Erie Chamber Blog
Thursday May 20, 2021 

Cultivating a Constructive Culture in the Hybrid Work Environment

Most businesses today have come to the realization that the traditional 9-5 in-office workday has permanently transitioned to a hybrid environment where employees work from the office some days and from home other days.  Although for many firms this transition began over the past several years, the COVID-19 pandemic only served to hasten the process.

Employers and their employees, however, are finding that although there are many advantages to the hybrid work environment, there are also a few challenges. 

Aside from the technical and logistical challenges of creating a hybrid workforce (which have largely been addressed at this point), many business owners and HR professionals are now focusing on rebuilding policies and processes to maintain employee engagement and a unified culture. As many business owners will attest, a sound culture is critical to any company’s success with the payoff showing in revenue growth, retention and increased operating income.

The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership offers its members access to My Benefit Advisor as a solution for employee benefits, including voluntary offerings. For more information about My Benefit Advisor, visit our website at erc.mybenefitadvisor.com or contact Glynis Roberts at (800) 377-3539.

Wednesday April 21, 2021 

Meet the Candidates is an annual education series to connect the business community to citizens seeking public office in Erie County. Candidates were invited to complete a brief questionnaire; answers appear as provided by the candidate. The views expressed below are not those of the Erie Regional Chamber. We invite you to get to know the candidates and mark your calendars to vote in Pennsylvania's Primary Election on Tuesday, May 18th. 


Meet the Candidate: Shawn Wroblewski
Erie County Executive

Current Employer(s)
Perry Hi-Way Hose Company
East County EMS
Butler County Community College

About Shawn
I have lived in Erie my whole life. I started serving the community in 1986 as a volunteer firefighter and quickly found a passion for helping people. I have been working as a paramedic since 1994 when I started at EmergyCare eventually, I left EmergyCare to pursue a Management position with Perry Hi-way Hose Company. Currently, I am Working on a Ph.D. in public service leadership with a concentration on emergency management, working part-time at Perry Hi-Way and East County EMS. I live in the City of Erie with my wife, Jessica.


Why did you want to run for Erie County Council?


I want to serve the people of Erie County.


What are your top three priorities you wish to work on if elected?

Recovery of family business and communities from Covid 19, Public Safety system, Address the inequalities of residents in Erie County.


How would you be an advocate for key education initiatives such as the Erie County Community College, K-12 education, and early education as they relate to workforce development?

As an academic, I am aware of the importance of education. We have four universities/colleges already promoting critical thinking and advanced degrees. Erie needs more education for skilled trades such as welding, nursing, and machinists. We need to work on keeping the current and future students interested in learning. With all the distractions and decrease in after-school activities, I have seen firsthand how uninterested in learning that most current students are. I want to be a positive force for change in this and help the students focus on the future early in their primary education and develop resources for their learning to make informed decisions about their future career and how they navigate life and obstacles to obtain their dreams.


How will you work to advocate for the modernization of public health infrastructure and encourage public/private partnerships to address deficiencies in our public health system? 

My life has been about emergency service, specifically the pre-hospital field. Many different programs promote increased public health and healthcare infrastructure. However, obstacles have been met by services promoting change by various laws and legal issues. I want to actively work with the local hospitals and agencies to make Erie a model of change for our community's health care infrastructure. I plan to advocate at a state level for the tools and legislation needed to assist our agencies in positive change. I plan on using the resources of primary schools and education sources to address the needed information and conversations to promote a positive change within the Erie Community.


According to TrackTheRecovery.org, Erie County is estimated to have lost over 28% of small businesses. How would you work to encourage financial stability within local and state governments without overburdening the small business community?

According to most researchers, the loss of business during the recovery phase of any major incident will worsen. One of the biggest problems is no planning for unforeseen problems. The theory has always been there's less than a one percent chance of that happening, so why should I worry. This pandemic is my area of specialty. We can not do much about the closed businesses, but we may be ready to discuss the need to plan for unforeseen problems in the future. Throwing money at the problem will not solve it until we sit down and discuss the plan for moving forward. We need to tighten our wallets and focus on the areas that will promote growth and increased development, delay the things that will cost money, and expend resources we could put towards other areas of growth.


Our community is expecting a total of $225 million or more in American Recovery Plan funds.  As a community leader, how would you prioritize this funding?

