Erie Delegation: $7.75 million coming to boost regional economy

State money to fund projects in Millcreek, Erie, Waterford

ERIE, April 22 – State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, D-Erie, today announced the approval of $7.75 million in funding for four economic development projects in Erie County. 

“These projects are crucial to the continued growth of Erie County,” Bizzarro said. “Supporting existing business so they can expand or repurposing old facilities for the new economy is how we will grow our economy and continue building a skilled workforce.” 

The Presque Isle Gateway project in Millcreek Township is getting $500,000 to better connect area businesses in the Colony Plaza and West Erie Plaza with Presque Isle State Park and Waldameer Park and Water World. Bizzarro brought legislative leaders to tour the West 8th Street corridor in 2019 and 2021, urging them to support the gateway plans. More on the project can be found here. 

“Millions of people visit us each year because of what we have right in our backyard, and they come with money to spend,” Bizzarro said. “This Gateway project will attract more customers to our local small businesses and continue to grow the economic impact the parks have on the region.” 

“We are thrilled with today’s announcement and allocation to begin work on the Gateway District plan,” said Kim Clear, a Millcreek Township supervisor. “We are looking forward to continued grant funding from the state to complete the vision of the Presque Isle Gateway District. We are thankful to Representative Bizzarro and our entire state delegation for their hard work on bringing these competitive dollars back to our community.” 

Also approved was $4 million for the Erie County Redevelopment Authority for development of the former Erie Malleable Iron plant, a 19th Century foundry and machine shop that’s being rebuilt into a 21stCentury high-tech business park. Bizzarro, Harkins and Merski brought fellow legislators to tour the property in 2021, explaining the vision and need for state investment. 

“This EMI project doesn’t happen without considerable investment and having the backing of the governor is a boost to what we’re doing in Erie,” Harkins said. “Transforming an icon of Erie’s economic past into an economic driver of the future is a great use of these dollars.”  

Merski said, “Erie’s next generation of manufacturers need to be able to hit the ground running, and this investment will allow us to put infrastructure in place so they have ready access to the facilities they require. I applaud the work of Tina Mengine and the Erie County Redevelopment Authority for their strong application for this grant.” 

“We are deeply grateful to Governor Wolf and the entire Erie Delegation for their support and vote of confidence in the EMI redevelopment project,” said Tina Mengine, the authority’s CEO. “It’s a good day for Erie economic development.” 

Additional funding in today’s announcement includes $1.5 million to revitalize Gannon University’s Hammermill Center, now known as the Highmark Event Center, in downtown Erie. The center is home to several community events, concerts, athletic tournaments and other public gatherings, bringing in visitors from across the region. 

“New funding for this project complements the work of the Erie County Redevelopment Authority in revitalizing downtown,” Merski said. “The center’s revitalization is going to enhance the facilities for students and attract more visitors to the downtown area for events, shopping and dining – all of which aligns with the goals of the city’s comprehensive plan.” 

“We are extremely grateful to the governor and our delegation of state legislators for this continued support of Gannon’s efforts to transform lives and our downtown community,” said Gannon University President, Keith Taylor, Ph.D. “We are excited for their investment that will join those made through the partnership between Gannon and Highmark to renovate the Highmark Events Center. These contributions will create a meaningful impact on the experience of our Gannon students and benefit the Erie community for years to come.”

Another project approved included $1.75 million for Shearer's Foods Waterford LLC in Waterford Township to construct a building to house and enable the production of a baked chip line. 

“We have worked hard to make sure projects like these get the attention of the governor and legislative leaders in Harrisburg,” Bizzarro said. “Our delegation may only represent a portion of Erie County, but we know that when the region wins large state investments like this, we all benefit.” 

These project investments were approved by Gov. Tom Wolf through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, with another dozen projects statewide that will support critical expansion projects, provide opportunities for job creation and employment training, and community development and revitalization. 

“Every one of these projects funded will make a real, meaningful difference in our communities and the lives of those who live there,” Wolf said. “It’s an honor to support Pennsylvania’s future success through these investments.” 

Photos from the 2021 tour by legislative leaders of the EMI and Presque Isle Gateway projects: