Erie has much to offer young professionals already. Our entrepreneurial infrastructure continues to grow, thanks to groups like Athena Powerlink, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Innovation Collaborative, Co-Starters and Quickstarter. These organizations and programs provide mentoring, funding and networking for young businesses and start-ups.
It's extremely important that these resources are visible and relevant within our community, as they encourage the birth of new ventures and the growth and development of small and medium-sized enterprises. This developing system adds value to the "can-do" attitude that has always set Erie apart.
But as much as our entrepreneurial spirit has seemed to define us as a community, we seem to lack a spirit of diversity and inclusion in the professional arena. A 24/7 Wall Street report listed Erie as the worst place for African Americans to live. Too often our most talented young black professionals feel as though they need to leave town in order to advance in their careers. Young professionals of color need to feel like they can succeed as Erie residents and professionals. Let's face it, there are too few CEOs and vice presidents of diverse backgrounds in Erie.
This is not the experience that today's young professionals want or expect. We would welcome the opportunity to work with people of diverse cultures and attitudes. We strive for a workplace and community where we can learn from each other, where differing ideas, customs and experiences mix together and create a better Erie. We love what makes us all different as much as we love what makes us the same.
Larger cities have embraced this type of inclusion for years. We watch it on our TVs and through social media. We see it when we go off to college. And yet, we do not see it in our own community. But it needs to be the Erie community that we are purposefully creating if we want to compete for the best and brightest young professionals.
If you read our articles in the months ahead and see us only as naïve optimists and dreamers, my request is that you reach out and have a discussion with a young professional. I hope that then you can see us and applaud us for what we are — Erie's future.
Kristi Bailey is president of Young Erie Professionals and works as director of business development and services at Erie Federal Credit Union.
Originally published Jul 13, 2018 in the Erie Times News