Guest Opinion: Transforming Our Community and Challenging Our Younger Generations

Category:  Opinion
Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 at 6:36 AM

Guest Opinions

Transforming our Community and Challenging Younger Generations

By: Dave Brennan

We have arrived at a critical point in our history where we are finally realizing the need to transform our economy into something new. This transformation needs to respond to the realities of the 21st century while also continuing to embrace our traditional manufacturing base. Our focus needs to be on the most important natural resource we have: people. Transforming our economy will require that we take the right steps to DEVELOP, RETAIN, and ATTRACT a talented workforce.

Working together with our younger generation – the millennials – is critical to this transformation. As they will continue to assume positions as active citizens, taxpayers, local elected officials, and community leaders, millennials will present our region with new perspectives and opportunities.

DEVELOP —  We need a low-cost alternative for higher education, such as a community college. The recently published Coordinated University White Paper is a commitment that has been developed by our local universities to collaborate on improving Erie’s economy and access to education. This report is a good start to prepare our workforce by developing the education and skills that are needed for future jobs. Also, the recent news from Edinboro University on the development of the Porreco Community’s College is another forward step in the right direction.

RETAIN — We need to be more aggressive in promoting creativity and innovation in order to develop a more diverse economy by providing the resources and support for our entrepreneurs that are growing new companies. Excellent examples of agencies that are already providing this support are Gannon University’s Erie Technology Incubator and Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Another example is the Corry Redevelopment Authority’s Industrial Incubator.

ATTRACT — We need to continue to build up our community assets. One of our local strengths is our arts and cultural community, which helps to strengthen the vibrancy and marketability of our region. It has been proven that arts and culture-related industries provide direct economic benefits by creating jobs, enhancing our quality of life, and attracting young people to our area. Other amenities that attract young people are the availability of public transportation, bike lanes, and quality green spaces and parks. We also need to be more proactive in our efforts to revitalize our neighborhoods. Quality neighborhoods with affordable housing options will attract businesses, build our tax base, and attract a more youthful population to our region.

THE CHALLENGE — To accomplish these goals, we need our innovative, young talent to step up to the plate. We need new faces and new ideas in our government and community organizations, on our boards, and on our authorities. Although many young people are already making contributions, we need more involvement and organizations must reach out to provide more opportunities.

We need to get more young people to the polls, involved in the election process, and involved in government. If people are more educated on how government works, they will be better prepared to help to improve our community. Whether they will admit it or not, many people, especially our youth, are disconnected from our government as well as our community. Reasons for this disconnect range from personal financial situations, to mistrust, to the fact that they are just too busy.

Millennials need to take an interest in local issues and take an active part in a more collaborative process to solve our problems. Engaging millennials needs to be an integral part of any discussions to improve our community and millennials need to take the lead to help find new ways to engage the public. Technological advances have provided opportunities to provide better communication and public engagement. We need to embrace and take advantage of these advances and seize this opportunity to benefit our entire community.

THE OFFER — As a lifelong resident of Erie and as an elected official, I am committed to taking an active role in supporting these goals and challenges to our community and to our young people. I will continue to reach out to our community through social media, public meetings, and through personal discussions to seek input, make connections, provide local government transparency, and to provide opportunities for citizen engagement.

In closing, I would like to commend the accomplishments of the individuals who were recently recognized in Erie Reader’s “40-Under-40” issue. I want to thank them for their hard work and commitment to our region.

With that said, I would like to issue a challenge to our under 40 population. I challenge this younger generation to continue to do more and invest more in our community. Volunteer, help a neighbor, get involved on a nonprofit board or committee, mentor others, pursue your dreams and help others find theirs. I believe that real progress can only be made on the shoulders of those individuals who are willing and have a true passion to make things better.

You can contact Dave Brennan at, find him on Facebook at DavidBrennanforErie, and follow him on Twitter @DaveBrennanErie. 

Tags: millennials

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