing that second round of outreach to all the businesses [inaudible 00:51:44]
Jerome Powell: (51:44)
And of the ones who applied, did they almost all get it?
Nick Chretien: (51:48)
Yeah. I think there’s only a couple that we’ve received responses from that were rejected, but we made it a point to reach out proactively just because they might not have that kind of capacity, whether it’s legal, whether it’s accounting to know about it were just getting that little extra push allowed them to receive these funds and they kept the business operations.
Jerome Powell: (52:12)
That’s good to hear a difficult program that had a challenging start, but it’s really reaching a lot of people and a lot of small businesses now, which is great. The other one that I’d be curious for any of you, as we go around is enhanced unemployment insurance. So the extra $600 per week that the federal government added to existing unemployment insurance, that runs out in July. And I don’t know if Nick, if you have something on that, but I’d be interested to hear how that money is going to support households and keep them together at a time when they may not be getting paid, they may be unemployed. I don’t know if that’s over your plate or someone else’s, but I’d be curious.
Nick Chretien: (52:52)
We did not see too much in regards to the unemployment [inaudible 00:52:55] that was coming in. We will be getting more information as the reopening process continues and we hear back from the businesses and they can report back more on that.
Loretta Mester: (53:06)
Mayor Brown: (53:10)
Just in regards to the extra, that dollar was significant for the city. As you know across the nation, cities had loss of revenues as well. And we had to look at how to reduce our costs and we had what we call volunteer furloughs. And that was a significant help to individuals and many of those who took the volunteer furlough, it was an added incentive. It’s given us a help as a city. So I really commend the federal and state government for doing that because it offered another piece where families were probably at some point benefiting more at home than they were staying at work. So as a city we looked forward to it and it worked well for us.
Jerome Powell: (53:59)
Loretta Mester: (54:01)
Thanks for that. So I’m going to turn back to Sarah and Jessica. So part of what Nick was talking about is making sure that people get access to the available resources that are out there, the relief. Whether it’s financial relief, but also technical support. We’ve heard that from a number of businesses that we poll, that some of them would like to take advantage of some of the help but they just don’t have the technical ability to do that.
Loretta Mester: (54:35)
I know Sarah and Jessica, both of your organizations are working to provide businesses with that kind of information and support. Can you tell us about changes that your organization have made in response to pandemic in the way you’re serving your clients so that they can access the relief that’s out there? Is there a limitations in the kinds of services that are out there? Is that part of what the issue is, that people just can’t access the funding that’s out there? Or is it something broader? I’d really be interested in knowing more about what the issue is because as you know, there’s still money available in the PPP program and yet some businesses don’t seem to be able to access it. Sarah, you want to go first?
Sarah Boyarko: (55:26)
Sure. So, I think that just like any other company in the Mahoning Valley, the Chamber certainly experienced some direct changes throughout this time. Obviously, we’re working remotely. Some of our staff is furloughed. On the events side, Carmela talked about so many in-person events being canceled. And I know some of my peers have had those same experiences internally with regard to the furloughing and possible pay cuts, just as the companies have. And I think when we look at their specific needs in responding to your most recent question, I think because of this sort of coming out very quickly and having a rapid response, there was a lot of confusion as to who can qualify for such loans, would they be forgivable, and how do people access those.
Sarah Boyarko: (56:24)
So for the chamber, though we are not obviously hosting our larger events right now, we’ve continued with the service to our customers, through our business services, as well as economic development and advocacy. We have not seen the demand for resources or assistance, COVID or other, change or decrease, I should say. Naturally we have an additional issue because of COVID-19, but for a lot of companies it has been business as usual or exploring additional opportunities right now while things are a little bit slower. I think that like I said, the initial outreach and inquiries that we receive directly through our business retention expansion efforts, where we have been talking with anywhere from 50 to 75 businesses locally a week, again, confusion, there’s so much out there and how do they navigate all of that system.