Now is the time we need to take a critical and educated look at what the money can be utilized for and how we can best utilize these funds to invest in Erie County. First, we must stabilize the local government and ensure that we will be able to move forward safely. Secondly, we need to prioritize our responses that we do not impact and new taxes upon our communities or the citizens. Reduce needless spending and focus our efforts on infrastructure and regrowth without impacting our already fragile impoverished communities. We need to match jobs with people and promote self-growth with community investment projects to rebuild and develop a stronger workforce committed to growth.


Pittsburgh has seen success with tools such as Tax Increment Finance and Transit Revitalization Investment District to spur their City’s revitalization.  Are you willing to make long-term investments in economic development?

There has been a lot of success with many different revitalization programs not only in Pennsylvania but also around the country. Erie is very different than Pittsburgh. We must look at what programs have worked with similar communities to Erie. These communities must be as economically and culturally diverse as Erie is for an accurate comparison. Erie must commit to a long-term plan to grow all of Erie County's assets from industry to tourism. We need to capitalize on our history, move forward with past successes, and develop our short-term and long-term goals that everyone in the community can get behind. More importantly, we need to continue developing our infrastructure and programs for Erie County's future long after any county official or public servant is out of office. We, as a community, need to work together to develop a plan for tourism, manufacturing that incorporates all aspects and begins a new direction for the future that will secure Erie County's position for the future. As I do not have an ingrained knowledge of all Erie County's current business and infrastructure, I will be seeking the counsel of the past leaders and business groups to ensure the best course of action for the county's future.

  • meet the candidates
  • government affairs
  • erie county executive
Wednesday April 21, 2021 

Meet the Candidates is an annual education series to connect the business community to citizens seeking public office in Erie County. Candidates were invited to complete a brief questionnaire; answers appear as provided by the candidate. The views expressed below are not those of the Erie Regional Chamber. We invite you to get to know the candidates and mark your calendars to vote in Pennsylvania's Primary Election on Tuesday, May 18th. 


Meet the Candidate: Tyler Titus
Erie County Executive

Current Employer(s)
Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation
Journeys
Self-Employed

About Tyler

I was born into poverty when my parents were teenagers. My grandfather was the president of the Steelworkers local and my grandmother was a union school teacher. My parents worked incredibly hard just to provide me and my 11 siblings with the bare necessities. Growing up in a rural area, I saw many around me struggle, often with drug addiction. I watched my foster siblings face unimaginable challenges, as my parents tried to meet the needs of kids who had been neglected their whole lives.

My outlook changed completely when I realized I was not alone—that so many others around me were experiencing similar pain. Seeing their pain motivated me. It made me unafraid to stand up, to take the heat, to fight for a better future. These are lessons I carried with me into adulthood. They are lessons that only deepened when I married Shraddha Prabhu, an Assistant Professor at Edinboro University, and became the parent of two phenomenal children. I want to be a part of creating a future that is safe for my children, and yours.

Over the past 15 years, through my work at the Erie County Office of Children and Youth, as a full-time therapist for youth in the foster system, and as the president of the Erie School Board, I developed a nuanced understanding of how intergenerational poverty, neglect, abuse, and violence impacts families and communities. As a therapist in a residential facility, I worked every day with young men who the system had tossed aside—who had no one in their corners. That’s why I became an advocate at the state level for ensuring these kids had someone to lean on. Working as a mental health professional, and specifically with those experiencing suicidality, has exposed me to how severely broken our healthcare system is. I believe deeply in quality healthcare for all, an economy that puts working families first, and an education system that gives every child a chance.

Finally, as a small business owner, I know the challenges of building a successful future in Erie County. As a former county employee, I know the gaps and inefficiencies in the system. We deserve an Erie County that is healthy, safe, and equitable—where everyone has a chance at success. I’m ready to get to work so that we have an Erie County that we can be proud of.


Why are you running to be Erie County Executive?

Growing up poor in a rural area, I saw firsthand the failures of a system that leaves so many behind—that left me and my family behind. Seeing the pain of those around me motivated me to dedicate my life to fighting for a better future for all of us. Over the past 15 years, through my work at the Erie County Office of Children and Youth, as a full-time therapist for youth in the foster system, and as the president of the Erie School Board, I’ve worked toward an Erie that is healthy, safe, and equitable. I’m running for office because I’m ready to bring that vision to county government. I envision a government that is connected to and representative of the people it serves, regardless of who they are, where they're from, or what they have. I have seen up close that in order to have a successful and prosperous economy, we need a healthcare and education system that puts people first. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work to build an Erie County where no one is left behind.


