Our view: Erie due for cross-generational change

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12376111_10208072365589639_7672455053656069717_nMove over, baby boomers. Millennials now outnumber baby boomers in Erie County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Actually, there’s no need for one generation to elbow another out of the way, according to ErieCoLab, a new group that launched on July 4.


“This is a time like no other in Erie — millennials, Gen Xers and boomers coming together to support positive, progressive leadership, transparency and genuine collaboration,” said Beth Zimmer, co-founder of the Innovation Collaborative and one of 16 steering committee members of ECL.

Erie is often assumed to be an aging community, reluctant to embrace change. But according to the Census Bureau, millennials make up 27.5 percent of the county’s population, slightly ahead of the 26.1 percent from the baby boom generation. That puts the region in line with the national trend, in which millennials now outnumber boomers, 83.1 million to 75.4 million.

The Pew Research Center counts millennials as anyone born after 1980. Others have a broader or narrower date range for millennials. Pew has found that millennials are “racially diverse, economically stressed and politically liberal,” although they are more likely to identify themselves as political independents rather than with a political party. Pew also found that millennials are “confident, connected, open to change” — the very characteristics Erie needs to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

In addition to Zimmer, the ECL steering committee includes Chris Conrad, DaWayne Cleckley, Jonathan D’Silva, Sean Fedorko, Brad Ford, Michael Mahler, Tiffany McCloud, Tashana Pulliam, Rob Mahrt, Ben Speggen, Bigg Wash, Adam Williams, Rebecca Ann Styn, Jon Whaley and Lisa Austin.

This is a remarkably diverse group —- by gender, age, race and occupation — and although Austin has run for Erie County Council and Styn and Whaley for Erie City Council, the group is not asking for “money or votes,” according to its mission statement, “but rather your opinions, questions and ideas.”

ErieCoLab “was born of a widely shared desire for improvement in Erie,” said Conrad, director of VCG Properties, which is redeveloping the West Erie Plaza. “Each member has their own story, passion and inspiration for getting involved. For me, it was falling in love with Erie’s sense of community after moving here in 2009, inviting input on the West Erie Plaza development and learning just how energized and intimately connected its supporters would be, and hearing the immense resolve that has been building in response to recent negative headlines.”

Members communicated via Facebook, e-mails and texts, and “two meetups later, we have quickly grown into one of the more widely represented groups in Erie,” Conrad said. ECL doesn’t have a particular project on its agenda. Rather, it “will serve as a platform more than a mouthpiece,” he said. Learn more at facebook.com/groups/ericolab or e-mail stepup@eriecolab.com.