Sarah Boyarko: (57:17)
For us as a result of that, we actually partnered with our board of directors and the businesses that are a part of our board and our executive staff to create our Emerge program, where we’re offering one-on-one assistance to the business community as they come across these specific challenges and, or have questions on how to navigate the system. We’ve created eight specific categories that are relative to daily business. And just to give you that list of categories, there’s an individual designated to offering assistance for financial accounting, insurance, healthcare, legal, general business inquiries, government affairs, and anything on the marketing side as well.
Sarah Boyarko: (58:04)
In addition to those one-on-one conversations that we’ve had throughout this time and making sure people get to the right individual or the right organization providing the service, just last week we had pushed out some additional activity or some additional resources through a partnership with the Mahoning and Trumbull County CBBs, where as things reopen, companies are looking for a way that they can express that they’re following the rules of the Department of Health and individuals using their services are looking for opportunities or looking for a reassurance that these individuals are following those rules. So giving them a greater level of comfort.
Sarah Boyarko: (58:50)
So any companies that might be listening today, if they have an interest in making sure that their customers are comfortable, they can go to any one of our websites and print out that pledge, which can be signed and presented or posted in an area that’s visual for those companies and displayed in their location.
Loretta Mester: (59:11)
That’s an interesting idea because I think that’s true about it’s not only if there’s restrictions, it’s the comfort level that customers have of going back into the establishment. So I think that’s an intriguing idea.
Jerome Powell: (59:25)
Yeah, cool idea.
Sarah Boyarko: (59:26)
And I think… Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Jerome Powell: (59:29)
Sarah Boyarko: (59:30)
I was just going to say, I think that all of us as individuals and we’ve all talked to our peers and, or family members that the level of comfort, it truly is something of importance right now as not only the city of Youngstown, but the remainder of Ohio reopens.
Loretta Mester: (59:44)
Right, exactly. And Jessica, do you want to add something to this conversation about kind of how the organizations are trying to get the kind of technical support out and relieve to the relief efforts?
Jessica Borza: (59:58)
Sure. Yeah. So sector partnerships like ours, the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition are really all about providing those opportunities to share information. And so the way that we typically work, first of all, we typically only look through the lens of workforce. And so that’s kind of our sole purpose, but we certainly shifted that during the crisis to really help our manufacturers to address those things that were top of mind for them. We knew that they weren’t going to be able to focus on workforce and training if they didn’t have the right safety protocols in place, if they weren’t surviving because they weren’t tapping into things like PPP. So we organized a number of virtual manufacturing round tables where our manufacturers could come together and talk about these issues that were top of mind for them. And so it was really fascinating to watch that work.
Jessica Borza: (01:00:53)
And we started our first one was around safety protocols and there was a ton of information sharing. We have manufacturers who are competitors, mind you, sharing their standard operating procedures and sharing the things that they had already figured out. And so that was really interesting to watch. We did another one about PPP loan forgiveness and invited one of our local accounting firms in to help kind of walk through the intricacies, if you will, of that process. And so our sector partnerships have a pretty powerful public private partnership and having the manufacturers come together is one thing that went one step further when we then invited our education and training providers to a Zoom forum with our manufacturers because they were facing the same thing. They’re trying to figure out how do we open our labs safely and invite students back in. Well, we were able to have our manufacturers talk about their industry practices with education and training providers, which just created some efficiencies. Everybody wasn’t recreating the wheel. And so, so that was really useful.
Jessica Borza: (01:02:02)
The last thing that I’ll mention about this is so our model of this, manufacturers working with their education and workforce and economic development partners in a sector partnership has now been replicated across the state of Ohio. And the Ohio Manufacturers Association has networked us all together. And worked in places in Ohio where there wasn’t such a partnership to grow those. So now we have a statewide collaboration that was really optimized for purposes of COVID. So the manufacturer’s association along with the hospital association created the Repurposing Project where they identified the needs for personal protective equipment, identified the supply chains that could be repurposed in manufacturing, and worked with our manufacturing extension partnerships to actually help these companies re-engineer themselves so that they could address the most critical needs for Ohio when it came to safety and health measures.
Jessica Borza: (01:03:03)
And so we really think that’s a powerful example of how we can have this kind of agility by all working together and can mobilize. And, and we really think looking toward the future, it will help us position for future opportunities, for re-shoring and other opportunities that might come down the pike.
Loretta Mester: (01:03:28)
Yeah, Jessica, I think that’s a really good way of looking at this. There’s going to be a lot of things that we’ve learned through this that hopefully can inform us as we go forward. And we can take some of the practices that actually worked and use them for a method of going forward in other situations that could actually be useful in terms of productivity and collaboration. I really appreciate that. So Mayor Brown, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go to you to close out this question. So we’ve been talking a lot about small businesses, but as mayor of the city of Youngstown, you have a much broader view of things. Could you talk a little bit about some of the other issues that workers have faced during the epidemic?
Mayor Brown: (01:04:18)
Yes. When the shutdown happened, there were individuals deemed as essential and nonessential. And one of the things that just came out at [inaudible 01:04:28] that we learned during this COVID-19, and we’re still learning more about, is that those who are vulnerable, we learned the health disparities in the minority community. If you look at those who were deemed essential, were in longterm care facilities the grocery stores. How do they get the work? They get on public transportation. Now they’re all getting on the bus to go to the same location. So those were some of the barriers that they faced that we really didn’t pay attention to until COVID-19 came about. And then the underlying health issues that came about. So it really spotlighted what we knew to some degree, but it just opened our eyes wide are now and not just the Youngstown or the state of Ohio across the nation.
Loretta Mester: (01:05:12)
Yeah. I think that you’re right in the sense that there are a lot of these disparities that were existing, the pandemic has shined a bright light on them, and hopefully we can work towards a better outcomes once the pandemic is gone, we can still focus on some of these differences in inequalities and experience and ability to engage in the economy. So.
Mayor Brown: (01:05:34)
Yes, for sure.
Loretta Mester: (01:05:36)
So at this point, I’d like to move to the next questions for the group. An, we’ve been talking about the past and current now let’s look forward. We already sort of started to talk about that. And I know everyone has in their mind sort of a view of what the new normal is going to look like. We’re all thinking about it at the Fed. We’re all thinking about it personally, in terms of our own lives.
Loretta Mester: (01:06:04)
What lessons are we learning from the experience? How do we think about the way we do our work? How do we continue to prepare people for the future? When we know the future is uncertain? What kind of training will people need? What kind of jobs will be out there? What kind of changes in policies or practices you think will be most helpful for those who haven’t really had the full opportunity of engaging in the economy and what can we do to help them really engage in the, in the new world that’ll come post pandemic.
Loretta Mester: (01:06:44)
So Jessica, I’m going to start with you. Our region is one that has a manufacturing base. How are manufacturers looking towards the future? Are you having to sort of get them to start looking towards the future? Have they already started doing that as the state is reopened? And do you see any lasting impacts of this situation will have on the manufacturing sector and how is the manufacturing sector going to adapt?
Jessica Borza: (01:07:17)
Well, I do [inaudible 01:07:20] obviously a fair amount of uncertainty that remains. And so while we’ve been staying in tune with our manufacturers and understanding where they are, they’re certainly being planful, but there’s new information coming at them. And it’s difficult with the dynamics that are presenting themselves at this point. That said, they’ve encouraged us to continue the [inaudible 01:07:44] the coalition to continue down the path. They know that they’re going to be in a position to hire again. They want to make sure that we’re not shutting off those workforce pipelines. And so it’s really stressed a couple of things.
