If you call Erie home, hopefully you noticed something: Change is coming.
That’s not meant to be a cheesy version of the “winter is coming” meme that was already played out years before this blog was published.
In Erie, change is literally coming.
Thanks to partners and supporters like Mercyhurst University, VNET, Singularity University, Quantela, McManis & Monsalve Associates, Erie Insurance, Ben Franklin Partners, the Erie Community Foundation, the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, the Susan Hirt Hagen Fund for Transformational Philanthropy, Mayor Joe Schember, and the Erie Downtown Development Corporation (as well as countless others), for the first time in decades Erie can see a brighter future and better days ahead.
And that brighter future will come from innovation.
That said, beyond being a buzzword, what does innovation actually mean?
The dictionary definition of innovation is “a new idea, device, or method, or the practice of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods.”
Founded with an initial investment of a $4 million grant in 2016, the Erie Innovation District (EID) has focused on creating new economic opportunity by supporting, recruiting, and retaining startups through our Secure Erie Accelerator and Secure Smart City programs. Those programs have already shown the real and potential economic impact of attracting startups to Erie. In fact, Forbes recently named Secure Erie Accelerator participant WeatherCheck to its list of 22 startups to watch in 2019.
But in Erie, innovation isn’t just about cool startups or new tech.
Here, we believe innovation means building a new, better, and more inclusive local economy using the full assets of Erie.
So, what are the “full assets” of our city?
To begin with, our best assets are the people who believe they can shape a better future for our community.
They are teachers who go into the classroom every day to shape the future talent that will make Erie once again an economic star of Pennsylvania and the Great Lakes region. They are the students who—often facing significant challenges—get themselves to those same classrooms and take learning and their future seriously. They are the founders and funders who’ve bought into the idea that Erie can reinvent itself as a hub of smart and secure city technology. They are the political leaders who’ve crossed party lines to focus on building a more united Erie. They are the residents who’ve continued to believe in this community, even in the face of struggle and setbacks.
And our assets don’t just begin and end with the people who call Erie home.
We are fortunate to have great corporate and educational partners like Erie Insurance and Mercyhurst University. We are a recognized leader in the early development of Opportunity Zone funds, which could make Erie an attractive destination for startups nationwide. We are blessed with a strategic location along the Great Lakes, ideal for conducting marine research and developing autonomous shipping, which one day very soon will be a multi-billion-dollar industry.
In the coming months, we will share more stories about the leaders, entrepreneurs, startups, programs, organizations, and companies using innovation to create a bright future for Erie. Those stories will feature companies participating in Innovation District programs, the continued development of Erie as one of the nation’s most secure and smartest cities, and plans for unique partnerships with some of the largest and most visionary companies in the world.
More than anything, those stories will feature the local patriots who are collaborating to make Erie a nationwide example of a community that successfully reinvented itself.
We’ve all read or watched the endless stories of rust belt misery. Too often, Erie has played a starring role in those stories.
In 2019, that stops.
We will not accept being graded on some sort of curve that says even a minor achievement in a community that has faced the challenges we have should be considered a success. Any city in America would be proud to have the assets, partners, and leaders we’ve mentioned in this post.
In 2019, we own that pride.
We will leave decades of yesterdays behind and look toward tomorrow.
Now, let’s go innovate.