Erie’s transformation is well underway! Evidence of this has been well documented by the “Erie Times News” and other local media. It was felt by the large crowd in attendance for the much-anticipated groundbreaking of Harbor Place.
We see first-hand evidence as the beams go up at the UPMC and Saint Vincent Health Center, as LECOM expands and takes its place as a national leader in health care education. And, we are all grateful for the presence of Erie Insurance — our Fortune 500 Company — leading the charge with the creation of the Erie Downtown Development Corporation.
For all intents and purposes, Erie is becoming ‘Refocused’ on the future growth and prosperity of our wonderful city and county. I’m convinced that this is our moment and we must seize every opportunity to make it count. We need to think big and leave no opportunity behind.
Well before I was elected the State Senator for the 49th District, I was intrigued by a law passed in 2013 that provided for the designation of City Revitalization and Improvement Zones (CRIZ). I believe so strongly in this that as soon as I was sworn in as Senator I sent a letter to the Governor requesting a CRIZ for Erie.
You may recall, the City of Erie applied for CRIZ designation shortly after the legislation was enacted. While Erie was not chosen for a CRIZ at that time, I expected the city to try again (and again, if necessary) since the benefits to this designation are — in my opinion — transformational.
How could our local development efforts benefit from a designation of a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone?
Simply put, many of the state tax dollars resulting from the expansion of our economic development would be directly returned to the community for reinvestment. If we act quickly, a baseline established by the vacant land that will soon become Harbor Place, would allow much of the state tax dollars generated by that investment to be returned to the local community for more expansion, more economic development and more jobs. It allows for community control of new taxes generated.
Those taxes currently being paid to the state do not decrease, but the taxes generated by our new investment would stay here. This program has proven to be successful for cities like Lancaster and there is little doubt that it could work for us too.
Existing state law allows for up to two new CRIZ designations each year, but there have been no new zones created under Governor Wolf. Thus, my first official act as Senator was to ask him to consider Erie for CRIZ status. I recently sent another letter to the Governor asking him to pick up the phone and let our city know he supports a CRIZ for Erie.
Senate Leadership on both sides of the aisle have agreed that a Revitalization and Improvement Zone would be timely and beneficial to Erie. Given that encouragement, I remain committed to doing whatever is in my power to make this a reality and see the benefits it could bring to our city, especially the Bayfront and Downtown Improvement areas.
Let me reiterate that I will do everything in my power as a Pennsylvania State Senator to champion this application through the Department of Community and Economic Development. I will work tirelessly to see that Erie receives the additional jumpstart it deserves.
I cannot, however, do this alone. I pledge my utmost support, but the application must be generated by City officials. I am hopeful that the Mayor and other community leaders will join me in realizing the benefits of this designation.
We have a very short window to file this application and get it approved. Every day that goes by and every new development that begins affects the baseline and thus the bottom-line of what we stand to gain.
History will judge us on this moment in time. Will this be the moment when we revert back to status quo? Or will this be the moment when Erie finally breaks free of its rusty past and emerges as the shining vibrant City by the Bay?
Contact: Matt Azeles firstname.lastname@example.org