Jessica Borza: (01:07:57)
One is we need to continue making sure that we have really strong workforce training capabilities, but I think we need to be prepared for an acceleration of advanced training or advanced technologies. We anticipate there’ll be an acceleration of technologies like automation and robotics. For example, we’re already going down that path with our career center and Eastern Gateway Community College. And we want to make sure we’ve got the right instructors, credentials, curriculum, equipment, working with YSU and the Excellence Training Center. So I think that’s one piece.
Jessica Borza: (01:08:31)
The other piece is I think we also need to continue projects that we have underway and continue to expand those who are reaching out to additional residents to make sure that they really see themselves in manufacturing. We know we don’t have enough women and people of color in manufacturing, and we want to make sure that we continue to be intentional about that. So we have a project going on right now called Work Advance, where we’re partnering with community organizations like Goodwill and Community Action Partnership to extend our reach into the community, to help people understand where the demand is now and where those opportunities will be. And packaging up the right set of ingredients and programs and career coaching to not only place them in those jobs, but also position them for advancement. So we continue to look forward, our manufacturers encourage us to do that and are optimistic about the future of the future.
Jerome Powell: (01:09:29)
Loretta Mester: (01:09:30)
Carmella can you [crosstalk 01:09:31]. Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead, Chair Powell.
Jerome Powell: (01:09:33)
Yeah, just once upon a time, I spent a lot of time investing in industrial companies, and I’m really curious about this. So just take a regular way successful industrial company that was doing fine. And then it’s now shutting down and now reopening, will there need to be typically a lot of rethinking and investment in a workplace that’s more pandemic resistant going forward? Does that present itself a challenge other than just getting back up and running?
Jessica Borza: (01:10:03)
I think in some ways, I mean, we’re seeing because of the physical spacing and so forth companies that were more maybe only working one or two shifts now have to expand so that they are able to continue to have the output that their customers are looking for, but still having those safety measures. And so, that requires additional utility support and things like that. The companies that had a larger footprint are more easily able to have social distancing. And so I think it presents more of a challenge for those physically smaller companies as well. So there are definitely some considerations there. And probably some additional, and one the reasons why we’re actually thinking about automation robotics even more so.
Jerome Powell: (01:10:53)
Yeah. Thank you.
Loretta Mester: (01:10:57)
So Carmella, can I turn to you, you’ve already spoken about minority and women owned businesses and some of the innovations. Can you talk a little bit more about how you see that playing out in terms of are we going to be able to actually support those businesses more or are they going to need a different kind of support than we’ve had in the past to advance? I’d be really interested in hearing your views on that.
Carmella Williams: (01:11:26)
Yes. So I think from here moving out, I always address mindset and helping them to see that an obstacle can really be an opportunity. So with that said, looking at, again, different ways they can pivot. And like I said, previously, we had a client who went from being a printer for dentistry actually shut down altogether with the dentist shutting down. And then instead of looking at it as an obstacle, looking at it of helping her to diversify her actual supply chain. So she started printing face shields and actually N95 masks. So that was a way for her to actually keep going.
Carmella Williams: (01:12:13)
In terms of other supports, I think I would like to definitely see intentional relationships being formed with women and minority owned businesses from a banking perspective more so. What I saw on the ground were a lot of the companies who did not have a personal banker, did not get any type of response in regards to their PPP application, one. Two, a lot of the times even if they did what I did see is that they were not being accepted or they weren’t eligible because a lot of small businesses, minority and women owned businesses, have 1099’s and not actual payroll. So they’re not doing a payroll taxation, it’s usually just themselves. So they do it as an owner’s withdrawal. So they weren’t eligible for PPP.
Carmella Williams: (01:13:06)
Now they might have been eligible for the EIDL alone, but again, only $10,000 of that was actually being able to be forgivable. So there’s a lot of businesses, small businesses, that are missing out on the forgivable PPP that I think could… And that’s a lot of the times why they’re not applying for it because they can’t apply for it because they have 1099’s, they don’t have employees. So I would like to see that expanded to where it actually is inclusive of businesses who have contractors and not just employees. And that would be really, really great.
