Washington, D.C. – Over the last two days, the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) joined community leaders, investors, government officials, and national experts in Erie, Pennsylvania, for “Erie Homecoming 2019 – Unlocking Capital in Legacy Cities,” to recognize the city’s success in leveraging Opportunity Zones to spur a renewal of its downtown and pioneer a new framework of economic development. Erie has become a model for the type of institutional innovation and community collaboration that can put Opportunity Zones to transformative use in struggling areas of the country.
On Monday, Fortune 500 company Erie Insurance, the city’s largest employer, announced its new $50 million Opportunity Fund. The first investment will support the creation of a food hall for nine local vendors; one of the 14 projects and businesses that Erie’s Flagship Opportunity Zone Co. announced last month. The food hall will anchor a broader $30 million transformation of the city’s North Park Row into a culinary arts district, which project sponsors Erie Downtown Development Corporation anticipate will create approximately 240 jobs.
Today, the Erie Innovation District and CapZone Impact Investments announced a partnership to invest in early-stage equity in IT and cyber-security startups through the Secure Erie Accelerator. To do so, they are launching a $10 million Opportunity Fund, the Secure Accelerator Fund Erie (SAFE), with approximately 70 investments are anticipated over the coming years.
“Opportunity Zones are a tool to unlock the potential of American communities and rebuild areas that have struggled with disinvestment and decline. That’s the story here in Erie,” said EIG President and CEO John Lettieri, a keynote speaker at Erie Homecoming 2019. “The announcements this week prove that with the right marriage of local collaboration and smart federal policy, great things are possible. And we believe Erie is just getting started.”
“Opportunity Zones have transformed the conversation in Erie,” said Erie Downtown Development Corporation (EDDC) CEO John Persinger. “Opportunity Zones have allowed EDDC to do more, at an accelerated pace, and have provided an incentive to engage institutional investors that would not have otherwise seen our potential. I have never been more optimistic about the future of our city, and having leaders throughout the nation join us this week to celebrate our progress will provide continued momentum.”
Erie has faced significant socioeconomic challenges in recent decades. From 2007 to 2016, the county of Erie lost more than 4,000 jobs and 400 business establishments. The most distressed zip code in Pennsylvania is located in Erie, according to EIG’s Distressed Communities Index, which measures the economic health and vitality of American communities. Erie is addressing these challenges head-on by bringing together community, business, philanthropic, and political leaders to develop a strategy using Opportunity Zones to serve the city’s residents and meet the community’s needs.
Erie Homecoming 2019 featured presentations, interactive discussions, and workshops designed to highlight Erie’s high-potential investment opportunities and impactful community outreach. Secretary Benjamin Carson (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Erie Mayor Joe Schember, Tom Hagen (Chairman, Erie Insurance), Rick Jacobs (CEO, Accelerator For America), and Bruce Katz (Director, Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University) all participated as speakers, among many others.
EIG will host a public webinar with the Erie Downtown Development Corporation on August 27 to review Erie’s approach to Opportunity Zones and highlight announcements from Erie Homecoming 2019.
About the Economic Innovation Group (EIG)
The Economic Innovation Group (EIG) is an ideas laboratory and advocacy organization whose mission is to advance solutions that empower entrepreneurs and investors to forge a more dynamic American economy. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., and led by an experienced, bipartisan team, EIG convenes leading experts from the public and private sectors, produces original research, and works to advance creative legislative proposals that will bring new jobs, investment, and economic growth to communities across the nation. For more information, visit eig.org.