Forget what other people say. Erie is great. You can be anything you want to be in Erie

I saw this article earlier in the week courtesy of Erie New Snow, and I admit it brought me down:

The headline was that out of 515 cities ranked according to 17 metrics in the two broad categories of “sociodemographics” and “jobs and economy” by Wallethub – a website of which I’d never heard but which is apparently a personal finance and Ted Brogan buzzkilling website – Erie, PA ranked last. Last. Out of 515!

Look. Ever since the world began to realize that dumping pollution into our atmosphere and waterways couldn’t continue in perpetuity, things began to change for Erie. We all know the story. Hammermill and most things like it around here shut down. GE downsized over the years from a small city all its own to something much less. Erie Coke kept dumping gnarly molecules all over the east side until it, too, shut down just recently.

We are not what we used to be. And much like the coal towns across Appalachia grew to identify with the coal jobs they simultaneously despised, many in Erie still miss our heavy industrial past like an amputated right arm.

In the past few decades, our incomes have fallen behind around here as we’ve tried but struggled to transition our city away from things like Hammermill and into – whatever it is we’re becoming. We’re trying. Most of us are trying. We aren’t there yet.

Now, there are some among us whom live to dump negativity on internet comment threads like so much air or water pollution from decades gone by. There are days when I feel that is our chief export, and by “days” I mean nearly every time I dare to look at Erie social media.

When I step away from the screen though and I look at the leaves falling down around here like nature’s subtle confetti or I catch a glimpse of the sunset disappearing over the bay that 99% of cities could only dream of having, I remember that this place has something that pencil-necks making models about “sociodemographics” can’t model.

My wife and I are making a life for our kids right here in this dead-last ranked city. We happen to love it here. People like me and all of us here at Idiotville are working hard to help everyone be able to look at this place and see what we already see: a rare gem tucked away in the corner of the state where you can do anything you want to do.

In recent years our city has worked so hard to tear down blighted property, develop our bayfront, work toward a comprehensive plan that is inclusive of underprivileged and underserved parts of our community for the first time – the list goes on. So I’m not going to let our current spot on some unfavorable city-ranking methodology keep me down.

Good things happen in Erie every day. Idiotville exists to highlight and amplify them. So without further ado (and this week, there’s been much more ado than usual), your Idiotville story of the week:

The Appalachian Regional Commission recently awarded $1.5 million to the NW PA Innovation Beehive Network, which provides entrepreneurial support and business guidance at four coordinated university labs, including Penn State Behrend’s Innovation Commons. The network partners — Penn State Behrend, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Gannon University and Mercyhurst University — will match that funding, generating $3 million in economic support for businesses.

Rob Frederick, Penn State Behrend.

If you need something positive to pick you up, head over to Idiotville and check out some good things that are happening. And have a great weekend.

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