Carmella Williams: (01:13:45)
And also just making sure that we continuously look at diversifying. So as far as, I would like to see more anchor institutions purchased from small businesses, women owned businesses and minority owned businesses. Hospitals, universities, cities, that could definitely be an ongoing thing that will really support a sustainable workforce. That if we could increase the number of businesses that have just one person getting paid from it to two people, that could be substantial for the Mahoning Valley. We know that small business is the foundation of this Valley. And if we can help further strengthen that we would see very awesome and amazing changes.
Loretta Mester: (01:14:36)
Mayor Brown, can I turn to you? One of the things that’s obvious is that cities are hurting from the pandemic because of the loss of tax revenue. Can you talk a little bit to that and how you view that going forward and what kind of things that you think the city of Youngstown is going to face going forward and some solutions?
Mayor Brown: (01:15:03)
Loretta Mester: (01:15:03)
… going forward and some solutions.
Mayor Brown: (01:15:03)
Absolutely. Like anyone else, we have experienced loss of revenue. And you think about when people… you shut down the business, we were… Income tax, sales tax, but also gas tax, casino tax, so all those taxes that you don’t realize go into a city like Youngstown. State of Ohio is different than a lot of other states, that we depend on income tax and not real estate tax. Some states don’t have to worry about that, but we rely on that. And when those things go down or go away, then the city suffers from that, as well.
Mayor Brown: (01:15:38)
So we’re going to have to, as a city, we’re looking, like everyone else, we’re asking our federal and state legislators to look for us as a loss of revenue. We’re not looking for an increase. We’re just looking for some stability in our loss of revenue. Because what we want to do as a city, we want to continue to provide great service to the citizens of Youngstown, but also making sure that our workforce is able to sustain themselves, specifically in our safety forces. That’s probably our largest area, and we want to make sure we maintain our fire, our police, our 911. We don’t want to affect those areas. But if we’re not able to see some of those losses there, we’ve got to start looking down the road, and those are really unthinkable decisions that we have to make.
Mayor Brown: (01:16:23)
And one of the things, as a solution, I really want to make sure that we continue to work and have a private and public partnership in our area. We have great investors that invest in a city like Youngstown. I call them the home grown investors. They’ll take the opportunity because they know the potential that’s here in the city of Youngstown. But I want to be able to attract others to come into the city of Youngstown. One of the things, when I came in the office, I wanted people to know that Youngstown is open for business. You don’t have to pay anybody. You don’t have to owe anybody. If you want to benefit Youngstown, we’re open for your investment and time.
Mayor Brown: (01:16:55)
So those are some of the things that we’re going to face, and I look forward to really nurture those relationships in the future.
Loretta Mester: (01:17:04)
So Nick, can I turn to you now? You had already said that you’re starting to look forward. Can you talk a little bit about what issues do you think are coming on the horizon for the businesses that you deal with?
Nick Chretien: (01:17:21)
Nick Chretien: (01:17:25)
We see this as an opportunity for cities locally and municipalities to be very creative and data-driven in terms of the approach that they take to address problems that may be faced at the neighborhood or sector level by businesses. And we’ve already started some of those efforts with Mayor Brown in Youngstown. It’s really a good opportunity for cities to reestablish clear paths of communication with businesses, with residents, to establish those public private partnerships, to make sure it goes both ways.
Nick Chretien: (01:17:56)
Also, a second consideration in the process is the equity. As we go back to analyze our program and the impact we’ve had, we’re looking at it at the neighborhood level and seeing if there were any disparities in terms of responses from one area versus another. Then we also want our future projects, as we begin to come back to some normal programming, benefiting the neighborhoods that they’re located in. We want the residents, women and minority, within the city to be able to benefit from these programs and access them, and making sure that our planning takes place along main transit corridors, which are big considerations before a project starts off.
