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professional perspective Dr. James A. Kurre

Some Thoughts on “The Problem” After this summer’s ERIE conference on brain drain/gain at Penn State Behrend (co-sponsored by the Vital Signs program of the Erie Community Foundation, thank you very much), I’ve been thinking a lot about Erie’s and the nation’s problems. I’m hearing stories about people who are looking for jobs, but “there’s just nothing out there”. At the same time, I’m hearing about good-paying jobs going vacant and firms begging for talent. For solutions, let’s look at the micro, rather than the macro, view. Studies of poverty often point to education as a solution. Personally, each semester I get to meet a lot of 18- and 19-year olds. It’s one of the things I like about my job. I ask them why they came to college, and the overwhelming majority say something like “to get a better job.” But when I ask how many know what the salary is for the major they’ve chosen, very few hands go up. And THAT may be one of the problems. It’s pretty clear that most of my new students don’t understand how to choose a career. (I know I certainly didn’t at that age.) They’re too intimidated by the question to tackle it, and then they tend to pick something they like, encouraged by well-meaning folks who tell them to follow their heart and not worry about the money. “If you’re doing something you love, the money will come.” (Yeah, tell that to all those committed would-be comedians and garage bands who can’t pay the electric bill.) As a result of this kind of thinking, too many of our kids choose fields where there are already more job seekers than jobs, because a few decades of students before them have indulged themselves and done exactly the same thing. And then they graduate with tens of thousands of dollars of debt and no job. The fact is that a college education is NOT a guarantee. But on average, college students make about 75% more than high school graduates, and have much lower unemployment and poverty rates. College is no guarantee, but it IS the way the smart money bets. The simple fact is that for higher ed to pay off for a student, he has to pay attention to what the invisible hand of the market is trying to tell him. There are some fields with relatively high starting salaries for college—or high school—grads, and some with very low or no salaries. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in Economics to understand that the market is signaling that we need more people in the former and fewer in the latter. If students look through the list of high-paying, in-demand jobs (say in the Occupational Outlook Handbook

Board of Directors online), odds are that they can find something that appeals to them AND pays well. Problem solved. And if they don’t bother to look through that list, well, maybe they’ll get lucky and things will work out for them anyway. Or they might wind up living in mom’s basement. Do either of you want to risk that? So what can we do about it? We need to give our kids a big dose of cold, cruel reality as early as they can handle it. They need to understand that they personally need to figure out what they can do for which other people will voluntarily give them hard-earned cash. They need to graduate with skills that other people don’t have and are willing to pay for. And they need to understand that there are millions of kids in other countries willing to work for a lot less than Americans have come to take for granted. In other words: “Kid, you’re going to face serious competition for those good jobs, so get yourself prepared!”

Peter Balmert John J. Barber Dr. Donald L. Birx John Bloomstine Carl Carlotti Terrence Cavanaugh Rosanne Cheeseman Gary L. Clark Joel Deuterman Mary L. Eckert Thomas C. Hoffman Timothy Hunter Thomas Kennedy Charles G. Knight John P. Leemhuis John T. Malone James W. Martin

James E. Martin, Chair Michael P. Martin Marlene D. Mosco Jack A. Munch David Poor James Rutkowski Jr. Matthew Schultz Nick Scott Jr. John Skory Ronald A. Steele Noreen A. Stegkamper David M. Tullio Russell S. Warner Michael Weber Thomas J. Wedzik Scott Whalen R. Jason Wieczorek

President/CEO Barbara C. Chaffee

Vice President, Chamber Claudia K. Thornburg

The good news is that there are literally millions of people out there who are willing to help them win that competition. They’re called teachers, professors and parents. Our kids have the good fortune to have been born into a country that has a world-class higher education system, and where capital is relatively abundant. Those things can help them get a leg up on the competition. But each kid needs to figure out for herself what she can do for a career and then make it happen. And they must understand that they hold their future happiness in their own hands. Their choices now about whether to bother to learn math, science, economics, or a foreign language, will all have a very direct and personal impact on whether they will get to live the life they want or will have to settle for significantly less. Yeah, it’s not easy, but that’s why it pays well. Anyone can do the easy stuff. So don’t be “anyone.”

