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SuNDAy, FEbruAry 16, 2014


WHAT’S INSIDE: Erie’s bayfront is thriving, and more is in the works. 6K | Erie Inland Port project makes inroads. 1L | Lord Corp.’s new facility takes shape in Summit. 7L | Inside Donjon shipyard, which is busy with winter work. 10L | Lessons learned from the recession. 1M

ERIE 2014

2K | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

see how we grow

the region’s economy is branching out and weathering the rough times. Will our efforts ultimately pay off?

Who we are

The typical city of Erie citizen ... ... is 33.6 years old Age: 0-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69 70-79 80+

By JIM MARTIN History has a way of showing us what wasn’t apparent at the time. The passing of years can highlight turning points, telling us, for instance, that the Battle of Lake Erie would be the pivot point in the War of 1812, or that Erie’s manufacturing sector would peak in the early 1970s and decline in breathtaking fashion in the 1980s. Today, the perspective of years demonstrates the significance of patent attorney Hugh Lord’s decision to start building his own inventions. But what, we wonder, will history one day tell us about February 2014, the year just behind us and the months ahead? Will we mark it as the beginning of something new, or will we look back one day and see that we were laying the cornerstone of some lasting change? Time will tell. For now, this much is sure: We’re not sitting still. As you read this annual section, we invite you to consider what’s important, and just what history we might be making.

... has a high school degree or higher No degree High school Some college Bachelor’s Post-grad

13% 41% 26% 14% 6%

... is female



... is white Other:6% Hispanic: 6% Black: 16% White: 71%

Does not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.


Thousands of Erie-area residents face uncertainties of their own in the year ahead as Highmark customers face the possibility that they won’t have access to UPMC Hamot, the area’s largest health-care provider.

Downsizing at GE Few stories of the past year have invited more speculation than the announcement in April that GE Transportation planned to eliminate 1,050 jobs in Erie. Part of the message was one the people of Erie had heard before: The famously up-anddown locomotive market was in a down cycle. Too many people for too little work. But there was something new in this missive from headquarters, located now in Chicago. Company officials raised concerns about productivity at the Erie plant. And instead of just laying off Erie workers, they announcedplanstoshiftproduction of AC locomotives to Fort Worth, Texas, Mexico and elsewhere. This wasn’t just more of the same for workers who had lived throughlayoffsbefore.Thiswasa structural change that has raised questions about the future of GE Transportation in Erie. There are reassurances coming from the company. They come in the words of Russell Stokes, the company’s new chief executive. And they take the form of massive investments in the Erie campus, including the gleaming new Customer Innovation Center, where visitors have come from around the world. The gravity of the GE cutbacks is not lost on Barbara Chaffee, president of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership. “There is no sugarcoating the decision,” she said. But she’s hoping there’s a lesson to be learned about the need

14% 13% 17% 14% 11% 13% 8% 5% 5%

Seeds of success


Donjon Shipbuilding & Repair is bustling with winter work. The shipyard’s success points to the region’s attempts at diversification, as it shares space on the bayfront with developments geared toward tourism. to compete. “I think every day is a challenge based on the fact that all competition is global now,” she said.

Erie on display The layoffs at GE Transportation might have cast a shadow over 2013, but Erie still found time to celebrate. History, the city and its bayfront were all on display for Tall Ships Erie, which drew an estimated 80,000 people. And that wasn’t the only game in town. Roar on the Shore once again brought the throaty growl of motorcycles to Erie to take part in what’s become one of the nation’s largest bike events. It was a year of big crowds and big moments as Elton John and other major acts took the stage and filled seats at Erie’s newly named and renovated Erie Insurance Arena. Erie has long counted on big crowds at Presque Isle State

About this speciAl report

Erie Women’s Health Partners

Erie 2014 is the Erie Times-News’ 15th annual report on Erie’s economy. It was edited by Doug oathout, managing editor/news. The lead writer was Jim Martin, Reporters David bruce, erica erwin, Kevin Flowers, John Guerriero, ron leonardi, sean Mccracken, Valerie Myers, ed palattella and Gerry Weiss assisted. Graphic artist chris sigmund and the photo staff — supervisor christopher Millette, plus Jarid A. barringer, Andy colwell, Jack hanrahan and Greg Wohlford — provided visuals. sherry rieder, managing editor/production, supervised production. It was designed by copy editor Kristin bowers.

Francis H. Tseng, MD Carla Picardo, MD Peggy Boyd, CNM Stefanie Young, CNM Gretchen McCool, CNM Sarah Henry-Walker, CRNP Lisa Quinn, CRNP Juliette Mannino, CRNP Heather Adams, PA-C Rebekah Nottingham, CRNP

Erie’s bayfront was photographed by Jack Hanrahan.

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and to begin promoting Erie in places like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo and Ontario. “We want to take our circle, our reach, and make it broader,” Oliver said.

Eds and meds face change The past year brought new uncertainty for an increasingly important employment sector that includes the unlikely combination of medicine and education. After years of steady growth, enrollment growth at area colleges has slowed in recent years. What’s not yet apparent is if the trend is a passing one, a leftover of the recession, or a more permanent change that could reduce the schools’ economic impact. At the same time, the region’s health-care providers face a period of uncertainty as the nation moves ahead with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

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Park — nearly 3.8 million visited in 2013 — to help draw visitors to the region’s hotels, restaurants and shopping centers. Growth in tourism spending has been dramatic in recent years, thanks in part to the marketing efforts of attractions such as Waldameer Park & Water World and Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort In fact, visitors to Erie County spent more than $1 billion in 2012, more than double the $463 million they spent in 2001, according to figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. John Oliver, president of VisitErie, Erie County’s tourism promotion agency, is hoping that’s just the beginning, thanks to a vastly expanded advertising budget funded by an increase in the Erie County hotel tax. The higher tax has allowed VisitErie to raise its advertising budget from $60,000 to $800,000

The arrival, more than a century ago, of GE Transportation, is testament to the ability of an outside force to transform the local economy. But the story of Erie’s economy contains many accounts of companies born at a kitchen table or in a backyard garage that grew into important parts of the local economy. It is the story of American SterilizerCo.,HammermillPaperCo., Lord Corp. and dozens of smaller companies. It is the story of Erie Insurance, a homegrown company that is investing millions to revitalize its neighborhood. But Jim Kurre, professor of economics at Penn State Behrend and director of the Economic Research Institute of Erie, worries that Erie might not be sowing the seeds for future success. His worry is rooted in statistics that show the amount of income Erie derives from sole proprietorships — owner-run businesses — is just half the national average. It’s a trend, if not corrected, that could spell trouble, he said. “The economy is kind of like a forest,” he said. “Some trees are going to be dying, and you need new ones coming in to replace them.”

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ERIE 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 3K

Region’s economic indicators A brief look at the state of Erie County and Crawford County.

Electric rates

Per capita income

Lower rates means homeowners have more cash.

The more we make, the more we spend

Penelec rates

Erie metropolitan area

$93.36 in February

$36,671 in 2012

Down $3.52 from January.


Based on 750 kilowatts per month.

Employment is one of the most important indicators of economic wellbeing.

The verdict:

Lower bills mean more money in our pockets.

Natural gas rates As rates rise, homeowners spend less elsewhere.

The verdict:


Down from 7.9% in 7.0% in December Dec. 2012


Down from 8.1% in 6.6% in December Dec. 2012

Manufacturing employment Manufacturing remains a key employment sector.

The verdict:

Erie County’s rate is improving.

Erie County


in December

Up from $35,972 in 2011

Up 200 from Dec. 2012

The verdict:

Crawford Co. Unchanged


in December

from Dec. 2012

Service employment

Erie County manufacturing sector grew during the year.

Service industries include fast food, banking, insurance and other jobs.

Erie County

National Fuel rates


$75.60 in January

Crawford Co.


Based on 90,000 cubic feet used per year.

Up 200 jobs from Dec. 2012

in December

Customers are paying less than they did a year ago.

With many jobs added, this sector is a bright spot in the local economy.

The verdict:



Bankruptcy filings are an indicator of tough times.

People boarding planes at Erie International Airport is a reflection of business and leisure travel.

Western district of Pennsylvania


3rd quarter of 2013

Down from 2,321 in 3rd quarter of 2012

The verdict:

Up 2,100 jobs from Dec. 2012

in December

Down $1.01 from January 2012.

The verdict:

A modest gain is still good news.

Fewer bankruptcies hint that difficult times are easing.

Employment at plant

GE Transportation

GE Transportation’s Lawrence Park plant is Erie County’s largest employer.

on Feb. 1, 2014

The verdict:

About 5,000 Down about 600 from Feb. 1, 2013.

Park visitors

Presque Isle State Park attendance

Visitors help drive local tourism.

3.7 million

Erie International Airport


in 2013

Up 418 from 2012

Down 200,000 from 2012

The number of local jobs has dropped over the past year.

The verdict:

The verdict:

Erie’s above-normal summertime rainfall kept some visitors away.

More passengers help the local economy.

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry; Erie International Airport; VisitErie; AAA; American Bankruptcy Institute; GE Transportation; National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp.; Penelec; Presque Isle State Park ERIE TIMES-NEWS file photos; JIM MARTIN and CHRIS SIGMUND/Erie Times-News

After a big step forward in 2012, Erie County’s real estate market leveled off in 2013. That’s the word from Al Ames, president of the Greater Erie Board of Realtors. The number of residential properties sold by real estate agents in Erie County dipped just slightly from 2,031 properties in 2012 to 2,025 in 2013. Prices of those homes slipped from an average of $142,262 to $137,225. While Ames characterized those numbers as mostly flat, especially after strong gains in price from 2011 to 2012, there was clear improvement on another front. “We are starting to see more homes on the market,” Ames said, noting that both agents and buyers have expressed concerns about the need for a larger inventory. The number of homes listed for sale rose 11.6 percent — from 3,358 in 2012 to 3,748 in 2013. Sue Sutto, owner of Sue Sutto Realtors Inc., called 2013 a positive year, despite a late-year bump in interest rates that she said moved some buyers into lower-priced homes. For now, she’s seeing activity in all price ranges. “I just had a new listing that sold in a week for $300,000,” she said. “I had to cancel four other appointments to show it.” The year ahead could bring some new challenges as lending regulations continue to tighten. “It’s going to impact anyone with marginal credit,” Sutto said. “They are not going get a loan.” Despite those challenges, this is a good time to buy, Ames said. “Interest rates are still very good, but it’s not going to stay that way forever,” he said. — Jim Martin

Economy: Region is branching out Continued from 2K It’s important, Kurre said, to have a large pool of small companies to replace jobs that will be lost. “Only a few firms will make it to be giant oaks,” he said. “Hopefully the next generations will have a few superstars.”

What the future holds


A mural decorates a building at GE Transportation in Lawrence Park Township. The company’s decision to lay off more than 1,000 workers marked a significant blow to the Erie region in 2013.

For now, we can only speculate about which thing that we do or don’t do will make a difference in the history that we write each day. Some are betting that Erie’s bayfront will reach a critical mass with the completion of development on two key pieces of property. Others are intrigued by the prom-

ise of building infrastructure that could help bring an iron plant to Albion and a potato chip and snack factory to Waterford. Others point to an evolving mix of industries, from tourism and retail to heavy industry and agriculture and a long and growing list of food processors. The Regional Chamber’s Chaffee said she sees promise in that diversity, the antidote to having all of our eggs in the same basket. “I think the fact that we are making efforts on all fronts, probably it inoculates us from being too dependent on one sector,” she said.

J I M M A R T I N can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at

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ERIE 2014

4K | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

Forward motion As CEO, Stokes hopes to make a lasting impact at GE Transportation By JIM MARTIN Russell Stokes said he can’t change the past. That means plans set in motion to reduce the Erie workforce by more than 1,000 people will likely go forward, said Stokes, the new chief executive at GE Transportation. A negotiating process, required by contract, led in summer 2013 to a failure for the company and its union workers to find common ground. The process of laying off hundreds of workers has been set in motion — nearly 500 jobs have been cut so far — and isn’t likely to stop until 950 hourly workers and 100 salaried employees have been removed from the payroll. Stokes doesn’t expect to rewrite that history. But the 42-year-old Cleveland native is hoping to leave his own mark on GE Transportation, a General Electric division with nearly $6 billion in annual revenues. Stokes, who was in town recently to introduce the company’s new purpose statement — “GE Transportation. We set potential in motion” — talked about a shared sense of ownership and pride. “Russell has a real passion for GE Transportation and its people,” said Joel Berdine, general manager of GE Transportation’s global supply chain. “He


Russell Stokes, chief executive of GE Transportation, previously worked for GE in Erie after growing up in Cleveland. “I think the opportunities are limitless,” he said.

ONLINE EXTRA: See more of new CEO Russell Stokes welcomes ideas and feedback, and his leadership creates great energy.” His goals don’t end at the edge of the GE campus. Stokes said he’s also eager to restore the community’s pride in the 107-yearold enterprise that Thomas Edison built here. Stokes, who spent more than two years living in Erie and working for the company he now leads, arrives at a pivotal time. On one hand, the company is facing a newly resurgent competitor in the former Electro-Motive Diesel, now owned by industrial powerhouse Caterpillar. At the same time, the company continues to design and test emerging technology that could one daymakeliquefiednatural gasthefuelofchoiceforthe nation’s freight railroads. Stokes sees it as a

chance to be part of something big. “We are at a place where something this big could happen in our lifetime,” Stokes said. “I struggle with why people aren’t running around this building high-fiving each other with excitement.” Like his predecessor, Lorenzo Simonelli, Stokes spends much of his time on an airplane or visiting with potential customers from around the world. Stokes brings to the job some of the credentials one might expect from the chief executive of GE Transportation. He has a degree in finance, experience in sales and has been climbing the General Electric career path, winning national honors and something called a Commercial Quality Black Belt along the way.

But he doesn’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, the company’s new chief executive is quick to insist that many of the people he works with are smarter than he is. “I have a very small ego,” he said. “My parents told me, ‘You’re not that special, but you can do special things.’” That’s how he wants employees throughout the company to think. “I need you to believe in yourself even more than I believe in you,” he said. Stokes spent more than 30 months as vice president for global services at GE Transportation. His comments suggest, however, that in smaller, less formal ways he’s spent a lifetime preparing for this role. Stokes, who was the captain of his high school

track and football teams in Cleveland, didn’t know who built it at the time, but he grew up listening to the whoosh of a GE-built commuter train that passed his house as a kid. The sound and the idea of the passing train got into his head. Stokes remembers leaving his window open a crack so that he could hear the commuter train. He’s a guy who sets up a model train around the Christmas tree each year, he said, a person who is happy to share his excitement about running the world’s largest locomotive company. Stokes, whose grandfather and uncle were both union workers at a General Motors plant, has met once with the company’s union leaders. “You have to respect people enough to sit down and talk to them,” Stokes said. “You have to understand that these people have families to feed.” There is nothing to suggest, however, that Stokes plans to give anyone a free pass. “I have to find out ways to do what we need to do to be competitive,” he said. He’s hoping to be working toward that goal for a while. “I know people have come and gone pretty quickly around here,” he said. “But I didn’t take this job with any plan to move out of it. I believe in this business. I think the opportunities are limitless.”

J I M M A R T I N can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at ETNmartin.

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Scott Duke knows what it’s like to lose a good job. It happened to him and hundreds of his co-workers when International Paper Co. closed its Erie plant in 2002. Duke, now president of Local 506 of the United Electrical, Radio and MachineWorkersatGETransportation, said that didn’t make him shy about standing up to management. What’s more, Duke said, GE Transportation’s plan, already set in motion, to eliminate 950 Erie jobs doesn’t mean he would be inclined to give ground when a new contract is negotiated in June 2015. But Duke, 48, said he’s eager to have a respectful exchange of ideas with the company. A 45-minute meeting in December with Russell Stokes, the company’s new chief executive, left him feeling optimistic. Stokes, who grew up in a family of union workers, acknowledged the quality of work coming from the Erie plant. “I see a little ray of sunshine with him,” said Duke, who remembers Scott Duke that Stokes spent a lot more time listening than talking. Duke, a longtime union steward at IP, moved into his current role less than a year ago and was faced immediately with the decision bargaining process that gave the union the opportunity to negotiate with the company about its planned job cuts. Those negotiations ended in June without an agreement. For Duke, the process ended without hard feelings. “It’s business,” he said. “It’s nothing personal. Everythingisbacktonormal.” Despite the pain of 377 layoffs that have taken place so far, Duke said he has no second thoughts about the union’s decision to reject a deal that would have included a two-tier wage scale. “They (the company) were never going to save any jobs,” he said. Back in the plant, just a couple blocks from the union hall in Lawrence Park, Duke worked as a machinist. He was proud of the products he helped to build. “Every one of us is,” he said. But his heart is in his work as a union leader. “I was born to do this,” he said in April in one of his first appearances as union president. Nearly a year later, he still feels the same way, he said. “I’m a fighter,” he said. He’s also a union leader with an unblinking belief that union workers in Erie still maintain a bit of leverage over the company and its Texas-based workforce. “We can do it better,” he said. “This is a fact.” That claim comes with a caveat. Duke said the production continues to be plagued by problems with receiving parts on time. “We can’t build anything if we don’t have the parts we need,” he said. The success of the company and its employees, he said, depends on smart and careful management and hard, skilled work by union members.