What are your top three priorities you wish to work on if elected?

My top three priorities are healthcare for all, economic justice, and a quality education for every child.


How would you be an advocate for key education initiatives such as the Erie County Community College, K-12 education, and early education as they relate to workforce development?

For the past four years, I’ve worked at local, state, and national levels to address inequities in public education, and to hold elected officials accountable to ensure all students have access to quality education. As the president of the Erie School Board, this has been central to my work and would be a significant focus of my administration. In Erie County, we need to invest in our education system—both traditional K-12, but also in trades education and apprenticeship programs that actually meet the needs of local employers.


How will you work to advocate for the modernization of public health infrastructure and encourage public/private partnerships to address deficiencies in our public health system? 

As a mental health professional, I see every day how life-changing access to quality care can be. No one should have to go into debt to receive the care they need. Our healthcare system is fundamentally broken—to the point where you can determine life expectancy based on the zip code where someone lives. But when a county is healthy, people are able to build living fulfilling lives. It affects their family, their friends, and our entire community. Healthy community members are connected to each other, able to support each other, and reinvest in the community around them.

As county executive, I will be deeply committed to making this a reality by investing in a community health model. This means embedding healthcare professionals within the communities they serve—including with health clinics in schools and satellite offices in rural parts of the county. I will fight for meaningful public-private partnerships that bring quality healthcare options here in Erie County, so that no one has to leave for Pittsburgh, Buffalo, or Cleveland to receive the care they need.


According to TrackTheRecovery.org, Erie County is estimated to have lost over 28% of small businesses. How would you work to encourage financial stability within local and state governments without overburdening the small business community?

As a small business owner myself, I completely share the stance of the ERCGP that tax burdens should never fall disproportionately onto small businesses. We have major needs in this county—for changes that cost significant amounts of money—but small businesses should always be viewed as a partner in that change, not its funders. When proper investments are made, and the ultra-wealthy and large corporations are made to pay their fair share, we can afford to make the changes we need while including, attracting, and uplifting local businesses.


Our community is expecting a total of $225 million or more in American Recovery Plan funds.  As a community leader, how would you prioritize this funding?

As Kathy Dahlkemper has said, this is our “moonshot moment.” We have an extraordinary opportunity to use this money to transform the future of Erie County. I believe we should focus on utilizing the funding to address the areas the budget was not able to address. A few of the high-priority areas include: infrastructure around broadband internet throughout the county, investing in creating good-paying jobs through renewable energy development, and instituting a community health model that ensures that those who serve our communities know and understand them.


Pittsburgh has seen success with tools such as Tax Increment Finance and Transit Revitalization Investment District to spur their City’s revitalization.  Are you willing to make long-term investments in economic development?

I am willing to make long term investments that create equitable opportunities for all Erie County residents, especially those who have not had the same access to resources in the past. We need to invest in renewable energies and green infrastructure in order to keep our water, air, and land safe for our residents and future generations. I do support Opportunity Zones and Tax Increment Finances when they are equitable and not implemented in a way that encourages gentrification.

  • meet the candidates
  • government affairs
  • erie county executive
Wednesday April 21, 2021 

Meet the Candidates is an annual education series to connect the business community to citizens seeking public office in Erie County. Candidates were invited to complete a brief questionnaire; answers appear as provided by the candidate. The views expressed below are not those of the Erie Regional Chamber. We invite you to get to know the candidates and mark your calendars to vote in Pennsylvania's Primary Election on Tuesday, May 18th. 


Meet the Candidate: Angela McNair
Erie County Council, District 4

Current Employer(s)
Jumpstart Early Learning Center

About Angela

I am a wife and mother of five, who holds a Bachelor’s in Social Work from Edinboro University and Masters in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. I am currently serving on the Erie School Board as a member and advocate for the staff and families from 2013-present. During this time, I initiated the diversity and inclusion committee leading to the diversity officer position, worked with the student assistance program, advocated for more support in regards to the sports program, and linked the district with the idea for the community school’s initiative. I serve as the community liaison and have been a voice in bridging the gap between the schools and the community. I have also been a key advocate for special needs students as I have twin girls who have autism that attend Erie’s Public Schools.