Nick Chretien: (01:18:36)
And I would say that we want the projects to cashflow, but just in general benefit the city. So whenever we start one of these projects, our intake form has all these check boxes that we start off with, just so we do start off on the right foot, benefit the city, and the residents of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley.
Loretta Mester: (01:18:55)
Thanks. Thanks, Nick. So we started out the conversation talking about education and training. So I think it’s fitting that our last participant here is going to be Jim Tressel. Can you tell us how you’re thinking about what the school is going to be doing to make sure that the programs can train the workforce of the future? How do you see things playing out, and what your university’s doing to address what the future is going to look like?
Jim Tressel: (01:19:27)
Yes, as the pandemic really hit, and our faculty were extraordinary. They pivoted on a dime to… As our students left to go home and we had to have a safe exit to begin with, our staff was amazing there. Our IT department, our academic continuity team, our faculty got together and did a great job the last eight weeks of the semester. As we were getting into that, of course all of our focus became what are we going to do going forward, especially with, we just didn’t know what it was going to look like.
Jim Tressel: (01:20:02)
So we put together a group of five focus groups that were tied into the strategic planning that we’ve been doing the last 18 months, which we call Take Charge of Your Future. And they had new things to think about, though. How could we creatively have the coursework, knowing that we didn’t know for sure how much of it could be face to face, how much could be remote? Could it be a hybrid? Our faculty, deans, department chairs, our provost, their whole committee, everything we do. Now we have students involved because we need their input and so forth.
Jim Tressel: (01:20:41)
We wanted to make sure, and want to continue to make sure, that our communication is ongoing and it’s constant. Because there are fears by students, what’s it going to be like. There are fears by faculty, employees. And so we’ve been working extremely hard to make sure our communication remains constant. We know we have some financial realities, but again, we think we’re very fortunate that we’ve had great backing from the federal government side and the state government’s working extremely hard with us.
Jim Tressel: (01:21:15)
When we did need to go to that remote setting, it did have an inordinate impact on some of the folks who maybe didn’t have some of the technology, that didn’t have some of the situations that were perfect to be taking that last eight semesters. And our people did a great job. We purchased hundreds of laptops for students that didn’t have them. Now we purchased WiFi hotspots. We wanted to make sure everyone had that opportunity. And 44% of our students at Youngstown State University qualify for the federal financial aid. And so the CARES act was very good to us, to help that population who had some financial needs, plus many of the other populations that maybe had part time jobs that were working their way through school and they no longer had those part time jobs. So we’ve been working extremely hard.
Jim Tressel: (01:22:10)
Right now, we’re really focused on, I guess, proving that we can come back to campus safely. Our plans are to be back here with a totally creative way to do it. We have a committee, a focus group, that is solely working on what is the safe return to campus, with the social distancing, with all of the various things, making sure our classrooms have less density. Our residence halls have less density. Our dining halls have less density. I didn’t know, Chair Powell and President Mester, if you know, but Youngstown State University is the Penguins. And I just heard today from one of the people on that committee that our mascot, which is Pete the Penguin, of course, that one of their initiatives is going to be For Pete’s Sake Initiative. So for Pete’s sake, keep your social distancing. For Pete’s sake, make sure that your hygiene is good, and you’re taking care of things.
Jim Tressel: (01:23:14)
We’re fortunate. We have a manufacturer in the area who was one of the largest manufacturers of large trailers for big fairs, like state fairs, and rodeos, and things like that, who pivoted during this COVID and invented a hand washer, which is about a seven foot tall unit with four different stations, socially distanced, no-touch for the soap, water, and the paper towel, mobile. And so we were able to get our YSU graphics on those, and we’re going to have 10 of those all over campus, which in every hour, 7,000 people will be able to wash their hands in one hour. Which everyone talks about, what’s the most important thing? Hey, just wash your hands. And so, for Pete’s sake, wash your hands.
