Monthly Archives: April 2008

Loving Erie: Thank You General Electric Co.

Let me just come out and say that it is very much a blessing that General Electric is a manufacturer in Erie, PA.
As the shareholders of GE gather in Erie at our new Convention Center for their first annual meeting here in 18 years, I’d like to give a verbal “hug” to this far-flung multinational conglomerate.
Just examine what GE brings to the table by operating its plant here:

  • Well over 5,000 good paying jobs
  • Maintaining incomes of thousands more GE retirees
  • Economic impact of millions of dollars into the local economy via local suppliers
  • Huge investment into the tax base of local governments
  • Innovation that started with Edison’s light bulb that now employs hundreds of engineers and knowledge workers
  • Direct contributions from their foundation, including $15 million to the Erie School District for math and science learning aids
  • A benchmark in best practice for other local firms to conform to

As CEO Jeffrey Immelt expressed this morning at the shareholders meeting,

By the ‘laws of nature’ this business should not exist in this city… This is a 100-year-old business, in a 100-year-old factory, located in a city that has been rocked by industrial layoffs. Yet, we love this business and we are fond of the city. Our business is thriving. Why? Because we invest and deliver — because we are GE.

That kind of insistence on excellence is exceptional in a climate where flagging businesses scapegoat or cry victimhood. GE Transportation loves Erie and we love GE, and we wish all of its stakeholders continued success.

Obama doesn’t think Erie will be there for him

My nagging suspicion that Obama perhaps has written off Erie County in the presidential primary tomorrow has been validated. A very revealing graphic on nytimes.com this morning shows that even with the very low TV ad rates in the Erie market, out of the nearly 12,000 television spots he has run in Pennsylvania, only 9% have run in Erie. Compare that to the most expensive market, Philadelphia, where nearly one out of every four PA spots ran.
If you are just shrugging your shoulders, saying”so what, Philly is bigger than Erie,” you need to remember that we are talking about frequency as opposed to pairs of eyes reached. Let’s say that it costs $500 to reach 40,000 people in Erie, and $5,000 to reach 400,000 people in Philly. What this statistic is saying that Barack was willing to spend about $12,500 to talk to those same 400,000 people 2.5 times more often than his $500 that spoke to the 40,000 in Erie once. According to the Times, he ran over 1,050 spots in Erie through last Thursday, which is no slouch of a buy, mind you. Meanwhile he ran over 2,700 spots in Philly. Can you say saturation?
For her part, Mrs. Clinton ran nearly one-third of her commercials in Philadelphia. But since she’s nearly broke, that translates into only under 1,600 spots through Thursday. Erie got to see Hillary’s “3 am” ad and others just under 550 times.
He also saturated the Philadelphia area with appearances. I think the local Obama camp was getting nervous as they waited for an Erie appearance date. He certainly was taking his time, finally getting here on Friday morning with a visit to Erie Bolt and then a townhall meeting at Penn State Behrend. For a candidate with such rock star status, I do not get why he didn’t go to the Tullio Arena, or Bayfront Convention Center, where he could have satisfied the high demand for tickets to the event. Either they didn’t have the manpower to process a 5000 person crowd, or didn’t want to pay the Convention Center Authority, or both.
Anyway the lateness of the visit, and the fact that his next closest appearance was in Beaver County seems to show that he is not hoping for much out of NWPA. Tomorrow night we’ll know if his Philadelphia-centric strategy works.

Airport: now let’s get this done already

After last night’s vote at Erie City Council, it seems now that we finally have a regional agreement ensuring the airport’s runway project. Of course, there’s nothing to take in effect cost overruns and contingencies that always accompany big-ticket items like this.

My hope is that the spirit of cooperation will prevail in the expansion of the Airport Authority, and the subsequent agreements and meeting with federal and state officials. But the projections look like this will get done in 2012: that’s less than 60 months from now. It is imperative that folks like the Erie Regional Chamber stay focused in their role as facilitator. Like Pres. Reagan used to say: “trust and verify.”

It is also incumbent that all who love Erie push for a comprehensive growth strategy, of which the airport is a key element. What will business, government, NPO’s, and finance do in the next 60 months to ready ourselves for opportunities ahead? What kind of transformation of spirit and attitude can we cultivate in our citizens that by the ribbon cutting, a new Erie has been transformed?

Let’s get this done already. The clock is ticking.

Democrat nomination debacle their own doing

Nobody said that politics was supposed to be clean and pretty, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen things this ugly as they are in the current race for the Democrat presidential nomination. The race between Clinton and Obama has gotten personal, with issues of race and gender rising to the fore, pushing out the more substantive concerns of the day.

They should have seen it coming.

In what was probably the interest of “fairness,” the Democrats established its current system of proportional delegates for its primaries and caucuses, along with those superdelegates. This system was fine as long as there was a clear front-runner with lots of cash and early wins. But with two strong candidates and no clarity this deep into the primary season, along with the sheer stupidity of Florida and Michigan in defying the rules of the party’s schedule, the process is quickly sinking into chaos.

Speaking of chaos, don’t be angry at Rush for his tweaking of Democrats with “Operation Chaos,” encouraging Hillary to stay in the race. He’s just poking some fun at this convoluted process the Dems have gotten themselves in.

There’s a few complications that I don’t get:

  • The concept of an open primary: as far as I can tell, isn’t a political party a private organization? So why should Republicans and independents be able to vote in open Democrat primaries and vice versa? These open primaries don’t make sense and just invite havoc. I’m pretty confident that John McCain would not be the current Republican nominee had there not been open primaries in the early states.
  • Winner take all: the proportional delegate distribution doesn’t work, at least on a statewide basis, if the race is close. At minimum, there should be winner-take-all delegates at the congressional district level, if not state-wide. That’s how most all states send their electors to the Electoral College after the general election; that’s how it should work in the primary.
  • Superdelegates: these big wigs just invite corruption and smoke-filled back room deals at the convention in a close race. There’s something seemingly undemocratic about the Democrat superdelegate process.

So as charges and countercharges volley between these candidates, know that it didn’t have to be this way.