We've urged forcefully in this space for a united economic development effort in Erie County. For too long city competed against county, which competed against Greater Erie Marketing, and they all seemed to be at odds with what was happening in townships. This us-against-them mentality is a key part of why we sit here today with a declining population, declining jobs and shrinking tax revenues -- meaning everyone has to pay more to receive less benefit.
County commissioners Nancy McKeen and Bill Monaghan are part of the "gang of eight" that a few weeks ago proposed a central office for the county that would include development officers from the city, the county and GEM to facilitate a county-wide development effort.
Doug Phares, publisher of the Register and a member of this editorial board, also is one of the gang of eight that made the Grow Erie County proposal. Others included a Cedar Point executive, two city commissioners and the chief financial officer of Firelands Regional Medical Center.
Today, Commissioner Tom Ferrell returns to duty after nearly two months off because of a medical condition. Ferrell earlier this week declined to comment on the proposal but promised a statement today.
We hope, but are not confident, Ferrell will offer support for Grow Erie County and that his support translates into a vote to move forward. If it's not that, we hope Ferrell offers his alternative vision and not simply more lip service to failed efforts of the past.
Ferrell has long been a supporter of GEM, but tweaking the county's relationship with that agency will amount to nothing more than tweaking the status quo. What's needed now is bold leadership, and we hope Ferrell, McKeen and Monaghan offer that by putting the Grow Erie County proposal on the agenda for thorough discussion before scheduling it for a vote.
Grow Erie County will not move forward without a majority vote from the commissioners.
The county's development efforts to date have been an abysmal failure, and half-efforts, infighting and territorialism have not served county residents. The Grow Erie County proposal represents an opportunity for commissioners to launch a public discussion and move to decisively begin to fix what's broken.
The Erie County Chamber of Commerce already has begun that discussion and has brought together the city, county and township employees who will be needed to make a "one-stop" development office work. We hope chamber members continue to push what's been started.
Commissioners need to give this ongoing discussion their stamp of approval, but they also must not pass the buck on what needs to be done now. The chamber will not ultimately approve or vote down a 21st century development office for the county; commissioners will.
For too long, it seems, the county's development efforts have consisted of half-steps, missteps and missed opportunities that have been more successful at securing a scapegoat rather than securing a future for residents.
Be bold; do it now.