MU Shaping Tomorrow for Erie

Melanie Todd, Staff writer

The Erie Community Foundation, Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority and the Hagen family presented a grant of $4 million to Mercyhurst University to establish a Downtown Erie Innovation District.

“The overarching goal of this project is to establish and develop an innovation district in downtown Erie focused on safety and security,” said David Dausey, Ph.D., provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “This innovation district will create an urban innovation ecosystem with economic, physical and networking assets and will foster synergistic relationships between a broad array of firms, institutions and organizations ranging from universities to corporations.”

Mercyhurst will serve as the lead organization for the overall project. The university’s particular programs, such as data science and intelligence studies, helped set it apart from other applicants.

“The fact that Mercyhurst had programs in data science and intelligence studies were factors that were considered. However, these weren’t the only factors. Mercyhurst has long been known for its reputation as an innovative and entrepreneurial university,” Dausey said.

The project has three main goals.

“The project aims to address three critical community needs: stop brain drain and enhance brain gain, replace low wage jobs with family sustaining jobs, revitalize downtown Erie,” said Dausey.

This project was specifically created for the city of Erie.

“The project is funded by regional funding organizations that have a vested interest in the Erie region. The project is currently funded for three years. Our hope is to use the project to leverage additional funding opportunities and to develop strategies to make the innovation district self sustaining over time,” Dausey said.

The funding for this project comes directly from businesses in Erie as well.

“Mercyhurst applied for a “Shaping Tomorrow” grant through a joint funding initiative from the Erie Community Foundation, EGCRA and a significant gift from the Hagen family. It was a competitive grant. I served as the PI (principal investigator) and principal grant writer,” said Dausey.

Mercyhurst itself will benefit directly from their participation in this project.

“Mercyhurst faculty and students will be involved in the effort andwill have the opportunity to work with corporate partners and communityleaders on a project designed to have a dramatic positive influence on our region,” Dausey said.