Vice President, Economic Development

Kids in grade school or even high school may be too young to understand this yet. But we CAN encourage them into programs like Junior Achievement and ACES’ Business Week, where they’ll learn key lessons at their own level. And kids sure seem to pick up on the work ethic from adults that they respect. And maybe the most important lessons are that money, a cell phone, cool clothes, and gasoline aren’t free, and that there isn’t always someone to bail you out if you make bad choices. In other words, YOU are personally responsible for your own success and happiness—or failure.

Contributing Writers

Dr. James A. Kurre Associate Professor of Economics Black School of Business Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

Jacob A. Rouch

Vice President, Growth Partnership Mary C. Bula

Staff Joelyn J. Bush, Director of Marketing & Communications Sara Galbreath, Sales Executive Julie B. Graff, Sales Executive Melanie A. Johnson, Erie Business Action Team Manager Doug M. Massey, Workforce Development Coordinator-Training Cathy Noble, Events Coordinator Benjamin C. Pratt, Director of Research Linda Robbins, Accountant Susan M. Ronto, Membership Coordinator

Editor Joelyn J. Bush

John Chacona Amanda Prischak Mark Toriski

Photo Contributors Ferralli Studios

Design Bensur Creative Marketing Group For Advertising Information: Julie Graff, Sales Executive (814) 454-7191 x 139 jgraff@eriepa.com


10 Re-Engineering Erie An Interview with Dr. John M. Ferretti, D.O. by John Chacona

ERIE Magazine

| October 2011

what’s inside

after hours We look forward to seeing you at these networking events for Chamber investors.

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New Investors

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Re-Engineering Erie

Interview with Dr. John M. Ferretti, D.O.

5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Quality Inn & Suites 8040 Perry Highway

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Staying the Course

Erie-based financial institutions weigh-in on our economy

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A Real World Education

How three organizations teach students how our economy works

November 10 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. The Regional Cancer Center 2500 West 12th Street

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New to the ERCGP? Never advertised in this exceptional publication? Scan this code for a special offer.

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5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Avalon Hotel 16 West 10th Street

Please RSVP to the Chamber at (814) 454-7191 x 146 or cnoble@eriepa.com

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welcome new investors Silver Investors Maple Donuts Erie Commercial bakery. Mr. Nat Burnside P.O. Box 409 | Lake City, PA 16423-1226 | (814) 774-3131

Arent Fox LLP A dynamic law firm with 26 practice groups and a recognized leader in areas including intellectual property, real estate, health care, life sciences and litigation. Mr. Phillip English 1050 Connecticut Avenue, NW | Washington, DC 20036-5339 (202) 857-6000

Intelmarx LLC Develops proprietary software applications paired with world-class services creating a complete enterprise solution helping your non-profit, faith-based group, institute of higher education or organization to use the new marketing channels to build relationships and grow a broader constituent base. Mr. George Sackandy 1331 12th Avenue, Suite 303 | Altoona, PA 16601 (814) 941-9218

New Investors American Heart Association - Erie Division Fighting heart disease and stroke. Ms. Gina Klofft 823 Filmore Avenue | Erie, PA 16505-4127 | (814) 836-0013

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BenchMark Technology Solutions Computer technology solutions for small and medium size businesses. Mr. Bob Klemm 1315 Peninsula Drive | Erie, PA 16505 | (814) 836-9456


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New Investors Bonded Services Janitorial, insurance repairs, carpet and upholstery cleaning, mold remediation, 3M window film. Mr. Randy Nyberg 4859 Pacific Avenue | Erie, PA 16506 | (814) 838-4979

Dovetail Solutions Creative solutions to meet all your staffing needs, including temporary, temporary-to-hire, contract and executive recruitment. Ms. Sue McKinney 1001 State Street, Suite 1400 | Erie, PA 16501 | (814) 480-5730

Chaffee Landscaping, Inc. Landscape design/build firm, maintenance, installation, hardscape planting, outdoor lighting, irrigation, ponds/waterfalls, snow plowing, construction and full outdoor services.

Erie Computer Company Erie’s original computer consultants. The region’s only apple store and service center. Printers, computers, servers, storage, networking and repair. Sells and services all major brands.

Mr. Douglas Chaffee 8296 Mill Street | Girard, PA 16417 | (814) 774-2804

Mr. Brian Seelinger 4225 Peach Street | Erie, PA 16509 | (814) 456-5600

Crotty Insurance Agency Independent agency established in 1984. All lines of coverage. Member of Western Pennsylvania Insurance Agencies Group.

