Erie, Pa., is often depicted as a county in decline. Indeed, many journalists have traveled to Erie in the wake of the 2016 election and portrayed it that way in order to explain Donald Trump’s surprising victory there.
The depiction of Erie as in decline is not totally without merit. Erie has lost half its manufacturing jobs since the 1980s. Drive along the city’s 12th Street corridor and you’ll see a couple blocks of shuttered warehouses and rusting factories. Job losses forced roughly 10,000 people to move out of Erie County during a six-year period between 2010 and 2016. Like many Rust Belt counties, Erie has been hard hit by the opioid epidemic. Former drug addict Luis James Barry said the drug problem in Erie is “real bad. It’s everywhere, [on] every corner.”
But as these photos by Jordan Allott show, Erie defies such a simple characterization. The county is diversifying its economy to include not just manufacturing but also education, medicine and services. Erie has in recent years attracted some young entrepreneurs, such as David Hunter, managing partner of Epic Web Studios, a digital marketing firm in the city of Erie, to establish themselves here. “Erie is not trying to be anything other than Erie, Pennsylvania,” Hunter says. “I think there’s this resurgence of development and innovation and just change that’s happening in this city that’s been happening for … the past seven to 10 years.”
Erie County prides itself on its welcoming environment and low cost of living, two qualities that have attracted thousands of refugees in recent years, including Abdul Sitar from Syria and Hiba Alsabonge and Jasmine Alsabonge from Iraq. All three say they feel welcomed in Erie and plan to stay.
Erie County also offers Pennsylvania its only access to the Great Lakes, which helps explain why Erie attracts more than 4 million tourists annually. Lake Erie’s sparkling waters have earned the city of Erie the nickname the “Gem City.”
This photo gallery 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 photo gallery content, or use the form below to get email updates about future updates.