J I M M A R T I N can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at ETNmartin.

ERIE 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 5K

As of first quarter 2013, the most recent data available, compared to the first quarter of 2003. 2013 2003 1 5 3 2 4 20 7 6 10 13 15 16 23 21 30 35 8 19 14 31 36 18 15 32 48 41 43 34 -

GE Transportation Erie Indemnity Co. UPMC Hamot Saint Vincent Hospital Pennsylvania state government Wal-Mart Erie School District U.S. government Erie County government Millcreek Township School District Dr. Gertrude A. Barber National Institute Lord Corp. Presque Isle Downs & Casino State System of Higher Education Gannon University Tamarkin Co. Pennsylvania State University Plastek Group Inc. Country Fair Inc. City of Erie Regional Health Services Inc. Mercyhurst University YMCA of Greater Erie Wegmans Millcreek Community Hospital Saint Mary’s Home of Erie Lakeshore Community Services Dr. Gertrude A. Barber (serves clients in their homes) Erie Homes for Children and Adults Inc. Voices for Independence Pleasant Ridge Manor McDonald’s restaurants Saint Vincent Medical Education & Research Institute General McLane School District Parker-Hannifin Corp. Associated Clinical Laboratories Fort LeBoeuf School District Blair Payroll LLC. Eriez Manufacturing Co. Stairways Behavioral Health Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit Welch Foods Inc. Port Erie Plastics Inc. Parker White Metal Co. Greater Erie Community Action Committee Eat’n Park Hospitality Group Harbor Creek School District Northwest Bancshares Inc. Scott Enterprises Erie County Convention Center Authority

Crawford County’s top 5 employers 1 2 3 4 5

1 2 4 3 5

Meadville Medical Center Pennsylvania state government Crawford County government Crawford Central School District Penncrest School District

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry


Even at low ebb and in the midst of past slowdowns, GE Transportation has remained Erie County’s largest employer year after year. That continues to be the case, according to the most recent list of Erie County’s top 50 employers, compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. And, as usual, Meadville Medical Center ranked as Crawford County’s largest employer. But for all that hasn’t changed, a look back 10 years and even further to the first top 50 list compiled in 1986 shows some surprising shifts among our largest employers. Consider, for instance, that Erie County’s thirdand sixth-largest employers in 1986, Hammermill Paper Co. and American Sterilizer Co., are both gone. What’s more, Zurn Industries, the 11th-largest employer on the 1986 list, no longer cracks the top 50. Inside Erie’s business community, there has been talk in recent years about the rising importance of education and medicine as employment sectors. Top employer charts going back 27 years, however, speak to the continued importance of hospitals as employers. Hamot and Saint Vincent ranked among Erie’s top five employers in 1986 and still do today. While the former Metro Health Center fell off the listentirely,MillcreekCommunity Hospital climbed from No. 40 to No. 25. Meanwhile, the status of local colleges as employ-

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ERIE 2014

6K | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bayfront scene evolves


Recent history of Erie’s bayfront

Before 1980, Erie architect Herm Weber has said, Erie’s bayfront was not the sort of place one would linger to eat lunch. In the late 1950s, a young Joyce Savocchio, who would go on to serve 12 years as mayor, found it a fascinatingly ugly place. She remembers borrowing her father’s car for clandestine trips down to the water’s edge, where she drove along the railroad tracks. More seedy than sightly, the bayfront by then was decades past its prime as a boat-building or fishing center. “It was all cinderbeds, with railroad tracks and old rusting piers and old oil and water tanks,” said Savocchio, who hesitated to tell her parents where she had been. But it was the promise of the bayfront’s potential that became her top priority when she became mayor in 1991. It was the bayfront’s potential that brought Weber back to Erie. And it is the potential of undeveloped portions of the bayfront that has prompted lawsuits and public debate over the chance to put a new face on what’s now recognized as some of Erie’s most valuable real estate. Weber,thefounderofthe Erie-based architectural firm Weber Murphy Fox, remembers when there was scant interest in the city’s shoreline property. Hewasamongthosewho saw untapped potential. “I moved back to Erie after being out of town. Part of the reason I moved back was the enormous potential of the waterfront. I

Years in parentheses are when projects opened.

Development of the city of Erie’s bayfront started in the 1980s. Highlights of the developments:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Perry’s Landing: Development efforts began in 1983. Bayfront Parkway, from Greengarden Road to State Street (1990) Bayfront Parkway, from State Street to near the foot of East Avenue (1994) Bicentennial Tower (1995) Blasco Library (1996) Liberty Park (1999) Intermodal Transportation Center (2002) Cruise boat terminal (2002) Bayfront Convention Center (2007) Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel (2008)




8 5



1 2

ANDY COLWELL/Erie Times-News

3 Part of parkway did not exist in 1994.

SOURCE: Erie Times-News archives


saw what a gem it was and had to get involved.” In 1983, Weber’s firm would acquire the first of three piers owned by Perry Shipbuilding. His firm’s first stab at bayfront development wasn’t a big financial success. “We were thinly capitalized,” he said. “We basically got out of the project by the skin of our teeth. The bank took it over and sold the parcels off.” In hindsight, though, the ice had been broken. “I think the Perry’s Landing project jumpstarted the development,” he said. “I think it caused the city to become aware of the potential.” Thirty years later, Erie’s bayfront is a different place. It’s a concert venue and is home to restaurants, a convention center, upscale housing, a library, a museum, offices and dock

space for hundreds of boats, including the U.S. Brig Niagara. It was a transformation, Weber said, that grew not from a single, grand design, but by one piece that followed another from Niagara Place to the Bayfront Parkway, Blasco Library, the Bicentennial Tower, the Bayfront Convention Center and the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel. Erie’s bayfront, little by little, was moving closer to the sparkling new waterfronts Savocchio saw on visits to places like Baltimore during the 1980s. “After I was elected to City Council, I remember thinking something has to be done,” she said. “There is not a place on the face of the Earth that has a waterfront like we do that hasn’t done something worthwhile.” Any sense that Erie was apathetic about the poten-

tial of its waterfront is now a distant memory. As this is written, the Erie County Convention Center Authority and Scott Enterprisesaredeveloping plans for the last two major plots of undeveloped property on the bayfront. The authority hopes to build a 200-room hotel adjacent to the Convention Center as part of a larger mixed-use development on the former 12-acre GAF Materials Corp. property. Meanwhile, Scott Enterprises is making plans for a $150 million bayfront development that would include a hotel, town houses, an ice rink and floating entertainment barge as well as retail and office space. For Weber, whose firm is working on the plan for Scott Enterprises, these two big projects are more than just the latest in a series of bayfront changes. “It’s not just the final

Architect Herm Weber, right, has been part of Erie bayfront development since the 1980s. His firm Weber Murphy Fox is working on a current bayfront plan. His son Brian Weber, of Weber Architecture, is a consultant on the project. project. It’s the project that can glue the rest of them together,” he said. “What we have now is a series of disparate pieces along the waterfront, but no sense of place. These two projects will complete a vision that we only partially understood before.” But will it make Erie stronger? John Oliver, president of VisitErie, Erie County’s tourism promotion agency, said he’s excited about the possibilities. “I think it would be huge,” he said. “I think a fully developed bayfront would elevate us to that next level. It could become a tourism attractor in itself.” That’s not just good for the bayfront, he said. It’s good for Erie. The final, big pieces of Erie’s bayfront exist, for the moment, on paper and in the mind’s eye of plan-

ners and architects. Savocchio knows from experience that filling in the empty spots on Erie’s bayfront might not be a smooth and easy process. But she expects it to happen. And she expects it to change Erie in important ways. Savocchioisproud ofthe industrial presence that remains on the bayfront. But the bayfront of her youth and the derelict remains of another time are gone now. And even as she looks forward to this next chapter, Savocchio finds herself celebrating what’s already been done. “I am thrilled with what I see,” she said. “I am absolutely in awe.”

J I M M A R T I N can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at ETNmartin.

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ERIE 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 7K

Consultant to bring new vision to Destination Erie A Buffalo firm is now working to get Destination Erie back on track. Destination Erie officials in December hired Peter J. Smith, an urban planning consultant with worldwide experience, to replace its former lead consultant, Wallace, Roberts & Todd. Peter Smith, the firm’s principal, said his company is “way early in the process” of evaluating reams of Destination Erie-related data, including WRT’s previous work. ThatPhiladelphia-based consulting firm was fired fromtheregionalprojectin October, after Erie County had paid about $800,000 for its work on the multiyear plan, designed to to address economic development,jobcreation,housing, the environment, transportation and other issues. “We are just getting up to speed,” Smith said in a recent telephone interview. “We’ll look at all aspects of the plan, like the environment, economy, etc. It’s very much an interdisciplinary approach. One is not more significant than the other.” Destination Erie officials have said that WRT was fired, in part, because the firm’s work lacked vision and passion, and they were unconvinced WRT could clearly explain a finished regional master plan to the public. There is no such concern with Peter J. Smith, said Michael Fuhrman, Destination Erie’s former project manager. He is now a consultant to the project. “We found that they had a real clear, concise vision about how this thing is go-

What public sees as challenges ▀ High concentrations of poverty in the region. ▀ Manufacturing decline and the region’s ongoing economic transformation. ▀ The mismatch between available jobs and the skills of the available workforce. ▀ Lack of regional coordination. ▀ Inequality between public schools. ▀ Suburbanization/loss of population in city centers. ▀ Aging housing stock/neighborhood blight. ▀ Disparity in access/opportunity within minority communities. ▀ Distance between population centers and available jobs. ing to roll out,” Fuhrman said of the firm. “They were more assertive.” Erie County Executive KathyDahlkemperagreed. She is now chairwoman of Destination Erie’s steering committee. “They are take-charge people, and they are moving forward quickly,” Dahlkemper said. “I’m anxious to hear more about what they want to lay out. And I am confident in their ability to give us a good product.” Smithsaidhisfirmwants to schedule more public meetings on the plan and help develop “a real rationale” for why Destination Erie is important. His firm is examining work done by existing Destination Erie committees from various segments of the community, which are trying to come up with solutions to a variety of issues identified via public input and previously collected data on the area’s demographics and socioeconomic conditions. Those “root causes of Erie County challenges and issues” include poverty, the region’s manufacturing decline, a lack of regional coordination and disparities within minority communities. One of the project’s main goals is to develop a com-

prehensive plan, with recommendations for action on those root causes, that will be presented publicly later this year. “We’re not developing just a list of projects, but a real rationale of how significant eachofthese areas are and how they impact each other,” Smith said. “And one of the things we will be looking at is sustainability — the impact of the solutions. Too often, decisions are made because someone decides ‘this one sounds good,’ rather than from having a really strong rationale for that decision,” Smith said. Erie County government has set a limit of $200,000 on the remaining work, which is largely funded by a $1.8 million grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Dahlkemper said the plan, which must be completed by January 2015, is now on a good course. “The leadership is going to be there. We are going to make sure we are producing a product that is worthwhile and Erie can be proud of,” she said.

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K E V I N F L O W E R S can be reached at 870-1693 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at ETNflowers.



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ERIE 2014

8K | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

Company goes ‘local’

After years of relying on word of mouth, Erie Insurance ramps up its ad campaign By ED PALATTELLA

In an industry whose advertising is populated by a talking lizard, an ominous man named Mayhem and a chatty woman named Flo, Erie Insurance Group has typically been quiet, relying on customer recommendations rather than television ads to get more business. That changed in 2011. Erie Insurance for the first time in its history started corporate-wide advertising on television, as well as online, on the radio, on billboards and in print. The ads are part of the company’s Go Local campaign, which emphasizes local agents and investing in local communities. The tagline for the Go Local campaign’s advertising is that Erie Insurance provides “Seriously Good Insurance” — a wink at the well-known television advertising of rival insurers, such as GEICO (the gecko lizard), Allstate (Mayhem man) and Progressive (Flo). “They give you funny advertising. We give you great insurance,” reads one Erie Insurance print ad, which features a pair of Groucho Marx glasses, complete with a fake nose. Working with Source Marketing, based in Norwalk, Conn., Erie Insurance started advertising in 2011 in cities it targeted to boost its brand awareness: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Richmond, Va. In 2012, the company expanded the campaign to Columbus, Ohio; Milwaukee; and Nashville, Tenn. And in 2013, it added eight cities near the others: Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Green Bay, Wis.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Madison, Wis.; Roanoke, Va.; South


Erie Insurance started advertising in Columbus, Ohio, in 2012. This sign hangs at the Easton Town Center mall in Columbus. Bend, Ind.; and Toledo, Ohio. Erie Insurance as part of the campaign also sponsors local events, including those at Butler University, in Indianapolis, and for the Columbus Crew professional soccer team, and does some guerrilla marketing. It has sent what it calls street teams to local businesses in its markets to surprise people with free cake. Erie Insurance — with 4,500 employees, including 2,400 at its corporate headquarters in Erie — said its ads have helped keep the company financially strong, and boosted brand awareness in all of its target markets. The company is continuing its advertising campaign this year, with

changes. One initiative will be advertising on dry-cleaning bags, the company said. Erie Insurance’s senior vice president of strategic marketing, Sherri Silver, recently discussed the advertising campaign with the Erie Times-News in an e-mail exchange.




Any chance the ads will run in the Erie market? Erie the city has been supportive of Erie Insurance for nearly 90 years. As a result, we already have extremely high brand awareness and brand consideration. Therefore, it’s important for us to support our home city in different ways, such as investing in neighborhood revitalization and supporting our nonprofits. E D P A L A T T E L L A can be reached at 870-1813 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at twitter. com/ETNpalattella.


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In the market for Columbus, Ohio, Erie Insurance is running a “Seriously Good Soccer” campaign that highlights youth soccer in a partnership with the Columbus Crew. Nationwide has its headquarters in Columbus. Is this a way to get a foothold in a competitor’s market? And why an emphasis on youth soccer? The soccer initiative is part of our sponsorship and guerrilla marketing efforts. More than simply buying ads on the radio or putting up billboards, we wanted toshowoursupportofeventsand programs that are important to our customers and agents in local markets. A few examples are the Columbus Crew, the Nashville Predators, the Pittsburgh International Auto Show and the Indianapolis Symphony.

Did the creation of the campaign require a shift in philosophy at Erie Insurance? The campaign simply packaged what we and our agents have been doing for nearly 90 years — taking care of our cusFor most of its history, Erie Insur- tomers — and shared that mesance has shied away from adver- sage broadly in the communities tising, including television advertis- in which we do business. ing. What led the company to start the “Seriously Good” campaign? The campaign takes an ironic, self-referential approach. Erie We were founded 88 years ago and quietly grew into a Fortune Insurance in its ads criticizes other 500 company mostly through insurance companies for their adverword of mouth of our agents tising. What message is Erie Insurand customers. We’ve always ance trying to convey?

A Century of Excellence


We like a good laugh as much as the next person; we’re just not sure insurance is the best place for it. While funny ads may do a good job of getting your attention, they don’t really help you understand what you’re buying. The result is people making serious decisions about their financial well-being based on punch lines. We’re presenting an alternative. They give you funny advertising; we give you great insurance. And while our “Seriously Good” campaign has worked well for us, we’re refreshing our creative messaging in 2014.

been actively involved in and committed to the communities where we do business. We know that if we build and promote a strong brand, it supports our agents’ businesses and the communities they live in. The reality is the insurance industry is extremely competitive. You can’t watch television for more than five minutes without seeing one or two of our competitors’ ads. But rather than running a typical advertising campaign, we leveraged our strongest asset — our agents. Our commitment to our agents and customers and the local communities where they live and work is the foundation of the campaign. It’s a targeted, efficient campaign that combines local advertising and sponsorships in our communities with co-op advertising opportunities for local agents. The message is different as well. It’s not all about saving money — albeit that’s a part of our message — but the fuller value proposition — value, service and protection. Our ad campaign stems from the notion that insurance is serious business; insurance is there to protect people and take care of them when they’re at their most vulnerable. We found this is a message that resonates with people and we’re finding that people are receptive to it.

