From The Editors : The Industry, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Issue

Categories:  From the Editors    Community
Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 at 7:30 PM

Industry defines Erie. It is our proud past and remains a vital component of our future. And it is something we must examine in order to understand our present and address our future.

We welcome you to the Industry, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Issue, what will become a perennial look at the climate of industry in Erie. To examine, understand, and predict our industrial forecast, we’ve turned to the experts and profiled various local businesses.

In his feature, “The State of Erie Industry,” Jim Wertz interviewed both Kenneth Louie, director of the Economic Research Institute of Erie, and Bruce Katz, vice president of the Brookings Institution and director of its Metropolitan Policy Institute.

While Jim’s research and writing reveals much, it’s of significant note that the nature of industry in Erie has changed dramatically during the past half-century. While Erie’s yesteryear pride was rooted in manufacturing, we’ve witnessed a notable increase in non-manufacturing jobs while also seeing the manufacturing sector experience a steady decline. Today, non-manufacturing jobs make up more than 80 percent of the regional workforce.

But such growth isn’t without its own unique problems, as non-manufacturing jobs tend to offer lower wages and less opportunity for personal growth than manufacturing jobs. And although manufacturing’s on the decline, it remains the second largest employment sector in Erie, still accounting for Erie’s greatest financial return, with more than 23 percent of the county’s industrial income accounted for here. Which places Erie’s income from manufacturing at more than twice the national average.

But positioning ourselves to compete in a century just fifteen years young remains a paramount concern. In one word, most sum it up as “tech.”

While Erie remains below the national average in the creation of tech sector jobs, it’s grown at a faster clip than most in recent years. And that growth is about to get a boost with the introduction of fiber to the home in Erie.

Velocity Network, a company with a quarter-century history in our region, has big news for Erie, which simply put, is a game changer.

John Lindvay reports about Velocity’s plan to welcome Erie to the fiberhood — something few cities and regions can boast. While Google’s been at the forefront of fiber rollout throughout the United States, the increase in Internet capacity isn’t limited to the tech giant . As it turns out, Velocity — who’s been running fiber throughout the county to businesses already, boasting nearly 400 miles of fiber optics — is taking the next step by introducing Fiber To The Home.

Rather than spell it all out for you here, we encourage you to read Lindvay’s feature to experience the same excitement our regular tech and geek culture correspondent felt when he first heard the news. In short, it’s a big deal for Erie — a very, very big deal.

And while Erie has a penchant for planning its next plan to study a plan on how to plan future plans, we need more attention to be paid to innovative entrepreneurs ready to hatch their ideas and cultivate their growth. The quick answer of how to accomplish this is capital, or the unlocking of investment through economic development.

Ben Speggen covers the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority’s Ignite Erie Initiative, something that began back in 2013. As 2014 drew to a close, ECGRA put forth the second phase of that initiative with significant means of jumpstarting Erie’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The key word here is collaboration. The key notion is that ECGRA is endeavoring to fund that collaboration, acting as the catalyst to spark growth and development amongst Erie’s small-business sector.

Lastly, we offer several spotlights on local businesses not just surviving but thriving in our region as proof that Erie remains open for — and good place to start — business. While the list remains far from exhaustive, it’s our first look at companies playing a vital role in Erie’s Industrial, Innovative, and Entrepreneurial landscape.

These selected businesses and features serve as examples to everyone in the region, embodying the gritty, resilient work ethic that echoes Erie’s proud manufacturing and commercial heritage, and exemplifies the bright future to come. In the coming years, we look forward to featuring many more businesses, many more innovators, and many more entrepreneurs, both the existing mainstays in our industrial culture as well as the ones that haven’t even opened doors yet and remain drafts of ideas waiting to be developed right here in Erie, Pa.

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 21
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