Erie Summer Festival of the Arts A festival organized to promote excellence in the arts as a major way of improving and enhancing the quality of life for people of all ages within the Erie community.

Mr. Dennis Crotty 3132 Sterrettania Road | Erie, PA 16505 | (814) 833-0611 Doleski and Wolford Orthodontics PC Dr. Kenneth A. Doleski and Dr. Marian S. Wolford have been practicing together for over fifteen years. They treat the orthodontic needs of both children and adults and have three convenient locations in Erie, Lawrence Park and Corry. Ms. Kelly May 3230 West 38th Street | Erie, PA 16506 | (814) 835-3888

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Mr. Vince Palermo P.O. Box 3796 | Erie, PA 16508 | (814) 873-4261 Ferocious Media A full-service digital advertising solution provider serving local businesses in their pursuit to excel in online advertising. Mr. William Prieto One Boston Store Place | Erie, PA 16501 | (716) 203-1777

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New Investors First Data Merchant transaction processing services; credit, debit, private-label, gift, payroll and other prepaid card offerings; fraud protection and authentication solutions; electronic check acceptance services through TeleCheck; as well as Internet commerce and mobile payment solutions. The company’s STAR Network offers PIN-secured debit acceptance at ATM and retail. Mr. Wesley Wagner 670 Hess Avenue | Erie, PA 16503 (814) 769-0439 Friday & Cox, LLC Attorneys at Law A law firm practicing personal injury, workers compensation and social security disability in Erie County and Western Pennsylvania. Ms. Shelly Petronie 410 Cranberry Street, Suite 220 | Erie, PA 16507 (866) 462-9607 Grace Church Religious organization. Mr. Bernie Farabaugh 7300 Grubb Road | McKean, PA 16426 (814) 790-4973 Ext. 235 Iarussi Laundry Services We offer: Wash & fold service, comforter cleaning, pick-up and delivery, dry cleaning, linen rental, alterations, shirt laundry and also service several types of businesses. Mr. Ralph Iarussi 3050 West Lake Road | Erie, PA 16505 (814) 450-9358 IN Community Magazines & Media Direct mails full color, quarterly magazines uniquely created for the communities they serve. Readers enjoy the relevant, upbeat and local content and business advertising coming from their community. Mr. Derek Bayer 603 East McMurray Road | McMurray, PA 15317 (724) 942-0940 Millcreek Paramedic Services A non-profit ambulance service incorporated in 1999. Owned and governed by the five Millcreek Township Fire Departments, with an 80-year tradition of serving the emergency and medical transportation needs of Millcreek Township and surrounding communities. Mr. Brandon Kramer P.O. Box 9038 | Erie, PA 16505 (814) 836-8677

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New Investors Seaway Direct Specialty contractor - windows, doors, siding, sunrooms and awnings. Mr. Robert Troutner 2250 East 33rd Street | Erie, PA 16510 | (814) 899-9900 The Technology Council of Northwest PA A trade association of companies using technology to become globally competitive. Acts as a neutral third party counselor for technology deployment, aggregation of services and internet solutions, university partnerships and technology training. Ms. Garnet Maniscalco 130 West 8th Street | Erie, PA 16501 | (814) 459-6261 Tightwad Tobacco, LLC Retail Tobacco Store. Ms. Lisa Fleck 3518 Liberty Street | Erie, PA 16508 | (814) 790-4790

Trinity Electric Residential, commercial and industrial electric contractor. Mr. Rick L. Rindfuss 2807 Colonial Drive | Erie, PA 16506 | (814) 403-7387 Uncle Nick’s Greek Fried Chicken 56 years in business with five locations in north east Ohio and Pennsylvania. Specializing in Greek fried chicken, baby back ribs, gyros, salads and much more. Dine-in, carry out and catering for all your party needs. Mr. Dino Vardavas 1325 State Street | Erie, PA 16501 | (814) 790-5761 U.S. Bulk Transport Inc. With the largest network of terminals and logistical offices in the semi dump industry, U.S. Bulk Transport provides total environmental and industrial transportation solutions. Mr. James S. Uhrmacher 205 Pennbriar Drive | Erie, PA 16509 | (814) 824-9949

Tom Kaspick Consulting Professional industrial and commercial water treatment and consulting services. Mr. Tom Kaspick 3233 West 39th Street | Erie, PA 16506 | (814) 881-1916

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Re-Engineering Erie LECOM Works to Offset the “Brain Drain” An Interview with Dr. John M. Ferretti, D.O. Toward the end of the last century, a Western Pennsylvania city with an economy that had been dominated by heavy manufacturing for decades began to feel the winds of change. Factories that had flourished since the 19th Century were shuttered. Workers, many of whose ancestors had come from southern and Eastern Europe and the American South to work in those factories, found themselves without jobs. Population contracted. Poverty rose.

