What Makes Erie County Great: Highlighting Our Vibrant Community

Category:  Community
Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 at 9:00 AM
What Makes Erie County Great: Highlighting Our Vibrant Community by County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper
Contributed photo

Layoffs, businesses closing, and poverty; it seems all we hear is bad news in our region and that our economic outlook is nothing but bleak. As someone who gets to view the entire county in myriad ways, I actually don’t perceive things that way. What I see is possibility, opportunity, and forward movement. Often overlooked and unsung, a plethora of ideas, initiatives, and people are contributing to Erie County’s resurgence. We need to stop focusing on headlines and start talking about the vibrant things happening in our community. 

As a region, we have a unique environment in which to thrive with a vibrant medical community. The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), UPMC Hamot, Saint Vincent, and Corry Community Hospital – as well as medical education programs at local universities – all make this region a hub for the medical field. We are also fortunate to have four universities and the country’s largest medical school enriching our community. Faculty, staff, and students from Gannon University, Mercyhurst University, Penn State Behrend, Edinboro University, and LECOM all contribute to the vigor and economic growth of our county. 

Let us not forget our natural assets: Tourism generated by our location on Lake Erie, beautiful Presque Isle, and lovely forests all contribute to our region’s vitality. My office is currently submitting our application to designate the Lake Erie waters of Erie County as a National Marine Sanctuary. This designation will not only provide the education and resources to best preserve the ecological environment; but will help the economic one as well, increasing tourism in our region. 

While we recreationally enjoy the natural resources our county has to offer, Erie County is known for our innovative work ethic. Built upon a tradition of “making things,” Erie County has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, one that is often overlooked. The creation of the Idea Lab at the Blasco Library is an exciting initiative fostering a culture of entrepreneurial success that will eventually expand to other library locations across the county. By creating spaces where people can come together to share ideas and resources, we can nurture Erie County’s entrepreneurial potential. 

Culturally, there are many exciting things happening in our region. Last month Erie County hosted our first TEDxErie, an event that showcased the best and brightest in our region. Locally, we have produced CONNECT: Grassroots Efforts to Reshape Our Community, an installation currently featured at the Erie Art Museum. The Jefferson Educational Society recently hosted their annual Global Summit, bringing together people and ideas from diverse disciplines and places. Collectively, we nominated and selected those who have contributed to our economic innovation by honoring aspiring new business and community leaders at the first annual Disrupt Erie Awards. November featured Ignite Erie: A Day of Innovation for Entrepreneurs co-hosted by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) and Adreamz Institute. All of these events are reshaping the culture of Erie County, and I couldn’t be more excited about what is to come. 

On the economic side, Erie County is currently home to numerous start-ups and small businesses. From our nine breweries to our 12 wineries, our region has a reputation for producing quality beverages and successful small businesses. In the last five years alone, the Small Business Development Center at Gannon University has assisted 97 new start-ups and has seen the creation of 862 jobs. While the loss of jobs at GE, LORD, and others is a huge challenge for our county, let us highlight our many thriving businesses; Erie County is home to Erie Insurance, Logistics Plus, KLN, and various manufacturing companies. Just last month I had a great visit to Viking Plastics, a flourishing business in our community.

It is true that Erie County has been the recipient of too much bad news for too long. Headlines create the impression that our community continues to weaken. However, I know there is a brighter story and would like to challenge you to also look around and recognize the many great things happening in Erie County. Is there a person, business, or initiative that makes Erie County vibrant in your mind? Let us know, and tweet your inspiration to @kdahlkemper with the hashtag #MakingErieCountyGreat. 

You can follow Kathy Dahlkemper on Twitter: @Kdahlkemper, Instagram: Kathy_Dahlkemper, and keep in touch via her Facebook page: Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper.

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