The editorial in the Jan. 21 Register generated a good bit of discussion within and throughout the membership of the Executive Board of GEM. First and foremost, the executive board members are always pleased to have recognition that the work we do is useful. The recent announcement of potential financial support, as articulated by the Erie County Commissioners, is in our opinion just that -- recognition of the fact that economic development is essential to the growth of our county and our region and, in turn, that GEM is a leader in doing precisely this type of work.
The notion that a private entity, like GEM, could or should have a very public "center stage," is an obvious truth. As the lead economic development arm of this county, GEM does provide a center stage for economic development. As is becoming more obvious to many in the community, GEM is the leader in this field and, thus, the group garnering the largest amount of monetary support for growth and expansion work. This level of support was made quite real with the more than $1.3 million received as the capital campaign for the future of GEM recently came to fruition. Both local businesses and individuals, as well as regional agencies, committed heavily to GEM and, for that, all involved with the organization are appreciative.
So, as to the future for public invested dollars, here is the big picture. The strategic plan for GEM is both comprehensive and well articulated. We urge all readers to examine that plan (gem.org/Strategic%20Plan.htm) and make a personal judgment as to the accuracy of said statement. That plan will, plain and simple, be the driving force for all actions that move GEM forward. The strategic plan will guide investment strategies for public and private dollars as well. As was recently noted by several media outlets, GEM, just a few months ago, employed Angelou Economics to assess the industrial/corporate strengths and weakness of our county. These strengths and weaknesses were examined specifically from the viewpoint of a site consultant. Angelou's report will soon be released for public review. It is our hope and belief that this report will lead to a second phase of work that is targeted even more specifically toward industry clusters that can, should, and will be attracted to this area. Again, public funds will be used in that marketing pursuit, as will private funds.
In closing, any discussion about GEM is a positive one -- to quote an old and hackneyed phrase, all press is good press. However, as the discussion moves forward about economic development in our county, we are hopeful that the entire picture surrounding the topic is properly unfolded for the citizenry. In essence, the answer to the headline "What does GEM want to do with tax money?" is simple: GEM will bring marketing back, as a central feature, to the name it holds: Greater Erie Marketing.
To that end, let us all be committed to accountability. GEM will be accountable to and for good stewardship of governmental and private sector dollars and, likewise, news outlets will be accountable to publish and highlight the successes resulting from those dollars dispersed by GEM. Together we can move forward for the betterment of our region - stacking those proverbial bricks in tandem, not in polarized opposition!
James M. Smith, President
Andrew D. White, Vice President
Board of Directors
Greater Erie Marketing Group, Inc.
247 Columbus Avenue