Erie: A Community with Vision

Three hundred miles northwest of Pennsylvania’s state capital, nestled between Ohio, New York, and Lake Erie — and merely hours from some of the largest metropolitan cities in the country — sits Pennsylvania’s fourth-largest city: Erie.

Presque Isle State Park

Presque Isle State Park

Right from the start, Erie defies the expectations of a Pennsylvania city. It’s where you’ll find Pennsylvania’s only “seashore” at Presque Isle State Park. It’s home to one of the Keystone State’s three ports, offering global water access — not to mention the largest crane and one of only two 1,000-foot dry docks on the Great Lakes. It’s a community both deeply rooted in its history and also imbued with a newfound sense of hope and optimism for what the future holds. In fact, it’s the place Governor Wolf affectionately refers to as, “The Riviera of Pennsylvania.”

Refocused Collaboration

Synergy is defined as the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts, and it’s a term that perfectly captures the philosophy being embraced by those in the Flagship City.

They’re committing funds to assist with not only their own business ventures, but also community redevelopment efforts — to the tune of nearly a half billion dollars.

In 2016, the City of Erie adopted its first comprehensive plan in decades: “Erie Refocused.” Economic development teams, state government, and community visionaries are sitting side-by-side in the County Planning Department — now dubbed “The War Room” — to implement a plan that is aggressive, eye-opening, and critical to our future successes. The team is bringing business attraction, retention, and expansion projects to the table; highlighting areas of need to accommodate future growth; and strategizing the best path forward.

Targeted Investment

The importance of community revitalization and the key role it plays in their efforts to attract a skilled workforce isn’t lost on Erie’s private corporations and philanthropic organizations, either. They’re committing funds to assist with not only their own business ventures, but also community redevelopment efforts — to the tune of nearly a half billion dollars. Highlights include:

  • Erie Insurance, a Fortune 500 Company, is reinforcing its longstanding commitment to Erie with a $135 million expansion, aiming to create hundreds of new, family-sustaining jobs in the core of the community.
  • UPMC Hamot is investing in a $111 million construction project to create a new critical care tower on its downtown footprint.
  • Gannon University has invested millions of dollars into its downtown campus and has helped to spearhead the revitalization efforts of the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Velocity Network (VNET), in a public/private partnership with the city and state, will be renovating a vacant, dilapidated downtown building, investing millions of dollars, and creating dozens of new jobs.
  • Scott Enterprises will soon break ground on a multi-phase, multimillion-dollar project that will assist with continued efforts to transform Erie’s Bayfront.
  • By working together, communicating effectively, and prioritizing our needs, Erie will see the resurgence it’s ready to wholeheartedly embrace.
  • During the 2016-17 fiscal year, area businesses will contribute nearly $2.6 million to Erie nonprofit organizations in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department Community & Economic Development (DCED)’s Neighborhood Assistance Program, which will improve Erie’s more distressed neighborhoods through various revitalization efforts, educational and community services, crime prevention, and blight remediation.
  • Additional investments in the amount of $3.6 million were recently announced through DCED and PennDOT for renovations to the dry dock at the Donjon shipyard facility, façade improvements, and gateway signage and fixtures to the city’s four downtown districts.
  • A collaborative effort between The Susan Hirt-Hagen Fund for Transformational Philanthropy, The Erie Community Foundation, and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority provided $10 million to four projects in an initiative to revitalize the city’s east and west bayfront neighborhoods.

Vnet PC Kidder Wachter Architecture and Design

Velocity Network facility rendering.
Photo Credit: Kidder Wachter Architecture and Design

Creating an Innovation District

Our universities are also supporting the cause. Mercyhurst University has partnered with a number of local businesses — including Erie Insurance, McManis & Monsalve Associates, Velocity Network, and UPMC Hamot — to create an “Innovation District” in downtown Erie, with plans of attracting students from around the globe in the emerging fields of data science and cybersecurity that could lead to career pathways with downtown companies.

This is only the beginning — Erie’s continued transformation will shape the economic landscape for generations to come. The city’s movers and shakers understand that collaboration, communication, and organization are vital to community growth, and we’ve hit the ground running.By working together, communicating effectively, and prioritizing our needs, Erie will see the resurgence it’s ready to wholeheartedly embrace.


Have something special you love about Erie? Show your support by using “#MyErie” on your social media channels. Hear more about this developing story and others like it by following DCED on Twitter and LinkedIn , and become a Keystone Ally to help us share more compelling Pennsylvania news.

Photographers: R Frank Photography, Gibbens Creative, Mike Conway Photography

Kim Thomas
Kim Thomas is the Northwest Regional Director of DCED, serving 15 counties in the northwest and north central areas of the state. She and her team, based out of Erie, work with communities to identify resources and funding opportunities in addition to providing technical assistance to assist with revitalization, attraction and development efforts. A “transplant” to Erie in 2004 from southeastern Virginia, Kim has had the opportunity to see the progress and positive change occurring in Erie in recent years. Kim brings the state’s “Work Smart. Live Happy” mantra and her enthusiasm for community revitalization and development to each of the counties she serves, with hopes that all Pennsylvanians can speak with pride when they talk about the place they call “home.”
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