Ignite Erie

Categories:  News & Politics    Community    Events
Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 at 7:00 AM

As Erie’s industrial landscape continues to change, our roots, once tethered deep in manufacturing, are leading to a trunk that’s on the verge of sprouting new leaves. The color, shape, and size of those leaves will inevitably be determined by the next generation – the Millennials – the new wave of entrepreneurial minds germinating in Erie’s bedrock, forming to shape current and future leaders.

Enter Ignite Erie: A Day of Innovation for Entrepreneurs “designed to be a day of innovation – to talk about innovation-based economic development with two key groups in the community,” explains Perry Wood, Executive Director of the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority.

And to do that, Ignite Erie will introduce Erie to an entrepreneur, a corporate executive, a venture capitalist, an investment banker, and an innovation- and technology-based economic development leader. All wrapped up into one person. Erie, meet Rich Bendis.

Pittsburgh-born and raised, Bendis will come to Erie to provide insight he’s gained from his experience through the global consulting services he’s provided to more than 16 countries and 22 states and two White House Administrations. The CEO and founder of Innovation America, a national public-private partnership focused on accelerating the growth of innovation economy in America, Bendis – one of the Top 5 speakers on innovation economy in the world – will offer his knowledge and expertise at Erie’s favorite price: Free.

“This is a guy with the talent, the energy, and the resume to really make it happen,” Wood says. And that it Wood is talking about is innovation-based economic development.

And ECGRA’s no stranger to investing in Erie’s future in the entrepreneurial ecosystem – supporting the Enterprise Development Fund and Erie Innovation Fund, just to name a few.

“Most people think of innovation as the next iPad or iPhone; innovation does not always have to involve a product at the end of an assembly line that’s being manufactured,” Bendis says in a phone interview just before he departed to Saudi Arabia for the 5th Annual Technology Innovation Conference. “Innovation really looks at different ways that we communicate, a way in which people govern, a way that people develop partnerships and collaborate with one another; it’s also looking at new ideas and the opportunity in new markets.”

With two events scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 19, ECGRA and the additional event sponsors will focus on two target groups.

“[The first target group is] policy makers that affect the entrepreneurial climate of the community,” Wood says. “And second, the entrepreneurs themselves; we want to get them excited, we want to get them networked, and we want them to have tangible resources that providers in this community have – everything from funding to attorneys to financial planning to 3D modeling and supply change issues.”

“Erie doesn’t have any different challenges than even big cities have that have gone through transition. Some have just responded more effectively,” Bendis imparts.

To Erie, Bendis suggests looking west to Detroit. Yes, that Detroit.

“What I’ve seen there is the foundations – the community foundations and the private corporate foundations – have rallied around knowing that they needed to do something different to stimulate the economy, so they created an economic-development focus with foundation money,” he says. “Sometimes it’s government that has to drive things, sometimes it’s universities or academia, sometimes it’s industry or entrepreneurship.”

What’s key to Ignite Erie, according to Bendis is, “getting community leaders together to be able to hear what other cities that have been in similar positions have done to change their futures, and at the same time, find ways local leadership can pull more closely together to work on common goals and objectives rather than be divisive to develop a long-term social plan that will outlive any politics of the region.”

For more information, visit ECGRA.org. 

To read more about Rich Bendis, including why he identifies himself as a Millennial, visit ErieReader.com. 

Ben Speggen can be contacted at bSpeggen@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @ERBenSpeggen. 

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 24
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