613 West 11th Street, Erie, PA 16512 Phone: (814) 455-8061 | Fax: (814) 453-4382

ERIE 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 9K

Going with the flow

and expand in larger metropolitan areas closer to a larger pool of existing customers, he said. For foreign companies, particularly startups, “where they locate in the U.S. is not as critical because they may not have an existing base of customers,” Rouch said. “They’re not predisposed to a particular location.” Access to large volumes of water might not be the one factor that convinces a business to locate in a particular area, but without it, companies will look elsewhere, Rouch said. “It’s the ante to be in the game,” he said. “If you can’t provide water, it doesn’t matter how many incentives you have. If you can’t meet the company’s water need, you’re out.” Water is a key ingredient in helping Develop Erie, formerly the Economic Development Corp. of Erie County, attract two multimillion-dollar projects.

E R I C A E R W I N can be reached at 870-1846 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at ETNerwin.

Employer: Top 50 changes Continued from 5K ers has continued to grow. Gannon and Mercyhurst universities and Penn State Behrend rank among Erie County’s 22 largest employers. In 1986, only Gannon made the top 50. EdinboroUniversityemploys 769 people but does not make the list because

its workers are classified more broadly as employees of the state, Erie County’s fifth-largest employer. In another noteworthy change, banks no longer rank high on the list of large employers. In 1986, two banks, First National and Marine Bank, ranked among Erie’s County’s 22 largest employers. And in

another sign of the times, manufacturers accounted for four of Erie County’s 10 largest employers in 1986. Today, only GE Transportation remains in that top 10.

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Call it a case of bad timing. The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership launched Tap Into Erie, a marketing campaign starring Erie’s abundant fresh water supply, in 2008 — just as the economy was spiraling downward. Businesses that the chamber had hoped to attract were setting up shop elsewhere. “Basicallywegofromexpansion and growth mode around the country to a contraction mode,”saidJacob Rouch, the chamber’s vice president of economic development. “Space and buildings throughout the country opened up at affordable rates. Erie, being a cost-effective place to do business in 2007, all of a sudden had competitors that weren’t even on the landscape.” Now that the economy is back on the upswing, the chamber has renewed the marketing effort — this timewithanarrowerfocus. The chamber is now working with a prospecting firm and focusing Tap Into Erie efforts on international companies in particular, Rouch said. Most large-scale U.S. companies want to grow

A division of KLN Family Brands, a Minnesotabased snack food manufacturer, plans to open a processing plant at the former Troyer Farms potato chip plant on Route 97, south of Waterford. And a Canadian corporation is considering building a $360 million iron-smelting plant in the Albion-Cranesville area. Develop Erie, the architect of the Erie Inland Port project, plans to build a $22.1 million water system that will pipe water from Lake Erie underground to an elevated water tank and a water treatment plant in Albion to help serve the plant. The Albion-Cranesville site is one of about five being considered by the Canadian company, said John Elliott, Develop Erie’s chief executive. Water is “very, very important in a project like an iron plant,” Elliott said. “If they didn’t have the water, they would have walked away. The reason they were looking at us is energy and transportation, but they would have walked away if we couldn’t give them the water.”


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10K | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

ERIE 2014

Clock ticks on tiff

Insurance sign-ups far easier


Local patients and employers will likely face a difficult decision later this year: Highmark or Hamot? A continuing squabble between western Pennsylvania’s largest health insurer and the region’s largest health system could leave Highmark customers with no access to UPMC Hamot or its physicians, except for emergency cases, when their provider’s contract ends Dec. 31. “This is a surprise,” said Jeff Evans Jr. of Employee Benefits Services, 4740 Peach St. “We were being told (by Highmark representatives) — even up to the end of 2013 and into 2014 — that Hamot would be an exception to the whole dispute. There were a lot of employers who renewed with Highmark for Jan. 1 on the beliefthatHamotwouldbeanexception.” Highmark and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have been battling since 2011, when Highmark announced it was buying the West Penn Allegheny Health System. The insurer later purchased Saint Vincent Hospital and created the Allegheny Health Network, an integrated delivery system. UPMC officials said they wouldn’t pursue new provider’s contracts with Highmark because they viewed the Allegheny Health Network as a competitor. But in July, UPMC board members told Highmark they were interested in extending Hamot’s contract. About 20 percent of Hamot’s net patient income — or about $80 million a year — comes from treating Highmark members. At that point, the stories diverge. Hamot President James Fiorenzo said negotiations on a new provider’s contract continued until October. “We feel Highmark has reneged on a commitment to a contract with Hamot,” Fiorenzo said. Highmark spokesman Aaron Billger said there were no true negotiations, only a UPMC proposal that called for a nearly 50 percent increase in Hamot’s reimbursement from Highmark. “Our position hasn’t changed,” he said. “A systemwide contract with UPMC is in thebestinterestoftheentirecommunity.” UPMC officials are not interested in negotiating a systemwide contract because they believe, based on court filings, that Highmark’s plan for keeping open West Penn and Allegheny General hospitals is to siphon patient admissions

The website still freezes up once in a while, but Michelle Robertson and her staff are having a much easier time enrolling people in health plans offered on the Health Insurance Exchange. Glitches plagued the federal government’s website when the exchange opened in October. It was nearly impossible for anyone to enroll, let alone see or select health plans. “The website, now, is working great for the most part,” said Robertson, Erie County’s only certified Health Insurance Exchange navigator. “There are still a few issues, but nothing like we saw.” More than 81,000 Pennsylvanians signed up for insurance through the exchange as of Dec. 28, the last time the government provided enrollment statistics. Erie County-specific data has not yet been released. But Robertson said she and her staff have seen almost 600 individuals and families, and many others have enrolled on their own or with help from insurance providers and agents. About 27,000 Erie County residents are uninsured. Some of those who enrolled, like Melanie Vadzemnieks, have already received their new insurance cards and seen a physician. “I signed up on my own on Dec. 23, the last day I could and still get coverage on Jan. 1,” said Vadzemnieks, whose insurance through COBRA expired at the end of 2013. “I received my insurance card and went to my primary-care physician (in mid-January).” Vadzemnieks’ experience was far different from those who tried to enroll in October or November. Robertson would spend hours trying to enroll one person on the website, sometimes having to type their information in multiple times. Only one of the first 70 people Robertson helped was able to enroll in a health plan through the exchange. “Now we’re able to enroll most people in less than an hour,” Robertson said. One of the most popular plans among Erie County enrollees is Highmark’s Community Blue, Robertson said. Community Blue is a narrow-network plan that doesn’t include most UPMC hospitals, including UPMC Hamot. — David Bruce



AT TOP: A Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Direct store is open in Millcreek Township. ABOVE: A full-service kiosk is set up at UPMC Hamot for UPMC Health Plan clients. from UPMC hospitals in Allegheny County, Fiorenzo said. Though the current contract runs for 10 more months, Evans said time is already running short for local businesses that renew their health insurance in July. Negotiations typically start in April for those businesses. “There isn’t a whole lot of time for these companies,” Evans said. “If there’s no agreement, then they would have to start looking at some of the other health insurers out there who would give them access to all hospitals.” Evans thinks Highmark and UPMC will eventually reach some sort of agreement. “Highmark and UPMC need each other to survive,” Evans said. “The loyalty customers have in this area for Highmark is strong, but it only goes so far. There is


also extensive loyalty to Hamot.” The two health-care giants are also getting a firm prod to the negotiating table courtesy of state legislators. A bill is expected to be introduced in thestateSenate,andonehasalreadybeen introduced in the state House, that would require integrated health systems like UPMC and Allegheny Health Network to contract with any willing health insurer. “We all want to pick and choose the facilities we want to go for health care, and choose the doctors we want for health care,” said state Rep. Curt Sonney, R-4th Dist., of Harborcreek Township, a cosponsor of the House bills.

D A V I D B R U C E can be reached at 8701736 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at




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Changing the

Medical Landscape to meet Our Community’s

Changing Medical Needs The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine is Erie’s only Academic Health Center. With Millcreek Community Hospital and the Clinical Practices of LECOM, the College is the core of an innovative medical education and health care system. This partnership is growing to meet the total health care needs of our community, adding to the quality of life for our neighbors, by: • Developing a 218-bed teaching hospital training new physicians and pharmacists in 12 residency and fellowship programs in the region’s largest post-graduate medical training institution; • Building a network of clinical practices in Erie County with more than 40 physicians who not only help to meet the health care needs of our patients, but also serve as clinical instructors for our students; • Opening one of the premiere medical fitness and wellness centers in the country designed to focus on the total well being of its members; • And constructing a new 144-bed senior living center to provide skilled nursing care in a homelike environment and providing a new teaching model for geriatric care.


Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, the nation’s largest medical school is preparing the next generation of physicians, pharmacists and dentists.

Millcreek Community Hospital, the region’s leader in behavioral health care and senior services and the first Erie health care organization recognized by NICHE certification for its commitment to improving health care for older adults.

LECOM Senior Living Center, opening in 2015, the region’s most advanced skilled nursing facility with a welcoming home-like setting for senior living.

Medical Associates of Erie, the clinical practices of LECOM with a network of 14 physician offices throughout Erie County.

LECOM Medical Fitness & Wellness Center,





a fully integrated health and fitness campus focusing on total wellbeing and ranked Erie’s number one choice in fitness centers.


February 16, 2014 Annual economic report for the Erie region

ERIE 2014



A CSX container train heads east near Walbridge Road in Harborcreek Township. The area is part of a proposed Erie Inland Port site. GREG WOHLFORD/Erie Times-News

Inland Port I

Inroads an ambitious plan to make the Erie region a hub for logistics is gaining ground. But it’s not without conflict By JIM MarTIn • ErIE TIMEs-nEws

t was easy to applaud the broad strokes of the idea. Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper was a U.S. congresswoman in 2009 when John Elliott came to her with an idea. Elliott, president of what’s now called Develop Erie, was there to talk about developing a logistics hub called the Erie Inland Port project. Theconcept,whichtradedon Erie’s access to highways, railroads and Great Lakes ports, made sense to Dahlkemper. Nearly five years later, it still does, she said. “I think overall this project could be a real game changer in terms of the economic progress of Erie County,” Dahlkemper said. Now comes the hard part. Erie’s Inland Port project has moved beyond the concept stage and is marching toward reality. But not everyone likes every part of the evolving plan.

Develop Erie is working to attract a proposed $360 million iron-smelting plant to the Albion-Cranesville area. The plant would create about 150 jobs and another 350 construction jobs. Erie County hasn’t yet sealed the deal for the new plant, but the project is moving closer to reality. The Canadian developer of the project has narrowed its list of potential sites from more than 100 down to six, Elliott said. “We hope to hear very soon,” he said. “There is a lot going for our site.” Elliott holds the same opinion of a Harborcreek Township site, located just east of Erie, that Develop Erie hopes to develop as a $60 million intermodal facility. The 30-acre railside site would be used to transfer shippingcontainersbetweenfreight trains and tractor-trailers.

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ERIE 2014

2L | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

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Colleges contend with shifts in enrollments By SEAN McCRACKEN Erie-area colleges and universities are fighting harder and harder to find new students as the pool of high school graduates continues to shrink. College enrollment declined nationwide for the second year in a row for the fall of 2013, and local higher education officials say their job is getting tougher because there are ever fewer high school graduates to draw from. “You have to have a bigger market share just to stay level,” Mercyhurst University President Tom Gamble said. But many local schools have seen growth compared with a decade ago, which officials attribute to recruiting efforts and offering programs that students want. Across the country, college enrollment fell 1.5 percent for fall 2013. That follows a 1.8 percent drop in 2012. In 2011, enrollment grew only 0.2 percent. Those numbers seem to track the enrollment trends in Erie County for the past three years, particularly Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. That school saw consecutive enrollment records in 2009 and 2010. Enrollment has steadily declined since. Scott Miller, acting director of undergraduate admissions and dean of the school of business at Edinboro, said that drop is not only because of a smaller recruiting pool. “Fluctuations are normal, and we’re still pretty close to our 20-year average,” Miller said. In 2003, the school had 8,045 students, but enroll-

By the numBers

▀ edinboro university of Pennsylvania: 8,045 in 2003-04; down to 7,098 in 2013-14. ▀ Gannon university: 3,441 in 2003-04; up to 4,211 in 2013-14. ▀ Lake erie College of Osteopathic medicine: 1,037 in 2003-04, all in Erie; up to 3,556 total in 2013-14 (1,673 in Erie). ▀ mercyhurst university: 3,796 in 2003-04; up to 4,145 in 2013-14. ▀ Penn state Behrend: 3,683 in 2003-04; up to 4,057.* *Does not include students in online business administration and project management programs.

ment declined each of the next three years, hitting 7,579 in 2006. The university then saw another upward swing from 2007 to a record 8,642 in 2010. Edinboro has averaged about 7,800 students a year over the past 10 years. Each of the other local colleges and universities saw some increase over their 2003 totals for the 2013-14 academic year. Mercyhurst went from 3,796 students to 4,145; Gannon grew from 3,441 to 4,211; and Penn State Behrend’s enrollment went from 3,683 to 4,057. But that longer-term growth, and Edinboro’s history of enrollment cycles, didn’t save local colleges from feeling the pain of the past few years of enrollment drops. Edinboro University officials announced plans for program, staff and faculty cuts in September. Mercyhurst put a pay freeze in place for the current school year, and Gamble said the university is more careful about hiring additional faculty.

Gamble said this was at least partially due to the fact that universities had become accustomed to growth each year, especially in the boom years of the late 2000s. Officials like Bill Edmondson, vice president for enrollment at Gannon, said part of adjusting to the new reality is becoming more aggressive with recruiting and adapting programs to students’ needs. Edmondson said Gannon has done relatively well by putting a focus on technical, career-focused programs like engineering and health care. Behrend’s engineering programs have also flourished. And Gannon and Mercyhurst have also put more of a focus on recruiting international students. Miller said Edinboro officials hope to pick up recruitment in areas like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cleveland. Efforts to recruit out-ofstate students recently got a boost with recent Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education approval to cut tuition rates for those students. Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine might be the best local example of how to grow a school. LECOM now has 1,673 students studying in Erie, with more than 400 at that campus studying in the school’s pharmacy program. School officials expect to add about 200 students to the Erie campus over the next two years through the addition of a new dental program.

SEAN McCRACKEN can be reached at 870-1714 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at ETNmccracken.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 3L


ong’s School of Dance has been teaching dance in the Erie region and making dreams come true for dancers since 1946. Owned and operated by the Long family, the school presently offers the most sought-after and extensive training in the tri-state area. “Spanning over 69 years, we have trained thousands of students, gaining us recognition as the number one Performing Arts School in Erie,” states Jay Long. Through the generations, the Long family has carried the traditions set forth by Jim and Marge Long. Jim Long, a world-renowned pianist, played his first professional concert at age 12. He then traveled the globe with many leading orchestras and even started his own record label known as Jamie Records. For seventeen years, he was the Musical Director for the Erie Civic Theater, and has composed and directed music for dance training and performances. Marge Long performed with notable personalities such as Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly, and Martha Raye. She began her career at the age of 7 and was the youngest member of the “Actors Guild of Variety Artists.” Marge also served as Principle for the Dance Educators of America’s Training School for 27 years. She and her husband, Jim, eventually left their professional careers to establish Long’s School of Dance in Erie. This leap of faith would develop into a family legacy. Jay Long has pioneered the second generation of Longs School of Dance. Jay is considered one of the leading Acrobatic

Adagio choreographers in the world — studying under notables such as Aubrey Hitchens and Michael Folkine. Jay is an icon in the realm of dance, from Combative Arts to Aerial Arts performance rigging and gained national recognition from many such as Allen Kee (talent coordinator at Disney) for his Acrobatic Adagio Choreography. Lee Ann Long was recruited from Western Kentucky University by Marge Long to fill the role of Assistant Dance Director. Having developed the Summer Dance Intensive and the Creative Kids Summer Camp, Lee Ann traveled the world with the Nashville Contemporary Ballet Company and has most recently been to Ireland to bring back the best of Irish Dance to the school. Extending into the third generation is Jeremy Long, the company’s orchestra leader and pianist. He has taken over the role of his grandfather, Jim. Jeremy had the privilege of being Jim’s only student. Jamie Long, serves as the Director of the external martial arts division of Long’s Combative Arts School. “At Long’s, we pride ourselves on the principles set forth by my parents, educating students on proper technique through the experience of outstanding instructors,” states Jay Long. “Our faculty is certified by Dance Educators of America. We employ university-educated instructors as well as those experienced in working with special needs students.” Long’s is currently home to 16 faculty members having affiliations with organizations such as Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, Tennessee Association of Dance Masters, Dance Educators of America and The World Irish Dance Association.

