ERIE, Pa. — After facing criticism over costs, a lower priced plan to attract jobs to Erie County moves forward.
Erie County Council passed an amended Ordinance Number 90, 2017 with a six-to-one vote on Tuesday. The vote approves funding for the “Up for the Job” initiative, which faced some criticism.
Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper presented the proposal to Council last month with a plan to retain the county’s workforce and attract businesses.
The proposal was initially presented to to the Council for a cost of $102,000 for 12 months of service from a marketing firm.
During Tuesday’s regular council meeting, the ordinance was amended and approved for $36,000 for six months of work. That matched the figures detailed during the bidding process, which began in March.
Ten 53 Newton, LLC was selected from among three bids to do the project. The firm’s responsibilities would include research and launching an advertising campaign to promote the region’s skilled labor.
Scott Slawson, president of UE Local 506, has lobbied for such an initiative for more than a year.
“We’re watching our population dwindle in this area,” he said. “We’re watching our children leave. And we’re watching the necessary skills that we have leave just like manufacturing has over the years.”
But according to Gary Lee, the county’s director of administration, that could now change.
“Instead of putting things off for down the road, we’re excited that we’re going to get an opportunity to do it, right now,” he said.
Several notable organizations already work toward job creation. Some of them, including the Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership, support the initiative.
However, Councilman Ed DiMattio, who gave the sole “no” vote, wonders if the plan is the best solution.
“There are 17 to 18 different groups in Erie County who say they do economic development,” he said. “We tend to trip over each other and step on each other’s toes.”
Council Chairman Jay Breneman said, “The great thing about this is that multiple organizations are supporting this effort. It’s not just one agency saying: ‘Hey, I’ve got the magical solution. Give me money and I’m going to go out and do it.’”
Lee agreed, saying, “It’s bringing together entities that have never been brought together before to work on one initiative to really get jobs for the men and women in this great region.”
Slawson, whose union represents GE Transportation employees that will soon face layoffs, said, “Nobody is better equipped to speak for labor than labor itself. So, we’re hoping this new, fresh approach actually attracts some good family-sustaining jobs to the area.”