Currently, I am an entrepreneur and small business owner here in Erie County as I operate a Keystone Star 4 facility, Jumpstart Early Learning Center from 2015-present. I am also the owner of an up-and-coming event planning and décor company, Grand Central Events. I served as one of the commissioners on the first cohort of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs. In this position, I served as a direct advocate for Erie County to the Governor’s office. A community initiative that I currently lead is Juneteenth, as I serve as the coordinator of the official celebration in Erie.

In the past, I’ve hosted many community events and participated in activities to give back such as the Back To School Summer Jam that has provided thousands of backpacks to students across the county. I also host several “Pop Up” shops at my downtown location which offers space for small businesses to sell in a flea market style vendor event at no cost to them in order to provide an economic boost to their businesses.


Why are you running to be on Erie County Council?

Running for the county council will give an opportunity for me to be a voice for the community in the recovery and building process as we continue to move Erie County forward in a progressive manner. It will give an opportunity for advocacy in education, entrepreneurship, and help be a voice to bridge the gap of disparities in public health. I want to also assist in rebuilding our county's recovery process post-pandemic. the experience that I bring to the table in being an educator and small business owner as well as working through large budgets, would be an asset to the county council.


What are your top three priorities you wish to work on if elected?

My hopes are to continue moving Erie in a progressive manner. In order to do these things we must plan wisely and use funds in areas that will make our city strong and completive. I want to see small businesses thriving, more access to training through programs such as the community college, and increase access to public health resources.


How would you be an advocate for key education initiatives such as the Erie County Community College, K-12 education, and early education as they relate to workforce development?

I have been an advocate for the community college since the idea came about. This is necessary for the increased needs for training that is required in today's workforce. The community college will also bring about opportunities for companies to bring their businesses here which provides more jobs and increased economic boosts. My goal would be to stay in constant motion and moving forward with this initiative to ensure that anyone who wants to increase their skill level and knowledge across Erie County can do so by attending the community college. With being on the school board I know the needs of the students and families. This gives me the experience in knowing how the county can assist in the recovery of the schools after the pandemic. I can be a voice as someone who has children from 5th grade to 12th grade that can provide insight on where we can step in as a county to support the needs of our educational system. I will be in constant talks with families as well as our school districts to keep the council connected in what supports that they need.


How will you work to advocate for the modernization of public health infrastructure and encourage public/private partnerships to address deficiencies in our public health system? 

I will advocate to ensure that all people have access to quality care, vaccinations and mental health services. I will advocate for accountability metrics to be developed to ensure improvements are made in quality. I will allocate for funding to be placed into foundational capabilities for healthcare programs and providers. I would encourage private partners to collaborate with public health needs to ensure the community has the support needed for preventative and ongoing care.


According to TrackTheRecovery.org, Erie County is estimated to have lost over 28% of small businesses. How would you work to encourage financial stability within local and state governments without overburdening the small business community?

As a small business owner who has felt the aftereffect of COVID-19, I am able to give a perspective of the supports needed. I would encourage the use of funding that is coming to our region to have a certain amount made available just to provide support to small businesses. With incentives and support both the local and state government could increase financial stability if we can get people back to work with livable wages.


Our community is expecting a total of $225 million or more in American Recovery Plan funds.  As a community leader, how would you prioritize this funding?

As a leader in the community, a priority would be to provide support to public health and access to quality healthcare for all. Supporting our educational system's recovery. Providing relief to small business owners. Enhancing our natural resources and building opportunities to create more jobs by bringing improvement to Erie County.


Pittsburgh has seen success with tools such as Tax Increment Finance and Transit Revitalization Investment District to spur their City’s revitalization.  Are you willing to make long-term investments in economic development?

I am willing to place financial support in initiatives that will make our region more attractive and sustaining. I want to preserve and enhance the assets we already have and build upon them to grow our community in a more progressive way. I do believe that opportunity zones are useful and create a boost in revitalizing the county.

  • meet the candidates
  • government affairs
  • erie county council
Wednesday April 21, 2021 

Meet the Candidates is an annual education series to connect the business community to citizens seeking public office in Erie County. Candidates were invited to complete a brief questionnaire; answers appear as provided by the candidate. The views expressed below are not those of the Erie Regional Chamber. We invite you to get to know the candidates and mark your calendars to vote in Pennsylvania's Primary Election on Tuesday, May 18th. 