Lee Ann Long with Mick O’Reilly, 10-Time All-Ireland Champion Irish Dancer

Long’s School of Dance provides the opportunity to learn from talented dance instructors at modest rates. “We offer lessons for any age and style,” states Lee Ann Long, “including Ballet, Pointe, Tap, Jazz, Modern/ Contemporary, Hip Hop, Aerial Arts, Acrobatics and Irish Dance. With over 200 years of combined experience, our extremely knowledgeable instructors are here to propel our students to their fullest potential. We have won many competitions over the years and are home to the Long’s Performing Arts Team, which won the gold at the 2000 Hawaiian International Dance Competition. Long’s presents a professional, 2-night Annual Dance Concert at the Warner Theatre with a live orchestra each year in June. “We are one of the first dance studios in North America to offer a Aerial Arts/Flight school specifically designed for the dancer,” Long’s Combative Arts includes the Fu Hok Tong Long Kwoon School of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Salle D’Arms Fencing. “The study of combative arts can serve as a vessel toward a healthy body, keen mind and positive attitude towards the challenges of life,” states Jay Long. “The curriculum we offer provides a well-rounded martial arts training regimen much different from other educators. While others concentrate on competition or sport, our applications focus on the art and its self-defense benefits.” Master Sifu Jay Long is certified by the Chinese Martial Arts Association and has personally trained all the instructors of the Long’s Combative Arts Program. His experience stems from the Fu Hok Tong Long system of traditional Chinese martial arts that originated g in the earlyy 20th century. ry

“Here at Longs, fencing is not just a sport, but a tradition,” states Jay Long. “We are home to Salle D’Arms Fencing. Brought to the company in 1946 by Maestro, Jim Long, it has continued to grow with the generations — keeping my father’s spirit and style alive.” Long’s offers junior and adult classes for anyone to enjoy or practice fencing to its fullest. “The wonderful thing about fencing is that is can be enjoyed by all; young, old, male and female. We welcome everyone to come down and observe any of our classes.” Long’s has won first place in the Times News Erie’s Choice Award for the Best Performing Arts School in Erie 13 years in a row. And the Long family looks forward to a strong future — keeping their path true to the vision and distinction of Marge and Jim Long.

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ERIE 2014

4L | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

Where it is proposed LAWRENCE PARK

Construction could begin in fall 2014 on a new $60 million intermodal terminal in Harborcreek Township. The facility is part of the Erie Inland Port project, which could create several hundred jobs.





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Sheetz CHRIS SIGMUND/Erie Times-News

Inland: Plan gains ground


Founded in 1912


SOURCE: Develop Erie




Former Giant Eagle


226 East 27th Street, Erie, PA 16504



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Continued from 1L Elliott said the project is expected to create hundreds of construction jobs, as well as 40 permanent on-site jobs, 40 jobs in short-haul transport and another 100 indirect jobs. At least for now, however, the plans also seem to have created some angst among local officials and Harborcreek residents. Township resident Sam Ciprich is among those to raise concerns. Ciprich, who lives a half mile from the proposed rail terminal, said he’s waiting for answers about traffic, noise and whether businesses have committed to the project. “I’m worried about all of it.Thetraffic,thepollution, the noise, the congestion it will bring,” he said. “I’m not against job creation, because we need jobs in the Erie area. But there just doesn’t seem to be any support.” Elliott said he understands the hesitation. “I fully expected that local people would be concerned about it. It’s a

SINCE 1903

change,” Elliott said. He promised, however, that Develop Erie would try to address concerns about noise and vibrations through an internal assessment of the project. “There is a federal standard that we have to show there is no significant impact on the community. We intend to take that process seriously,” he said. There’s little to indicate, however, that Develop Erie plans to back away from what Elliott views as a transformational project. On Feb. 6, Develop Erie announced it had named Steven Rubin to serve as president of the EIP Intermodal Rail Terminal. It’s time for Erie to make use of that access to rail service, Elliott said. “We have these rail lines that pass through Erie where the trains don’t even stop.” Dahlkemper said she’s not picking sides, but she hopes developers can address the concerns of residents and public officials. “I think what we have to do is sit down at the table, all the parties, and really

work out all the concerns. “I am not minimizing people’s concerns about this project,” she said. “I think we have to address the safety issues, the traffic issues, all those things.” At the same time, she said, “We also have to find the positive in things and figure out how to make them happen, not how to stop them.” The Inland Port plan has evolved, informed by research and shaped by reality, Elliott said. But the goal hasn’t changed. “We want to use Erie’s ports and railroads to attract investment and create jobs,” Elliott said. “I don’t care if the trains are carrying wood pellets or logs. I don’t care if it’s grape juice or plastic parts or iron ore. We need to identify what is moving, what we can do to add value to these things and create opportunity.”

J I M M A R T I N can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail at jim.martin@ Follow him on Twitter at ETNmartin.

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ERIE 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 5L


Erie International Airport saw a decline in cargo but an uptick in passengers in 2013.

Ups and downs


are seeing those numbers,” he said. More good news to share with airlines: Erie passenger numbers were up slightly in 2013, despite heavy construction at the airport in summer, heavy snow in November and December, and old weight restrictions that remained in effect on the runway through the first quarter of 2013. Statistics for cargo shipped through the airport aren’t positive. Cargo shipments have been steadily declining, mainly due to the economy, Rodgers said. Rodgers expects cargo numbers to increase as the economyrebounds and as the inland port comes to fruition. “If L.L. Bean puts in a warehouse, for instance, and a customer pays extra for overnight shipping, that package will come to the airport,” he said.

V A L E R I E M Y E R S can be reached at 878-1913 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at ETNmyers.

SOCIAL WORK EXPERIENCE: Engaged in volunteer work and visited social welfare agencies and orphanages in Guyana.

HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE: Participated in the planning, preparation and serving the popular lunch and dinner series for the community.


Erie air service is changing as the airline industry struggles to gain altitude after years of economic recession and soaring fuel prices. Merged airlines are ordering fuel-efficient planes and jettisoning unprofitable stops to save costs. United Airlines announced early this month that its throwaways will include its Cleveland hub, and air service between Erie and Cleveland along with it. But for Erie, at least, the news wasn’t all bad. Unitedwill adddaily jetservice to and from Chicago beginning June 5, the day after Cleveland service ends. “It’s really, really good news,” Erie International Airport Executive Director Chris Rodgers said of the Feb. 3 announcement. Still, the airport will lose daily flights. Eight Cleveland flights came in and out of the airport. Four will provide service between Erie and Chicago. And so far, no new car-

riers have come to town since the airport opened its extended runway in November 2012. JetBlue and Southwest have declined to provide service in Erie. Talks with Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines and the three airlines already serving Erie are continuing, Rodgers said. Affiliates of United, US Airways and Delta currently fly in and out of Erie. “We’re looking primarily to the carriers we have to grow service,” Rodgers said. “They represent the largest carriers in the world, and that gives us amazing connectability.” Airport improvements, including the longer 7,500foot runway and a new instrument landing system, allow pilots to take off and land planes in lower visibility and allow planes to carry heavier loads in and out of Erie, and carriers are noticing, Rodgers said. “Those airlines in the past had 60 to 70 percent loads in Erie. Now they’re reporting loads as high as the upper 80s and low 90s. Those are very high load factors, and the airlines

PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERIENCE: Traveled to Vietnam to explore the long-term public health consequences of war; visited prisons, underground tunnels and historical sites.

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COMMUNICATIONS EXPERIENCE: Conducted simulations and developed crisis communication plans for real-world local clients.

CAL SCIENCE EXPERIENCE: ed Pennsylvanians on the nomy and President Obama’s roval rating.

ENGLISH EXPERIENCE: Studied Celtic mythology in Ireland to experience sites depicted in early text.

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RTS EXPERIENCE: ated with Interior Design, Graphic Fashion Merchandising, and Arts ment students on design plans for on of Mercyhurst’s Taylor Little Theatre.

Prepare for a stronger résumé later by choosing a University that builds résumé credentials today. At Mercyhurst University you will get actual experience in your field while you are still in school. It is a guarantee we make to every student in all 59 baccalaureate, 10 graduate and 26 associate degree majors – a guarantee no other college provides locally, regionally or possibly even nationally. Maybe that’s why more than 90% of our graduates secured jobs or were enrolled in graduate school within one year.


ARCHAEOLOGY EXPERIENCE: Worked on excavation of Florida’s Old Vero Man site, one of the most controversial Ice Age sites in North America.

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POLITICAL SCIENCE EXPERIENCE: Explored U.S. immigration policy and its human, legal, and economic effects first-hand at U.S.-Mexico border.

APPLIED FORENSIC SCIENCES EXPERIENCE: Recover and analyze human remains from area crime scenes.

Find out how affordable a Mercyhurst education can be. More than 95% percent of our students receive some kind of financial aid, and beginning in fall 2014 all new freshmen living on campus will receive a $2,500 housing grant. Visit or



ERIE 2014

6L | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014



Presque Isle Downs & Casino saw its revenue decline from 2012 to 2013.

It’s still a draw

1964 – 2014

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A new casino doesn’t open every day in Ohio. It might just seem that way lately, and that’s had an effect on Presque Isle Downs & Casino, with casino officials citing that as a key reason that fewer people are going through its doors to play slot machines and table games. So how much of an economic force will the casino be going forward? The casino’s property is valuable, with an assessment of $146.8 million. It paid a total of $2.5 million in real estate taxes in 2013. But through attrition, employment has dropped from about 1,000 to 710 — with the numbers rising to 780duringtheMay-throughSeptember thoroughbred horse racing season, not counting those employed by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission. “A lot of jobs haven’t needed to be replaced because of business volume,” said Jennifer See, the casino’s spokeswoman. But the jobs can result in careers for some employees, and training can

BusIness Boom

Spinoff business from Presque Isle Downs & Casino, 8199 Perry Highway, includes: ▀ Sheetz convenience store and gas station, 8180 Perry Highway. ▀ Baymont Inn and Suites, being built at 8170 Perry Highway. It will have 118 rooms and suites and be managed by the casino. lead to skills that can be transferred to other jobs, said Jim Kurre, professor of economics at Penn State Behrend and director of the Economic Research Institute of Erie. Declining slot-machine revenue numbers have meant a drop in the amount of revenue received by Erie County government and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, which distributes grants to nonprofits, governments and other groups. The county uses its half of the pot as it sees fit. Perry Wood, executive director of the gaming authority, said both the authority and the county each got about $6 million annually from 2008

through 2011, but the number dropped to $5.8 million in 2012. The total for 2013 is $5,656,837, he said. “It’s incremental enough that it’s not going to affect us,” he said. The local share of revenue from table games also hasn’t met initial optimistic projections of $1 million to $2 million per year. Through December, a total of $1,254,313 has been generated since the Erie casino started offering table games in July 2010. The 2013 numbers tell the story. Gross slot-machine revenue declined from $151.3 million in 2012 to $131.1 million in 2013, a drop of 13.3 percent — the largest percentage decline of any of the state’s 10 casinos that were open both years for comparison purposes. The Erie casino’s gross table games revenue also saw a steep drop from 2012 to 2013 — $18.4 million to $13.5 million, or 26.5 percent.

JOHN GUERRIERO can be reached at 870-1690 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at ETNguerriero.



ERIE 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 7L

Lord Corp.’s big move

Fun facts about Lord’s facility

Employees are slowly moving into the new Summit Township facility

Highlights about Lord Corp.’s $100 million renovation project at the former Bush Industries building. The company has consolidated two of its Erie-area locations into part of the building.

By JIM MARTIN As Will Hinkston led guests through the former Bush Industries warehouse in September 2012, he asked them to imagine what the space might become. Today, 18 months and nearly $100 million later, there’s little need to imagine. Lord Corp.’s new design and manufacturing center is quickly becoming a reality. About 150 employees, mostly office staff, already have been transferred to this 575,000-square-foot space on Robison Road, which will house the company’s manufacturing and design operations. Hinkston, the company’s vice president of global operations development, expects 330 workers to move in by the end of March and all 900 Eriebased employees by the end of October. For now, about 250 construction workers continue to work each day on the complex, a mixture of gleaming offices, pristine manufacturing spaces and a handful of half-finished sections. Millions of dollars worth of materials, including 15 acres of drywall, and 325,000 hours of labor, have built a showplace, complete with a new fitness center, gymnasium-sized laboratories and a modern cafeteria where workers can order food from their computer and have it waiting for them or delivered




The site 2455 Robison Road

Interior paint 3,500 gallons


The facility

The length of conduit, wire, piping, studs in Lord space Erie


A new manufacturing area takes shape as construction continues inside the nearly $100 million Lord Corp. facility in Summit Township. Some office workers have already moved in, and all 900 employees are expected to be there by the end of October.

ONLINE EXTRA: See more from inside Lord Corp. to a remote lunch room. Reaction from employees who have already movedinhasbeenpositive. “They can’t believe how nice and how bright it is,” said Steve Pattison, the company’s director of manufacturing and facility development. “They are all very pleased.” But Hinkston sees it as something more than a shiny new place to replace aging facilities on West 12th Street and West Grandview Boulevard.

Improvement program “I view this place as a weapon for getting business and better serving our customers,” Hinkston said. “This is not just a relocation program. It’s an

improvement program.” The building boasts an in-house credit union office and a cutting-edge security system. But the new facility does eliminate one luxury — and that was on purpose. There are only about a third as many private offices, Hinkston said. “There are no corner offices with nice windows,” Hinkston said. “We all share all the nice light.” The manufacturing side of the business features a newly designed work flow that sees products move efficiently from one area to the next and on to testing before heading for the loading dock. “With this layout, the products never back up,” Hinkston said.

The company’s products — more than 2,000 different items — continued to sell well in 2013 despite cutbacks in military spending. Most of the military cutbacks, Hinkston said, were offset by higher civilian aerospace spending and growth in other areas, including agriculture and oil and gas production. Nods to those product lines and others can be found throughout the complex. In the new cafeteria, a giant mural shows a jetliner taking flight. Other product lines are highlighted in photos and on video screens throughout the building. The common denominator in most of these prod-

Millcreek Mall: 1.3 million square feet

Nashville, Tenn.

Building Lord is in: 1.1 million square feet (Lord uses 44.2% of the space)

About 565 miles

Lighting 6,500 light fixtures

Electrical service 12 megawatts, would power 1,200 homes

SOURCES: Lord Corp.; Warner Management Co. CHRIS SIGMUND/Erie Times-News

ucts is the use of proprietary adhesives and specially formulated rubber to bond steel to steel with the goal of reducing noise and vibration. “Our first product was used in a trolley car to reduce noise,” Hinkston said. Current products are displayed throughout the newly finished offices — drive parts for drilling rigs, parts for agriculture combines that are designed to slip rather than break. “We like to be in areas where the cost of failure is very high so that customers are willing to invest in our engineering,” Hinkston said. The past is also on display here. The new building pays

homage through a series of named rooms and areas to founder Hugh Lord, his son Tom Lord and Donald Alstadt, the company’s longtime chairman. “We’re trying to make sure we don’t forget our legacy,” said Hinkston, who explained that a special legacy committee has been charged with gathering and displaying photos and mementos that honor the company’s history. For a company that built its first products for General Electric before building parts for planes flown by Charles Lindbergh, that history is a rich one. “You don’t want to worship the past, but you don’t

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ERIE 2014

8L | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

Erie’s strong

Lord: Hiring possible


Lord Corp. had the most government defense contracts of all Erie County companies from 2000 to 2012. But other companies made the list, too

A main rotor bearing, made in Erie by Lord Corp., enables the Black Hawk military helicopter to take flight while changing directions. AtErieForge&Steel,employeesworked round-the-clock for months to build new drive shafts for the Navy destroyer USS Cole after terrorists bombed and badly damaged the ship in October 2000. Those are just two examples of the work that Erie County companies have done for the U.S. Department of Defense. At the same time, however, there’s evidence that defense contracts have done plenty for Erie, injecting millions of dol-

Continued from 7L

Lord Corp.

lars into the local economy. In 2012 alone, Erie County companies and schools were awarded 108 contracts valued at $54.5 million, according to the website The value of those contracts has grown steadily since 2000, when 57 contractors performed defense work valued at $18.6 million. Over that 13-year span, Erie County companies have won contracts worth $478 million. Lord Corp., which specializes in antivibration equipment for the aerospace industry, is the county’s largest defense contractor, collecting $346 million for its government work since 2000. The smallest payment — $85 — was made to Bunzl Plastic Inc. on Station Road.