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By John Chacona

What does that mean for the communities where LECOM and its affiliates have a presence? To answer that question, LECOM and the health system – LECOM, Millcreek Community Hospital, Medical Associates of Erie, the Millcreek Geriatric Education and Care Center and the LECOM Medical Fitness and Wellness Center – recently commissioned Tripp Umbach, a Pittsburgh consulting firm, to conduct an economic impact study.

A coalition of community, political and business leaders convened to address the decline of the once-proud manufacturing hub and to make a plan to transform the city’s economy. That city was Pittsburgh, a place that was once the engine of the industrialized world. Today the energy sources for the economy of the Steel City are health care and education. The back-story should be familiar to any Erie resident over the age of 40. But what about the ending? Could Erie come together to engineer a Pittsburgh-style re-engineering of the local economy? “I think [we] can and I think [we] are,” says John M. Ferretti, D.O. president and CEO of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, and he should know. LECOM and its affiliate, Millcreek Community Hospital, have integrated the very economic sectors, education and health care, upon which the re-engineering of the Pittsburgh economy was based. Dr. Ferretti’s optimism is well founded. If growth is the ultimate goal, LECOM’s history offers a promising roadmap. Begun with just 60 students in a single building in 1992, LECOM now has campuses in Erie; Greensburg, PA; and Bradenton, FL that educate more than 3,000 students in medicine and pharmacy programs. In terms of enrollment, it is the largest medical school in the country.

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John M. Ferretti, D.O. President and CEO of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine

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Re-Engineering Erie continued.

Many of these volunteer hours are credited to the Bridging the Gaps program. Started by a consortium of Philadelphia-area medical schools, Bridging the Gaps shares valuable resources with the community. “We pay young students to basically do an internship in the summer to work with community organizations,” Dr. Ferretti says, “to provide highly-trained professionals – young student doctors and student pharmacists – to work with the underserved and disadvantaged, and it continues to grow on a yearly basis.” In economic terms, the volunteer work of all LECOM physicians, staff and students results in $2 million in annual community benefit.

If growth is the ultimate goal, LECOM’s history offers a promising roadmap. According to the study, that impact, direct and indirect, was $225 million dollars for Pennsylvania and $136 million in the Erie region, including nearly 1,000 direct jobs. While that last number is impressive quantitatively, it is the quality of the jobs that is most salient. The Tripp Umbach study found that the jobs created by the health system pay an average $7,800 more than the average job in this market. Dr. Ferretti also sees a non-economic benefit to the community. “A part of our mission is that the community truly is our campus. Our faculty, physicians and students work throughout the community in positions, hopefully to improve it.” He suggests that the system’s impact on the community be measured not just by financial resources, but by the many man-hours that students and faculty volunteer.

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The study placed the number of LECOM physician alumni practicing in the Erie region at nearly 150, producing a total economic impact of $327 million and another 2,840 local jobs. There are an equivalent number of LECOM pharmacy graduates in Erie County. Dr. Ferretti would like to see a greater acknowledgment of the role the system plays in the local economy. “We contribute to the economy via our workers and indirectly our business, also what we contribute to the cultural life of the community is important to recognize.”

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Re-Engineering Erie continued.

And many of these professionals stay in Erie – an example of “brain gain” that offsets the “brain drain” that is often spoken about. More is on the way for LECOM, which will open a dental school in Bradenton next summer with an entering class of 100 students. By 2016, Erie will benefit with a clinic where dental students and faculty will treat qualified individuals in an underserved area of the community. “We want to advance our system,” Dr. Ferretti says, “and obviously we’re trying to develop new educational programs that will complement our pharmacy and medical programs, which means growth in numbers. This new economic model includes using the community for the education of our students.” Asked what part LECOM and its affiliates can play in the economic growth of the region, Dr. Ferretti was decisive. “Our role is continued growth.” <

www.lecom.edu Photos Courtesy of LECOM

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Staying the Course Erie-based financial institutions weigh-in on how to better understand the roller coaster of our current economy while maintaining a strong investment portfolio

