Erie County, located in Pennsylvania’s northwest corner, was once an important hub for fishing and manufacturing. But manufacturing jobs started to leave Erie in the last half of the 20th century. Consequently, Erie has lost about 40,000 people since 1960, and 10,000 since 2010.
In late April, Daniel Allott sat down with members of the Erie Redevelopment Authority and Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership to discuss what the county is doing to reinvigorate its economy. Leaders say that manufacturing will always be a part of its economy but that it is also diversifying to other industries, including higher education, medicine and tourism.
Erie faces other challenges, including rising rates drug abuse and fatalities and suicides. It’s become such a problem that some employers have a difficult time finding quality applicants. This has been abated somewhat by an influx of refugees, including recent arrivals from Syria and Iraq, who now make up 10 percent of Erie’s city population. The county’s low cost of living make it an ideal fit for refugees.
Erie’s development team has introduced Emerged 2040, an ambitious plan to invigorate numerous sectors of the local economy. As roundtable participants discussed what Erie will look like in 2040 and beyond. Sean Fedorko, co-founder of Radius Cowork in Erie, said good riddance to the loss of manufacturing in Erie.
“I don’t know anybody my age who says that he wants to work a manufacturing job,” said Fedorko, who is in his 30s. “The universities are announcing expansions. Both hospitals are building whole new wings. It’s technology, it’s white collar jobs, it’s professional jobs, it’s education, it’s medicine. It’s not manufacturing, but there is still a long lag time in a community as that economy changes drastically. When 600 jobs shut down in manufacturing, then 600 will be announced in tech.”
This video was originally featured as a part of the Washington Examiner’s series The Race to 2020: The people and places that will define a presidency. You can read more about Erie County, see more videos, or use the form below to get email updates about future updates.