340 contracts for a value of $346.5 million

want to forget it,” Hinkston said.

Looking forward 300


— Jim Martin

Corry Manufacturing

103 for $7.2 million

Erie Forge & Steel, 1341 W. 16th St. 100

CSI Industries

58 for $4.8 million

FMC Technologies, 1601 Wagner Ave. Erie Forge & Steel Erie Strayer

4 for $1.3 million


6 for $2.4 million

52 for $67 million

Boldt Machinery 2 for $4 million


General Electric

4 for $880,185

FMC Technologies

15 for $1.6 million

All-American Hose LLC

14 for $2.4 million


MID American Natural Resources 3 for $5.9 million

Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine 20 for $9 million

JARID A. BARRINGER (file photo of FMC Technologies), MAGGIE PORTZLINE (Erie Forge & Steel photo) and CHRIS SIGMUND/Erie Times-News

Lord expects to have 900 employees on-site sometime later this year, but the company is hoping to have a hand in creating some additional jobs. Bush Industries, the building’s previous owner, continues to lease space in the 1.1 million-square-foot complex. That lease might be extended, but Lord Corp. is eyeing another option. That space could be opened up to provide room to smaller companies that supply parts or services to Lord. Instead of sending parts to a West Coast company to have them treated or modified and shipped back to Erie, the part could simply be sent to another part of the building, Pattison said. It’s a plan with the potential to bring new jobs to Erie and to cut costs and improve productivity. “You could offer them free rent and utilities, and it would be more than offset by our savings in freight,” Hinkston said. The plan, like the massive renovation project itself, seems like another sign this North Carolinabased company sees a bright future in the city where it was founded. “I think we are going to be here for a while,” Hinkston said.

J I M M A R T I N can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at ETNmartin.

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ERIE 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 9L

Think of the major strides the Erie region’s tourism business has made over the past decade. There was no Tom Ridge Environmental Center, Presque Isle Downs & Casino, Bayfront Convention Center or world-class Ravine Flyer II roller coaster at Waldameer Park & Water World 10 years ago. Lake Erie Speedway, in rural Greenfield Township, and Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park Resort, on bustling upper Peach Street in Summit Township, were new and still getting their feet wet. And Lake Erie’s wine country — a 40-mile trail that runs from Fredonia, N.Y., in Chautauqua County, through North East in Erie County — had only half the wineries that it boasts today. Even with that dramatic local tourism growth, area business officials see the region as having the potential for more. “I think we’ve only begun to scratch the surface ofwhatthefuturepotential for tourism growth can be for Erie,” said John Oliver, president of VisitErie, the primary tourism agency for Erie County. “It’s growing. The sky is the limit.” Oliver has reason to be optimistic about the region’s potential for tourism growth. Visitors to Erie County in 2001 spent $463 million, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. In 2012, visitors spent more than $1 billion here. Leisure and hospitality jobs, an indicator of

John Oliver: “The sky is the limit,” the VisitErie chief says of Erie’s tourism potential. the tourism industry, paid $187 million in wages in Erie County in 2001. That number nearly doubled, to $366 million, in 2012. Those jobs soared to more than 16,000 in the summer of 2012, up from about 10,000 in 2001. Erie was primarily a summer tourism destination a decade ago, with Presque Isle State Park and Waldameer serving as the main attractions. VisitErie is now looking to bolster the region’s offseason tourism appeal. An increase in the county’s hotel tax has given the agency additional money to market Erie as a yearround vacation spot. The extra revenue allowed VisitErie to raise its budget from $800,000 to $2 million, including a spike in its advertising budget from $60,000 to $800,000. The bigger budget will help VisitErie’s new “Hello, Winter” advertising campaign, which will use direct-mail and online marketing, radio and social media to reach out to people who live across a 75-mile radius. The additional funding also has allowed the agency for the first time to advertise its year-round “Hello, Erie!” campaign on television in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Toronto and southern Ontario — a 200-mile radius with a combined 12 million residents. VisitErie is looking to expand its marketing to

Columbus, Ohio, and Rochester, N.Y., this summer. “We want to take our circle, our reach, and make it broader,” Oliver said. “We had not been doing it effectively because we didn’t have the money to get the message out.” Erie Zoo Executive Director Scott Mitchell has watched his popular tourism spot grow over the past decade. Attendance at the zoo in 2013 was near 465,000, up from about 395,000 in 2003. Zoo staff also has increased 40 percent during that span. Mitchell said he hopes the zoo experiences a tourism bounce from the VisitErie campaign. “It’s expensive to advertise in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. If VisitErie can do that, it provides an opportunity for all of us,” Mitchell said. “There’s room for explosive tourism growth in Erie. Our hope is the people who come here from those bigger cities come to the zoo, too.” Area business leaders view the Erie region as having strong year-round tourism appeal. “We need to market to places outside of Erie the unique things we have to offer here, and how much there is to do here,” said Chris Scott, a vice president at Scott Enterprises. Scott Enterprises owns Splash Lagoon, Peek’n Peak Resort and Spa near Findley Lake, N.Y., and numerous hotels and restaurants.

G E R R Y W E I S S can be reached at 870-1884 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at ETNweiss.

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ERIE 2014

10L | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

Business brisk at Donjon


About 30 workers scurried about the cavernous 1,250-foot dry dock at Donjon Shipbuilding & Repair. Another 25 to 30 workers labored aboard the 1,000-foot-long Canadian freighter Kaministiqua, which occupied the dry dock. On this day in late January, the skies were sunny, but the afternoon temperatures were in the single digits. A brisk wind driving off Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay pushed the wind chills well below zero. That didn’t seem to bother the company’s army of welders, tackers and finishers who tackled work on two other freighters — the American vessel Edwin Gott and the Canadian ship Laurentien — nearby in the shipyard’s east and west slips. January through mid-March — winter repair season — typically is the busiest time of year at the 44-acre shipyard at 220 E. Bayfront Parkway. “The winter repair work is of great importance to us, but we strive to find a balance and a happy medium between repair work and new builds,’’ said John Witte, executive vice president of the New Jersey-based Donjon Marine Co. Inc. “So far we’ve had quite a bit of new builds that have supplemented our winter repair work.’’ Donjon Marine Co. Inc., a marine services provider, expanded and diversified its operation with the creation of its Erie shipbuilding and repair services division in 2009. Donjon moved into the Erie shipyard in early 2010. Marine services at the shipyard include shipbuilding, barge construction, vessel conversion, repowering, dry docking services, repair, maintenance, steel fabrication and steel assembly. As of early February, winter repair work was ongoing with


The lake freighter Kaministiqua is in dry dock at Donjon Shipbuilding & Repair for winter maintenance.

ONLINE EXTRAS: See more from the shipyard., five vessels, including the three bulk freighters, a tug boat and a barge. Repair work on additional barges and another tug boat is scheduled for later this winter, Witte said. Donjon’s Erie shipyard facility includes 4,000 feet of pier space and more than 200,000 square feet of production area. Enclosed fabrication and assembly buildings house automated cutting, fabrication and coating equipment to build and maintain vessels from deck barges to oceangoing ships. The Erie facility is one of only two on the Great Lakes capable of dry docking 1,000-foot Great Lakes self-unloading vessels. Erie’s harsh winter weather has not curtailed production. “We haven’t let it, but it can be difficult at times,’’ Donjon Safety Superintendent Jason Reynolds said. “We’re on schedule with everything, and that’s a great thing,

but it surely causes difficulties. It’s harder on the equipment. The guys are pretty used to it. There’s not much around here that’s easy.’’ About 120 to 180 workers will be out in the shipyard on any given day during winter repair season, Reynolds said. The workforce has overcome the daily obstacles and challenges from a winter fraught with persistent snowfall and dangerously low wind chills. “Temperaturewise, I think it has been the worst winter,’’ Reynolds said. “From a snowfall standpoint, I’ve seen worse. The snowfall can make things logistically hard moving equipment about and just getting to the work sites. “As far as the subzero temperatures, they freeze air lines, they freeze water lines. ... There’s nothing you can really do about that. The wind can ground our cranes a lot, so we have to sched-

ule around that. It’s something to deal with,” he said. There was only one day in January when an arctic blast made conditions so brutally cold that it was deemed unsafe. Workers were not allowed outside. “That was when it was down to negative 40 wind chill,’’ Reynolds said. As of late January, Donjon employed 146 full-time workers and 20 seasonal tradesmen for the winter season, Reynolds said. “The winter repair season is when we’re going to be the busiest, and we’ll have the largest manpower,’’ he said. “We’ve been as high as a little over 200 (in 2012), when we were finishing the (tugboat) Ken Boothe and the (barge) Lakes Contender.’’ Witte said Donjon’s core Erie employment number is about 125. “We expect to increase employment over the next month,’’ he said. More than 1,200 workers

throughout Great Lakes shipyards will labor virtually nonstop to repair and prepare vessels for the 2014 shipping season, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association. The association represents 17 American companies that operate 57 U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes. Major shipyards on the Great Lakes, according to the Carriers’ Association, are in Erie; Sturgeon Bay, Wis.; Superior, Wis.; and Toledo, Ohio. Smaller ‘‘top-side’’ repair operations are in Cleveland; Escanaba, Mich.; Buffalo; and several Michigan cities. American companies that operate U.S.-flag vessels on the Great Lakes plan to invest more than $70 million in their fleets during the winter repair season, according to the Carriers’ Association. “We’re busy this winter, which is obviously a good thing,’’ Reynolds said. “I know a lot of other yards are busy, too. I think there’s a limited amount of yards that can do this kind of work. I think everyone is able to secure enough work to stay in business.’’ Major projects at Donjon in 2013 included the construction of three hopper barges — each 225 feet long — for Sterling Equipment., of Quincy, Mass. That project was completed in early September. Other 2013 projects at the Erie shipyard involved construction of three hopper barges for Donjon and truckable barges for Donjon dredging work. Work also started on a tugboat project in a joint venture with Seacor Holdings Inc., along with work on lift beams and platforms for various fabrication projects. Reynolds said Donjon has seen steady growth since it took over the Erie shipyard in 2009. “Things are getting good here, and we’re picking up speed,’’ he said.

R O N L E O N A R D I can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 11L

a partner for community growth and innovation since 2008

Bolstering 36 human services organizations in partnership with The Erie Community Foundation

Igniting Erie’s private sector alongside 26 funders and agencies in the pursuit of innovation-based economic development

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12L | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

Investing in the

community, future building our

Without Erie, FMC Technologies would not be a leader in the oil and gas industry. For over 80 years, the people of Erie and northwestern Pennsylvania provided us the perfect environment in which to flourish. You worked in our offices and on our factory floor. You shipped our products. You supplied us with the goods and services that allowed us to grow our business and thrive. Community made us what we are today. That’s why we’d like to announce our sponsorship of a Habitat for Humanity home for a local family. To show our commitment to Erie, FMC Technologies and our employees will give something back to the community that has done so much for us. Investing in the community is not only good for business, it is our business. Together, we can build our future. Proud sponsors of...




February 16, 2014 Annual economic report for the Erie region

ERIE 2014



LYLE SWARTOUT: “I just want to be working.” MARSHA MARSH: “I could have laid down and played dead.”

DOUG LUTHRINGER: “It’s great being your own boss.”

KURT DUSKA: “The recession ... forced companies to reinvent themselves.”

Tales from the




TRENCHES conomists tell us the recession spanned 18

in the final quarters of 2013. Meanwhile, Erie Coun-

months, from December 2007 to June 2009.

ty’s unemployment rate fell to 7 percent in December

But the pain didn’t end there for mil-

for the first time in five years.

lions of Americans hurt by tighter lend-

Regardless of where the economy goes from here,

ing standards, a temporary but perilous

the past six years have been difficult ones for many

That’s Erie County’s unemployment rate for December, the most recent figure available. The rate a month earlier, in November, was 7.4 percent. The rate in December 2012 was 7.9 percent.

Please see 4 TALES FROM THE TRENCHES, page 2M

That’s the rate in Crawford County for December. The unemployment rate a month earlier, in November, was 7.6 percent. The rate in December 2012 was 8.1 percent.




As global demand for corn is on the rise, the region’s farmers are doing their part. 5M

Erie’s Hero BX is part of a biodiesel boom. But growth depends on what the EPA says. 6M

Crawford County’s tooling industry is coming back. 3M Businesses tap into shale profits. 7M

plunge in the stock market, slumping home values

and soaring unemployment rates. Now, more than four years after the recession’s end, there are hopeful signs. Gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 4.1 percent and 3.2 percent

Americans. We asked four Erie County residents to share their thoughts on the recession, the tough times that followed and the lessons they learned.

ERIE 2014


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arsha Marsh should have known better. Even a casual ob-

server could have told her that 2008 was less than the perfect time to launch her own real estate firm after years as an agent working for other companies. The nation was in the midst of a credit crisis. Home prices in the nation’s biggest housing markets had collapsed, and cautious appraisers were suddenly shy about assigning values. Marsh ignored what would have seemed like painfully obvious advice. Six years later, she’s tripled her sales and has 38 agents selling under her name. Marsh said her recipe forsuccesswassimple.She and her team ignored the bad news swirling around them,puttheirheadsdown and went to work. It wasn’t easy.


Cover photos by Greg Wohlford, Erie Times-News

But they’ve also downsized their lifestyle and expectations. Swartout sold his family’s camper and let go of the campsite the family used to enjoy. Swartout, 47, enjoys his job and likes the people he works for, but he doesn’t know that he’ll ever get back to where he used to be financially. “We’re doing middle of the road, paying the bills,” he said. “I have never landed a job making as much money as I used to.” Unemployment taught him something, though. It wasn’t the lack of money in his pocket that bothered him most. “I just want to be working,” he said.


Continued from 1M

layoff as business slowed. This layoff didn’t last nearly as long. While his wife,Michelle,continuesto work as a nurse’s aide, he’s found work as a draftsman, working for the Warren Co. Swartout and his family can count themselves as survivors. They held on to their house, and his daughter, Nicole, will graduate from college this spring.

PA 028741




4 tales L from the trenches

yle Swartout, a Lake City resident and father of two, spent 15 months looking for work after a layoff from CMI Energy in January 2009. His personal recession ended with a job as a draftsman at Donjon Shipbuilding and Repair. But his time there would prove to be little more than a reprieve. This job, like the last one, would end in a


2M | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

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oug Luthringer remembers how that October day in 2008 began.Hesharedthehappy news that his wife was expecting their second child. An hour or so later, Luthringer’s boss came to him with news of his own. His job was being eliminated. Luthringer, now 35, had become a victim of the recession. But Luthringer, who had dreamed of becoming a chief executive of a major company, was determined not to remain a victim. He started his own business,, a home-based operation that uses eBay online auction services to sell items for clients. Luthringer hasn’t gotten rich, but he has kept busy, typically putting in more than 50 hours a week, selling surplus and obsolete equipment, mostly for small businesses and area school districts. So far, he’s sold about 17,000 items for a total of nearly $900,000. He’s learned a few things along the way. At first, he said, “I was willing to take everything to make sure money still flows in. But I found I was wasting a lot of time on less valuable things. I’m a little more picky now.” That approach has paid off. Luthringer said he increased his sales by 70 percent in 2013. Although he’s not making as much money as he had hoped, Luthringer said it would be tough to walk away from his business. “It’s great being your own boss,” he said. “I can pick up my kids or, if they’re sick, I can cancel my appointments.” As much as he still dreams of the corner office, Luthringer said he values what he has. “I look at these people who have achieved these great things and high-profile jobs. They don’t get to spend time with their kids and be a part of their lives. It’s a trade-off.”


