Erie County leaders received a wake-up call from an economic development expert last week. Now, the question is, do they have the will and ability to heed it?
Angelos Angelou delivered an epitaph for Erie County by saying the area has been “on a long path of decline” for the last 20 years and will continue along this path unless something dramatic is done to change our course.
He cited an eroding population and manufacturing base as indicators that positive changes are needed, and needed quickly, to keep the area from becoming even more economically stagnant.
Angelou delivered his “hard-truth” message along with his company’s strategic action plan to the Erie County Economic Development Corp., which paid for the study.
The entire report is available here and contains key points for an economic road map to recovery for the area. It addresses our need to work closely with existing manufacturing, supporting new and emerging technologies and businesses, and — perhaps, most importantly — working together as a region for the benefit of all.
Once you cut to the chase, the study is about jobs.
Jobs that pay good wages and help build strong communities.
The kind of jobs that allow families to own their own home and keep gasoline in their vehicles.
The kind of jobs that allow residents to take advantage of the many recreational opportunities our funcoast region affords, rather than working for minimum wage in the tourist industry.
The kind of jobs that our local leaders have had a difficult time retaining, let alone attracting to the area in these challenging times.
Although the tourism industry has supported our local economy, “tourist jobs do not pay manufacturing wages,” Angelou said.
He’s right. But what can we do about it?
If economic development were as easy as paying for another study and beating our chest, every city and community throughout the Rust Belt would be on board. Competition for jobs, whether its from other cities, states or countries, is the name of the game.
After all, “the rest of the country, the rest of the world, is not sitting still,” Angelou said in his call to action.
Economic development starts with leadership and vision, two areas we’ve been sorely lacking.
We need our county commissioners and ECEDC to provide that leadership and vision, to bring all of the region’s elected officials together and to break down barriers, seek solutions and ultimately work together to solve our economic development deficiencies.
Now isn’t a time for more studies, political infighting and wastes of taxpayer money.
Now it’s time to roll our sleeves up and get to work. Now it’s a time to scratch and fight and compete for every business park, for every brownfield redevelopment, for every emerging technology, for every state and federal grant, and for every job.
Now it’s a time for leaders and vision, and some action for a change.
We will continue to beat the drum on these pages for a regional approach to economic development as well as government efficiency while highlighting the region’s progress and failures.
The future — our future — is coming Erie County. Let’s work together to make it bright.