Meet the Candidate: Sydney Zimmermann
City of Erie, Mayoral Race

Current Employer(s)
Pennsylvania United

About Sydney
My name is Sydney Zimmermann. I am a 28-year-old woman, who was originally born in Dallas, TX. My family moved to Saginaw, MI when I was seven then to Erie when I was eleven. I graduated from Collegiate Academy in 2011 with honors. From there I went on to study History at Notre Dame De Namur in Belmont, CA.

I returned to Erie a year later, when I was 19, to continue my studies while working full time. Since then I have mainly lived on my own, working to support myself. At times, I worked as many as four jobs to make ends meet. These jobs were in a range of industries: clothing retail, the service industry, personal home care, the retail trade sector, and door-to-door sales on behalf of a clean energy company.

In 2018 I took employment with a grassroots organization, Pennsylvania United, as a canvasser for their Erie County branch. While employed with PA United I’ve been promoted three times, all the way to national canvass lead where I led my team on the first-ever candidate deep canvass – a time-consuming but effective process of listening to and speaking with voters, rather than talking at them. This skill of deeply listening to people will help to transform City Hall and Erie.

I currently work as a canvasser for the organization on their campaigns outside of Erie, so as to eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest. It is with this kind of transparency as well as action-oriented advocacy and community decision making that I will lead with as Mayor. I look forward to working with the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership to build stronger lines of communication between the community, City Hall, and local business owners.


Why are you running to be the mayor of the City of Erie?

I am running for office because too many of our current leaders work to support the status quo rather than work to bring change. Through my time as a canvasser I have learned of many obstacles facing our community members. Everyday people need a voice in this race for the issues that matter to them, to challenge that status quo. By being that challenger I hope to change the conversation and shine a spotlight on the needs of our community; especially the needs of those most vulnerable to the issues: poor people, black and brown folks, women, children, those in the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled folks and the elderly.


What are your top three priorities you wish to work on if elected?

My top three priorities that I hope to achieve are to: improve transparency at City Hall, bring more action-oriented advocacy to the Office of Mayor, and develop better systems for sustained community decision making in city government.


How would you be an advocate for key education initiatives such as the Erie County Community College, K-12 education, and early education as they relate to workforce development?

I would advocate for feedback from city residents on where they believe the Erie County Community College should be located and why. It is my opinion that if the city is good enough for the County Prison it is good enough for the Community College, but ultimately I believe that the community should have a say in its placement. I also believe that investments in K-12 and early learning were necessary before the pandemic, so they are definitely needed now to ensure the future success of our students in the workforce.


How will you work to advocate for the modernization of public health infrastructure and encourage public/private partnerships to address deficiencies in our public health system? 

I would advocate for better technological updates as well as better communication and partnership between the county and the city. I would also look to improve lines of communication between our small business and the city to report issues so that they can be solved quickly and to the benefit of our community.


According to TrackTheRecovery.org, Erie County is estimated to have lost over 28% of small businesses. How would you work to encourage financial stability within local and state governments without overburdening the small business community?

I would look to find creative solutions to the city's financial issues, such as a Land Value Tax so that the city's financial troubles could be worked on without putting more weight on small businesses.

Our community is expecting a total of $225 million or more in American Recovery Plan funds.  As a community leader, how would you prioritize this funding?

I would prioritize the needs of the community when looking at how to disseminate funds. This would mean speaking with community members to see what hardships they are currently facing and asking what they need. This is why relationships with both small businesses and organizations like the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership are so important.


Pittsburgh has seen success with tools such as Tax Increment Finance and Transit Revitalization Investment District to spur their City’s revitalization.  Are you willing to make long-term investments in economic development?

Yes, I am willing to make long-term investments in economic development. I think one great way of doing so is to use Community Benefits Agreements when making agreements for programs like L.E.R.T.A. This would ensure things like a certain percentage of local hires, a certain percentage of black and brown folks, a certain percentage of women hired, as well as requiring a wage that would be family-sustaining. I think that these tools can be used in such a way that benefits the community if we have a focus on ensuring that they are being used for the good of the community rather than for a wealthy few; CBA helps to ensure that.

  • meet the candidates
  • government affairs
  • city of erie mayor

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