“Erie’s Time is Now”: Erie Homecoming features Early Marks of Success in Opportunity Zones

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By: Rachel Reilly, Director of Impact Strategy at EIG

While working to reinvest in some of the nation’s most distressed zip codes, Erie has made national headlines by taking an approach to Opportunity Zones that is centered on collaboration and innovation. The Economic Innovation Group joined approximately 300 community leaders, investors, government officials, and national experts for “Erie Homecoming 2019 – Unlocking Capital in Legacy Cities” this week to celebrate the city’s progress in seeding the redevelopment of their downtown and fostering an ecosystem for entrepreneurs and technology startups. During the event, two new Opportunity Funds announced $60 million in committed investments, inspiring others to make commitments of their own. 

Erie has harnessed the power of Opportunity Zones to build momentum as the city moves from an era of decline to increased investment following a period of stagnation. From 2007 to 2016, the county of Erie lost more than 4,000 jobs and 400 business establishments. Pairing the federal tax incentive with a strong vision for economic revitalization has allowed city leaders to engage national and local investors in order to accelerate their timeline for bringing new jobs and businesses back to the community. 

During the event, Erie Homecoming 2019 hosts Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, Accelerator for America, KPMG, and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth led a guided tour highlighting many of the 14 projects and businesses listed in the Flagship Opportunity Zone Co. investment portfolio and investment prospectus. Throughout the event, community leaders shared their vision for the future of Erie and how they are directly engaging with Opportunity Zones, such as: 

  • The city’s largest employer, Erie Insurance, announced its new $50 million Opportunity Fund and their first investment to support the creation of a food hall for nine local vendors. The food hall will anchor a broader $30 million transformation of the city’s North Park Row into a culinary arts district, which the Erie Downtown Development Corporation anticipates will create approximately 240 jobs. 
  • The Erie Innovation District and CapZone Impact Investments announced their partnership to launch a $10 million Opportunity Fund, the Secure Accelerator Fund Erie (SAFE), to invest early-stage equity in IT and cyber-security startups through the Secure Erie Accelerator. The announcement was followed by presentations from accelerator businesses; a number of which are led by minority and/or women entrepreneurs.

Mike Batchelor, president of The Erie Community Foundation, best captured the city’s optimistic outlook in his remarks saying, “I’ve seen revitalization efforts come and go over the decades, but I have never been more optimistic about our future. Erie’s time is now”. 

For more information, read EIG’s press release and register for our August 27 webinar on which guest speaker John Persinger, CEO of the Erie Downtown Development Corporation, will provide an in-depth discussion on Erie’s economic growth strategy and approach to Opportunity Zones. 

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