Earlier this year, the Erie region completed three years of work resulting in a remarkable achievement, the creation of Destination Erie: A Regional Vision. Thousands of residents participated in our first fully comprehensive, community-driven plan to guide the region toward a more prosperous and resilient future.
Recent news stories have reinforced the need for a comprehensive strategy to address our challenges: the city of Erie’s population ducking below the 100,000 mark for the first time since 1920, the region holding its collective breath throughout GE Transportation contract negotiations, volunteer fire companies struggling to keep their doors open, and the all too frequent tragedies resulting from gun violence. Though not all of these will affect us individually, there is no more denying that the Erie region’s fate is a shared one. These disheartening events do not define our region, but they must serve as call to action for all of us.
In the planning process, Erie residents articulated a vision for our future where businesses, neighborhoods and families thrive; where education is valued and seen as a pathway to success and fulfillment; where the natural environment is conserved for future generations; and where communities are livable and connected both within the county and the larger Great Lakes region. To achieve this aspirational and wide-ranging vision, the Destination Erie plan contains more than 40 recommendations on a variety of topics, from environmental preservation to economic growth.
Now that the plan is complete, the exciting and challenging work of implementation has begun. To mark this new chapter and ensure that the collaborations developed during the planning phase turn into meaningful action, the Destination Erie leadership created Emerge 2040. Emerge 2040 is working to nurture initiatives that align with the plan, celebrate and measure Erie’s progress, and find creative ways to fund this work. The new name signifies the growth, vibrancy and potential our region will achieve over the 25-year horizon of the plan.
“Folks need to work together,” commented a participant in one of the Destination Erie public meetings, straightforwardly echoing the view of many others who called for collaboration among municipalities, businesses, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations. The Emerge 2040 Steering Committee, established to oversee the direction of the plan’s implementation, includes municipal leaders from throughout Erie County as well as representatives who have expertise in each of the eight focus areas of the plan.
As a limited liability company under the umbrella of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, Emerge 2040 will provide administrative capacity to support this work, thanks to the initial financial support of organizations including the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, Erie County, the city of Erie, GE Transportation, ErieEvents and the Erie Regional Airport Authority.
In the few months following the Destination Erie release, it has been extremely rewarding to see organizations and individuals embrace the plan. For example, partnerships are forming to tackle specific recommendations, such as preparing an educated and trained workforce, preserving our region’s historical assets, and adapting to a changing climate. Organizations such as DevelopErie, the Erie Downtown Partnership, and the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership are considering how they can adopt the plan’s principles in their own strategic planning, which will magnify its impact.
We are working closely with the city of Erie, the Erie Redevelopment Authority and others to employ proven tools to fight residential blight and to ensure that homeowners have access to the funding programs that can help them improve their properties. A growing group of residents, neighborhood organizations and government agencies are coming together to enhance access to fresh, healthy and local foods in the county’s food deserts. The Jefferson Educational Society is facilitating dialogue between municipal leaders and promoting civic leadership through its Jefferson Alliance for Community Progress. The Erie County administration is leading an effort to create a federally designated Marine Sanctuary in Lake Erie, which would be a boon to the tourism industry, enrich education for Erie County students and help preserve the lake’s unique biodiversity.
As new alliances are formed to build on the plan’s recommendations and new funding sources are secured, the ways in which Erie will utilize and advance the Emerge 2040 goals will grow. I urge you to review the plan at www.emerge2040.org, to follow our progress via social media and to reach out to discuss ways in which you can get involved in securing a stronger future for Erie and the Great Lakes region.
ANNA FRANTZ became the executive director of Emerge 2040 after serving as the project manager of Destination Erie. She has a graduate degree in urban planning and previously worked for New York City and Peabody, Mass. (email@example.com).
August 9, 2015