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There’s a famous quote from legendary stock investor/ businessman/philanthropist Sir John Marks Templeton that rings true perhaps now more than ever, “Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die on euphoria.” And while this quote paints a colorful metaphor, it also rather accurately runs the gamut of emotions and actions of investors, particularly those enduring the unusual market of the 21st century, which has been plagued by everything from numerous bubble bursts and a constant state of flux to political discourse and an often-shaky global market. And the roller coaster ride is far from over. “The financial markets recently experienced a level of volatility that had not been seen since the dark days of the global financial crisis,” says Mark Holcomb, CRPC, Vice President-Investments and Branch Manager for UBS Financial Services Inc., a silver level investor with the ERCGP, whose history in the Erie area dates back to its beginnings as Paine Webber Jackson & Curtis – a leading financial advisory firm operating locally on a national level – in 1951. “Market participants were forced to sort through a stream of weaker than expected economic data, an especially caustic political debate over the extension of a federal debt ceiling, the first downgrade of the U.S. sovereign credit rating from AAA, and a broadening of the Eurozone debt crisis to Italy and Spain.”

suggest that the upside is likely to be limited compared to the equity rally seen in the second half of 2010, and that downside risks remain.” But can investors make the most of their investments while strengthening their portfolios in such uncertainty?

“While volatility will likely ratchet lower in coming weeks,” he continues, “few of the catalysts that prompted the broad-based market sell-off have been fully addressed, let alone resolved. This suggests that markets will remain ‘choppy and sloppy’ in the short-to intermediate-term. With the global economy likely to avert a renewed recession and equity valuations at attractive levels, stocks would appear to have an upside from here. However, slow growth prospects and significant systemic risks

John Masterson, Senior Resident Director, Vice President for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, a silver level investor with the ERCGP – which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary in Erie by starting a $30,000 endowment fund through the United Way and Erie Community Foundation to benefit local charities – notes that managing your emotions may be the key to managing your investments during this time of economic hardship.

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Mark Holcomb, CRPC Vice President-Investments and Branch Manager for UBS Financial Services Inc.

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“The market is like a pendulum,” he states. “On one end you have Greed and the other, Fear, and it will swing toward one or another. We had Greed in line in 2006 and 2007, when we saw people with two or three mortgages and credit was free and in the clear. It was excessive and probably to a fault. Then it moved the other direction, where people were afraid to do anything in fear of what could happen. There is a natural reaction to what we’ve dealt with particularly in recent years. There was a desire for clients to get rid of risks and it is hard to argue with clients to not make an emotional decision that could ultimately harm them. We manage client expectations but we also try to manage their emotions and try to understand their risk tolerance. We need to meet in the middle at an emotional standpoint and a pure market standpoint.” Holcomb agrees. “We are recommending our clients stay the course and remain properly allocated among each of the major asset classes – stocks, bonds, cash, commodities, and alternative investments,” he says. “Of most importance is to allocate portfolios appropriately based on individual client willingness to take risk and their long-term investment goals and objectives. We help clients to not make drastic decisions based on emotions, but rather focus on the long-term goals rather than short-term decisions. We are constantly

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John Masterson, Senior Resident Director, Vice President for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

reassessing that to make sure people’s comfort levels are where they need to be. I’ve seen a lot of times when it is hard to stay invested with a plan when there are a lot of emotions. Most of the time these things usually work themselves out and calmer times will come. Emotions are a basic human element and we help take them out of the decision making.”


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Staying the Course continued.

And for those trying to ease their fears, there is solace to be taken in numerous factors keeping this financial crisis from reaching catastrophic levels. Holcomb points out that many large corporations have shown a higher cash reserve than during the financial crisis three years ago and, at present, the current S&P 500 dividend yield is at 2.2%, which is above the 1.9% yield of the ten-year Treasury bond – the first time this has occurred (with the exception of a four-month period in late 2008/early 2009) since 1958. Many investors are looking at this as a sign that dividends, particularly those of companies with a proven track record of paying dividends over a long period of time, will be much more resilient in the current cycle, unlike in early 2009 when this phenomenon signaled significant dividend cuts. “Right now, I wouldn’t call our market extremely bullish, but we are not bearish either,” says Masterson. “We are seeing a lot of volatility – the S&P downgrade, the U.S. debt, situations over in Europe, and probably a malaise just in belief of what our government will do in terms of setting up a vision of where we are going to get to; those will cause a lot of disturbances along the way, but will eventually work themselves out. Companies want to put that money to work but they want to have some certainty and once that happens, the stock market can bode well for that. When things are really good, they are probably not as good as you think they are, and when they are bad, they probably are not as bad as you think they are,” he continues. “Our job is to try and balance out that compliance. We can’t promise we know what’s ahead, but we can look to the past to draw some conclusions to make good decisions for the future.” <

Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Erie Location: 510 Cranberry Street. For more information, phone (814) 453-6811 or visit www.wealthmanagement.ml.com.

UBS Financial Services Inc. Erie Location: 100 State Street Suite 460. For more information, phone (814) 461-7000 or visit www.ubs.com.

Wells Fargo Advisors Erie Location: 100 State Street, Suite 100. For more information, phone 814-453-5021 or visit www.wellsfargoadvisors.com.

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The Wells Fargo history of providing a full-range of financial services to this region is strong and respected. The company’s presence in Erie dates back to the early-1960s, beginning with its predecessor firms. The first, Prescott Ball and Turben, was acquired by Kemper Corporation and became Kemper Securities in the early 1990s. Since then, through industry mergers and acquisitions, the brand has been Everen Securities, First Union Securities, and Wachovia Securities. In 2004, Wachovia merged with Prudential Securities, another prominent longtime Erie presence, and in 2008 the combined firm merged with Wells Fargo and Co, an investor with the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership.

Contributed by Greg Orlando, Senior Vice President, Branch Manager for Wells Fargo Advisors

Prescott Ball & Turben was opened in the old Marine Bank Building at 9th and State Streets by Robert Gittrich, a respected advisor and mentor in Erie for over 35 years. The Erie connection doesn’t stop there. James Boris, an Erie native raised and educated here, was Chairman and CEO of both Kemper Securities and Everen Securities. Headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, the firm known today as Wells Fargo Advisors is the successor to some of the most respected regional brokerage firms in the United States. With more than $1.1 trillion in retail client assets, Wells Fargo Advisors is the third-largest full-service provider of retail brokerage services in the U.S., (based on number of financial advisors) yet it retains the intense client focus and commitment to service that distinguished its predecessor organizations. Corporate social responsibility and community involvement are promoted at all levels of Wells Fargo. In 2010, Wells Fargo team members contributed 1.3 million volunteer hours to their communities. Locally, many of our associates contribute significant time to boards, commissions and non-profit organizations. As well in 2010, believing in community investments and partnerships, Wells Fargo invested a record $219 million in 19,000 non-profits. At Wells Fargo, we sincerely believe that “Together we’ll go far.” <

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A Real World Education How three local organizations teach students much-needed lessons about financial literacy and how our economy works Many students today graduate knowing how to perform complex algebra equations—but having no idea how to create a budget, make sense of the stock market or understand how the economy works. To help narrow this educational gap, three local nonprofits, each investors with the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, are working to ensure today’s students know how to meet real life challenges like discovering (or creating for themselves) a job that makes use of their talents and being good stewards of the money they make from it. Read on to learn how each organization is doing just that—and how you can help them further their missions.

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By Amanda Prischak

collaborates with Erie Times-News in Education to produce a special student financial literacy page that runs in the Erie Times-News and with the Erie Federal Credit Union and its financial literacy program.

Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania Though Junior Achievement (JA) has been around as a national organization since 1919, the Erie chapter only opened in 2006. Its mission: To help empower young people to own their economic success by offering a variety of in-schools programs to K-12 students in Erie and Crawford County schools. “Through interactive curriculum, we are opening students minds to how they might use their interests to make a living and handle their money responsibly,” says Gail Whitney, executive director of Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania. One of the most unique aspects of JA is that members from the business community volunteer to teach each session— which can happen over six weeks or in a single all-day event called “JA in a Day.” In addition to individual volunteers, companies such as GE Transportation send teams of employees to present lessons at a particular school. Other companies that partner with JA include PHB Inc., Reddog Industries, and LORD Corporation. JA also eriepa.com

The Junior Achievement program relies on the business community to volunteer to teach sessions.

