Expand manufacture of locally designed products by embracing the Maker City Movement.
As Penn State’s Engineering Professor Greg Dillon commented, this city has so many varied industries still in business that, “we can make any damn thing in Erie.” I will build on this underutilized asset by fostering more and better product design and manufacturing via and expansion of low-cost product design education (as in the Made in Erie Product Design Lab I co-founded at the Erie County Library, as well as involvement in programs like the Urban Manufacturing Alliance).
I will encourage the Library’s plan for its Idea Lab, and, will encourage the creation of Maker Spaces in various venues across the city – especially in our struggling neighborhoods to engage youth in the thrill of making and helping them envision a positive future – such as the Community Center, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and the YMCA. We must encourage locations for informal conversations and collaborations.
I will support efforts to encourage the unemployed, New Americans, recently laid off workers, retirees, ex-offenders and ex-pats to consider creating new products and businesses by increasing prize money. I will encourage the creation of a Maker Roundtable, to foster the unique opportunities of both traditional and advanced manufacturing.
To facilitate these projects, I will appoint a Maker Liaison working within the city’s Office of Economic Development and, if funding permits, I’ll hire a “Make to Manufacture” director along the lines of the San Francisco position. It’s time that Erie shed embarrassment about its blue-collar history producing pots and pans, paper, toys and locomotives.
We must embrace our history and future as makers. Each year the county selects a Poet Laureate; let’s appoint an annual “Maker in Residence” along the lines of our “artists in the schools” program who could give talks and offer workshops.
Funding these projects will require private and public investment. We must also capitalize on the potential of Kickstarter and other crowdsourcing and funding options allowing support by those who love Erie, but who live elsewhere - along with corporate participation and Federal funding for workforce development.
Though we cannot compete with the lower cost of production overseas, there is a growing commitment among U.S. consumers to “buy American.”
Thus, a “Made in Erie” branding offers a value-added component to local product lines. Erie can design, manufacture and we can deliver within 24 hours to the entire East Coast, except Florida.
I will work with the city and county to attract new businesses to the region. From a manufacturing standpoint, our assets include transportation options and diverse industries in plastics, metals, wood, fiber and electronics, using welding, machining, welding, and other processes that allow us to “make any damn thing here in Erie.”
We must embrace our storied history as a 200 year-old Maker City and remember that “we” built the fleet that Perry used to defeat the British. Over two centuries, we have created hundreds of products used around the world including Griswold pans, Marx Toys, GE locomotives. To thrive, Erie must manufacture more products from “locally-held” design patents and embrace it’s identity as a “Maker City.”
Let’s Manufacture Some Prosperity
Support the planned Innovation District
Over the past decade, digitally-based companies have been established in Erie, such as Werkbot Studios and MoreFrames animation. Due to the ease of the Internet, these businesses are able to attract clients from around the country.
The action plans now developed from Buki’s Erie Refocused Comprehensive Plan include creation of innovation and other districts. Erie Insurance, Gannon University, UPMC Hamot and the McManis & Monsolve Associates are making major investments in or near the new Innovation District.
Already, Mercyhurst University, Velocity Net and others making investments and plans for a cyber-security and data hub in the Innovation District. Erie should be alert for related opportunities for growth. For instance, in 2010, fifty nuclear missiles stored in Wyoming went “off-line” for almost an hour and it was not immediately clear if the weapons had been hacked and launched.
Eventually, the malfunction was traced to hardware that had been manufactured overseas. Could Erie should become a source of reliable, secure electronics? Let’s find out.
Create an environment conducive for entrepreneurs and businesses – especially the high-tech industry.
The Erie Community Foundation Shaping Tomorrow Innovation District grant fosters collaboration between for-profit entities (Erie Insurance, Velocity Network & McManus & Monsalve) to partner with nonprofits to foster economic development in Erie. Penn State Behrend has initiated the Innovation Commons and invited the public to participate. Both the Greater Erie Film Office and Greater Erie Arts Rental (GEAR) project at Behrend can stimulate our region’s economy.
I am researching ways to fund similar “maker city” projects that provide low cost opportunities for creators and makers to thrive in the city – and beyond. I will connect with other leaders across the U.S. who signed on to be a part of the Obama White House’s Nation of Makers Initiative and his Mayor’s Makers Challenge to learn how their efforts have revitalized their cities.
I will foster varied digital services (from web design to animation) by: consulting with existing businesses to identify the most logical location investment of high-speed fiber optic cables, etc.; work with the Innovation Collaborative to showcase existing support – especially their ecosystem map of existing supporters; work with existing supporters to create a mentor-mentee program; and work with banks – or create a fund - to encourage investment in local businesses, recently laid-off workers, and others.
Expand “Experience” Tourism
Erie can attract a more of the million-plus people living in the greater Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo area to visit Erie. Some of the families of the 30,000 students attending higher educational programs in the region can be encouraged to tour Erie. Lastly, the families of patients relying on our medical systems could be engaged to enjoy the city’s offerings during their stays in Erie. We must transform our on-line presence to showcase our tourism options:
Arts, Culture and Historic attractions include arts and crafts, poetry, theater, dance and a strong live music scene. Add to that a growing number of great local restaurants and craft breweries. Our local history including the War of 1812, the Underground Railroad, and significant architectural resources that will, if properly packaged, bring visitors – and their dollars – to downtown Erie.
Recreational Opportunities abound due to our physical location on a Great Lake in the snow belt with four great seasons. We need lake-front fountain that turns into a winter skating rink surrounded by music and vendor carts featuring hot chocolate and hot toddies. We must link bike and pedestrian trails connecting Wintergreen Gorge to the city, the Lakefront and Presque Isle indicating logical stops for refreshment and public rest stops.
Self-Care businesses abound here and include traditional grooming salons along with wellness and relaxation massages as well as tattoo and body adornment establishments.
Faith Communities in Erie can attract visitors. Some places of worship encourage visitors to hear services, meet for guidance, or undertake a weekend retreat to escape from the business of their lives and refocus.
The next mayor must convene our universities, private sector employers, non-profits, unions and government leaders, educators, youth and New Americans to collectively advocate to:
Embrace 4-Season Spiritual, Recreational, Health and Cultural Tourism
My administration will continue to explore the successful strategies of other cold climate cities and encourage the adoption of ideas that may work here. There are a million people living in and around Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo who could easily make a day or weekend trip to Erie.
We will create visibility in those cities and update our SEO Strategies (search engine optimization) so that Google will offer up “Presque Isle” instead of “Pizza Bomber.” We will coordinate with Erie-area alumni associations and encourage the submission of stories to national and international Spiritual/Recreation/Health/ and Cultural publications (history, visual arts, poetry, dance, theater, music, minority).
We will encourage entry-level employees in service industries about their pivotal role in welcoming newcomers – and offer some kind of “Erie Ambassador Award” to “catch” those who make a first impression on visitors doing something wonderful.