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“It was the worst time in the market,” she said. Bad as things were, Marsh clung to one happy reality. The Erie real estate market might have been slow, but it was in far better shape than in much of the nation. Still, sellers were hesitant to list, and lenders were reluctant to loan. “I could have laid down and played dead and then been mad,” she said. “But I said, ‘How can we work through this?’ We said to our agents, ‘You have to move forward and do whatever you can.’ Sometimes we all have to compromise to get it done.” Would Marsh do it again, opening a new business in the teeth of a recession? “Never for one second did I doubt this,” she said. “We just had to work harder to get here.”

he nation’s plastics industry had already encountered tough times when the recession began in 2007. Some of the region’s largest plastics companies, including Andover Industries and Erie Plastics, closed their doors between 2005 and 2008. More than a thousand jobs were lost from the slowing auto industry and increased foreign competition. But for Kurt Duska, owner of Engineered Plastics and EPI Recycling Solutions, the past few years have been a period of growth. He has established his recycling business on West 12th Street and built a new location in North Carolina. “The recession, I think, was good and bad,” he said. “It forced companies to reinvent themselves.” Duskasaidhesucceeded in part because he steered his company toward more profitable products and developed the plastic recycling end of the business. “I think the recession was a motivator for us,” he said. — Jim Martin

ERIE 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 3M

Never say die

Crawford’s tooling industry is coming back. But where are the workers?

on to something else,’” Onyeiwu said. The elimination of expensive in-house apprenticeship programs and negative perceptions of the tooling industry also By VALERIE MYERS contribute to the skills gap. “The culture used to be that toolmakers would MEADVILLE — An in- encourage their children dustry that laid off work- to become toolmakers,” ers for the first time in its Onyeiwu said. “Now even history a dozen years ago some shop owners are tellnow is struggling to find ing their kids to stay away skilled help. from the business, go to The tool-and-die indus- college, move to Washingtry that gave Meadville its ton, D.C., or Los Angeles Tool City nickname weath- and get a regular paycheck ered economic recessions in a white-collar job.” and foreign competition Acutec Precision Mabut now is turning some chining continues to grow business away because despite the machinist it doesn’t have enough shortage. The Saegertowntrained employees to ac- based company began 2013 cept all of the orders. with 310 employees and “Firms that five or six added 50 through the year, years ago complained that President Rob Smith said. customers had cut back or“We’re not finding expeders, sales were down, ca- riencedmachinists,though pacity utilization was low, occasionally we get lucky and that they’d had to lay when someone moves off workers, now say that into the area or another they’re not able to keep up company scales back,” with demand because they Smith said. “By and large don’t have the people to do what we’re doing is findthe work,” Allegheny Col- ing good, talented people lege economics professor who want to get into the Stephen Onyeiwu said. He business. We bring them has surveyed and studied in for lower-tech jobs, and the region’s tooling indus- if they’re good at them and try since 2001. showupforworkeveryday, Post-recession sales in- we teach them machining creased 30 percent from and send them to school.” 2010 to 2011, Onyeiwu said. The region’s tooling inAnd while the 200-250 tool dustry has its roots in the shopsinCrawfordandErie Talon Zipper Co., based counties added about 500 in Meadville for a halfjobs to keep up, many still century. Talon-trained apneedmoreskilledworkers. prentices moved on to start Part of the reason they’re their own tooling companot finding them is that a nies and taught their skills number of the 1,000 work- to new generations. ers laid off during the 2001“These toolmakers are 02recessionand752laidoff still known all over the in Crawford in 2009 trained world as some of the best,” for new jobs and are refus- Onyeiwu said. ing industry callbacks. If the transfer of skills “Many of them said, ends, the region could lose ‘That’s it. I’m done with that reputation, and lose this industry. I’m moving jobs to shop closings and

consolidation.Theindustry needs to attract young people, veterans and workers laid off from other industries to plug the skills gap. But when shops began laying off employees a decade ago, enrollment in the precision machining program at the Crawford County Career and Technical Center dropped. It has just starting to rebound, with about 60 students in the program this school year. “It’s the highest number we’ve had in probably the last 10 years,” instructor Gene Smith said. Attracting more new machinists will require a retooling of the public education systemandattitudes about careers intrade, said JimShore,executivedirector ofMeadville’sPrecision Manufacturing Institute, which works with businesses to train employees. “We need to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that a four-year degree isn’t necessarily going to lead to a good job, but a nine-month diploma probably will,” he said. Onyeiwu sees evidence of that in his own neighborhood near Meadville. “Sixty percent of the people who live on my street are toolmakers or own their own tool shops. They didn’t go to college, weren’t saddled with debt and ended up on the same street and sometimes with better houses than their neighbors who went to college. They send their kids to college, go on vacation, buy boats, go to NASCAR races anddothethingsthat make them happy, just like their college neighbors.”

V A L E R I E M Y E R S can be reached at 878-1913 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at ETNmyers.

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Our Erie and Meadville offices are a part of national network of Home Health Agencies that includes over 325 locations that care for over 575,000 patients per year. The locally owned/managed Erie and Meadville offices alone attend to the needs of over 3,500 patients and provide over 325,000 hours of service by more than 375 professional staff members per year. We have the experience, and resources to achieve positive client satisfaction and clinical outcomes for our patients. We understand the home care world can be a complex place at times. Naturally, you will have questions about homecare for yourself or a loved one. Our Home Care Liaisons and Client Service Representatives are available to answer your questions at any time. We encourage you to call our Erie or Meadville offices at the numbers listed below. Every question is a good question and we strive to provide you with good and honest answers.


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4M | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

ERIE 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 5M


Worldwide Brand, Locally Owned


A load of corn is emptied at the Troyer Inc. farm in Wayne Township in October.

Global growth has put corn crops in high demand. Area growers are rising to the challenge

By VALERIE MYERS MEADVILLE — “Hightech”and“globaldemand” are terms not commonly associated with corn. But with Asia and South America clamoring for corn; drones scanning crops; and advances in genetics creating varieties that grow better in dry soil, wet soil or heavy soil, the region’s premiere cash crop isn’t the crop our grandparents grew. “Technology is a huge part of agriculture today, and a lot of that technology goes directly into crops, and into traits and special features,” said Joel Hunter, a crop specialist with the Penn State Cooperative Extension Service in Meadville. “We’re con-

stantly tweaking them and twisting them to do pretty specialfunctionsandadapt to very specific conditions. We’regettingtowherewe’ll be able to quickly and efficiently change crops to grow better where we want them to grow.” Corn yield is approaching 160.4 bushels per acre nationally, or triple the yield of a half-century ago. And northwestern Pennsylvania yields aren’t far off that mark, Hunter said. With 39,343 acres planted in Crawford County and 22,227 acres in Erie County in 2007, the most recent year for which U. S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture data is available, the region is producing its share of corn — for now. “We’re really pushing the envelope with corn, and we’re going to need it,” Hunter said. “We’re going to have to keep increasing production in order to handle the increasing global population.” Worldwide population is approaching 7 billion, and

the demand for food and livestock feed is growing with it. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the farmers will need to produce 70 percent more corn and soybeans by 2050 to meet global demand. “Hopefully, we’ll rise to the occasion, but it’s going to take some remarkable effort and advances,” Hunter said. Global demand has long affected corn prices. Prices spiked to about $10 a bushel in 2012 before settling to $4 to $5 a bushel in 2013, Hunter said. That’s still above the longtime average of $2.50. “Those highs and lows are part of the deal these days because of the global market that we’re in,” Hunter said. “If China decides it wants to buy soybeans from us and contracts with us, then decides that the crop in Argentina looks good and buys there, it causes big swings in prices. Farmers are

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ERIE 2014

6M | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fueling future

Hero BX is part of a biodiesel boom. But growth awaits EPA

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Erie-based Hero BX, one of the nation’s largest biodiesel plants, set production records in 2013 and made improvements that could allow it to produce even more this year. But that might not happen. As this is written, officials at Hero, owned by Samuel “Pat” Black III’s Erie Management Group, are waiting for a decision from the Environmental ProtectionAgency thatwill likely determine demand for the diesel fuel that Hero makes from animal fat and used cooking oil. Hero, which has a rated capacity of 45 million gallons a year, found ways in 2013 to produce a record 49.8 million gallons. “We broke monthly records, daily records; we changed pumps, heat exchangers,” said Mike Noble, chief executive. “Our employees made the biggest change. They knew how to change things and make it run harder.” The local company, located on East Lake Road, wasn’t the only biodiesel maker that boosted production in 2013. The U.S. industry set a record with production of nearly 1.8 billion gallons, most of which was mixed with pe-

FILE PHOTO/Erie Times-News

Hero BX broke production records in 2013, CEO Mike Noble, right, says. Hero’s vice president, Chris Peterson, is at left. troleum-based diesel. Noble and others in the industry worry about reports that the EPA might lower the federal mandate for mixing biodiesel to about 1.3 billion gallons. “By keeping it (the mandate) at 1.37 billion, you are shortchanging the original intent. The EPA is going against its own rules,” Noble said. The reality is that biodiesel does cost more to produce than petroleumbased diesel. In exchange, however, diesel trucks, cars and equipment can be powered in part by domestic fuel that’s removed from the waste stream. “It’s part of the overall circle of life in this town,” Noble said. “A customer goes to a restaurant and has chicken wings. I buy

the used cooking oil and clean it up, make biodiesel and sell it to United Refining. They do their part and blend it with diesel fuel and ship it back to Country Fair, where it’s bought by the same people who ate the chicken wings.” If the federal mandate isn’t increased, Hero BX won’t boost production and won’t need the extra 10 million gallons in fuel tanks it installed in 2013. And the plan to hire 10 more people will be put on hold, he said. Hero BX has about 40 employees now. “That might not sound like much, but 10 jobs is 10 families,” Noble said. Noble, who talked a year ago about finding other biodiesel plants to purchase, learned that prices for biodiesel plants were too high during a resurgent year for the industry. He predicts that could change if the federal mandate isn’t increased. “We will survive. We always do,” he said. “But some people won’t make it.” For now, Noble said, the plant is doing what owner Pat Black wanted it to do. “Pat never says, ‘You aren’t making enough money,’” Noble said. “Pat says, ‘Create jobs and build me something for the environment.’ He has never changed that vision.”

J I M M A R T I N can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at ETNmartin.

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Warren-based United Refining Co. expects to move ahead this year with a scheduled upgrade to its refinery, which processes 67,000 barrels of oil a day. The company, owned by John A. Catsimatidis, has a strong cash position with more than $175 million on hand. But

2013 did little to improve that position. United said that because of a decline in prices, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization took a dive for the quarter that ended Nov. 30, dropping $102 million to $12.2 million from the same quarter in 2012.

POTRATZ Floral Shop & Greenhouse Here’s a common question we often hear. What is the Sarah A Reed Childrens Center? A typical answer might be that we work with over 700 children and families each and every day, or that we offer a wide range of programs and services at multiple locations throughout Erie County. We are proud to tell you that we have just accomplished the significant milestone of being re-certified as a Sanctuary Certified Agency. Not just part of the agency; the whole agency! We certainly would want you to know about the recent move of our Erie City partial hospitalization programs into a single, integrated program at the brand new beautiful Hamilton Campus at 29th and Harvard, as well as the newly completed residential unit, cafeteria, and administrative building at our main campus. Finally, we would surely highlight that we continue to expand our use of evidence based interventions to meet the needs of our most vulnerable children and their families. For example, we recently implemented a highly successful and specialized service called ParentChild Interaction Therapy or PCIT at our outpatient program at 1611 Peach Street. PCIT is nationally recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network as a best practice model for working with young children between the ages of 2.5 and 7 years of age.



In 1919 Herman & Elizabeth Potratz started the greenhouses with a goal to provide customer service & satisfaction. John & Dorie Potratz added the floral division in 1945. Since then, the family business has rapidly evolved with 3rd & 4th generations.

All of this is true but it’s not the whole story. Here is the part of the story you might not know. Sarah Reed is about healing the hearts and minds of children who have experienced and faced adversity and trauma with resilience and strength. We are about supporting families as they try to navigate the daily challenges faced by their children. We are about joining with children and families on their shared journey through some of life’s most painful trials and tribulations. We hear about their tragedies, traumas, and losses, but we also join them in their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and successes. To know the Sarah A Reed Childrens Center, is to know a child’s journey; to know how they have gotten to where they are and to help support them on their path forward. At Sarah Reed, children want us to listen though they may not always tell us what we want to hear. It is our time, our expertise, our experience, our dedication and our abiding respect for their strength and resilience which will enable them to trust us enough so that they can openly share their stories and narratives. At Sarah Reed, we are here to listen. We are here to help children discover their feelings and maybe for the first time, have these feelings in safety. We are here to teach children who feel their lives are out of control that they have options and choices. Sarah Reed is about helping children learn to take small steps and show them that we will be there with them even if those steps become overwhelming and treacherous. Nurturing the strengths in children and their families so that they can be strong and self-reliant is what drives us. Sarah Reed Children’s Center stands along side children helping them discover that they can help themselves to see a future filled brightly with hope and promise. We encourage the importance of having positive, restorative relationships as cornerstones for healing and as a foundation for a good life. This is who we are and what we believe and stand for at the Sarah A Reed Children’s Center.

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rating 95 years

ERIE 2014 Drilling for natural gas

Northwestern Pa.’s 153 permits were just 5.2% of state’s 2,966 permits issued for new wells in the shale.

There were 153 permits issued for new wells in the Marcellus Shale in 2013 in northwestern Pennsylvania. Where they occurred by county:












Marcellus Shale formation occurs in subsurface or outcrop










SOURCE: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection


Few Marcellus wells were drilled here, but the industry is pumping in business By VALERIE MYERS

Not many drillers are tapping into the Marcellus Shale in northwestern Pennsylvania, where the geologic formation isn’t particularly rich in natural gas and oil. But some northwestern Pennsylvania businesses are tapping into Marcellus profits, adding jobs and pumping dollars into the region’s economy. Meadville-based Universal Well Services Inc. has been doing business in the Marcellus for a decade. It fracked the first Marcellus well, in southwestern Pennsylvania, in October

2004 and has since grown from 200 to more than 1,000 employees. “We were in on the ground floor of the Marcellus, saw that our customer seemed pretty excited about it, and read between the lines,” company PresidentRoger Willis said.“We basically rolled the dice, acquired some equipment and technology, and grew with the industry.” The company cements and pressure-pumps wells in addition to hydrofracking. It has grown from a basically mechanical business, Willis said, to include large information technology, service, training and laboratory facilities at the Crawford Business Park in Vernon Township and in a new free-standing building nearby. The company also has facilities in Bradford, Williamsport, Punxsutawney, suburban Pittsburgh,

and in West Virginia and Kentucky. The company today does business almost exclusively on the Marcellus, for world-class companies like Chevron and Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO. The state and region are sharing its good fortune. In 2009, Universal Well Services spent almost $48 million in Pennsylvania, for trucks, tires, electronics, welding supplies, safety equipment and other needs, Willis said. Much of that was spent locally. “We prefer to use local vendors, from the people building our buildings to Hagan Business Machines for the copiers we buy, to the Holiday Inn Express, where we have a training facility,” Willis said. Universal Well Services is the poster company for

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Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 7M



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8M | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

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moving into that reality.” Higher prices paid for corn in recent years have spurred some growers to invest in new equipment and additional land. “With those kind of prices, things perk up because farmers have a little extra income to expand a little bit,” Hunter said. Local growers are also investing in low-tech innovations, such as cover crops, to increase corn yields. Cover crops planted between corn rows do double duty protecting the soil and nutrients and providing another forage or cash crop, Hunter said. “Some are a little more involved than others, doing things like no-till farming and good rotations, even growing wheat, which is a little unusual here,” Hunter said. Farmers had gotten away from crop rotations for a time, Hunter said. “Now farmers are returning to them in some number, and with reason,”

Erie County’s farm economy Land in farms

Average size Erie Cemetery

Saint Vincent Hospital

33.9% of land was farms

Market value of products sold Average per farm.


or 173,125 of the county’s 511,296 total land acres.

Erie Cemetery has 75 acres.

58.7% of farmland was used for crops.

Most farms had 50-179 acres.

108 acres

Crop produced most? Corn for grain. Most recent data shown is from 2007.

SOURCES: 2007 Census of Agriculture, staff reports CHRIS SIGMUND/Erie Times-News

he said. “When the corn comes off, the soil is covered with what almost is a relay crop.” Such returns to conventional wisdom, with technical innovations, will help farmers continue to push yields. Five U.S. farms produced more than 400 bushels of corn per acre in 2013, better than dou-

ble the national average, Hunter said. “The fact that anyone already is producing off the charts like that — it’s just incredible,” he said.

V A L E R I E M Y E R S can be reached at 878-1913 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at ETNmyers.