That work pays off, with 80 percent of students who participate in JA say that it influenced the value of their education and helped them apply what they learned in school to the real world. What’s more, students who experience JA are significantly more likely to say they will graduate from high school and college. Then there are also phone calls that Whitney often receives: “I recently had a father call me who said he wanted his kids involved in JA because he didn’t want them to be an adult like he was before they are exposed to the concepts we teach,” she says. In five short years, Erie’s JA chapter has already reached 28,000 students. This year, they aim to increase that number by another 4,500. “There is no state testing mandate that says

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BizQuiz: Students compete in “BizQuiz”, a mini competition that allows them to show just how much they have learned during their week at PFEW.

financial literacy and workforce readiness be taught in the schools—so we need to make sure the next generation of Americans knows how to handle these matters better,” says Whitney.

Americans for the Competitive Enterprise System, Inc. Americans for the Competitive Enterprise System, Inc. (ACES) is the last chapter of a once national organization that was originally brought to Erie in 1956 by local business leaders who felt the community lacked knowledge about how the business world worked. Today, the organization continues to fulfill that mission by reaching out to schools in five northwestern Pennsylvania counties at no cost to the schools or to the students. ACES’ signature event is Pennsylvania Business Week, an intensive in-school program that lets student teams manage computer-simulated companies in order to teach them about the American economic system—and much more. “Pennsylvania Business Week is so hands-on,” says Val Laufenberg, ACES executive director. “They learn about everything from production to advertising, issuing stock to preparing income statements & balance sheets and about soft skills like teamwork and time management.”

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Students from Fort LeBoeuf High School Participate in ACES’s Pennsylvania Business Week.

Students share Laufenberg’s enthusiasm for the program: More than 90 percent say that Business Week raised their awareness of career opportunities, gave them a better understanding of how businesses operate and inspired their career path. Even after reaching 11,000 students since its inception, Laufenberg remains focused on expanding the program. “Most of the schools that invite us in are outside of Erie County, so we really want to have a bigger presence in our own county and in local city schools,” she says before issuing this promise. “Give us your class for a week, and we’ll make a big difference!”

Foundation for Free Enterprise Education What began as a tiny pilot initiative for Erie County students in 1979 has morphed into the largest program of its kind in the world—and it’s based right here in Erie. “The number two program is only half our size,” says John Trombetta, president and CEO of the Foundation for Free Enterprise Education (FFEE), the parent organization of the


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internationally-acclaimed Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW). “As the ‘granddaddy,’ we’ve helped other states and even countries get up and running with similar summer programs.” It’s easy to see why people the world over would want to start their own version of PFEW, which is known as one of the most academically challenging and intensive summer programs in the country. PFEW alone serves nearly 1,500 high school juniors and seniors annually from all over Pennsylvania during four, one-week sessions held on two college campuses in Williamsport, PA. The students spend an incredible 12 to 16 hours a day operating imaginary corporations through a computer simulation to realistically experience three simulated years as a manufacturing company’s senior management team. “The students really do it all,” says Trombetta. “They decide how many products to produce, how much to charge for them, where and how to market them, and how to report to shareholders, just as any real-life business management team would.” As if that weren’t enough, the students also squeeze in time to listen to dozens of speakers from diverse backgrounds discussing issues germane to today’s highly competitive global marketplace.

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Trombetta has plenty of anecdotal evidence that shows how one week can have positive reverberations throughout an attendee’s life. Take the example of Ryan Newman. He completed the program in 1994 and graduated first in his class at the Penn State Smeal College of Business before being hired by Goldman Sachs in Philadelphia. Today, he handles client portfolios in excess of $20 million, regularly volunteers for PFEW and has recently become the youngest member ever of FFEE’s Board of Directors. <

How you can help: Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania JA accepts donations and invites individual community members as well as company teams to present JA lessons in classrooms. (814) 898-6385; www.ErieJA.org Americans for the Competitive Enterprise System, Inc. ACES accepts corporate donations and invites members of the business community to serve as judges, advisors and speakers. They also recycle printer cartridges, laser cartridges, and old cell phones to raise additional funds. (814) 456-7007; www.aceserie.org Foundation for Free Enterprise Education FFEE accepts donations and invites members of the business community to serve as volunteer student team leaders, speakers and more. (814) 833-9576; www.pfew.org

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ERIE Magazine | October 2011  

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