I love this city. All I ask is that those of you who don’t, keep your thoughts to yourself and let the rest of us flaunt our strengths.
Today we’re on the front page of the New York Times. Recently, we were the location of a Discovery Channel’s reality TV show that’s making all sorts of headlines. Last spring, Scott Slawson, the president of GE’s labor union spoke at Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign announcement.
Whether we know it or not, we are under the watchful eye of the country—smack dab in the middle of the next presidential election—out in the open for all of the country to see.
Let’s flaunt our assets.
A diamond in the rough
I worked at City Hall for twenty years. I continually said we can’t compete with southern cities where wind chills hardly dip below freezing, but we can compete with other northern cities.
We are two hours from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Four from Toronto and Columbus. Six from Baltimore and Washington D.C. Eight hours, give or take, from Chicago, New York City, and Boston. Our location is one of our greatest assets.
We have fresh water, a Great Lake, beaches, the bayfront, Peninsula, three colleges at our fingertips, a fortune 500 company adding to our downtown tax base, impressive small-town culture venues, a plethora of nearby wineries, Knowledge Park, the Gannon Business Development Center, a multitude of innovative start-up companies, a lot of energy, and deep-rooted hope.
We’re tough. We don’t hibernate in the winter, and we celebrate summer as well as any other city with concerts and events happening every single day all over town. We know how to live.
Let’s sell ourselves!
Erie needs its most outgoing, positive, intelligent business, political, and economic leaders to set up a team and sell our city. The team can’t be comprised of good old boys. It must be energetic men and women who love this city. People who have built thriving businesses or led successful Erie events—and not just on paper. (Anyone can fudge results.)
I’ll say it again because this is vital. I have three children who moved out of Erie to secure decent, living-wage jobs. All three are educated beyond college. We must find ways to keep our kids here. There are some great new start-up companies in Erie. Let’s support them. When we devise our sales team, bring some of these entrepreneurs to the table.
This, today, is an opportunity for our political and economic leaders to step up to the plate. We need one unified organization that will work for the good of the entire city—not a multitude of organizations and teams working for themselves.
I can suggest names of a few successful, energetic Erieites I’d like to see on our city’s sales team: Mayor Joe Schember (he loves this city as much as I do), business-woman Michelle Griffith-Aresco (sorry, Michelle, I know how busy you are), United Way’s Laurie Root, the Children’s Art Museum’s Ainslee Brosig.
Do you have ideas? I invite you to add names in the comments.
CJ Zahner has lived in Erie her entire life. She retired from the City of Erie to pursue her dream of writing. She is the author of The Suicide Gene, Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream. See the video of her 9/11 premonition which inspired two novels. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast, and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.