Shale: Region sees business Continued from 7M local firms at work in the Marcellus, said Mark Turner, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County. “They’re the prime example of how a company can benefit and has benefitted from the Marcellus, even without significant drilling here,” Turner said. Other companies can follow Universal Well Services’ lead and work with the oil and gas industry, said Deb Lutz, vice presi-

dent of economic development for the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism, in Oil City. “It takes persistence, research and patience on the part of businesses, but some already are at work, especially in the industry supply chain, and there are opportunities for more,” Lutz said. The region could see an increase not only in industry support work in coming years, but in drilling, said David Yoxtheimer, of the Penn State Marcellus Cen-

ter for Outreach and Support. “We’re starting to see companies look at some of the other shales that exist in northwestern Pennsylvania, including the Utica and the Rhinestreet,” he said. The Utica is a layer of shale below the Marcellus. The Rhinestreet shale is above the Marcellus.

V A L E R I E M Y E R S can be reached at 878-1913 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at ETNmyers.


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To learn more, visit


VitalSigns SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2014



Photo by ANDY COLWELL/Erie Times-News



rustees of The Erie Community Foundation approved the creation of Erie Vital Signs, a community-wide key indicator project, in 2010. The goal is to present, with clarity and transparency, sound and unbiased information on issues our community indentifies as important. The Erie Community Foundation uses Erie Vital Signs to inform and guide Shaping Tomorrow grantmaking and as a checkpoint for its community leadership activities. Where possible, Erie Vital Signs also compares our region to peer communities

throughout the nation. Erie Vital Signs partners include United Way of Erie County, Erie Together, the Nonprofit Partnership, Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority. Individuals, groups and organizations in all sectors can use the information to increase their knowledge, to inform decisions, to promote accountability and to guide action to achieve short- and long-term progress. Using poverty as an overall screen, The Erie Community Foundation uses Education, Health and Economy Vital

Signs indicators as priorities when considering Shaping Tomorrow grant applications and community leadership activity.

Education and Poverty Educational attainment rates are directly correlated to lifetime earnings. Erie Vital Signs reports there was an approximate $16,640 per year difference in median earnings for high school graduates compared to those with a bachelor’s degree in Erie County. “Unfortunately, Erie County continues to dramatically lag behind our peer communities, Pennsylvania and the nation

in levels of educational attainment,” said Mike Batchelor, president of The Erie Community Foundation. “The percentage of adults in Erie County with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 12 percent below Pennsylvania and 18 percent below the nation.” To address this issue when children are young, the community foundation made a $250,000 grant to support the Dolly Parton Imagination Library at United Way, and a $200,000 grant to enhance access to quality preschools through Erie’s Future Fund. In just eight months, 7,475 children in Erie County 


Measuring business, job growth and employment. 4


See how Erie compares to the 13 peer communities. 4

Economic Action Chamber and Gaming Authority report progress.



United Way and Erie Together report progress. 7


The average number of adults in poor health is increasing. 9

2N | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014


Economy, Education And Health Are Top Priorities registered to receive a free book every month until the child turns five through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Over the past two years, 515 low income three- and four-year-olds were enrolled in high-quality preschools through Erie’s Future Fund. The foundation also supported The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership’s efforts to establish an Education and Training Consortium for our community. The federal Earned Income Tax Credit program has been widely recognized as our nation’s most effective poverty fighting initiative. The EITC encourages and Michael rewards work. Batchelor EITC expansion has been cited as a powerful force in dramatically raising the employment of low-income women. In 2013, The Erie Community Foundation provided more than $77,000 in support for Erie FREE Taxes, an organization the foundation helped to create in order to promote the EITC. Individuals and married joint filers with 2013 incomes of $52,000 or less qualify for the free tax preparation services. Erie FREE Taxes returned nearly $6.7 million in tax refunds in 2013, up 20 percent when compared with the $5.6 million returned through refunds during the 2012 tax season. More importantly, nearly 1,500 lowincome workers received more than $2.7 million in Earned Income Tax Credit refunds through Erie FREE Taxes in 2013 — both records for the program.

Health Access to affordable health care also helps lift people out of poverty. Erie County has 87,000 uninsured and Medicaid eligible residents. Our hospitals, emergency rooms and many of our local providers lose money on this population due to low Medicaid reimbursement rates. The most costeffective place for medical assistance citizens to receive care is a “federally qualified health center,” as these organizations receive higher Medicaid reimbursement rates. In Erie County, this is Community Health Net. A $7,000 grant from The Erie Community Foundation helped Community Health Net obtain a new billing system in 2013. The foundation also

Strengthening the linkages among students, education and our business community can help improve our local poverty rates. Business leaders tell The Erie Community Foundation they cannot find a qualified workforce. Many nonprofit organizations tell NUMBER OF The Erie Community ENDOWMENTS Foundation they cannot find jobs for their clients. The 2013 Erie Together Career Readiness Survey collected GIFTS GRANT data from 1,830 Erie RECEIVED NUMBER County eighthgraders. The data Graphic by Kelly Craig showed that 40.5 Transportation, agrees that access to worked collaboratively with Community percent of the respondents had not high-quality, affordable health care is Health Net to strengthen its governance participated in any career exploration important to the Erie region’s and management functions. A consultant activities and 31.9 percent had competitiveness and to the sustainability assisted with generating new grant dollars participated in only one. of its economy. to help expand access to health care In 2013, The Erie Community Following the nationally recognized services for the poor of our community. Foundation provided $225,000 in “Three Part Aim” model for improving Across the nation, School Based funding to help launch Career Street health care — simultaneously improving through the Erie County Technical School Health Centers are a proven way to care processes and outcomes while increase access to health care. Yet, until Foundation. The aim is to connect the recently none existed in Erie, and only 28 lowering per capita cost — Kresse private sector to schools to provide recently led an Erie Vital Signs exist in Pennsylvania. With the help of quality career exploration opportunities, collaborative focused on two key many community partners, The Erie officials said. initiatives: Community Foundation developed the “While we have great challenges, Erie •Improving health literacy (an Wayne School Based Health Center. Vital Signs also points to significant individual’s capacity to make informed “The health center addresses medical strengths in Erie County,” observed health decisions). and psychological needs by placing a Batchelor. Erie County residents are •Increasing access to high-quality doctor’s office directly in a school. The exceptionally well connected and rooted in primary care. benefit is children without health our community. This is measured by the Task forces led by representatives insurance are able to be seen for free. concept of “social capital,” and Erie County Additionally, the center is open to anyone from Erie Insurance, Industrial Sales and measures of social capital are high when Manufacturing Inc., the Erie County in the community,” said Michelle compared to other communities (http:// Medical Society and GE Transportation Robertson, project manager at The Erie formed to develop evidence-based Community Foundation. enagement/social-capital/). Enrollment at the Wayne School Based “tool kits” to help key stakeholders – A vibrant nonprofit sector helps make employers, community organizations Health Center was 577 when it first many of the connections needed to rank and individuals – improve their efforts to opened and has now grown to 645 high on social capital scales. In 2013, prevent and manage high-cost, chronic patients. “The health care providers at The Erie Community Foundation made medical conditions like diabetes and the Wayne School Based Health Center grants totaling more than $200,000 to asthma. Detailed information to increase The Nonprofit Partnership, an focus on the local community because health care consumer awareness, there are no physician offices in the organization it helped create in 2001. The including a listing of high-quality primary mission of The Nonprofit Partnership is surrounding area,” said Robertson. “In care providers who are certified by addition, 11,000 low-income residents to enhance the management and nationally-recognized organizations in reside in Wayne’s ZIP code of 16503.” governance of regional nonprofit the management of chronic medical An informal collaboration among the organizations through capacity-building conditions, are now included on the Vital manufacturing, insurance, health care, programs and services. The Erie higher education, government and social Signs website ( Community Foundation also health/diabetes). services sectors began delivering Eriestrengthened our nonprofit sector specific information about diabetes care through support and management of in 2013. Erie Gives, an online fundraiser that Employment Mark Kresse, health care manager, GE raised over $1.7 million for more than


$207,800,000 $1,700,000 ASSETS




$7,900,000 GIFT AMOUNT

11,013 2,041



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Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 3N

26,034! That’s the number of books delivered to Erie County children in 2013 through the Imagination Library. Over 7,000 local children have now signed up to receive a free, high quality, age-appropriate book mailed each month to their homes.

By giving to United Way of Erie County, you’re helping thousands of local children get ready to enter kindergarten prepared to learn and enabling them to read proficiently by third grade. They are far more likely to graduate from high school on time with the skills needed to succeed in life.


Together, we’re rewriting the story of our community’s future. That’s what it means to LIVE UNITED.

The Imagination Library is a United Way of Erie County initiative in collaboration with The Erie Community Foundation and our other funding and community partners.

4N | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

VitalSigns 2014

The Economy: Business Community, Job Growth and Employment


Numbers ERIE REGION BY THE NUMBERS Show Pulse 90% 32 90.1% Of Economy



The overall business community in Erie County saw a net growth in the number of business establishments with employees from 2001-2011. However, 2012 data shows a 0.6 percent decrease in the number of business establishments with employees. It is apparent that there are a few key drivers of Erie’s regional economy — both in number of establishments as well as jobs.

15.8% $744

















3.3% 14%

Between March and August 2013, education and health services, our largest job-providing industry, saw a decrease of 900 jobs, while manufacturing (second largest) saw an increase of 600, and trade, transportation and utilities (third largest) saw an increase of 500.

43.2 %






4 $9,420,801 29%

Year-Over-Year Job Growth


Overall, the year-over-year job growth rate for Erie in August 2013 was up 1.15 percent, which equates to 200 new jobs. This is an improvement from March 2013, which showed a negative 0.5 percent growth rate.






Graphic by Kelly Craig

While our unemployment rates are above average, we have not experienced crises faced by other regions highly dependent upon a single employer or industry. Employment and unemployment indicators are from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Local Area Unemployment Statistics program, which are updated monthly. VS

generating entrepreneurial activity consistent with the rest of the nation. Many of our major employers have relocated to other communities. The skilled labor we do have is aging, and there are concerns about our ability to replace a retiring workforce. Those disturbing trends aside, Erie’s diversified economic base does give us an ability to weather the economic downturns.

Employment Erie County unemployment rates have been higher than Pennsylvania and the U.S. for decades. Erie is not

Vital Signs Measurements and Benchmarks The Erie Community Foundation created Erie Vital Signs, a community-wide key indicator project, in 2010. Erie Vital Signs tracks regional progress against 48 different indicators. Where possible, Erie Vital Signs also compares our region’s performance against a set of 13 peer communities across the United States, selected for their similarity to our community. The 48 indicators are grouped in the following eight categories: Cultural Vitality, Community and Civic Engagement, Economy, Regional Cooperation, Health, Environment, Education and Brain Gain. Erie Vital Signs is also a repository for localized data and resources such as the Local Arts Index coordinated by Americans for the Arts and ArtsErie.

Erie Vital Signs is used as a resource by both grant seekers and grant makers. The Erie Community Foundation asks all applicants to reference the Erie Vital Signs indicators they hope to influence. The Foundation, itself, has also stated that the indicators in the Education, Health and Economy sections of Erie Vital Signs will be priorities for its grantmaking and community leadership activity. Community-wide key indicator projects are found in many communities in the United States and Canada. Future plans for Erie Vital Signs include adding story telling and public outreach functions to the data base. Erie Vital Signs will produce seasonally themed reports summarizing how our community is performing relative to indicators and peer communities. Erie Vital Signs will also develop an e-mail outreach system to notify interested users when indicators are updated. VS




Lansing, MI 4.44%

Green Bay, WI

Increase of 10.9%

Flint, MI



Cedar Rapids, IA

Erie, PA



Boulder, CO -2.40%

Allentown, PA

Akron, OH



Peoria, IL 6.92%

Roanoke, VA -6.51%



Spartanburg, SC 1.77%

Laredo, TX 1.36%


Green Bay, WI 5.9% (-0.5%)

Gainesville, FL 4.39%

Lansing, MI 7.4% (0.6%)

Graphics by Kelly Craig Flint, MI

10.1% (0.9%)

Cedar Rapids, IA

Erie, PA

4.6% (-0.5%)

7.4% (-0.5%)

Boulder, CO 5.0% (-0.8%)


Allentown, PA

Akron, OH

7.5% (-1.1%)

7.3% (0.9%)

9.2% (1.2%)

Roanoke, VA 5.6% (-0.3%)

Laredo, TX



45,083 36,671


Spartanburg, SC 7.1% (-1.5%)

6.5% (-0.1%)

20,000 10,000

* Benchmark Average:

2013 Unemployment rate: 6.8% Change from 2012: -0.2%


Gainesville, FL 4.9% (-1.3%)




Erie County

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 5N

The Economy: Business Community, Job Growth and Employment


Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority: Working Toward Community Vitality By MARISSA and STEVE ORBANEK

o Main Street Revitalization. Check. o Entrepreneur Education. Check. o Small Business Financing. Check. To say that the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) was busy this year would be an understatement. ECGRA was the driving force between two new programs that attempt to drive cultural vitality, Perry Wood regional cooperation and an improved economy. ECGRA launched Mission Main Street in 2013 to drive job creation and stimulate the economy. This grantmaking organization invested more than $93,000 in revitalization projects in eight communities: Corry Community Development Corp., Downtown North East Inc., Erie Downtown Partnership, Girard Borough, Lawrence Park Township, SSJ Neighborhood Network, Union City Community House Association and Waterford Borough. These projects included improvements to the curbside appeal — from a mural painting to a new pavilion to new windows and benches.

INSPIRING ACTION ECGRA also launched its Municipal Collaboration Grants this year in order to stimulate regional cooperation by providing funding for functional cooperation of municipalities. ECGRA invested $346,648 among 28 collaboration-minded municipalities and seven authorities, nonprofits, and intergovernmental agencies working to increase efficiencies, innovate delivery of services, and offer transparent public policy using 21st-century technology. Closing out the year, ECGRA co-hosted “Ignite Erie: A Day of Innovation for Entrepreneurs,” a two-part daylong event to educate, connect and inspire policy makers, leaders in economic development and education, funders and entrepreneurs. This event brought together 350 professionals and students in an event that featured two nationally recognized innovation economy experts — Richard Bendis and Ray Leach. “We believe in the power of small business leaders to strengthen Erie’s capacity to generate jobs and improve our economic outlook. “Ignite Erie” served to inspire, educate, network and empower the leaders of tomorrow’s

Photo courtesy of ECGRA ECGRA co-hosted “Ignite Erie: A Day of Innovation for Entrepreneurs,” an event to educate, connect and inspire policy makers, leaders in economic development and education, funders and entrepreneurs. Ignite Erie brought together 350 professionals and students with experts Richard Bendis nd Ray Leach.

growth,” said Perry Wood, executive director of ECGRA. ECGRA has invested $3,925,000 in small business financing and entrepreneur education since 2010 through three economic development partners: the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, the Enterprise Development Fund and the Gannon

University Small Business Development Center. More than $2.6 million of those funds have been invested in distressed census tracts via 33 small business loans and entrepreneur education. VS Contributing to this report was Amanda P. Burlingham, public relations and brand manager, ECGRA.