Jim Tressel: (01:24:08)
So we want to create an environment so we can get back to work. Because as we said before, we don’t think we’re short on opportunities. We think we have to make sure we turn out the workforce that will give us the opportunity, take advantage of the opportunities, and we need for that to be able to happen for every one of our students. And so we have to put things in place, and our people are working extremely hard on it.
Loretta Mester: (01:24:36)
Well, thanks for that, Jim. I think that’s one of the things that gives you hope about the future, is that everyone has been incredibly innovative in a very difficult situation. That, I think, gives me some sort of hope that we can get through this. We’ll be better for it in the end, because we’ll have learned some things. I think as Chair Powell, you said this in the beginning, we will get through this. It’s going to be hard, but with the attitudes that you all show today, I think it’s going to be… we will definitely do that.
Loretta Mester: (01:25:13)
I’m not going to ask any more. I think we’ve had a great conversation today. We’re in a… couple more minutes to go. I really want to emphasize again, the real thing [inaudible 00:10:26], thank you very much for all that you have provided us today. We really are, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the Federal Reserve System, really wanting to understand the impact of the pandemic on our communities, but also, in general there’s a big effort that’s throughout the system on really understanding the effects of our policies on low and moderate income areas. This work that we’re doing, I think, is important, because it’s going to help inform policies, not just monetary policy but other policies, to find real solutions so that everyone can really engage in the economy. So I want to thank you for all the information you’ve provided us today, and I want to send it back over to Jay, Chair Powell, any additional closing remarks you’d like to make before we close the conversation.
Jerome Powell: (01:26:23)
Sure, thank you. Thank you, Loretta. So it’s a time of real challenges all across the country. We have COVID and then we have the emergingly obvious need for a new era of struggle for racial justice in our country. It’s a time of great turbulence and challenge in the country, and all of that is hitting Youngstown particularly hard. Youngstown’s had its challenges. But there are a lot of strengths here, too. It all really does start with education. You’ve got an important university and a community college. By the way, Jim, I do know Youngstown State, it’s where… The best football player in the history of my high school played there as a running back in the mid-2000s. So I do know the Penguins, and I’m sort of a fan.
Jerome Powell: (01:27:11)
In any case, you’ve got a history of manufacturing. You’re right in the heart of the manufacturing belt with a lot of skilled workers. But more to the point, you have a lot of smart, dedicated, focused people and organizations around the table, thinking hard about how to make this work. And that really is the pattern that we’ve seen in our work with communities around the country. That’s what works, where you’re getting federal resources, and state resources, and private and public, around a strong university, and education, and a good workforce. So I think there’s a lot to look forward to here. You have a lot going for you, and we’ll be there to work with you in any way that we can. So wish you all the best, and thanks for the work that you’re doing. Back to you, Treye.
Treye Johnson: (01:28:07)
President Mester and Chairman Powell, I do want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to participate in this event, and for keeping the conversation going, and making sure it was so engaging. Like President Mester and Chairman Powell, I would like to thank all of our panelists for taking their time to be with us today, as well as everyone who is viewing this event. Hopefully, you found today’s conversation to be valuable.
Treye Johnson: (01:28:29)
At the same time, we do recognize that this is one of many similar conversations that needs to happen. But it needs to happen in conjunction with real action, in order to drive positive change for the workers and businesses in the Mahoning Valley. With that in mind, the Cleveland Fed is working on planning an in-person event in Youngstown for later on this year. And as details about that event are available, we will definitely share them with you.
Treye Johnson: (01:28:54)
Lastly, before I go, I do want to take a moment to promote another Federal Reserve event that may be of interest to those of you who are watching. The original agenda for this event, when it was still scheduled to be an in-person event, included a presentation on some research that was done by the Cleveland and Philadelphia Feds around opportunity skills and opportunity occupations. President Mester referenced those reports earlier, and the opportunity occupations report focused on those high paying jobs that did not require a four-year degree. The opportunity skills report, which was released earlier this week, highlights those specific skills that people can develop which will help position them for high quality, good paying jobs without completing a four-year degree program.
Treye Johnson: (01:29:37)
And so if you’re interested in learning more about this report, there will be a webinar next Thursday. More information will be shared about that event, along with your post event survey that you’ll receive if you registered for this event. And you can also find information on our website, ClevelandFed.org.
Treye Johnson: (01:29:54)
With that, I want to thank everyone again. Thank you very much for joining us, and have a great rest of your day.
Jerome Powell: (01:30:02)
Thank you. Thanks very much, everybody.
Loretta Mester: (01:30:04)
Thank you very much.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (01:30:23)
The name of this event is Building a Just Future: The Road to a More Inclusive Economy. It is backed by JUST Capital, and it is also by backed Laurel Strategies. We have the greatest group of people we could have to have this conversation this afternoon. Let me just introduce them. They need no real introduction, but Paul Tudor Jones is here. He is, of course, the founder of JUST Capital. He’s the founder of Tudor, as well, and the founder of Robin Hood, and has so many unique insights and thoughts about where we are, and hopefully where we are headed.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (01:31:06)
Adena Friedman is here. She runs the NASDAQ, my second home, my home away from home. We have the image, but I’m not in New York right this minute, behind me. And then Robert Smith is here, of Vista Equity, really one of the most remarkable people that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know in such a long time, and has done so much for this country, and has so many different insights and perspectives on where we are headed, as well.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: (01:31:36)
So we want to have a conversation today about what it means to have “just capital,” what it means to be a just company in this country today. There’s lots of questions that are swirling about how we’re dealing with COVID, how we’re dealing with racism in America, and the role that business is supposed to play and how business can embrace and engage in this moment. And so I start with you, Paul, because you’ve been spending so many years now thinking about this particular issue, but I’d ask you, how you think that companies can really address the issues of today right now. What it means to be a just company in this environment that we’re living through, which has been so heartbreaking for so many.
Paul Tudor Jones: (01:32:34)
That’s a great question. And let me just answer it by saying that when JUST Capital started seven years ago, I had no idea at that time, I don’t think any of us did, that we would evolve to where we are today. And where we are today is, I think, going to be… We’re going to look back and say, the combination of the pandemic and George Floyd was the seminal point in American history, the galvanizing moment, when we absolutely changed the way that we were doing things at a variety of societal levels.
Paul Tudor Jones: (01:33:17)
If you think about how we got here right now, we went through the tumultuous ’60s, when Robert and I were kids. And we thought, in the ’60s, certainly we had passed laws, we had done a whole variety of things, to address racial inequality. But something happened between then and now. Here we are at 2020, and I think the George Floyd episode has kind of proven that we really haven’t made the progress that we thought we should have. Why is that? Why is it that we didn’t advance like we probably should have since the ’60s?
Paul Tudor Jones: (01:33:59)
And I’m going to postulate something, and only because I’ve been living it so much, and maybe I’m overestimating the importance of it. But because I’ve been living it so much, I truly believe it’s the root of everything. If I go back to 1970, and that period, 1970, right after we’d gone through that groundbreaking legislation of the late ’60s. In 1970, again, Milton Friedman famously said, “The purpose of a company is to make a profit.” What is the relevance of that today? Well, the relevance was, is that it created in people’s minds, the belief that in the single largest component in our society, which is where we work… 16 of the $20 trillion of our GDP occurs by the private sector. 40% of our daylight, of our living time that we’re not sleeping, waking time, we operate at work. So when he said the purpose of a company is to make a profit, it took a very narrow, myopic, and transactional view of what companies were supposed to do.
Paul Tudor Jones: (01:35:25)
So again, if you think about the corporate world, you’ve got five stakeholders, you have shareholders, employees, customers, communities, and the environment. When you just look and say that-