Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Human AND Economic Development

I've been reading about Jim Sutman's work for a long time.  As his company, Iron and String Life Enhancement (ISLE)keeps growing, I've been intrigued by the way he is combining a business model with a social services model. After talking with him on Lincoln Avenue, I'm even more impressed -- not just that he's found a way to provide an array of services for adults with disabilities, but also with the way he's based most of his efforts in downtown Youngstown.  Sutman has thought carefully about what people with disabilities need: engaging activities, opportunities for work, support for their families.  He's also found creative ways to provide those things.  How many programs for disables adults include the opportunity to work at a radio station?  Sutman has also rooted his work in what he's learned from the adults served by his programs.  As you can hear in the interview, he sees them as partners in this enterprise, not just clients.

He's also doing much of this work downtown.  You may have seen the recent Vindy piece about his plan to buy the Kress Building.  He already owns one building downtown, which houses the ISLE offices and the Touch the Moon Candy Saloon.  While others define downtown redevelopment in terms of attracting "the creative class," as Richard Florida has termed it, Sutman sees downtown as a place for everyone. 

Perhaps the most impressive thing in all this is the way Sutman puts the focus on the people he works with, not on himself.  He's accomplished so much with ISLE, but somehow, the story never seems to be about him. 

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