Erie May Become Model for Federal Opportunity Zones
Key leaders with a vision for revitalizing Erie in eight federal opportunity zones will tell the city's story to several federal departments and agencies in Washington, D.C. Thursday.
The White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council has noticed Erie and wants to make it a model.
John Persinger, CEO of EDDC said, "The fact that Erie is on the white house's radar and the fact that they're willing to get us into other administrative agencies is a great compliment to all the work that's been done here on the ground by all the public and private sector actors."
State Senator Dan Laughlin making the trip with the delegation said, "They basically I think want to make Erie a poster child for how these are supposed to work and they way I translate that that means we're going to get some good federal help."
Erie's honesty about the challenge it faces and its aggressive marketing through the Pennsylvania Flagship Opportunity Zone has made a splash nationwide.
Senator Laughlin asked Erie leaders to identify and pitch seven or eight key projects that could align all federal spending in opportunity zones.
The list adds up to millions of dollars.
$800,000 for broadband deployment
$76 million for Bayfront Parkway improvements to connect to downtown
$56 million for downtown Erie streetscape improvements
$47 million for bayfront infrastructure at the former GAF site
$32 million for the 12th Street industrial corridor
$30 million for tech labs for Erie's Public Schools
$23 million for Presque Isle transportation upgrades
$450,000 annually for Unified Erie Re-entry program for inmates
Plus support for shovel ready EDDC projects such as North Park Row LLC.
Tim Wachter of Knox Public Strategies said, "You know the programs that have been put together represent the entirety of the community, the entirety of the opportunity zones and uh I think are a good representation of what we have to offer."
Karl Sanchack, Pres/CEO of Erie Innovation District added, "And we think the government will see that and say well we can take the model that is occurring in Erie and make this happen in every other city that's like Erie in the United States."
The goal is to attract federal matching money for private investment already underway in Erie, including the $27.5 million in the EDDC private equity fund.
Matt Wachter, VP Finance & Development EDDC said, "Hopefully we can begin to spur some serious interest about looking to invest in our community from the public side as we are from the private."
Brett Wiler, Director of Capital Formation for the Flagship Opportunity Zone said, "We're going to see or gauge their interest in really making Erie a laboratory for these public opportunity zone initiatives."
The group does not expect answers on financial commitments immediately, but because President Donald Trump has made the success of Opportunity Zones a top priority, the group is optimistic. Erie News Now will follow developments from the Washington, DC trip on Thursday.