Business, economic development and community leaders voice strong support for 5/4 CRIZ authority model
Erie Insurance President & CEO Tim NeCastro says proven 5/4 model is a condition of Erie Insurance’s support and participation in the CRIZ
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 19, 2023
Erie, PA – Erie Insurance President & CEO Tim NeCastro said at a news conference this morning that Erie’s largest employer, largest taxpayer, and only Fortune 500 company strongly supports the creation of a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ) if City Council approves the proposal to appoint a CRIZ advisory board that was put forth by Erie Mayor Joe Schember and state Sen. Dan Laughlin, R- 49th Dist. Laughlin’s district includes the City of Erie.
“If the state takes Erie’s CRIZ designation under consideration this fall, how we administer it will be critical to gaining approval,” said NeCastro. “We will need a functional and effective municipal authority overseeing the implementation of our CRIZ program.
“Fortunately, Pennsylvania has an effective and successful model already in place in Lancaster. What Mayor Schember and Sen. Laughlin are proposing (to City Council this evening) aligns with that structure and follows that proven model.
“It is a condition of our support and participation in the CRIZ, a tool we are all convinced would be crucial to the ongoing revitalization of our city. Without this proven structure and a viable CRIZ, we will – of course – continue to pursue numerous other ways to leverage our tax dollars in Harrisburg. Our support of Erie, Pennsylvania will not wane. But what a tremendous lost opportunity this would be.”
A CRIZ would allow seven state taxes paid by City businesses to be specifically directed back into Erie as a sustainable source of revenue to be used in a defined 130-acre area for economic and community development.
Sen. Laughlin said at the news conference that he is “confident” that Governor Josh Shapiro will reopen the CRIZ application process this fall.
The first step in the City’s application process is to appoint a nine-member CRIZ advisory council with four of the appointments made by Mayor Schember and five appointments by Sen. Laughlin. They laid out their plan, including their nine board appointments, in an op-Ed published this week in the Erie Times-News | GoErie.com (***Note: Since the publication of that op-Ed, Erie architect David Brennan has replaced engineer Ashley Porter on the proposed board.)
The announcement featured community leaders coming together in support of a CRIZ and the 5/4 board split. The news conference was held at the offices for the East Side Renaissance development group, 1108 Parade St. The ESR’s development of the Parade Street corridor could be included in a proposed CRIZ.
About 30 business and community leaders attended Wednesday’s news conference, including:
- Karen Bilowith, President & CEO, Erie Community Foundation
- Bishop Dwane Brock, CEO, East Side Renaissance
- Ed Brzezinski, Erie City Councilman
- James Grunke, CEO, Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership
- Kim Thomas, Executive Director, Infinite Erie
- Mel Witherspoon, Erie City Councilman
Sen. Laughlin said that a CRIZ in Erie could have a tremendous annual economic impact.
“If we can speak with one voice in Harrisburg,” Laughlin said, “We will be able to bring in roughly $10 million a year that can be leveraged for (many) more investments for Erie’s core.” Mayor Schember urged the Erie City Council to pass an ordinance at tonight’s regularly scheduled City Council meeting for the Laughlin/Schember CRIZ board plan, which is on City Council’s agenda and must be voted on twice.
“At tonight’s meeting and on Aug. 2,” said Mayor Schember at the news conference, “We will ask City Council to pass an ordinance to create the City of Erie CRIZ Authority and appoint the inaugural board so we can work together to expedite our application.
“We put politics aside and worked together with Sen. Laughlin and our business community to appoint a qualified, well-rounded board. We carefully selected each Director based on their individual qualifications, the state’s guidelines, and the diverse mix of skills needed to manage a complex project like this and initiatives that will take place within the CRIZ. I want to personally thank Councilman Mel Witherspoon and Council Ed Brzezinski – who are here with us – for their leadership in sponsoring and seconding that ordinance.”