The Erie Innovation District, LLC, (ErieID), took a major step toward developing and attracting new businesses to downtown Erie with today’s announcement that it is collaborating with Dell, one of the largest technology companies in the world.
In a companion announcement, the ErieID revealed its initial downtown Erie headquarters in a shared space with the Erie Insurance Innovation Center at 717 State St.
It also announced the addition of Cleveland-based national technology company MCPc as an ErieID partner, as well as funding support from Ben Franklin Technology Partners for eligible early-stage tech startups.
All four announcements were made on Friday, Nov. 3, at the new headquarters by ErieID President and CEO Karl Sanchack. ErieID founding partners, including lead partner Mercyhurst University, Erie Insurance, McManis & Monsalve Associates, UPMC and Velocity Network Inc. (VNET), were in attendance, as was the director of global alliances for Dell EMC, Douglas Lieberman, and Centennial Scholar Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution, the authority on innovation districts.
“When you talk about a multinational technology company like Dell, which literally is a household name, investing resources in Erie, you put yourself in the position of attracting even more businesses to our city,” said Mercyhurst University President Michael Victor. “This is exactly what the ErieID founders had hoped Karl would be able to do for Erie, and this is just the beginning.”
In less than a month on the job, Sanchack is moving quickly toward the ErieID’s goal of establishing Erie as a hub for innovation in the fields of data science, safety and cybersecurity.
Having a bricks-and-mortar presence in downtown Erie is a critical step.
It’s also a welcome one, said Erie Insurance President and CEO Tim NeCastro. “The commitment to innovation is an important building block in creating and sustaining a vibrant community,” said NeCastro, who is chair of the Erie Downtown Development Corporation (EDDC). “It says we’re ready for the future.”
The relationship with Dell comes at a time when investing in downtown Erie’s future, a future based on new enterprise, innovation and technology, is gaining widespread momentum. The region’s universities – Edinboro University, Gannon University, Mercyhurst University and Penn State Behrend – recently announced a collaboration to create a resource network for innovation and business development. This dovetails with a host of other initiatives, including those of the Erie Downtown Development Corp., that aim to reinvent Erie’s urban core.
Meanwhile, from his temporary office at Mercyhurst University, Sanchack facilitated a Memorandum of Understanding with the ErieID, Dell, VNET and Mercyhurst.
Under the terms of the MOU, Dell EMC, which provides infrastructure for organizations to satisfy their digital needs, will lead the technical development of a service that provides a suite of innovation and business management tools for ErieID participating companies, entrepreneurs and startups. Dell EMC will work collaboratively with VNET on the project.
This “Innovation as a Service” concept, as Sanchack is calling it, will enable new and existing companies to have immediate access to a digital environment that includes hardware procurement, IT support, data protection and a variety of other high-speed connectivity and cybersecurity capabilities.
“Starting a business, or growing a business, is all-consuming and the last thing in the world anyone needs is to be distracted by infrastructure needs,” said VNET CEO Joel Deuterman. “With Dell’s help, this new innovation environment will enable businesses to roll out in six to eight days as opposed to six to eight months.”
The collaboration with Dell brings an enhanced level of credibility to Erie’s emergence as an innovation center.
Sanchack made it clear that Dell EMC envisions Erie in much the same way as the ErieID founders. “Dell EMC sees that the key elements for Erie’s growth as an innovation center are all here,” he said. “Erie has exceptional community, corporate, government and philanthropic support, both in terms of leadership and financial commitment.”
Douglas Lieberman, Director, Global Alliances, Dell EMC, noted, “As a leading technology solutions provider for service providers globally, we recognized the opportunity to leverage our capabilities and experience in service creation to enable the ErieID mission through technology. The Innovation as a Service concept will help enable the innovation tenants to focus on what is important – their business concept, rather than worrying about the underlying foundation, which is critical, but not core to their mission.”
Sanchack, who calls himself an entrepreneur and a reasoned risk-taker, has created meaningful and sustainable outcomes for many companies over the past 25 years, including at Lockheed Martin. What drew him to Erie was the opportunity to scale those outcomes to the level of innovating for an entire city.
“Cities like Erie,” he said, “need to innovate to be successful, need to find the road ahead. It’s more than just being a nice thing to do. When you’ve reached that point of community readiness that I think Erie has, people are more willing to embrace change. I consider myself very lucky to be part of that.”
In another development, MCPc, a national technology company based in Cleveland with offices in Erie, is also on board as a partner, explained Mercyhurst Provost and ErieID Chair David Dausey. MCPc is investing $1 million in Mercyhurst’s Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences by building a cybersecurity lab for academic programming as well as a Network Operations Center (NOC) on the Erie campus. Within the NOC, the company will train and pay Mercyhurst students at industry rates to work with real MCPc clients. The intention is to grow that operation, housed at Hammermill Library, and scale it as part of the innovation district.
“MCPc already has sales offices in Erie and this is the opportunity for it to grow its operations here and bring more jobs to our region,” Dausey said.
New and existing businesses with a minimum viable product can apply for accelerator support from the ErieID, while entrepreneurs can seek incubator support. Applications for both can be accessed at erieinnovationdistrict.com beginning in January 2018.
Businesses will not be required to situate at the ErieID headquarters, but they will be expected to locate and do business in the city of Erie, Sanchack said. In addition, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a statewide network providing investment capital to emerging startups with offices in Erie, will provide financial support for eligible startups under the ErieID umbrella.
For more information, contact Sanchack at firstname.lastname@example.org.