Dear Local Government,
In just a few months, another class will graduate from Gannon University and Mercyhurst University. These students have contributed to the Erie economy - they've patronized local businesses and may have even invited their family here to visit.
Unfortunately, for you, most of these students have no plans to stay.
Sure, the city will get another batch of students in the fall and this pattern will continue indefinitely...but at what cost? Compared to the amount of conferences you have on the subject, it seems very little has been accomplished on the topic of "brain drain".
That being said...yes - the majority of the burden is on the students. We're not involved. Most of us barely know we have the option to vote in local elections and even less of us actually take advantage of that right unless it's a presidential election year.
However, in fairness, we have to look at WHY students ignore local elections. Most of the time, it comes down to apathy.
If we truly want to turn the city of Erie around and transform it (think Pittsburgh, not Buffalo (CORRECTION: Ben Speggen of the Erie Reader pointed out that Buffalo is doing better than I thought))...then the city NEEDS young people. They're not optional.
As such, the city needs to start prioritizing these students and planning the city in a way that attracts them...not scares them away. I'm looking specifically at you, Mr. Mayor. Ask any student who the mayor of Erie is and I'm guessing about 30% (and that's generous) know it's you.
So, to expedite the process, I've set up a few ideas of how to do this.
- Start inviting young members of the community to local events - specifically public meetings. AND give them a reason to attend. Don't cry foul when students don't show up if there's nothing for them to worry about.
- Focus on technology more. We should be able to pay parking tickets online...right now we can't.
- If you see a young person getting involved...don't patronize them. They have exactly the same amount of votes as you do. One.
- Complain about millennials all you want, but know this - we're the largest generation since the baby boomers and in just a few years, we'll be running this place (with or without you).
- For God's sake, use social media. It's the easiest thing to do, and it at least shows us that you're trying. Jay Breneman, David Brennan, Bob Merski, Ryan Bizzarro and a few others do this well. Others...ignore it completely.
Finally, know this - those who graduate this spring already have a difficult time finding a job. Millennials are consistently un/underemployed. If you don't make Erie an attractive place to stay, we will leave...and continue to leave. You need us more than we need you.