Chamber and Growth Partnership: Destination Erie Will Be ‘Colossal Boost’ By MARISSA and STEVE ORBANEK

For the past two years, Destination Erie has been a key part of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership’s mission. The project, which seeks to create a strategy to meet the region’s economic, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century, began in 2012 and is now in its final phase. If Destination Erie succeeds as the plan’s project management team suspects, then the entire Erie region could be in for a colossal boost. The project’s chances for success also directly relate to another regional project — Erie Vital Signs. “Destination Erie was actually Benjamin Pratt designed with the intent to use Erie Vital Signs as a tool during the implementation process,” said Benjamin Pratt, executive director of the Growth Partnership. “We have many of these indicators actually covered in the Destination Erie project.” Destination Erie has not been without its roadblocks. The project fired its lead consultant, Philadelphia-based Wallace, Roberts & Todd, in October. Buffalo-based Peter J. Smith & Co. Inc. was then selected as the lead consultant in December. The project is currently in its third phase, Raising the Sails: Vision and Action Plan. This phase must be completed by February 2015, when the recommendations and research gathered will be put into action. Community Workshops are scheduled for March and September of 2014. These workshops will allow members of the community to review the recommendations and add their ideas. “As we’re in the last phase of Destination Erie, community participation and knowledge of Erie Vital Signs is very important. The community’s opportunity to voice its opinion toward change is now,” said Pratt. “If they want to change any of these indicators,

INSPIRING ACTION participating in these community initiatives is critical.” As the name implies, Destination Erie essentially seeks to make Erie more of a destination city. The five points of the plan include: 1. Enhance Economic Development and Competitiveness. 2. Reduce Poverty through Effective Workforce Education and Job Creation. 3. Support Existing Communities. 4. Improve Transportation and Infrastructure Systems. 5. Engage our community and build partnerships for action. All of the five areas of the plan are either directly or indirectly linked to the eight topic areas of Erie Vital Signs. This is crucial, as Erie Vital Signs will be something that the Chamber can continue to reference even after Destination Erie is put into action. “Without the benchmark system that Erie Vital Signs provides, there’s no way to be able to measure any progress or the impact that Destination Erie has made as a whole,” Pratt said. “(With Destination Erie), there’s short-term, mid-term and long-term goals, but without having Erie Vital Signs to measure the effectiveness of the short-term goals, you won’t be able to mitigate any issues for the mid-term or long-term goals.” So, for example, as the Destination Erie plan begins to be put into action, the Chamber and other Destination Erie partners will be watching the trends noted by Erie Vital Signs to ensure that the project is having a positive effect. In the past few months, a handful of Erie Vital Signs economic indicators have taken steps in the right direction. As of November, the unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percent to 7.4 percent compared to where it was a year earlier. Similarly, average weekly wages in 2013 were up 1.88 percent to $758 compared to $744 in 2012. Pratt said he hopes this is just the start of positive

ECONOMIC INDICATORS Business Community Employment Wages Median Household Income Home Ownership Per Capita Income Poverty Self-sufficiency Visitor & Tourism Impact Cost of Living Graphic by Kelly Craig

economic news. If everything goes as planned, he believes Destination Erie will be a game changer, and the Chamber will always know what needs to be addressed thanks to Vital Signs. “Erie Vital Signs is progressive and necessary. The Erie Community Foundation really made sure (Erie remained) competitive by having this tool available,” Pratt said. VS

Vital Signs 2014 is a project of:

6N | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

EU: the University of Opportunity Edinboro University partners with its wider community to improve our vital signs: • Equipping students who have great financial need for a rewarding future by providing an excellent and affordable education. • Applying brainpower to community problems through the Financial Literacy Institute, Edinboro University English Language Clinic and other initiatives. • Joining other area universities to create a vision for a prosperous future in the region based on creativity, innovation and knowledge.

Choose Excellence and Opportunity. Choose Edinboro.

For more information or to apply, call or visit us online. /Edinboro



On Campus. Online. | | 888-8GO-BORO

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 7N

Education: Early Childhood Education, Educational Attainment


Early Education Is Linchpin To Community’s Long-Term Success Family and community factors affect how well young children learn, leaving our at-risk children behind. Research has shown that children affected by risk factors such as poverty, family status, or poor school system are more likely to enter school behind their peers, struggle in school, or drop out altogether. Risk factors like those listed below can hurt a child’s chances of doing well in school. In Erie County: n 43.3 percent of children under age five live in low-income families. n 18.6 percent of births are to mothers with less than a high school education. Crucial risk factors for children under the age of five increased over that same time period. When compared to the best counties in Pennsylvania regarding risk factors for young children, Erie County ranks substantially lower in every measurement. When comparing the past two years, Erie County has declined in all but one category (PSSA, math). For the future of these children and our community to be successful, these trends must be addressed and reversed. Quality and education-based early childhood education is a crucial element in the development of young children. The participation rates of children in Erie County in education-based pre-school programs increased consistently from school years 2007-08 to 2010-2011. Additionally, crucial risk factors for children under the age of five increased over that same time period. When comparing Erie County to the state and the largest counties in Pennsylvania, Erie was the only county to experience an increase in participation in 2008-2009. While not a huge increase, it

does represent a positive trend in early childhood education for Erie County. Erie’s Future Fund, which The 18-24 YEARS OLD BACHELOR’S DEGREE OR HIGHER Lansing, MI Erie Community Foundation Kalamazoo, MI 10.1% 10.4% supported with a $200,000 grant, Green Bay, WI Flint, MI is making progress in increasing 6.6% 6.4% enrollment of three- and fourCedar Rapids, IA year-olds in quality preschools. Erie, PA 10.7% 11.0% According to Nancy Kalista, Boulder, CO 18.5% executive director of Early Connections, and Michelle Allentown, PA 9.3% Akron, OH Harkins, Erie’s Future Fund 9.5% Peoria, IL scholarship director, 515 low10.0% Roanoke, VA income children now go to 12.6% preschool. Spartanburg, SC The National Association for the 8.5% Laredo, TX Education of Young Children is an 5.2% additional indicator for early childhood high school diploma education. In Erie County, there are only Gainesville, FL or GED. According to 12.4% six NAEYC-accredited programs data from the American compared to 309 across the Community Survey, conducted by the Commonwealth. Ideally, the number of U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of NAEYC-accredited programs will the population with less than a high increase as more of a focus is placed on school diploma decreased slightly from quality early childhood education in Erie 15.1 percent to 13.5 percent. EDUCATION INDICATORS County. In addition, over the same period, the percentage of the population with a Educational Attainment Educational Attainment bachelor’s degree or higher declined from 11.8 percent to 8.3 percent. Educational attainment in Erie County PSSA Results Between 2006 and 2011, Erie made has fluctuated over the past four years. some progress in reducing the percent of Generally, attainment levels are classified Graduation Rates into four broad categories: less than a high the population 25 years and over with less than a high school degree. The school graduate, high school graduate region also made progress increasing Educational Spending (including equivalency), some college or the percentage of the population 25 or associate degree, and a bachelor’s degree over with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Early Childhood Education or higher. Clearly, a county would like to Educational attainment is directly Programs Participation see trend lines of “less than high school correlated to financial earnings. In Erie in graduates” decreasing and the other three 2010, there was an approximate $16,640 Early Childhood categories increasing. per year difference in median earnings Education—Risk Factor From 2006 to 2011, Erie County made for high school graduates compared to Comparison little progress towards decreasing the those with a bachelor’s degree. VS percentage of residents with less than a Graphics by Kelly Craig



Erie City 81.5%

Harborcreek 86.7%

Graphic by Kelly Craig

Iroquois 91.3%

Millcreek 92.8%

Union City Area 98.2%

Erie Together Launches Career Street By MARISSA and STEVE ORBANEK

good paying jobs , is important to all of us,” said Mary Bula, the project facilitator of Erie Together. “A key component of a strong local economy is a well-prepared workforce that can meet the needs of regional employers. To best prepare that workforce, it is important to start at the earliest ages, so children understand the value of work, the job opportunities available to them, and the skills they need to succeed.” Through conversations with employers, educators and nonprofit professionals, Erie Together identified the concept and website for Career Street in 2013. Career Street now stands as a community service program of the Erie County Vocational-Technical School Foundation (ECVTS). The ECVTS Foundation has established an advisory board of community leaders to ensure Career Street meets the needs of students and businesses alike, and funding was secured for a launch of Career Street in 2014. While Career Street’s effect on local youth will be inextricably tied to student and company participation, Bula said its impact over time will be monitored through a number of Erie Vital Signs indicators, including educational attainment, employment rate and percent of college-bound high school graduates. VS


The statistics don’t lie — more and more research is showing that students are coming out of high schools and colleges unprepared for the workforce. Erie Together’s Career Street is hoping to change that for Erie County students by improving education and the economy through regional cooperation. Career Street, which was supported by a $225,000 grant from The Erie Community Foundation, is a countywide career Mary Bula exploration initiative for youth in grades K-12 that helps students consider their career interests, explore various careers and develop a better understanding of what they must do to pursue, and become successful in, their interested jobs. In order to better prepare students, Career Street provides a vehicle for collaboration among businesses, nonprofits and schools. This collaboration project enables the three different sectors to provide opportunities for students to job shadow, tour companies, attend career fairs and learn from class speakers. “A strong local economy, one where companies thrive and people can secure



25% 20%

22% 18%

15% 10% 5% 0%



Erie County


43.2% 35.4%

30% 20%


10% 0%



Erie County

Graphics by Kelly Craig

8N | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

VitalSigns 2014

Education: Early Childhood Education, Educational Attainment




Less than high school diploma—10.3%

Bachelor’s degree or higher—11%

Roanoke, VA—12.6% Gainesville, FL—12.4% Cedar Rapids, IA—10.7% Kalamazoo, MI—10.4%


Some college or associate degree—45.3%

High school graduate (incl. equivalency)—33.4%

Lansing, MI—10.1%

Benchmark Average 10.1%

Peoria, IL—10.0% Akron, OH—9.5% Allentown, PA—9.3% Spartanburg, SC—8.5% Green Bay, WI—6.6% Flint, MI—6.4% Laredo, TX—5.2%


Benchmark Cities

Graphics by Kelly Craig

United Way: Focus On Reading, Taxes By MARISSA and STEVE ORBANEK

United Way of Erie County has been focusing its efforts over the last year at improving the education and economic matters in Erie County through two major projects — the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and Erie FREE Taxes.



School-Based Pre-K—1.5%

Nurse-Family Partnership—0.9% Child Care Works—17%

Imagination Library Keystone Stars—17.1%

Head Start Supplemental Assistance Programs—0.6%

Early Intervention—13.6%

Federal Head Start—5.5%

not read at grade level by the time they reach third grade. The Imagination Library mails children a high-quality, age-appropriate book, along with a special reading guide with tips for parents and caregivers on how to maximize the impact of the books, each month from birth to age five to help them develop those literacy skills. More than 7,000 local children registered for this opportunity by the end of 2013. United Way launched an initiative to target the Community & Civic Engagement indicator with their newest program, Reading Buddies. Trained volunteers work with parents at neighborhood centers and community events to help them effectively read with their children.

Headquarters: 2200 Asbury Road • Erie

Erie FREE Taxes United Way’s second major initiative is Erie FREE taxes, which is a free service for low-income tax payers. The goal of Erie FREE taxes is to improve the economy and lower the poverty rate. Throughout the 2009-2013 tax filing seasons, United Way Erie FREE Taxes prepared 15,641 federal tax returns at no charge to each taxpayer, generating nearly $27 million in income tax refunds, including $11.5 million in Earned Income Tax Credit refunds. This program has also saved income-eligible individuals and families in Erie County an estimated $3.2 million in tax preparation fees. The EITC Program is widely recognized as the nation’s most effective anti-poverty

program, as it lifts approximately 6 million people above the poverty line each year. Nationwide, research has consistently shown that EITC recipients spend as much as two-thirds of their EITC refund in their communities, thus generating new economic growth in their areas. United Way Erie FREE Taxes strongly promotes The Earned Income Tax Credit as an important contributor to household financial stability, and an important source of economic growth in Erie County — both of which are tracked by Erie Vital Signs. In 2013, The Erie Community Foundation provided $150,000 in support for the Erie FREE Taxes program, an organization it created and managed until 2010, when United Way started operating the program. VS

Manufacturing: 1901 Wager Road • Erie


United Way of Erie County, in conjunction with The Erie Community Foundation, launched the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in May as a gamechanging program for students in the area. In a study of 27 nations, researchers concluded “children growing up in homes with many books get three years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class.” By providing a free, high-quality, ageappropriate book to every child in Erie County under the age of five, United Way and The Erie Community Foundation are hoping to change the educational scope of children, specifically focusing on kindergarten readiness and third-grade reading scores. “According to Erie Vital Signs data, 60 percent of children in Erie County enter kindergarten without adequate literacy skills. Study after study has indicated that the most effective way to teach children these literacy skills is by reading to them regularly from birth,” said John Simon, the director of marketing and brand management for United Way. The Imagination Library is directed to help the 88 percent of first-graders who are not reading at grade level and will still

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | Erie Times-News | | 9N

Health: Fair to Poor

VitalSigns 2014

Community Vitality: Volunteerism


LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH, 2008-2010 1,093

1,014 1,071

1,321 Heart Disease Cancer Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases Stroke Accidents

Total Female Deaths, 2008-2010 4,276


Total Male Deaths, 2008-2010 3,786

Alzheimer’s Disease Diabetes Melitus All other

194 118

67 199

921 274


940 155 215


Percent of adults with fair or poor health



200 150 100


50 0

7 Age 10-14

Age 15-17

Age 18-19

HEALTH INDICATORS Fair or Poor Health Status No Health Insurance No Medical Home Leading Causes of Death Heart Attack Death Rates Overweight or Obese Current smokers Binge Drinkers Physically Inactive Have Diabetes

Graphics by Kelly Craig

Increase In Fair To Poor Health Reports

Female 16%

Percent of adults with no health insurance, age 18-64

The percentage of adults in Erie County who report poor or fair health status averaged 15 percent over the period from 2003 to 2009. This average MEASURING rate was PROGRESS higher than the national rate but equal to the benchmark average for the regions against which Erie is compared. Erie County has a slightly worse health status than is being reported by the state or nation. This indicator has fluctuated over time. This will be one area where we will want to pay close attention to see whether a positive trend develops. A 2011 survey showed significant increases in the proportion of males reporting poor health status (18 percent overall). Those reporting the highest rates of poor health status include those over the age of 65 (26 percent), those with less than a high school education (37 percent), and those earning less than $25,000 a year (30 percent). As is the case with many health indicators, education and income levels have a strong influence on health status. As education and income increase, so does one’s chances for better health status. Transversely, the lower one’s education and income level, the more likely he or she will have poor health status. VS

Female 13%

While Erie Vital Signs shows that rates of volunteerism in Erie County trail state and national averages, Erie County has many of the raw ingredients needed to make our region a hotbed of volunteerism. A large percentage of our residents have lived here all their lives and have a strong identification with the region, its nonprofits, and our quality of life. We have a large number of retirees and older residents who have time and skills to offer, and Robert Wooler our stock of social capital is more robust than many of our peer cities. Given these advantages, the Nonprofit Partnership is working with United Way of Erie County and its 280 member nonprofits to boost volunteerism in the region by creating matches between organizations that need talent and individuals with talent to offer on the Get Connected volunteer website. Through recruitment campaigns targeted at specific audiences, we seek to boost the number of active volunteers in the region and build a

INSPIRING ACTION strong volunteer culture as part of our social fabric. Get Connected now has over 100 agency profiles with volunteers needs listed and over 300 individual registrants who are looking for a match that suits their passions, talents and time frames. Between January and June 2014, we are conducting a campaign to boost volunteerism among older adults. With outreach ongoing throughout the county, a media campaign, and a series of activities designed to bolster volunteer management and retention among our member agencies, The Nonprofit Partnership seeks to place at least 60 older adult volunteers in rewarding relationships with nonprofits that exhibit all the dimensions of the volunteer spectrum — both highly skilled and generically skilled activities in both short-term and long-term assignments. To participate, contact Melissa Fenn, Get Connected volunteer coordinator, (814) 4548800, Ext. 2, or fenn@thenonprofitpartnership. org, or Robert Wooler, director, (814) 4548800, Ext. 3, or e-mail rwooler@ VS

Male 13%

Percent of adults without a personal health care provider Female 6%

Male 14%

Percent of adults who are overweight, including obese

Female 59%

Male 71%

Percent of adults who are smokers

Female 24%

Male 22%

Percent of adults who have no leisure time physical activity in the past month

Female 31%

Nonprofit Partnership: Boosting Volunteerism By ROBERT WOOLER Director, Nonprofit Partnership

Male 18%

CULTURAL VITALITY INDICATORS Arts, Entertainment & Recreation Employees Arts, Entertainment & Recreation Establishments Arts & Cultural Attendance Arts & Cultural Revenue Arts & Cultural Contributors Arts & Cultural Average Pricing Local Arts Index ArtsErie United Fund Drive

Graphic by Kelly Craig

Male 25%

Community & Civic Engagement: Volunteerism Despite the economic crisis, the national volunteer rate went up to 26.8 percent in 2009, with 63.4 million volunteers donating approximately 8.1 billion hours of service in communities across the country. However, MEASURING those PROGRESS figures declined slightly in 2010 to 26.3 percent and 62.8 million volunteers. In 2010, approximately 2.7 million volunteers in Pennsylvania contributed 399 million hours of service. In Pennsylvania, more than 41,000 people participate in national service each year through 3,260 national service projects and programs. Locally, Erie County’s volunteer rates are below those of Pennsylvania and the nation.

10N | Erie Times-News | | Sunday, February 16, 2014

Last year on behalf of local donors, your community foundations: Awarded 2,041 grants totaling over $11.3 Million Received 11,013 gifts totaling over $7.9 Million, which included Erie Gives Produced a total investment return of 13.4% Established 34 new funds for a total of 712 funds Grew assets over $207 Million

Together, all of our communities grow stronger every day.

The Erie Community Foundation 459 W

Si h S

E i PA 16507

(814) 454 0843

459 West Sixth Street â&#x20AC;˘ Erie, PA 16507 â&#x20AC;˘ 814-454-0843


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Annual economic report on Erie, Pennsylvania by the Erie Times-News